Colombia’s capital city of Bogota is not only one of the 25 largest cities in the world but situated at just over 8,660ft. above sea level it is also the second highest capital city in South America. Most people traveling to Colombia arrive in Bogota due to the number of direct, daily flights from the United States and Europe.
Once people arrive in Bogota they are often surprised to find such a fascinating and vibrant city.
Full of life, culture and history, the sprawling city of Bogota has perhaps the country’s best selection of museums, a rich cultural calendar and is also packed with restaurants, coffee shops and tree-lined plazas. Touching just the tip of the iceberg, we’ve compiled a list of our best things to do in Bogota which should go some way to whet your travel appetite for this intriguing city.
♦ The Gold Museum (Carrera 6 No. 15-88, Bogota)
The Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) contains the largest pre-Columbian collection of gold in the world and will have your eyes sparkling as you explore the museum’s phenomenal and comprehensive artifacts. Home to 55,000 pieces and with more than 6,500 on display, it would be a mistake to regard the artifacts as primitive with the display showing the highest quality of goldsmithing in the world. Colombia is famous for its emeralds and the Gold Museum has on display one of the largest uncut emeralds in the world.
This fascinating museum will take you through the various regions where the artifacts were found, what each piece was used for and explains how the gold was used for in rituals.
An intricate Muisca gold raft known as the Balsa Muisca, is just one of the highlight pieces that are on display in the Gold Museum which will leave you lost for words. The Gold Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9AM to 6PM and on Sundays from 10AM to 4PM.
♦ Plaza de Bolívar & La Candelaria neighborhood (Carrera 7 No. 11-10, Bogota)
Bolivar Square (Plaza de Bolivar) was marked out as the central square by Bogota’s founders and is at the heart of the city. Surrounded by Bogota’s grandest buildings, the huge public square complete with a statue of Simon Bolivar at its center, is a thoroughfare of activity. The Plaza de Bolivar is enclosed by the Primatial Cathedral (Catedral Primada de Colombia), the Palace of Justice which houses the Supreme Court, the congress building of Capitolio Nacional and the Liévano building which is the seat for Bogota’s Mayor.
Sprawling off Bogotá’s main square are the beautifully preserved colonial streets that make up La Candelaria neighborhood.
As the historic center of Bogota, La Candelaria is a must see and its old colonial buildings running either side of narrow, cobblestone streets give this neighborhood a charming and village-like atmosphere. Although La Candelaria is a hotspot for travelers, La Candelaria demands extra precautions and you should only visit the neighborhood during the day with a professional guide who will make sure you don’t get lost and will be able to ensure your safety.
♦ Monserrate Hill (Carrera 2 Este No. 21–48, Bogota)
Cerro de Monserrate (Monserrate Hill) towers over the Bogota skyline and from its summit, 10,341 ft. above sea level, is one of the most breathtaking views of the city. The church on top of Monserrate Hill was built in the 17th Century and as well as being popular with travelers, it is also a pilgrimage point.
Accessed by cable car or tram (leave every 30 minutes) or by walking up a winding footpath (approximately 1 hour), on a clear day you will be able to see all of downtown Bogota as well as the southern and northern parts of the city sprawling out below.
In addition to the church at the summit of Cerro de Monserrate are a few restaurants, a cafeteria and souvenir shops although the main attraction is of course the never-ending view of the city which is particularly spectacular at sunset.
♦ Botero Museum (Calle 11 No. 4-41, Bogota)
Known as ‘the man who paints fat people’, the world famous artist, Fernando Botero donated dozens of works from his private collection to Colombia and which are now on display in the Botero Museum. The collection at the Botero Museum consists of 123 of his own paintings, drawings and sculptures as well as 85 original works of art including pieces by Bacon, Chagall, Corot, Dalí, de Kooning, Matisse, Monet, Renoir and Picasso.
Located inside a stunning two-storey colonial home, the Museo Botero is itself a beautiful place to explore, relax and enjoy the chubby paintings of hands, fruit, animals and people.
The Botero Museum is open on Mondays, from Wednesday through to Saturday from 9AM to 7PM and on Sundays from 10AM to 5PM. With free entrance, the Botero Museum is perhaps one of the best free things to do in Bogota.
♦ Usaquen Colonial Quarter (Calle 118 No. 5-84, Usaquen)
Having walked around the historic neighborhood of La Candelaria, just north of the city of Bogota is Usaquen. Formerly a separate municipality, Usaquen was quickly swallowed up as Bogota continued to expand.
The colonial quarter of Usaquen is characterized by its gorgeous Spanish colonial architecture and with its own beautifully preserved history; Usaquen has become one of Bogota’s most upscale areas.
Usaquen’s quaint cobblestone streets found in the colonial quarter are lined with gourmet restaurants and lively bars hidden behind exquisite colonial facades and large classical doors. The historic center of Usaquen is one of best preserved examples of colonial Colombia and has developed into one of Bogota’s most charming gems.