Alright, so you’ve finally arrived in Bogota. Perhaps this is the beginning of your Colombian adventure and have just flown in. Maybe this leg of your journey is coming to an end and you’ve just taken the night bus from Salento. Whatever your reason for coming, even if it’s only to spend a day in Bogota, give yourself a pat on the back – it was a great idea!
We visited this amazing city at the end of our time in Latin America. As such, we were running low on time. Although we didn’t have much time to explore as much as wanted, we managed to get in a few great experiences.
So if like us, when you find yourself in Colombia’s capital, and you’re pressed for time, don’t worry. Here are the best things to do in Bogota that you can easily do in a day or two!
Spending a Day in Bogota
First things first, get some breakfast. Now, because most people won’t stray too far from their accommodation to fuel up, I won’t get into specifics. These suggestions are typical Colombian breakfasts and will be easy to find almost anywhere in Bogota.
Try an Arepa
With egg, or cheese; or egg and cheese… you get the idea. I caution even saying ‘breakfast sandwich’ because it isn’t, but it’s the closest comparison I can make. Thin, usually crispy corn dough is either fried or grilled and stuffed with butter, cheese, eggs, avocado, and other tasty options.
Famous throughout Latin America and dating back several thousand years, tamales are a staple you can’t skip. Varying throughout the region, they all feature some form of masa (corn flour) dough, filled with meat and vegetables, and steamed in a banana leaf.
You’ll find tamales in restaurants and small street side carts all around the city. Enjoy with some freshly squeezed juice or some powerful Colombian coffee – or make things easy and go for both!
Take the Graffiti Tour
Latin America has some outstanding displays of street art, and Colombia stands strong as one of the best. Bogota itself boasts the biggest graffiti scene in the country and artists from around the world flock here to leave their colourful marks.
While there are several walking tours you can take part in while visiting the city, if you only have time for one, make it the graffiti tour. The guides are well versed in street art culture and have a vast amount of knowledge regarding the local scene. You’ll not only see some brilliant works around central Bogota but also learn the stories behind some of the pieces – both artistic and profoundly political.
It’s a popular tour, so we definitely recommend booking ahead, as it does fill up!
Grab a quick snack
Just a little bonus tip if you opt for the graffiti tour, you’ve gotta make the most of your day in Bogota after all. At the end of the tour, you’ll be on a street with a little restaurant with a window on the sidewalk. This window sells these delicious cheese pancakes that make for a perfect snack before heading on to your next activity!
Take in some Great Views of Bogota
An interesting part of Bogota’s landscape is the mountain range that rises abruptly right on the edge of downtown. One of these mountains is Monserrate and offers spectacular views of the city.
To get to the cathedral atop the mountain you have three options. First is the cable car; and similar to the ones in Medellin, it’s a quick an efficient way to reach the summit. Second is the funicular. A little slower than the cable car, the funicular is a much more interesting ride. A small railcar designed specifically for the often impossibly steep tracks, climbs the mountainside through forests and tunnels along the way.
Timetables tend to vary depending on the day of the week. Mondays and holidays tend to be the wildcard. The cost of a round-trip ticket for both is around 20,000 COP.
Finally, if you’re not anything like Kylee and I, you could choose to hike the mountain. This, of course, is the free option to ascend the mountain, but be aware that with the 400m elevation gain, it’s not for everyone.
Shopping in La Candaleria
Aside from the many shopping malls and higher-end stores around town, you’ll find some great gems in La Candaleria. Chances are you’ll be staying in this part of town, but if not, head over and explore a little!
Being a more tourist-oriented area, there are plenty of options for typical Colombian souvenirs, but there’s so much more to offer. Seeing as it’s also a hub for university students and artists, there are a lot of hip shops selling custom art, clothing, jewellery and other interesting pieces.
This local brew packs a solid punch. Chicha is an alcoholic beverage of unknown potency made from fermented corn flavoured with fruits and occasionally spices.
While there doesn’t seem to be any set regulation on the stuff, or how it’s produced, you never really seem to know what you’re getting. That being said, it’s definitely worth giving it a go.
We tried this atomic-coloured chicha at an artisan market in La Candaleria. Each brew was produced from different coloured corn. This stuff is incredibly tart and has a powerful kick of sweetness, so do yourself a favour and give it a sample before buying a whole bottle. I don’t want to think about the hangover this stuff would bring.
Lunch – Pork
Without question, the best food we ate while in town was at Jacinta-lechona. Typical to the area around Bogota, lechona is not vegan-friendly. All of the meat from within a pig is chopped up and mixed with onions, spices and rice, then stuffed back into the pig and roasted.
The filling is so incredibly rich, steamed from the natural pork juices, and the slices of skin are perfectly crisp. Jacinta-lechona only serves this one item, and offers a simple vinegar-onion sauce that cuts through the richness perfectly.
Wind Down with a Colombian Classic
Finally, finish your visit to Bogota off the same as we did, with a steaming glass of hot chocolate, with bunuello and a slice of cheese.
On our final afternoon, just prior to grabbing an Uber to the airport, we finally picked up something we’d heard about throughout our time in Colombia. Though it sounds more like a morning dish, it’s typically eaten as a light snack in the afternoon, often on the way home from work.
We popped into Reposteria Cafe, near where we were staying, and it was hardly what we’d consider a ‘light snack’. Shortly after ordering, we were each presented with a slice of fresh cheese as thick as a piece of toast, a bunuello the size of a softball, and a pint glass of outstanding hot chocolate.
Though I can’t speak for the portion size everywhere else, this typical Colombian snack can be found at cafe’s all around Bogota.
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