When we decided to visit Colombia for the first time most people told us to skip Bogota or just stay for a night. What with jet-lag and a sense of wanting to discover a place for ourselves we decided to ignore the advice and stay for three days in Bogota. I am glad that we did as those 3 days were a perfect introduction to the country and they set us up for the following six weeks in Colombia.
Table of Contents
If you are visiting Bogota, Colombia for the first time there is enough to keep you busy for at least three days. Here are some unmissable things to do in Colombia’s capital.
Visit La Candelaria
The La Candelaria area of Bogota is the city’s cultural hub and it is where you will find other travellers and tourists. Most of the sights you will want to see in Bogota are located here as well as are restaurants, bars and shops. La Candelaria is Bogota’s colonial area, you will be walking past 300-year-old buildings, some in better shape than others. This is a perfect area just to wander the streets and see what you can discover. Make sure you pop into some of the churches that you pass along the way as their interiors outshine the exteriors in elaborate ways. A good start off point to wander around La Candelaria is Plaza de Bolivar named after Simon Bolivar the liberator who helped defeat the Spanish to establish the modern states of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama. Not bad huh?
Museo del Oro (The Gold Museum)
The Gold Museum is one of Colombia’s most visited attractions and probably one of the best museums in all of South America. The museum holds over 55,000 pieces of gold and other materials that pre-date the Spanish arrival. The exhibits have descriptions in both Spanish and English and are themed by region and type. A warning about visiting museums on a Sunday. Colombians are a cultured lot and they visit museums in droves on a Sunday so it is best to try and visit in the week. There are free tours at the Museo del Oro that runs from Tuesday to Saturday at 11:00 and 16:00. These tours come highly recommend as the guide delves into the history of the exhibits giving you more of an understanding than what the descriptions say.
Museo del Oro Information:
Opening Times: 09:00 – 18:00 (Mon-Sat), 10:00 – 16:00 (Sun).
Admission Fee: COP $4000 (Mon-Sat), FREE on Sunday.
Website: Museo del Oro
Iglesia de San Francisco
The church of San Francisco was built between 1557 and 1621 making it Bogota’s oldest surviving church. Apart from its age, the main feature of the Iglesia de San Francisco is its altarpiece which is Bogota’s largest. As you can see from the photo above the craftsmanship is outstanding.
If you know the artist Fernando Botero you will know that this museum will be all things chubby. From men to women and then throw in birds, hands, children, oranges and even the leaders of FARC. Fernando Botero donated the works himself to the museum where you will also find works by Picasso, Renoir, Monet, Chagall, Dali and Miro.
Museo Botero Information:
Opening Times: Mon-Sat (Tuesday Closed): 9: 00-19: 00, Sunday: 10: 00-17: 00
Admission Fee: FREE
Website: Museo Botero
Go Up Monserrate
Visible from most parts of the Bogota valley, Monserrate peak is Bogota’s proud symbol. Views from the top are spectacular and on clear days you can see as far as Parque Nacional Natural. Just don’t do what we did and visit on a Sunday. It took us hours to get up and down as all of Colombia decided to visit Monserrate on the Sunday we visited but apparently, every Sunday is like that so do yourselevs a favour and visit mid-week.
There are a few ways you can get up Monserrate. Cable Car, Funicular or walk. The cable car and funicular alternate. The day we were there it was the funicular that was running. As you ascend and descend the views are amazing and you realize how high Monserrate is. Bear that in mind if you decide to walk up Monserrate. The 1,500 step hike takes up between 60 and 90 minutes depending on your fitness levels. It is very steep and the altitude changes rapidly. Remember to take water with you.
Once you reach the top there are plenty of things to do like visit the Church, take millions of photos of Bogota below you, visit the market behind the church or just eat and drink (there are plenty of food options).
Day Trips Out Of Bogota
Zipaquira (Salt Cathedral)
I will be honest with you, I wasn’t to keen on visiting Zipaquira at first, I felt that I wanted to see more in Bogota itself before venturing out on day trips. I am so glad that Karen changed my mind as Zipaquira was one of my highlights in the Bogota area. Zipaquira is an underground cathedral carved out of salt. There are only 3 in the world, the other two are in Poland. Between 1991 and 1995 around 250,000 tons of salt were cleared away to create this huge ethereal wonder. I couldn’t believe how big it is. I kept thinking what a great location it would be for a rave! It reminded me of Zion in the Matrix sequels. We learnt afterwards that the cathedral is a functioning church that receives as many as 3,000 visitors on Sundays which must be an amazing sight to see. I admit I was wrong about Zipaquira and I highly recommend you visit during your stay in Bogota.
Andres Carne De Res
It may seem odd that one of the day (or night) trips I recommend out of Bogota is to go to a restaurant even from crazy foodies like us. However, Andres Carne De Res is not an ordinary restaurant. As one Swedish tourist said, “It’s like eating dinner in a washing machine”! I would add eating dinner in a washing machine whilst hallucinating that you are in a David Lynch movie. Andres Carne De Res is in the town of Chia, 28km from Bogota. We got a taxi to the restaurant there and back. As the restaurant is known for its meat that is what we would recommend. My suckling pig was the best I have ever had anywhere. Karen’s ribs weren’t so great so avoid them. The menu is 75 pages long so I am sure there is a dish for everyone in your party. The funny thing is though is that you come to Andres Carne De Res for the atmosphere and vibe more than the food. Try to visit on a weekend where the restaurant turns into a late night club.
That should cover you for 3 days in Bogota. You have two museums, a colonial area, a church, a mountain, an underground Cathedral and one crazy restaurant to visit during your stay. Bogota gets a bad rep, I can see that it’s not as funky as Medellin or as pretty as Cartagena but if you have the time I would stay for a few days, especially if you are landing there.
Are you heading to Colombia? Then check out our other posts on Colombia:
First Impressions Of Colombia – Colombia: The Biggest Risk Is Wanting To Stay | First Impressions Of Colombia. If you are visiting Colombia for the first time read this post first.
Paul Farrugia is a an avid traveller and blogger. When he is not travelling he likes to spend his free time reading, going to festivals and sitting down enjoying a nice glass of red! If you would like to reach him send him an e-mail to [email protected]