La Candelaria, Bogotá
Colombia Latin America

Yes, Bogotá is worth visiting

August 9, 2018

When people travel to Colombia, they usually plan to see Cartagena and Medellín, only adding Bogotá if it fits into their itinerary since it’s “just another city.” Despite what might be common opinion, I can attest that Bogotá is worth a visit. Just be sure to pack clothes for the colder weather and be smart at night (as the Colombians say, “no dar papaya!”) and you’ll be able fully enjoy the Colombian capitol.

Here’s what makes Bogotá a unique destination.

The charming historic district

La Candelaria is Bogotá’s historic district. With colonial-style buildings and cobblestone streets, it’s no surprise that it’s a prime destination for tourists. It’s also close to many of the city’s museums.

La Candelaria, Bogotá

Note that La Candelaria isn’t the safest neighborhood at night, so it’s best to avoid walking around (especially by yourself) when it’s dark. Uber is also an reliable option to take you in and out of the neighborhood. Note that we did stay in a hostel in the area and didn’t run into any issues.

The awesome museums

Bogotá is full of interesting museums. The most famous one is probably the Museum of Gold (Museo del Oro). It features a collection of gold and other metals of various pre-Hispanic groups in Colombia. The entrance fee is $4k pesos, but it’s free on Sundays. We went on a Sunday and it was jam-packed, so it may be worth paying the extra pesos to have more time to admire everything up close.

The Botero Museum (Museo Botero) features the painting and sculptures of Colombia’s most famous artist, Fernando Botero. You’ll see his unique style of creating voluptuous figures and objects — and some big, bare-naked butts. Best of all, there’s no entrance fee!

Botero Museum, Bogotá

Graffiti everywhere

You’ll notice graffiti and street art all around Bogotá. I highly recommend a graffiti tour to learn about its history and evolution in Bogotá. Note that we actually didn’t do this particular tour since our hostel signed us up for a tour with Breaking Borders. What’s unique about Breaking Borders is that former gang members lead a tour through Barrio Egipto, a neighborhood historically plagued with crime and violence. They explain the history of the neighborhood and its recent transformation as illustrated in the graffiti. It felt like a raw, intimate exposure to the community, so I really enjoyed it. We even got to see our guide’s old bullet wounds!

Barrio Egipto, Bogotá

Note, though, that the tour is only conducted in Spanish, so you’ll need some level of proficiency, or you can ask someone at the hostel (if they arrange the booking) to have someone help translate. The tour costs $25k pesos and lasts about 2 hours.

Ciclovía

On Sundays, Bogotá closes a number of roads for people to bike, walk, run, and simply be car-free. In fact, Bogotá’s Ciclovía is one of the largest and most frequent mass recreation events in the world. We didn’t get a chance to participate since it was raining on the Sunday we were there, but if the weather permits, you can join in by renting a bike (there are a few rental shops in La Candelaria). Those who are adventurous can bike up north toward the Usaquen flea market (Mercado de las Pulgas de Usaquen) for some handmade goods and interesting crafts.

Ajiaco

Ajiaco is a chicken and potato soup that’s especially popular in Bogotá. It’s delicious and makes the cold nights more bearable. We tried it the first night at our hostel in Bogotá and it really hit the spot (in fact, I was so hungry I forgot to snap a picture!). Don’t leave Bogotá without trying this hearty soup!

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