More Than Travel: Immersive Experiences in Bogota, Capital of Colombia

More Than Travel: Immersive Experiences in Bogota, Capital of Colombia
| 5 min read

“All cities are mad: but the madness is gallant. All cities are beautiful, but the beauty is grim.” ― Christopher Morley

Bogota has been called many names, but Morley nailed it most accurately. This 8-million plus populated Colombian city may leave one speechless with its beautiful madness. Although I have reservations about Bogota as a world-class cosmopolitan city (as described by one of the world’s leading travel publications), this capital city certainly has some to offer with her intriguing history, diverse cultures and eye candy!

From visiting state of the art museums, strolling along cobblestone paths in an old neighbourhood, to delving into the jeans culture of Colombia, there are much to explore in Bogota. Here’s sharing some great experiences.

Museum hopping in Bogota

Museums (sometimes in the form of small libraries) are aplenty in Bogota, and very conveniently located to one another in the downtown area. There’s something for everybody, and best of all? Admission is free at most museums! In fact, even the art-filled streets of La Candelaria is akin to an open-air and living museum.

If time is limited and you want to make the most of your visit, there are three museums that best depict what Colombia has to offer; namely Gold Museum (Museo del Oro), Colombian National Museum (Museo Nacional) and Botero Museum (Museo Botero).

Gold Museum (Museo del Oro)

Gold has always played an important role in the lives of early settlers - the Muisca - as well as for present-day Colombians, and you can admire over 34,000 intricate artefacts and their significance in the 4-storey Gold Museum! With a history dating back to A.D.300, the sophisticated designs of the gold can sometimes be baffling! Anthropology lovers should not miss The Offering room, which will transport you into a world of ceremonies and offerings.

With the title of being one of the best museums in Latin America, the interactive Bogota Gold Museum provides bi-lingual descriptions (Spanish/English), audio guides and guided tours.

Bogota Gold Museum (Museo del Oro)

Address: Cra. 6 #1588, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Price: 3,000 COP / 1 USD

Opening Hours: 9am - 6pm (Tuesday - Saturday) 10am - 4pm (Sunday)

Duration: around 2 - 3 hours required

Contact: +57 1 3432222

Website: Museo del Oro

Colombian National Museum (Museo Nacional)

Built in 1823, the Colombian National Museum is the oldest and biggest museum in the country and its unique and stately architecture makes it hard to miss in the city center! Learn about the building’s former life and stories as a prison, before the museum takes on its current role to represent the nation with its extensive heritage and art collections. In addition to 17 permanent exhibition rooms, there are temporary exhibitions and programmes that can warrant at least a day of your stay in Bogota.

Colombian National Museum (Museo Nacional)

Address: N, Cra. 7a #28-66, Bogotá, Bogota, Colombia

Price: Free for permanent exhibitions

Opening Hours: 10am - 6pm (Tuesday - Saturday) 10am - 5pm (Sunday)

Contact: +57 1 3816470

Website: Museo Nacional

Botero Museum (Museo Botero)

I’m the most Colombian of the Colombians, even though I’ve lived 47 years outside of Colombia. I’ve lived 13 years in New York, and I never did a painting about New York. I’ve lived in France more than 30 years, and I’ve never painted Paris. Fernando Botero
Mention art in Colombia, and one of the first names that will come to mind will be that of the Medellin-born artist, Fernando Botero. One does not need to head all the way to Medellin city to see the artworks of Botero (although it is highly recommended!).

Located in the historic downtown area, Botero Museum presents an art collection donated by Botero that comprises his personal creations and those of international artists. While art is subjective to individual preferences, there’s an alluring draw to the voluminous, colourful and larger-than-life artwork of Botero.

Botero Museum (Museo Botero)

Address: Cl. 11 #4-21, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Price: Free

Opening Hours: 9am - 7pm (Monday, Wednesday - Saturday) 10am - 5 pm (Sunday)

Duration: around 1 - 1.5 hours required

Contact: +57 1 3431316

Website: Museo Botero

Immersing in the lively atmosphere of La Candelaria

Multi-faceted La Candelaria has that ability to draw visitors in with her diversity even though there is a constant reminder of keeping on one’s toes. Imagine Spanish colonial architecture that lined the streets leading to Plaza de Bolivar - an important square that marks the independence of Colombia - and creative street murals that can be explored on a walking tour.

