Top things to see and do in Colombia's capital, Bogota

Jack Bryant / 31 August 2017

The capital of Colombia, Bogota, has recently undergone massive transformation, now making it one of the worlds most up and coming travel destinations.



Now one of the most exciting up-and-coming cities in the world, the capital of Colombia was once regarded as too dangerous for tourists to visit.

However in the last decade it has undergone a massive transformation and is now one of the most culturally diverse and interesting cities to visit in all of South America.

The friendly locals, the beautiful art and the wonderful culinary scene will make you wish you could stay longer.

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Colombian food

Being the capital city means that you’ll be able to try almost any dish from around the country and further afield.

The national dish, bandeja paisa, is a carb loaded dish not for the faint hearted made up of rice, beans, plantain, chorizo, morcilla, avocado, pork, ground beef, a fried egg and arepa (a maize flatbread).

Ajiaco is also a must try and is Bogota’s speciality dish. It’s a chicken, potato, and corn soup served with a side of rice, avocado and capers. Both of these meals are huge so make sure you are very hungry before ordering.

There’s a good choice of restaurants just off of Plaza Bolivar where you can try these traditional dishes.

If you fancy something that won’t add a few inches to your waistline and is a lot cheaper lookout for the Corrientazo (menu of the day) signs that adorn lots of local eateries.

Normally you’ll get a soup to start, a choice of meat, rice, potato, plantain and a fruit juice all for the small sum of 6000COP to 12000COP (£2-£4).

This lunchtime option is available in the small family run restaurants that cater to the locals all over the city and is not only delicious but contributes directly to the local economy.

Cerro Monseratte

A 17th century church placed on top of a mountain towering 3000 meters over the city offering spectacular views of the city below.

A popular spot for pilgrimages, it is not uncommon to see locals take the 90 minute walk up the mountain barefoot or on their knees to show their dedication to the Catholic faith.

Fortunately these days you are able to take the funicular or cable car to the top, taking in the great views of the city five minutes after leaving from the bottom.

Before you go, check the weather forecast to make sure you’re going up there on a clear day as this will provide the best panoramic views of the city.

The vast and varied continent of South America is home to a kaleidoscope of cultures Find out more here.

La Candelaria

Walking through the streets of the historic La Candelaria you’ll feel as if you have been transported back in time to the Spanish colonial period. 

Narrow cobble-stoned roads are complemented by colourful buildings with intricately carved doors and beautiful wooden balconies.

This area hosts some of the best restaurants in the city where you can try local food as well as the best museums including the Museo del Oro and the Botero Museum.

La Candelaria is one of the only areas in the city to try the traditional pre-Columbian drink of Chicha.

The recipe is plain but it tastes great, a mixture of cooked maize, sugar and water which is then fermented in a traditional clay pot for six to eight days resulting in a 10-12 percentage alcohol that is both smooth and refreshing to drink.

Whilst wandering through La Candelaria during the weekday, you’ll see over a hundred or so men milling around the Plaza del Rosario.

At first you may think that they are up to no good, but don’t worry these men are simply part of Colombia’s emerald market, trading emeralds for thousands of pesos each day.

Colombia produces more than half the world’s emeralds, with lots of the mines being close to Bogota. Now and again you’ll see one of the traders hold the emerald to the sky to check for defects.

Buying an emerald could make a great souvenir but beware there are traders that have no qualms about ripping off a tourist for a quick buck.

Museo del Oro

The Museo del Oro, or Museum of Gold in English, is perhaps the most important museum in Colombia.

On display is an extraordinary selection of over 6000 pre-Hispanic golden objects - the biggest collection in the world (with 55000 objects not on show).

Together with other pre-Hispanic textiles such as stone, pottery, and wood the objects tell the story of the different societies that inhabited modern day Colombia before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century.

One of the standout golden objects is the Muisca Raft - a golden figure which refers to the ceremony of the legend of El Dorado. The ritual was important to the pre-Columbian empire of the Muiscas.

During this event the heir to the chief covered the whole of his body with gold and jumped into Lake Guatavita along with gold and emeralds offerings to the gods to thank them for the land and protect them.

Most of the gold on show in the museum has been retrieved from this lake which can be visited as day trip from Bogota.

You can take a virtual tour of the museum through Google’s Art Project.

Museo Botero

The most famous Colombian artist, Fernando Botero, has a museum named after him in the historical La Candelaria district. He is known for his unique style in which he plays with the proportions of body parts making the subjects appear disproportionate.

Alongside Botero’s work, you’ll also see masterpieces from Picasso, Degas and Dali.

All over the country you will find his artwork however, this museum has the highest concentration of his work and showcases his most famous works such as his own ‘Boterismo’ version of the Mona Lisa.  

The works of art were donated to Colombia from his personal collection under two conditions - the first being that the museum would always be free to everyone, and secondly that Botero had complete control over the layout of his paintings and sculptures within the museum.

Plaza Bolivar

The main square in the heart of the city is where you’ll find some of the most important buildings in all of Colombia.

It’s named after one of South America’s most important historical figures, Simon Bolivar, who gained independence from Spain for many South American countries.

He dreamed of a ‘United States of South America’ which never materialised, except from a short-lived country known as Gran Colombia made up of Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia (which explains why Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador have similar flags).

The square is surrounded by four buildings that represent the four pillars of society. The National Capital building: the country, Bogota Cathedral: faith, the Independence Day Hall: the city, and the Palace of Justice: law and order.

You’ll notice the Palace of Justice is a modern building unlike the other three, this is a hangover from the days of Colombia’s more recent dark past when armed guerrillas stormed the palace, killed over sixty people and set the old building alight.

From the golden sands of the Caribbean coastline to the silvery peaks of the Andes Mountains, Colombia’s riches are many and varied. Find out more here.

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