2,600 meters closer to the stars lies a bustling metropolis, the capital city of a country that continues to rise from the ashes of its dark past, and at times complicated present, to welcome tourists looking to discover a new Colombia. Though we were only in Bogotá for a short time, this vibrant city deserves to be fully explored to uncover the rawness and realness that make it unique and unforgettable.
- 3 DAYS
50s-60s and partly cloudy in November
Family in Northern Bogota / Hilton Garden Inn El Dorado Airport
Lunch at El Tambor
- 3-4 hrs
- Food & Drink
With most of my father’s family still in Bogotá, Day 1 in the capital city of Colombia consisted of family time… and boy were we well fed! After spending the morning at home, we headed to El Tambor for lunch – a place that has become a bit of a family tradition whenever we are in town. With the mountains as its backdrop, El Tambor is an outdoor restaurant and park (we usually go to its Autopista Norte location) that is known for its asados or foods on the grill. Colombian asados are typically referred to as fritangas or picadas and consist of EVERYTHING from the most basic to the most EXTRA.
Our favorite picada go-to’s are morcilla (blood sausage), papa criolla (a small and crispy golden yellow potato), longaniza or regular chorizo (sausage), chicharrón, arepa (both sweet and salty), meats (from chicken to beef and pork), corn, and chunchullo (beef small intestine – I’m not a fan but those who are say that the crispier the better!). And then, there’s dessert. At El Tambor, you can have your pick of artisanal ice cream to a Colombian classic – an oblea, two thin circular wafers with your choice of spreads which include arequipe (or dulce de leche), dulce de mora (blackberry jam) and condensed milk. So much fried goodness may have you reaching for the Alka-Seltzer after but, trust us – it’s worth it!
Sightseeing at Plaza de Bolivar
- 1 hr
Since we only had 1 full day in Bogotá, we started our Day 2 bright and early right in the city’s historic district of La Candelaria, from which one can easily access multiple of Bogotá’s must-see attractions. Plaza de Bolivar is considered the city’s main square, surrounded by buildings that dictate the country’s legislative and moral compass. These include Bogotá’s Cathedral, the Capitol building, the city’s mayoral office and its Palace of Justice. A block away from Plaza de Bolivar also lies La Casa de Nariño, the current residence of the nation’s president.
Though the plaza’s signature flock of pigeons make it an interesting and photo-worthy stop, the historical significance of this location alone makes it a place that deserves to be visited. Since its colonial times to today, Plaza de Bolivar has witnessed the social, political and cultural tides that have dictated the country’s past, present and future – serving as the setting to everything from peace rallies to religious celebrations to some of the nation’s most traumatic events (such as the 1985 siege of the Palace of Justice by an insurgency group).
Breakfast at La Puerta Falsa
- 1 hr
- Food & Drink
A short walk from Plaza de Bolivar lies what is considered the oldest restaurant in Bogotá, and (according to the sign on the door) potentially even the country. Founded in 1816, La Puerta Falsa is a tiny, unassuming eatery nestled within a two-floor establishment that has stood the test of time and today, still preserves the colonial look of its past.
The restaurant’s menu is simple (as some of the best things in life are!) with only a few selections to choose from. But amongst the most popular is the tamal santafereño, a local breakfast favorite that is made of chicken, peas, carrots, bacon and herbs, all mixed together in a tasty corn flour and rice dough and cooked while wrapped in a plantain leaf. It’s a hearty breakfast that must be accompanied with Colombian hot chocolate, cheese (preferably eaten melted inside of the hot chocolate), and almojabanas, a colombian bread made of, yes you guessed it… cheese! While Carlos went the tamal route, I decided for another Bogotá breakfast staple – the changua. Changua is a hot milk-based breakfast soup that includes an egg, cilantro, scallions, garlic and a form of “stale” bread called calao. Don’t judge it ‘til you taste it, it’s delicious!
Exploring Museo Botero & Museo Casa de la Moneda
- 2-3 hrs
After such a hearty breakfast, a museum was the perfect place to walk off our fullness while now feeding our minds. Just a short 3-minute walk from La Puerta Falsa along Calle 11 lies the Botero Museum and the Coin Museum. These two museums lie within a colonial building complex that, in and of itself, is picture-worthy – with beautiful colonial columns, arches, balconies and fountains.
After doing a quick walk-through of the Coin Museum, which captures the history of the nation’s currency, from indigenous times to the present, we spent most of our time in the Botero Museum. The galleries house 123 pieces of art from world-renowned Colombian artist, Fernando Botero, known for his distinct paintings, sketches and sculptures of fat people and things. At times humorous and at others politically significant and poignant, Botero’s art inevitably elicits a reaction that creates a lasting memory (personally, his artwork makes me smile :D). In addition to his own artwork, we were surprised to find an equally impressive collection of artwork from Botero’s personal collection from such artists as Picasso, Renoir, Monet, Calder, amongst others.
