Best things to do in Bogota

The fourth highest capital in the world, Bogota, is home to more than eight million people. The capital city of Colombia, the political, cultural and economic centre of the country, located high in the mountains and surrounded by stunning Andean peaks, has recently turned into a tourist destination. Here are things to do in Bogota in one or two days including a visit to Monserrate Bogota, walking around Plaza Bolivar Bogota and seeing the best Bogota street art.

For the morning of your first day head to Montserrate.

Visit Monserrate

You probably will want to visit Monserrate for awesome views over Bogota from 3152 meter (10,341 feet) High Mountain. Monserrate is an important symbol of Bogota. Its name is derived from the Monserrat Mountain near Barcelona in Spain. The weather is usually better in the morning so consider getting there before noon. There are three different ways to reach the top of Monserrate: you can climb the stairs, take a cable car or the funicular, the cable car being most popular. As it was closed on the day of my visit, I took the funicular instead. Monserrate’s history dates back to the Pre-Colombian era when the city was inhabited by the indigenous Muisca tribe. The Monserrate church was built in the middle of the 17th century in honour of Monserrat’s Virgin Morena whose shrine was located in Barcelona. After exploring the mountain’s church, you can walk the cobbled streets, see souvenir shops, or browse the market. If you are hungry, have a meal at the restaurant Casa Santa Clara, one of the best places to dine in the city.
Transportation: take bus M86 from Portal ElDorado T-4 to C.C. Hacienda Santa Barbara for an about 40 minute ride and then go up a bit further and once you reach the main street, continue to your right. Just follow the crowd; you can’t miss the starting point of Monserrate.
On your way back, head to the corner of Carrera 3 and Calle 22 to see spooky sculptures.

Spooky sculptures

Spooky, haunting sculptures along Carrera 3 behind the Jorge Tadeo University in front of El Armario restaurant are the work of Cuban-American sculptor and art professor Galaor Carbonell (1938-1992), made during the mid-1980s. Magazine critic Roca stated: “it’s an aggression against public space, against the spectators’ eyes.” The sculptures have survived, except for one. and have become a point of reference in the neighbourhood. Nobody seems to mind them, or perhaps even to notice them, but me. Then go on foot or by public transport to San Diego Church.

San Diego Church

The church contrasts with the new architecture surrounding it. The church was built in the seventeenth century as a tribute to San Diego de Alcalá, a Franciscan brother who was famously dedicated to religious service and also to defeating the Spanish royal troops in the Vargas Swamp and the Boyacá Bridge.

Address: Calle 26 No. 7-30

You have to have some refreshments or a meal by now so head to nearby Restaurant El Boliche la Macarena.

Restaurant El Boliche la Macarena

This Italian restaurant has an awesome interior with many artworks on its walls. Pencils are provided for creating new artworks by yourself. I just had coffee and a dessert, so I don’t have any comments about the main course.

Address: Calle 27 No. 5 – 66

Then head to the Old town or La Candelaria.

La Candelaria

La Candelaria is a historic neighbourhood in the city’s downtown, the equivalent to the Old City in other cities. Many of the buildings of La Candelaria have been declared properties of historical and cultural interest. There are around 500 artistic institutions or groups, museums, research centres, theatres, libraries, and universities in this area of the historical centre of Bogotá.  On your way, visit a jewellery shop.

Visit a Jewellery shop for Colombian emeralds

Colombia is the world’s number one producer of emeralds because high quality raw materials to produce jewellery are found in the country. The three main emerald mining areas in Colombia are Muzo, Coscuez, and Chivor. Rare “trapiche” emeralds are found in Colombia, distinguished by ray-like spokes of dark impurities. There are also deposits of gold, silver, platinum and other precious and semi-precious stones such as several types of quartz, amethyst, garnet, and morganite, among others.
I missed it but you can surely visit the Gold Museum.

Gold Museum

In the heart of Bogotá, the extraordinary Gold Museum will astound you with the largest collection of prehispanic gold work in the world. It’s such a special place that, in 2018, National Geographic magazine named it one of the best museums in the history of the planet. The museum has 34,000 gold pieces of incomparable beauty and historic value. Many of these items were used in the daily life or sacred rituals of indigenous people.
Another museum worth visiting is the Botero museum.

Botero museum

Fernando Botero Angulo (1932) is a Colombian figurative artist and sculptor. Born in Medellin, his style known as “Boterismo” and depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume. He is considered to be the most recognized living artist from Latin America. Many works of Fernando Botero are on display at the Botero Museum in the centre of Bogotá. They are placed in a colonial house containing a collection of more than 200 works that the artist donated to the Bank of the Republic. The English tours begin at 11 and 16 hours.
No visit to Bogota is complete without visiting Plaza Bolivar. If you are heading there from Calle 11, use the opportunity to check the souvenir and local handicraft market on your way.

Plaza Bolivar

With an area of almost 14 000 square meters, the city’s Plaza Mayor, initially called Plaza de la Independencia, can accommodate more than 55 000 people. On the square stands a statue of Simón Bolivar. The statue was created in the middle of the 19th century by Italian sculptor Pietro Tenerani. The Plaza de Bolívar is surrounded by a complex of government buildings, including the Congress of the Republic, La Casa de Nariño, The Palace of Justice, The Liévano Palace, The Primada Cathedral, The Colegio de San Bartolomé, and La Vase House. As a witness of the life of the nation, it has been the scene of dramatic events.

Palace of Justice of Alfonso Reyes Echandía

On the north side of the square, the Palace of Justice is located. The high council uses it today. The building has a modern look because it was built just in 1989. The building standing there before was destroyed in 1985 as a result of a takeover by the M-19 guerrillas and the army’s return. By the time the crisis was resolved, 11 of the court’s 25 justices were killed, including the president of the court Alfonso Reyes Echandía. The building was in ruins for 4 years before it was demolished to give place to new construction.

Cathedral of Bogota

In the east of the square is the Cathedral of Bogota. It was built between 1807 and 1823. A must see site on Bolívar Square is the Cathedral of Colombia. Besides being one of the most-visited churches in Bogota, it also serves as the Catholic Church headquarters in Colombia. The cathedral is one of the largest in South America and the final resting place of the founder of Bogota, Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada.

Palace Lievano

Palace Lievano is located on the west side of the Plaza de Bolivar. It was rebuilt in 1907 after a fire, in the style of the French Renaissance, by the plans of the French architect Gaston Lelarge. In 1960, the administration of the city bought the building and adapted it to the functions of the town hall. The building is decorated in a simple way.

National Capitol Building

In the south of the square, there is a classical Greek style building of the Parliament of Colombia. Almost a hundred years were needed for the building to be completed in 1926. The building was designed by English architect Thomas Reed. The facade is simple, with three rows of six fluted Ionic columns. Access to it is restricted. It was declared a national monument in 1975.

Then head to Grafitti District of Bogota to see great street art examples. 

Grafitti District

In Bogotá, from 2016 to 2019, more than 300 new street artworks were made in 17 locations in the city, mainly because of Graffiti festivals. The fourth Graffiti District festival in 2019 featured 25 Colombian and international artists. 29 new works were added to the 76 that have been painted in Puente Aranda neighbourhood since 2016, totalling in 6,000 square meters of urban art. Puente Aranda is the neighbourhood with the greatest concentration of large format graffiti in Latin America.

Practical information

Depending on the time you have allocated for Bogota and your pace, this itinerary can take one or two days. The map provided here shows the walking route, still, I recommend doing longer distances by public transport.

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What did you think? Have you been to Bogota? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.

  • Published by Anita on February 28, 2020

    Author: Anita Sane