Breaking Bogotá: A Guide

Bogotá’s great food and art scene won’t put a big dent in your pocket, but it will leave a lasting impression on your heart.  The city is perfect for those looking for a place packed with culture, cuisine, and cool people.  Here’s a couple of notes from our Spring trip to Colombia’s city in the mountains!

I’m wayyyyyy up, I feel stressed!

Before we get started, I want to warn you.  This advice won't stop it from happening, but it's nothing wrong with being aware of what to expect to keep you safe while visiting Bogotá.  No, I'm not going to tell you about drug cartels or how guerrilla groups might snatch you up in a dark alley (the city is very safe), I'm talking about your respiratory system! Bogotá rests high in the mountains of Colombia and from the moment you arrive and start exploring the city, you’ll wonder if your lungs are giving out on you. Prepare yourself for the high altitudes.  If you’re not used to being so high up, you will struggle the first day or two as your body adjusts. Don't go too hard in the paint right away!  You might end up passing out somewhere!  Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's have some fun!

The Cultural Center of Colombia

Bogotá is bursting at the seams with creativity.  Its streets rumble with music and the city walls drip with expression.  An easy way to take it all in is with one of the many tours located throughout the city.

Graffiti Tour - Bogotagraffiti.com

From the moment you arrive in the city, it’s practically impossible to not see any graffiti.  It’s EVERYWHERE, and that’s partly due to incredibly lax laws towards the form of art.  Many artists come to Colombia for this very reason.

Although you’ll get a free tour of your own by just walking a block or two in any direction, there’s a tour that will give you an in-depth look at the street art, that is actually run and guided by street artists and people directly involved in the Bogotá urban art scene.

The best part about it? It’s free (outside of any tips you’ll give the tour guide — and you should definitely tip!). You’ll learn quickly that really dope things being free (or pretty close) is commonplace in Bogotá.

 

Walking Tour - BeyondColombia.com

Another free tour worth checking out is the Beyond Colombia walking tour.  Meeting outside of the Gold Museum twice a day, the 2 hour tour will cover some of the same ground as the graffiti tour, but also give you a tips on where to find the best coffee, where to find some of the cultural spots such as the local museums and architecture of interest.  You’ll also get a chance to experience Chicha, a drink local to Colombia it is made from fermented corn and sugar or honey, and sometimes pineapple as well.  This is definitely one of the first activities you’ll want to do upon arriving to the city, as it’ll give you ideas for other things to do while you’re there.

 Chicha, a traditional drink in Colombia that was originally fermented using human saliva before a more advanced manufacturing process was created.  An acquired taste.

Chicha, a traditional drink in Colombia that was originally fermented using human saliva before a more advanced manufacturing process was created.  An acquired taste.

Gold Museum

Bogotá is full of cultural activities that are either free or pretty close to it.  Entry to the Gold Museum is roughly the equivalent of $1 USD.  The Gold Museum has more than 30,000 pieces of gold artifacts and 20 thousand pieces of ceramics, textiles, etc. from pre-Columbian cultures.

TRAVEL HACK: The Gold Museum is closed on Mondays, but it’s free on Sundays!

Free Museums

Situated in Bogotá’s historic La Candelaria district is where you will find the Bank of the Republic’s museum complex, which houses several exhibits and cultural experiences for the enjoyment of the Colombian people.  Lucky for you, it's also open to everyone who visit.  The complex features art from Colombian artists such as Fernando Botero, permanent and temporary installations that cover all types of art, and (in a complete shock to us) several pieces from Picasso, Chegall, and Salvador Dalí! When you think of seeing the creations of certain artists, you definitely think of how much it’ll cost to see these works of art and whether or not you’ll actually get a chance to see them once you pay because of the hoards of people crowding the space.  This was not the case here.  You’ll probably never get as close to a Picasso painting as you would in Bogotá.

In addition to the art museums, you also have access to the Casa de la Moneda, which gives you a chance to learn the history of Colombian currency, and the Museo Nacional.  There’s also a massive library and musical instrument museum directly across the street!

Did we mention that entry to these museums is free?  Courtesy of the Colombian government, you can spend a day hanging out with Picassos without spending a peso!

Bourdain Approved: La Puerta Falsa

Any place that is a favorite of Anthony Bourdain should you be at the top of your list.  Located in La Candelaria, this place is known for its humongous tamales and ajiaco, a traditional chicken soup.  This is hands-down one of the best meals in Bogotá!

The Salt of The Earth

Book a driver and catch a ride to Zipaquirá to visit the Catedral de Sal. The fully functioning Roman Catholic church is 180 meters underground, built within the tunnels of a salt mine.

The sculptures within the underground sanctuary are all hand carved within the cavern's walls and with the assistance of some really dramatic lighting, the odes to the birth, life, and death of Jesus are dope to see and experience.

TRAVEL HACK: If you go on Sunday, prepare to be among the hundreds of others who attend service there.

 

Views from the Cerro

Take cable cars or funicular train to the top of Cerro de Monserrate for an unobstructed, gorgeous view of the entire city.  The mountaintop is the perfect place for a panoramic photo of Bogotá.

Andrés Carne de Res

No visit to Bogotá is complete without a night out at Andrés, the restaurant/night club that keeps the party going all night long.  Do yourself a favor and order the famous grilled chicken and some of the strong drinks from the bar. It’s hard not to join in on the fun, as you’ll be surrounded by locals having a great time, no matter what day of the week you decide to visit.

TRAVEL HACK:  If you have the time, make the 45 minute drive to the Andrés located in Chia, where the party is like no other.  If not, the Andrés located in Bogotá’s Zona T (or Zona Rosa, depending upon who you ask) is just as great of a time.

 

Compared to the other major cities in Colombia, Bogotá may seem quiet and uneventful on first blush, but trust us, by the end of your stay in Bogotá, you’ll wonder what took you so long to get there, and when you can make it back!