Life thrives in this space of old and new, with national monuments, recreational and dining options. Besides visiting the colonial churches and museums in the area, there’s no better way to indulge in the Colombian culture by trying Colombian food. Head to ‘El Mejor Ajiaco del Mundo’ for the best Ajiaco (chicken and potato stew) in the world!

El Mejor Ajiaco del Mundo (literally meaning best Ajiaco in the world)

Address: Cl. 11 #6-20, Bogotá, Colombia

Contact: +57 1 5666948

Partake in the butt-fitting jeans culture at Gran San (Centro Comercial)

There are jeans, and there are Colombian jeans. This awesome invention by Levi Strauss in 1871 has been taken to a whole new level in the beauty-emphasised Colombian culture and even BBC news took notice. Each pair of Colombian jeans are characterised by its high waistband, pinched-butt design and decorated back pockets to specifically do its job as a butt-lifter. No more saggy jeans!

The best place to purchase jeans is at Gran San Shopping Centre (Centro Comercial El Gran), the biggest wholesaler of jeans in Colombia, with more than 700 stores. In case you are not a jeans lover, just stepping into Gran San is an exhilarating experience (be careful of culture shock!) as you see ladies changing in public while busty models struts on countertops.

Gran San Shopping Centre (Centro Comercial El Gran)

Address: Cra. 10 #937, Bogotá, Colombia

Price: from 40,000 - 70,000 COP / 14 - 24 USD per pair

Opening Hours: 4am - 6pm (Daily)

Duration: around 2 - 3 hours required

Contact: +57 1 3521387

Website: Centro Comercial El Gran

Shopping and dining at charming Usaquen

Located in northern Bogota, Usaquen is a charming neighbourhood with cobblestone paths, Sunday markets and hipster dining scene. This is also an ideal place to stay for visitors who are looking for alternatives to accommodations in the city center.

While you are here, keep a lookout for the Santa Barbara church (dates back to 1665) as well as the beautiful colonial buildings, many of which has been transformed into restaurants and hipster bars. Being an advocate for supporting local enterprises, I recommend thirsty/hungry travellers to visit the Bogota Beer Company for some local brew that’s mixed with Bogota’s purified water.

Bogota Beer Company

Address: Cra. 6 #119-24, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Opening Hours: 12am - 3am (Thursday - Saturday) 12am - 2am (Sunday - Wednesday)

Contact: +57 1 7429292

Website: Bogota Beer Company

Join locals at ciclovía and cycle around Bogota

Ciclovia at northern Bogota
Source: Karen Zheng

‘Ciclovía’ is a Spanish term for a bike path, and in cities such as Bogota and Medellin, it means roads are cordoned off for cyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the open streets. Since 1974 when the idea was first born in Bogota, ciclovía has become an official programme in the city and takes place every Sunday from 7 am till 2 pm. Subsequently, other cities such as Medellin and Cali followed suit.

In Bogota, one can cycle more than 100km from north to south of the city and get acquainted with Bogota alongside her beautiful inhabitants on a Sunday morning. For non-cyclists or those who just want to take in the atmosphere, feel free to explore the open streets on foot.

Admire city views at Monserrate

There’s something to be said about having the ‘world’ at your feet and to experience this in Colombia, you can do so at Cerro de Monserrate - a mountain in the city center of Bogota. Standing at 3.152 meters above the sea level, Monserrate is more than just a visitors’ attraction. It is also a place of worship and recreation space for those who wish to escape to the mountaintop, and enjoy the breeze and city views.

The best times to visit would be during sunset and at night when the city starts to light up. In case you are wondering, one can ascend the mountaintop either by taking the funicular (highly recommended) or by hiking.

Cerro de Monserrate

Address: Cra. 3 Este, Bogotá, Colombia

Price: from 9,500 COP / 3.25 USD

Opening Hours: 6.30am - 12am (Monday - Saturday) 6.30am - 6.30pm (Sunday)

Contact: +57 1 2845700

Website: Cerro de Monserrate

Make it more than travel in Bogota

If time permits, there are free walking tours in the city, vibrant nightlife activities at Zona Rosa as well as a million other things to do depending on one’s preferences. Having visited Bogota on multiple occasions, this capital city never fails to surprise with her constant line-up of new sights, interesting experiences and sometimes baffling culture. But don’t take my word for it. Visit Bogota, and make it more than just travel. Immerse, and experience all that this Colombian city has to offer.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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