I’ve been travelling for about 2 years, I’ve met a lot of different people from all over the world and interacted with all types of social classes, but one thing they all share in common is a poor image of the country that I am currently a resident of – Colombia – and its capital Bogota. This country is magical, there’s something very special about it and its culture that makes it unique among all Latin America. Already a funny reversed name actively used by locals can tell you a lot about it: Locombia, that is pretty impossible to translate, but gives you an idea of a “crazy Colombia” (from Spanish Loco, meaning “crazy”).
If you have several weeks to explore Colombia, you’ll be fascinated by its destinations. And even if you have only several days, you’ll catch its spirit. Let’s start with the capital and try to see the best of the best and the most essential. Here I’ll show you the way…
The most visited and the most touristic neighbourhood is La Candelaria, a historical centre where most of the hostels and budget hotels are located. Here you definitely have to spend a day or two.
Begin your perfect day in Bogota trying something typical. Feel like a local and go to this lovely restaurant Pasteleria Florida on the 7th Avenue (Septima), where a lot of Colombians prefer to have breakfast with the whole family. I already told you about typical and the most delicious Colombian street food, and some of those you can actually find there. However, to try the most typical breakfast, order a tamal (rice and meats mixed with vegetables and wrapped in a banana leaf) or a bowl of caldo (simple soup made of meat on a bone and potato).
As for me, tamal is too greasy to swallow and caldo is amazing for a hangover morning 😉
By the way, a weird fact about Colombian cuisine: on the same menu you can find “cheesecake” and “torta de queso” that literally means “cake made of cheese”. These guys seem to be identical, but in fact, they are very different indeed. How so and why? No idea, but “torta de queso” appears to be a better option.
To know the city
Fully imbued with Colombian culture of breakfast, it’s time to explore the most unique (as for me) city in Colombia. At 10:00 am sharp a Free Walking Tour will be waiting for you in front of the Museum of Gold (Museo del Oro). This tour is organised by Beyond Colombia and has been successfully functioning already for 3 years as well as their other tours.
Before the tour, it’s strongly recommendable to complete a simple registration form on the main page of their site to get the best and personalised service. The tour is held every single day on the same spot at the same time. So if you missed the one today, be sure you can take it the very next day.
In front of the Museum, next to the Santander square (Plazoleta de Santander), wait 5-10 minutes for a group of tourists to organise around the red umbrella and start your excursion around the historical centre of the city learning the culture, history, customs and tips about Bogota and the whole country.
During 2.30 – 3 hours you’ll visit all top must-see places in Bogota and will be given the best introduction to the city and its culture at first hand by friendly local English speaking tour guides that will become your friends already after the tour! How? Why? Because it’s Colombia! You’ll definitely love it!
After the Free Walking Tour you’ll become an expert in how to move around the city, which museums, sights and parks to visit, where to spend an excellent party night and just to grab a beer or a Colombian chicha drink. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask your tour guide. There’s no better way to know the city than asking a young local, right?
I was afraid to expect a lot from this tour as I’ve already taken walking tours in other countries, but I have to say I was totally satisfied. Right enough time, a lot of essential information, necessary tips and a bracelet that allows you to have discounts in many establishments around Bogota neighbourhood. Even more, we made a stop to try one of the best chicha drinks in Bogota at a charming and cozy Hotel Casa Galeria, where you can stay while visiting the capital of Colombia, situated on a very colourful little street leading to Plazoleta del Chorro del Quevedo.
Check the following page to know more about the best Free Walking Tours in South America.
To relax after the tour go back to Museo del Oro and on the way, on Plazoleta El Rosario, you’ll find a small and undistinguished cafe called “Cafe Pasaje”. What is special about it? The thing is it is the oldest coffee place in Bogota that was founded in the beginning of the XX century! Feel the atmosphere of the previous century, since as soon as you enter you’ll see 50-60-year-old men in suits sipping tinto (traditional black coffee of Colombia) and talking about daily life concerns.
Another must do in Bogota is to visit the Monserrate mountain that is almost 600 meters higher that Bogota reaching 3152 meters above the sea level. The whole city will lie at your feet and you’ll see how boundless the capital of Colombia is. From there it is impossible to notice its drawbacks, but only to admire the beauty and originality of the city.
There are plenty of places in Bogota to spend an excellent party night! Bogota is a truly party city! There is even a special T-zone (Zona T), where all the bars, pubs and small clubs are placed. If you’re a fan of electronic music and great parties you have to visit Baum, Bogota’s one of the best night clubs. An unbelievable night in Colombia is guaranteed. And if you prefer to stay in La Candelaria, try out a native Colombian beer in a Bogota Beer Company and go to El Candelario Bar, where you’ll discover a nice dance music mixed by the best DJ-s of the city.
After this long day, you’d definitely need to get a good sleep and don’t forget about the caldo soup in the morning 😉