Due to Bogota's violent past, it's not surprising that many travelers instead choose to go to the more established tourist cities in the country like Cali, Medellin, and Cartagena. But with all the change it has gone through in the last decade, visiting this vastly underrated city will certainly shatter your expectations with its rich history, pulsating city life and its own set of world-class attractions. Here is a short list of some things that you’ll want to do and places you’ll want to visit in Colombia's capital:
La Puerta Falsa
Before you start your day strolling around Bogota, consider eating a delicious Colombian breakfast in one of the most enduring cafeterias in the city, La Puerta Falsa. Located on Calle 11, this small but respected institution has been serving excellent food to Bogotanos since 1816. Having been featured in many well-known guidebooks, travel magazines, as well as travel shows such as Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, it has become a favorite place for travelers to try hot tamales and Chocolate Completo.
Bogota Bicycle Tours
Explore the streets of Bogota on a bicycle and experience its vibrant urban life on a more intimate level with Bogota Bicycle Tours. They offer guided tours every day at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. It is a three to five-hour history lesson on wheels that covers an extensive list of important locations around Bogota. The tour not only discusses the country’s history, but also its current struggles with politics, poverty, and its war on drugs. For COP35,000 (about $14.00), you get to ride your bike along with a guide to historic sites like Plaza Bolivar, Plaza Del Chorro, Plaza San Victorino, and National University’s very own Che Guevarra Plaza. The tour also takes you to the Botero Museum and the National Museum where you get the opportunity to learn more about the history and arts of Colombia.
Bogota Grafitti Tour
Walk around the streets of Bogota and find some of the best street art in the city. Bogota’s lax policy on graffiti has made it a favorite venue for local and international artists alike, making it a giant open gallery for street art. Tours are offered twice a day from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 2 p.m to 4:30 p.m. regardless of the weather. The guides accept suggested donations between COP20,000-COP30,000 (around $8.00-$9.00).
The tour will take you to different parts of the city where you can find beautiful murals from an eclectic collection of artists. Discover colorful works from homegrown street art crew APC, and be on a hunt for the iconic fish murals of Spanish Graffiti legend PEZ. The tour will show you how art intertwines with history, culture, politics, identity, and religion. You will discover that most of the artworks showcased during the tour are not just simple, colorful creations, but are also symbols of the struggles and aspirations of Colombia.
Plaza De Bolivar
Step back in time and explore Bogota's biggest square: Plaza de Bolivar. Stand in front of the almost two-centuries-old Simon de Bolivar’s statue and feel the Colonial atmosphere that envelopes this historic site. Walk around and discover all the beautiful architecture that surrounds the plaza such as the National Capitol, Palace of Justice, Lievano Building (the office of the mayor of Bogota), and the Cathedral of Bogota. The plaza is undoubtedly one of the best places to go people-watching in the city.
Bogota has at least a dozen museums you can visit, but if you do not have time to see all of them, Museo Nacional is the best place to go. Originally built as a prison, Museo Nacional is one of the oldest museums in South America. It houses thousands of historical artifacts from Pre-Colombian period to modern-day Colombia. It also boasts artworks from classical and contemporary Colombian artists like Fernando Botero’s famous paintings of unnaturally large, curvy characters. Although admission is free, it would be best to sign up for a guided tour if you don't understand Spanish — especially since most descriptions provided with the artifacts on display are only in Spanish.
Cerra de Monserrate
End your day climbing Cerra de Monserrate on the east side of Bogota and visit an old church built in the 17th Century. Rising 3,152 meters above sea level, Monserrate offers a beautiful panorama of Bogota. Since it faces west, this is the best place to watch the sunset over the city. Most tourists reach Monserrate via the funicular or the aerial tramway which costs COP7,900 ($4.20) roundtrip. However, Monserrate can also be reached by foot, which many Catholic pilgrims like to do. Due to the altitude, some people find even the simplest tasks such as walking and breathing difficult. As long as you pace yourself, you'll get to enjoy the mountain’s majestic views.
It's always refreshing to visit a city like Bogota. Experiencing this place will help you gain a more positive perception of a country that has always struggled with bad publicity. So go ahead, Iet go of your preconceived notions and give this city another chance. You won't regret it.