Bogotá in a day.
There has been a steady advance in terms of culture, economy, and safety in the capital of Colombia. This vibrant city has seen a lot of change since the darker days of drug lords running the city, though it’s always wise to be a cautious and aware traveller. Even in the last decade since I first visited Bogotá, there have been advances in the city and security. Bring your dancing shoes and your appetite and we’re sure you’ll enjoy the city just as much as we do!
There are several old salt mines throughout the city. Hire a taxi to bring you to Monserrate for a trip up the mountain to a bird’s eye view of the city. Take the cable car to the top and don’t look down if you have a fear of heights. There used to be a slightly sketchy train car that used to ride through the mountain but they’ve also replaced it with the newer Funicular. You can also hike up to the top for a really good workout (remember also you’re at altitude so you’ll find yourself a bit more winded more quickly than usual… I seriously only ever work out maybe half an hour in this city). At the top you’ll find the Church of Monserrate before a walkway of shops with local artisans willing to bargain with you for a purchase. You can also grab a bite to eat at the restaurant or try some of the local quicker eats as you shop. I personally am always keen on the empanadas near the coffee stand (don’t forget the chimichurri sauce)! The panoramic views go for as far as you can see, and if you look straight in front you can just make out El Christo on the neighboring mountain, which lately has also become much safer.
This is one of the main stretches of busy roads in this busy city. You’ll find miles of shops, restaurants, hotels, and businesses along the avenue, depending on which area you end up in this huge city, but it is also a good directional point for reference especially when explaining where you are staying to your taxi driver. Taxis are available all throughout the city and they’ll have a card of prices for destinations so you know you aren’t getting ripped off. Stick to the yellow taxi for the pricing list, and bring cash. There are private taxis for hire as well and although they are significantly more expensive at times than yellow taxis, they are safe and reassuring to know you have a driver waiting for you when you’ve finished your exploring.
El Centro Commercial en Santa Barbara.
This is one of the safer parts of the city, mainly because it is a nice neighborhood just down the street from a military compound. There are also armed guards looking perilous but providing a sense of security in the malls and hotels. The NH Hotel is located inside and is attached to a large four story mall. During the week there is also a local artisans market just outside the side entrance. You could spend several hours wandering around the shops or just stop in for a coffee on the patio. There is a grocery store as well with an outside entrance accessible to the street or from inside the mall.
Once you’ve finished your shopping at the flea market outside the mall, continue your walk into the small streets of the neighborhood and you’ll pass plenty of restaurants and shops on your way to the Bogotá Brewery. Great menu, great prices, and great staff (which you’ll find is typical in this very hospitable city).
You’ll quickly realize that traffic is a real issue here. With a population of over 12 million and without an infrastructure for a subway system, you will most likely always hit some kind of traffic. Even though the government has put constraints in terms of driver’s licenses, days you are allowed to drive your car, or even if you’re able to purchase one (you must have a job with a contract to show income), you’ll think you’ve been relocated onto the I-405 in LA on a Monday at 5pm. Enter: the tram. This high-er speed electric tram is the city’s mode of mass transportation that provides cheap, fast rides to neighboring cities and towns. You can buy your ticket at any of the stations, just be mindful of which track and tram you’re looking for.
El Muséo de Oro.
Though I’ve not had the opportunity to check it out, I’ve heard great things about the “Museum of Gold” located in the city center. There are also a few other museums and shops nearby with some great places to stop for a bite or a coffee.
Through some of the oldest streets of Bogota near the city center you’ll find it’s official government buildings (and maybe even a peaceful protest of a camp of tents in front of the main steps). This is where the city’s government officials meet and conduct their official business.
El Muséo de Botero.
Walk slightly uphill and you’ll pass El Muséo de Botero, the famous Colombian sculptor and artist, known for his plump subjects. Originally from Medellín, this man is considering the most famous living artist in Latin America (at the time of this article). His proportionally larger-than-life sculptures can be seen in Columbus Circle and Park Avenue in New York City as well as the Champs-Èlysées in Paris. And here.