(Re-edited and updated December 2018)
Colombia’s capital is the most energetic, artistic, and trendy Latin American city I’ve ever visited.
|All the ingenious and powerful murales, colorful graffitis, are one of Bogotá’s strongest suit.|
It was the more alternative neighborhood around the historic Candelaria district with many small specialty shops, cafés, restaurants, and bars serving a wide variety of organic food and drinks that took me by a storm. All these places are decorated with such an impressive creativity – which seems to be Bogotá’s strongest suit, anyway.
Yes, Bogotá, being home to about 8 million people, is a big, intimidating metropolis. But since there are only certain districts really interesting for the common visitor – sorry, I know you are very special and I am, too, but if we’re not looking for a job and to settle down, we are common visitors and might want to stay only in certain areas; to make things easy, I’ve listed them below.
|The TransMilenio – almost as fast as comfortable as a subway.|
To get around, the TransMilenio, Bogotá’s rapid bus system, is a great option. For about 70 cents it takes you to almost every point of interest. Here is a system map, that, quite honestly, is rather designed to confuse than to inform, i. e. you just have to stick to the stops you’re looking for, don’t pay attention to the direction on the map – it’s not correct: When you are travelling on route A or B, you’re actually not going west as the map indicates, you are going north.
If you’re not sure, just ask local people, they are very friendly and helpful.
|Callejon del Embudo – La Candelaria’s must-see street with nothing but art: On the walls, at the shops, on the sidewalks.|
La Candelaria is Bogotá’s historic part of the city’s downtown area. It’s worth visiting for the colonial architecture of the old houses and churches, but mainly for the cool, vibrant, artistic atmosphere.
|Although very artistic, these are not all art galleries.|
The most impressive murals by the best artists can be found here – on buildings that are housing shops selling original, fun handicraft and bars serving organic food and juices from fresh fruits.
|Rustic, natural, conscious – these are the keywords when it comes to interior design at the Candelaria district.
A short break at “Nativo Arte Natural” sampling their organic juices.
There are many hostels and boutique style hotels on the partly pretty steep alleys. Although everything looks very cozy’n’cute, they say that at night, you shouldn’t venture around by yourself. If you have to go out after dark, you should take a cab and ask the driver to wait till your host lets you in.
However, during the daytime, it’s certainly one of the best neighborhoods to explore.
|I mean, look at the sky over the Iglesia de la Candelaria, a Catholic church, built in 1686. So what better way to spend the day than at a fantastic museum?!|
My absolute favorite one is the complex at Carrera 4 with Calle 11, the Museo del Banco de la Republica, actually housing various venues.
|The old part of the museum complex – with the Sanctuary of Monserrate in the backdrop.|
The most charming one, of course, is the Museo Botero showing many of his masterpieces, paintings as well as sculptures.
|Whether sculptures or paintings, whether people or things – everything is unproportional when created by Fernando Botero.|
Another part houses the Miguel Urrutia Art Museum MAMU where colonial art, as well as modern and contemporary Colombian and international art, can be admired.
|Salvador Dalí Bust of a Woman|
|Beatrice Gonzales Decoración de Interiores. Gonzales is definitely one of Colombia’s most famous and internationally recognized female artists.|
|Print with a whimsy double meaning: Todo esta muy caro – everything is very expensive –
which is an appropriate hint at a bank building.
But since Caro is also the artist’s last name, it could also be read everything is very Caro.
The third part pays tribute to the investors, the Banco de la Republica, hence it’s called Museo Casa de Moneda and deals with means of payments such as coins etc.
Although you’ll probably spend a couple of hours at this venue, I cannot recommend it enough to those who enjoy grand art.
Colección de Arte Banco de la República Bogotá
Calle 11 #4-93
Phone: + 57 – 1 – 343 13 16
After visiting the museum, you can walk down Calle 11 to Bogotá’s main square which, of course, is named after Simon Bolíver like basically every main square in Latin America.
Here are all the major buildings such as the National Capitol, the Town Hall, and the Cathedral.
|The Cathedral of Colombia, finished in 1823, and a bunch of school kids.|
Walking one block South on Carrera 8, you’ll get to the Museo Santa Clara.
Santa Clara, built between 1629 and 1674, was Bogotá’s oldest church. Today, the richly decorated, entirely covered by paintings and sculptures building is a museum.
Walking further towards Calle 7, you can visit more old colonial sites such as the San Agustín Cloister. Next to it is the Casa de Nariño complex, the Colombian president’s official home, and principal workplace.
|Taking care of the president: Two guardian angels disguised as Prussians with kaiser helmets.|
Next to it is the Archaeological Museum Arqueológico Casa del Marqués de San Jorge and the Santuario Nuestra Señora del Carmen, a funnily striped church from 1938.
