Colombia’s capital Bogotá is often described as chaotic and dirty. Many travelers leave this city quite quickly after arriving at the international airport. You might ask, maybe Bogotá does not have much to offer? But that is not the case. Personally, I actually liked Bogotá very much. Yes, the city is busy. With a population of more than 8 million, there is a constant traffic jam, and do not get me started about rush hour in the TransMilenio busses. It is a great bus network with more than 12 bus lines, but the crowds in the busses and at the stations were pure madness. And yes, the streets of Bogotá are not the cleanest. But despite this, I still liked the city. In this blog post, I’m sharing my reasons why you should consider to visit Bogotá.
Why you should visit Bogotá
bogotá is colorful: visit La Candelaria
La Candelaria is the historical heart of Bogotá. In this neighborhood, you will find a lot of houses from the Spanish colonial period. The alleys are a sight for sore eyes with beautiful churches and walls full of street art. Plaza Bolivar is the beating heart of this area, a big square that has a mysterious attraction on a lot of pigeons. The name Bolivar can be found throughout the region and it refers to the liberation hero Simon Bolivar that led the resistance against Spain. For me, Plaza Bolivar was a great place to sit, relax, and watch local life. Watch the pigeon feed sellers doing their job, the street performers making money and the young police officers keep watch around the Capitolio Nacional.
- Want to explore the street art in La Candelaria? Here’s what you can expect to see during a street art tour in Bogotá.
It has amazing museums to visit
Weirdly enough I am not a big fan of museums, even though I like history. I often skip them, unless they have raving reviews. The museums in Bogotá had this. I kept reading about the amazing Museo del Oro (the Gold Museum), but I was skeptical. How cool could a museum about gold be? But I was wrong. Museo del Oro is more than just a museum about gold, it also guides you through the history of Colombia and shows you the stories of the indigenous tribes. But this was not the only museum I liked. I also loved Museo Botero. This museum is all about the Colombian painter Fernando Botero, known for the voluminous statues and paintings. It is not that Botero liked people with curves, he just wanted to show that these people were having fun and enjoying life.
Entrance fee Museo del Oro: 4,000 COP, an audio guide costs 8,000 COP. If you visit on Sunday, entry is free. Entrance fee Museo Botero: free. The audio guides cost 10,000 COP.
Bogotá is hilly, so that means spectacular views
Bogotá is located high up on the Andes Mountains at about 2600 meters altitude. For some travelers, this could cause altitude sickness because there is less oxygen in the air. Personally, I had no problems with this. The height also has its perks: great viewpoints. The most popular viewpoint is located on Cerro de Monserrate. This mountain dominates the sky of Bogotá and on the top, there is a beautiful white church. Coincidently, we visited Cerro Monserrate on Ash Wednesday. A day that does not mean a lot to us, but it is important for the devoted Colombians. In the white mountain church, the locals received a cross of black ash on their forehead, which stayed on their heads for the rest of the day. This was a special ritual to watch.
How to reach the top?
There are three ways to reach the top of Cerro de Monserrate. You could choose the old-fashioned way and hike up the mountain. It is quite a long and intensive hike and until recently it was not very safe. The other two options are less intense: the mountain train and the cable car. Until noon the mountain train is the only option, in the afternoon you can also choose the Teleférico cable car. A return ticket is 22,000 COP.
The city has amazing cafes: dine in Zona G
A lot of travelers choose to stay in a hotel or hostel in or near La Candelaria to be close to all the sights. But we did things differently. Our hotel was located in Chapinero Norte. Strategically chosen, because it is near Zona G. This neighborhood, with the full name Zona Gourmet, got its name because of the many restaurants that are located here. This area also attracts a lot of expats, which gives it a nice international atmosphere. Before this trip, I actually thought that traveling as a vegetarian to a meat country like Colombia was going to be a big problem. However, it was actually quite alright. Almost every restaurant in Zona G had vegetarian options. Whether I was in the mood for Chinese, Moroccan, or Mexican, it was all there.
More travel tips for Bogotá
- Be cautious when using Uber in Colombia: for all my taxi rides in Bogotá, I used Uber. It is safe, quick, and easy, especially if you do not speak any Spanish. BUT: Uber is considered an illegal taxi company in Colombia. In practice, this means that an Uber driver can ask you to sit in the front seat so that it looks like he is driving with a friend. In addition, they do not like to stop in areas with a lot of police and they do not appreciate it you pay them in open sight.
- Zona Rosa: personally I have not been here, but I heard that this is a great area just like Zona G. Zona Rosa is known for its nightlife, but I am sure you can also enjoy yourself here during the day.
- Torre Colpatria: I have also put this on my list for the next time. From the 48th floor of the skyscraper Torre Colpatria you have a splendid view over the city. Maybe this a good alternative for the Cerro Monserrate.
- Where to stay: I stayed at Hotel Vilar América in the area of Chapinero. Close to Zona G, but quite far from La Candelaria. Click here for an overview of the hotels in Bogotá.
And there you have it: a quick list with reasons why you should visit Bogotá. Do you want to visit this city?
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