- $7 pp
- 2-3 hrs
No visit to Bogotá would be complete without visiting its most famous mountaintop, Monserrate. Sitting at 3,152 meters above sea level, the Cerro de Monserrate is home to the Sanctuary of the Señor Caido de Monserrate (Fallen Lord of Monserrate). Day after day, religious pilgrims and tourists alike make the trip to the top of the mountain by foot (the walk can take from 1-2 hours along the permitted trail), funicular or cable car. We recommend going up via one form of transportation and down the other to get the full experience.
Once you arrive, there’s a short walk up to the Church itself along a cobblestoned passageway lined with the stations of the cross. Muru Tip: you will experience some shortness of breath so be cautious on the walk up and take your time. Once you’ve reached the summit, the view will now likely be responsible for taking your breath away as you’ll have an astounding vantage point of part of the city (though it may appear you are getting a full city view, the reality is Bogotá is even bigger than what you can see at Monserrate). After taking as many pictures as you possibly can and paying your respects at the church, we recommend checking out the artisan market behind the sanctuary. The Cerro also has two well-known restaurants – making your visit to Monserrate as multi-faceted and varied as the city itself.
Tasting the Flavors of Mercado de Paloquemao
- 1-2 hrs
- Food & Drink
Colombia is very well-known for its large variety of fruits and nowhere is this more fully on display than at the Mercado de Paloquemao, or the Paloquemao Market. When we asked local family friends to take us there, we were met with inquisitive looks as, from their perspective, this is JUST a food market. However, what makes it something we can’t take for granted is the fact that nowhere else will you be able to smell and taste the richness of Colombia’s natural ingredients and see how bountiful its colors are.
Though we got there right as some of the food stands were starting to close, we still managed to buy local fruit and see ingredients we either hadn’t seen in years or hadn’t seen ever. As we walked through the various stalls, we happily ate uchuvas (gooseberries) and granadillas and were tempted by plenty of other unique fruits such as lulo, maracuyá, guanabana, tomate de árbol, curuba, amongst others. Muru Tip: If you truly want to experience what it feels like to be a local, check out the market in the early morning when it’s likely to be bustling with local buyers.
Dinner at Leo
- 2.5 hrs
- Food & Drink
We must admit that when we entered Leo, named in 2018 as Colombia’s best restaurant by The World’s 50 Best and ranked #10 in Latin America, we were expecting flavors that felt more familiar. Granted, Colombian cuisine is best known for its heartier meat, potatoes, and beans. However, what Leo’s chef Leonor Espinoza is doing is surprising guests with ingredients and cooking techniques that have virtually been forgotten in more popular Colombian cuisine.
Named “Cycle Biome” due to Espinoza’s studies of the country’s various ecosystems, Leo’s menu spotlights everything from the Amazon’s earthy flavors (with such ingredients as caiman), to Santander’s popular big-bottomed ants, to the coast’s lesser known seafood options, while also reinventing more conventional ingredients such as ox tail. The dining experience is probably unlike any other Colombian restaurant you’ve been to. And it is precisely this that makes Leonor’s craft worth applauding – a female chef bet on the flavors of her own country, painstakingly studied them and today, is unapologetically elevating Colombia’s cuisine onto a world stage. And for that, we commend her.
"Salsa, Vinyl and Pork" at Mesa Franca
- 2 hrs
- Food & Drink
After exploring another part of Colombia for 3 days (want to know where we went? Our Boyacá itinerary is coming out soon!), we came back to Bogotá for one last night and had an incredibly fun dinner at Mesa Franca. The restaurant’s proposition is probably similar to many other foodie spots that spotlight Colombian cuisine – a contemporary exploration of the country’s flavors using locally sourced ingredients. However, Mesa Franca over delivers by providing perfectly executed dishes, drinks that make you go “another, please!” and an ambiance that is refined yet unpretentious.
We went on a Thursday Night as the restaurant has what it calls Salsa, Vinilo y Cochinillo or “Salsa, Vinyl and Pork” – a weekly event where they prepare an incredibly crispy and flavorful pork dish while a DJ spins Salsa classics on vinyl. The concept alone sold us but once we tasted the food, we knew Mesa Franca is a place we need to come back to. In addition to the Cochinillo, we had a refreshing ceviche from the day’s specials and an equally satisfying dish of Calamar y Mollejas or Calamari and Calf Gizzard. If there’s still room for dessert (which we recommend you do leave some), we couldn’t get enough of their rice pudding cake. This was the perfect meal to say, Hasta Pronto Bogotá!
- As with other Latin American countries, traffic must always be considered so plan accordingly and give yourself time for the commute.
- Bogotá is rich in museums but unfortunately, the majority (with the exception of the Botero Museum) are closed on Mondays.
- Colombia’s capital is worth visiting during one of its many year-round cultural events (also considered some of Latin America’s best), including the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro and Rock al Parque.
Other places to visit
- Museo del Oro
- Museo Nacional
- Parque Simon Bolivar
- La Quinta de Bolivar
- Andrés Carne de Res