However, if you walk back to the Plaza de Bolívar and keep on walking, you’ll get to another old, baroque house of worship, the Iglesia de San Francisco, located across from Bogotá’s – and maybe even the country’s – most famous museum, the gold museum Museo del Oro.
In an austere building, probably the world’s best collection of pre-Columbian gold, ceramics, and stones can be admired.
|Incredibly elaborated jewelry – just look at these earpieces – ouch!|
|I love this little comic book king.|
Besides their permanent collection, they also present temporary exhibitions of Latin American traditional art.
|Not as precious as gold, but almost as beautiful: Traditional Mola embroideries from Panamá.|
Of course, you can buy some replicas of the jewelry collection at the gift store along with some other high-class Colombian handicraft. However, you’ll get very good quality at far better prices at the covered market across from the museum on Calle 16.
Carrera 6 #15-88
Phone: + 57 – 1 – 343 22 22
Galeria Artesanal de Colombia
Calle 16 #5-60/70
Phone: + 57 – 1 – 342 76 23
The market is open every day from 9 a. m. to 7 p. m.
If you can’t get enough of bling-bling: Next to the market is the Emerald Museum.
The Carrera 7, called La Septima, is Bogotá’s main shopping street – here you find all sort of stores and stands and stalls where you can buy literally everything. Small, unpretentious restaurants and cafés are serving good local food.
At the end of La Septima, right in front of the Parque de la Independencia, you can turn right into Calle 24 and pay a venue introducing contemporary art a visit: The Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá MAMBO.
|Already at the entrance, the visitor is greeted by art: Installation by Medellín-born artist Ricardo Cárdenas.|
However, I recommend that you check what’s on before you go since they don’t have a permanent collection on display.
Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá MAMBO
Calle 24 #6-00
Phone: + 57 – 1 – 286 04 66
The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. and Sundays noon to 5 p. m.
|Amazing art in vibrant colors on house walls…..|
|….fences – like here by one of my favorite artists Juegasiempre; by the way an art teacher ‘in real life’.|
|The Wayuu Indio women ab Carlos Trilleros – probably Bogotá’s most famous mural.|
“J”, born in Colombia, raised in New York City and Miami, now back to his roots, guides tourist groups through the “barrio” and points out every detail in a very knowledgeable and passionate way.
|Carlos Trilleras at his stand at the Mercado de Pulgas. Can there be a more original and individual souvenir?!|
The Zona Rosa and all the other northern neighborhood stretching all the way up to Parque 93 are a good place if you are longing for the more global feel. If you want the standard store chains and restaurants you know from home – here they are in abundance. I don’t say that it’s a bad thing, it only doesn’t make sense to me to fly for about 12 hours to buy a T-shirt at Mango and have coffee at Starbucks; nota bene in Colombia.
Anyway, there is a vivid, modern, up-scale scene around here.
Even further north – a bit more towards the east – is Usaquén, a municipality that became a suburb of Bogotá in 1954.
|Iglesia de Santa Bárbara de Usaquén – the most prominent building around the Parque.
(Photo: Rubianoripoll, Iglesia de Usaquén, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Today it is an upper-middle-class neighborhood. However, the main square, Parque de Usaquén, and the adjacent streets and alleys are a popular neighborhood for trendy pub crawls.
The weekly Mercado de Las Pulgas, the flea market, is popular with locals and visitors alike.
Best place to sleep:
If you stay at the Candelaria, you are close to all the places of interest. The hotels and hostels here are smaller, very familial and cozy.
|The purple house is Hotel Casa Guadalupe – in the very heart of the Candelaria neighborhood. I felt very safe there – the only thing I was afraid of was to break my neck on the steep cobblestone street.
The people at Hotel Casa Guadalupe are very friendly and get out of their way to make you feel comfortable. They also arrange an airport shuttle for you at a great price.
Best place to eat:
You’re seated in a very pleasant atmosphere – and the staff is very nice and helpful, too.
Calle 11 #6-14
|Colombia’s national dish: “Bandeja Paisa” – consisting mainly of meat with meat, completed with saussage.
If you are looking for something more trendy and posh, you can look for a restaurant around the Parque 93.
For instance, the spacious restaurant and bar El Salto del Angel, serving great cocktails and exquisite food. On weekends, it’s becoming a pretty busy party place.
It’s open every day from noon.
|A large glass of “Lulada”, whose name derives from the local Andes fruit lulo, and a wide range of further drink options.
Here you find all the places mentioned above:
Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Colombia?
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