7 Things to See and Do in Bogotá
Discover a new world filled with creativity and joie de vivre in Colombia. In Bogota, its vibrant and modern capital city, you’ll find it buzzing with vitality. This emergent city of 9.8 million is rich in art, culture and sophistication; you’ll even find top-notch restaurants that rival our favourites in New York City. Here are a few important sights if you’re spending a few days in town!
Monserrate rises above the city centre of Bogotá, at 3,152 metres (10,341 ft) above sea level. Access the peak by aerial tramway, a funicular, or by walking, the preferred method of pilgrims on their way to view the 17thC church. Here, the shrine is dedicated to El Señor Caído (the ‘fallen Lord’, a reference to the statue of Jesus being temporarily removed off a cross); it has been a popular destination for pilgrims for the last four centuries.
In addition to the church, the summit contains restaurants, cafeteria, souvenir shops and many smaller tourist facilities. All of downtown Bogotá, south Bogotá and some sections of the north of the city are visible from the peak, making Mount Monserrate a popular destination for watching the sun set over the city.
This neighbourhood is concentrated with museums and some incredible street art! Wander around and look at the vibrant murals and graffiti on the street, depicting various themes in the urban environment. Head to the main square, Plaza Bolivar, the centre for some of the city’s most important buildings, including the Palace of Justice, and the National Capitol. In December, the bright lights of the holiday and Christmas trees light up the square.
It’s also in La Candelaria where you’ll find La Puerta Falsa, a famous snack bar and institution of simple, traditional food in the city. Open since 1816, the menu is just as it has been back in the day. You’ll find hearty breakfasts, typical Colombian pastries and breads, massive tamales, ajiaco (Colombian chicken soup) and even chocolato completo, hot chocolate with bread, pastry and melted cheese in the cup! (Don’t knock it until you try it.) Arrive hungry, and go just before lunch or dinner to avoid crowds, or start your day with breakfast.
This popular museum in the La Candelaria area displays a selection of pre-Hispanic gold work—the biggest collection in the world—in its exhibition rooms on the second and third floors. This precious metal, sacred to the indigenous cultures of the land, along with pottery, stone, shell, wood and textile artifacts, fills the museum. Together, these items highlight the artistry and the beliefs of the indigenous people who inhabited what is now known as Colombia, before the Spanish set foot on its shores.
The Botero Museum, also located in the La Candelaria neighbourhood, houses one of Latin America’s most important international art collections. It sees 500,000 visitors annually and around 1,000 daily. It is named after one of Colombia’s most famous artists, Fernando Botero, and features many of his works, but you’ll also find pieces from Dalí, Degas, and even Picasso.
The National Museum of Colombia, the biggest and oldest museum in the country, houses a collection of over 20,000 pieces of work on its history, art, and culture. Built in 1823, the building was initially known as the Panóptico and served as a prison until 1946. In 1948, the building was adapted for the National Museum and restored in 1975.
Iglesia Museo de Santa Clara
The Iglesia Museo de Santa Clara is one of Bogotá’s most richly decorated churches, featuring a barrel vault coated in golden floral motifs and walls entirely covered by 148 frescoes and sculptures of saints—the work of nuns once cloistered here. There is a small fee, which deters some visitors, but it’s worth the admission.
Ciclovía on Sunday in Bogota
Don’t miss this incredible Sunday phenomenon! Spanish for “bike path,” Bogota’s Ciclovía takes place on Sunday and boasts more than 120 kilometres of highways, byways, and thoroughfares shut down to vehicular passage and open to people. From 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. you can join Colombians as they bike, walk and rollerblade (you get the picture) around the city.