Best of Bogotá

April 18, 2011 by

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Currently I’m living in Ecuador under the auspices of a Fulbright. A few months ago I was informed that the annual Andean Fulbright Conference was to be held in Bogotá, Colombia this year. I was super excited to get the news – a week in Bogotá! In the months leading up to my trip, several friends visited Colombia and each time they 1) got me more and more energized for the visit and 2) added something to my must-do list, “make sure you eat here…take time to fit this in…etc,” you get the point. While there was some “conference time” during my stay, we did get some time to tour around on our own and we had several group activities that gave us an opportunity to see different parts of the city.

We stayed in the historic part of town, or the Candelaria. This is a great part of town to stay in, as you can walk to countless museums, restaurants, and you are only a short ride from some of the city’s major attractions.

Photo walk through Candelaria

Photo walk through Candelaria

I’ll give you some of what I consider to be city highlights, and definitely worth the time:

1. Botero Museum– Painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, a national star, donated a significant collection to the museum in 2000. Botero’s famous for, what is best described as, his “portly” subjects, and they will put a smile on any visitor’s face. The museum is in an old colonial building with a beautiful central courtyard that offers views of Monserrate. Other permanent works in the museum come from artists such as Dalí, Picasso, Renoir, Chagall, Corot, and Miró. Entry is free and attached is the Casa de Moneda (Money House) featuring currencies from the colonies. I could easily have spent an entire afternoon wandering the museum.

2. Plaza de Bolívar (Bolivar Square)– This square is the center of it all in Bogotá, where all four of Colombia’s powers meet facing each other from each side of the square: the Executive Branch, the Judicial Branch, Congress and the Catholic Church. When I was there the square was covered with shoes in perfect lines to commemorate land-mine victims from internal conflict of previous decades. Just around the corner from the square you will find the presidential palace.

Plaza Bolivar with shoe installation

Plaza Bolivar with shoe installation

3. Monserrate– To one side of the city are high ridges mountains overlooking the city. It’s stunning looking from the city to the mountains, but equally as stunning riding the Teleférico (Gondala) up to the Monserrate Sanctuary overlooking the city. Coming from Quito, where we have our own teleférico, I wasn’t certain I needed to make the trip to Monserrate, but once I saw it overlooking the city, I realized it was definitely worth the trip (the views in the two cities, Quito and Bogotá, are very different and the areas at the top distinct). Only from the top do you really get a sense of what a sprawling metropolis Bogotá really is.

4. Andres D.C.– If you talk to any local or resident of Bogotá they will tell you that your experience is not complete until you dine at Andres D.C. With five stories and a capacity for 2,000 guests, this spot has a unique, vibrant energy, and surprisingly good food given everything else that is going on in the restaurant. Actors and dancers wander the floors, entertaining guests and instigating spontaneous dance parties among clientele. Drawn into the live music and salsa dancing, at one point in the meal I turned to a friend and said, “I feel like a little kid who just wants to play, but I have to finish dinner first!” (The original restaurant, Andres Carne de Res, is just outside of Bogotá. Due to high demand the owners recently opened this branch in the city).

5. Gold Museum– The Gold Museum, just a few blocks from the historic center, is really well done and the interior of the building is a beautiful modern space.

6. Juan Valdez Cafe– So, yeah, Juan Valdez is now an international brand, but Colombia is the birthplace of this coffee marvel! Although Andean countries are major coffee bean growers, because much of the coffee is exported, it can be hard to get a good cup-o’-joe (…or espresso). You’ll be tired from your city exploration, take a load off at anyone of the Juan Valdez’s in the city. During happy hours you’ll find them packed with sharply dressed locals, many of them quite easy on the eyes…

7. Walking tour of Candelaria– The historic district holds a lot of history (ha!), and so a walking tour with a guide to share the stories is a great way to understand Bogotá. Walking the narrow streets you will come across the foundations of the original city, the homes of ex-viceroys from colonial times and squares where major events happened during independence.

8. Conference?– Oh wait… that was just my excuse to get to Bogotá! (I kid, it was great, but not a mandatory tourist activity)

The moral of this story is that I definitely plan to return to Colombia to spend more time in Bogotá and explore some other parts, including Cartagena (I hear it’s incredible too).

Anne Davis

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2 Responses to “Best of Bogotá”

  1. Francisco Franco-botero Says:

    Gran ciudad Bogota, vivi dos anos alla y me falto mucho por conocer.
    La recomiendo ampliamente para toda clase de actividades.

  2. Jonny Blair Says:

    Good tips here – I spent a week in Colombia a few years back at Guasca and Santa Ana Alta and loved it. In Bogota the Candelaria was my personal highlight. Safe travels. Jonny