Best things to do in Bogotá, Colombia
By Lucy Sherriff, CNN
One of the tallest capitals in the world, Bogotá is billed as “2,600 meters closer to the stars”.
While that elevation (8,530 feet) means you’re more likely to be shrouded in clouds than staring at a starry sky, when it comes to coffee and culture, the metropolitan city doesn’t disappoint.
Here are some of the best ways to experience the city:
Botero and beyond
Bogotá is not known for its art scene, but it should be. The city packs a punch with its many art galleries, of which there are over 100, many of which are free or inexpensive. Every October, the city hosts the Bogotá International Art Fair, a four-day extravaganza of artists showcasing their contemporary works, in a variety of formats and media.
The Museo de Arte de la Universidad Nacional is one of the most established galleries, bringing together some of the city’s most experimental and ambitious projects. El Parqueadero, located on the first floor of the Museo de Arte del Banco de la República, offers a blank canvas for artistic productions in a space that began as the museum parking lot.
Galería MÜ is one of the first galleries in the country dedicated solely to fine art photography and focuses on showcasing Colombian artists as well as organizing workshops on the history of photography.
The Museo Botero pays homage to Colombia’s most famous artist, Fernando Botero, with his plump women and plump fruits. Located in a beautiful colonial mansion whose rooms wrap around a courtyard, the gallery is free to enter. It is home to 208 pieces from Botero’s art collection, of which 123 are works he created and 85 are from his private collection of renowned international artists including Picasso, Money and Chagall.
A look at the walls
Bogotá has a unique street art culture, which is as much a part of the city as the walls themselves. Local artists are allowed to occupy sections of the city’s buildings, and the result is a collection of colorful, engaging and conversationalist murals.
The aptly named Bogotá Graffiti Tour offers two free tours per day. The art of graffiti offers an insightful glimpse into a complex city, and taking a tour is a fantastic way to understand the social and political commentary this art form seeks to convey.
Latin American history shines in some of Bogotá’s best museums. Besides the famous Museo del Oro – Gold Museum – which houses over 55,000 gold coins, many of which are Amazonian sacred adornments, the city offers many other institutions in which to get lost for the day.
Santa Clara is a former church turned into a museum and a magnificent colonial-era building built between 1629 and 1647. It costs less than a dollar to visit and see paintings by some of Colombia’s most revered Baroque artists, as well. as intricate gold floral designs and religious statues.
The Museo Nacional de Colombia is housed in a former prison, designed by English architect Thomas Reed in 1874. Ethnology, art and archeology are all on display here dating back to 10,000 BCE in 17 rooms. exposure.
Another must-see museum is the Museo Colonial, housed in a building that is itself historic – built in 1610 as a former Jesuit school, it breathes history. The museum houses a wide variety of paintings, sculptures, antique furniture and decorative arts.
A cup of coffee
No guide to Bogotá would be complete without mentioning coffee. Although the city is not located in the Coffee Triangle, the area famous for its coffee production, many cafes have sprung up in recent years now that the country does not export all of its best beans.
Historically, Colombians drank pasilla, the dregs of the coffee industry, which has been brewed into a grinning force tinto. Fortunately, things have changed since then, and although you will see locals enjoying a cup of tinto of a street vendor, good things are not to be missed.
Lucia Londoño Tostadores and Varietale both offer excellent coffee tasting tours without leaving the city. Visitors learn how coffee is grown, harvested, roasted and brewed and come together to become coffee connoisseurs.
And those who prefer to go straight to the café are spoiled for choice.
Café Arte y Pasión in Plaza Bolívar is a charming old café with vintage decor. Amor Perfecto in Chapinero is one of the country’s first specialty cafes and is worth a visit for its award-winning coffee and unusual methods, such as the honey process – coffee that is left to dry in its own pulp, creating a more brew. gentle.
Azahar at Parque de la 93 is a fancy place that uses coffee directly from the farmers, and they are also completely transparent about their prices.
A distinctive souvenir market
Worth a visit to the north, Usaquén is a charming yet trendy neighborhood with a lively food scene.
But the best activity is the Sunday flea market, which is open from around 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (take it or give it away, after all this is Colombia). Usaquén Market offers endless local crafts, including pottery, soap, jewelry, shoes, cold cuts and other handmade items.
Climb for a view and search for species
A trip to Monserrate on a clear day takes visitors a little higher for a panoramic bird’s-eye view of the sprawling city. The funicular offers a wobbly ride that makes you feel dizzy, or there are many stairs. There is a church at the top and a few overpriced restaurants, but the real draw here is the city skyline.
Another wonderful outdoor activity is a visit to the Botanical Garden of Bogotá, an oasis of calm in the middle of the chaotic city. Colombia is one of the richest countries in biodiversity on the planet, and the gardens showcase an impressive selection of flora from the many ecosystems, with particular emphasis on Andean and páramo species.
Flavors of Colombia
One of the best things about Bogotá is the booming food scene and the fact that visitors spending dollars get a great exchange rate, which means you can eat standard Michelin star food. without breaking the bank.
Leonor Espinosa is one of the country’s most beloved chefs, and for good reason. She sources fresh food from local farmers and is passionate about incorporating cultural traditions into her menus. LEO, its eponymous restaurant, offers a 13-course tasting menu.
At Matiz, meanwhile, every dish is like edible art, with the menu stretching across land and sea for its ingredients.
A more traditional, family-friendly experience can be found at La Puerta Falsa (False Door) restaurant in La Candelaria, where diners can sip a bowl of hot ajiaco soup – made with three types of potatoes and chicken and served with ‘avocado and rice – and finish with a hot chocolate, of course dipping almojabana bread in it.
The must-see destination, however, is Andrés Carne de Res, located in Chía, about an hour’s drive from Bogotá depending on where you’re staying. But most of the people who flock to this infamous institution don’t go for the food – they go for the party.
Much better suited to non-pandemic times, the gargantuan restaurant can seat 2,000 people – and they still have to turn people away at their doors. The menus are 40 pages long, diners leave their tables halfway through the main course for salsa (there are five dance floors) and there’s also, for some reason, a 25-foot climbing wall.
Alongside the DJ, there are several live bands, as well as a few hammocks in the parking lot for those who are too tired to return to town.
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Lucy Sherriff is a Bogotá-based freelance multimedia journalist covering environmental, travel and gender issues.