Don’t let memories of Pablo Escobar and the drug cartels of the 80’s scare you, crime is under control in Colombia and with increased safety the country is back on many travelers’ destinations lists—big time! Bogota, Colombia’s high altitude capital, is booming, offering stunning vistas and world-class museums. There’s a hot restaurant scene and a fabulous just opened Four Seasons Hotel, so expect the attention to only increase. Our friend Pam just got back from a week trip throughout Colombia with her husband and another couple and shared her highlights with Daytripper365 in what she describes as a must visit city.
Visiting on a Sunday, rent a bike and join in the Ciclovia. Many of the city’s major streets are closed to traffic and this is a fun way to feel like a local. Also on Sundays, in the charming neighborhood of Usaquen with its cobblestoned streets and 17th century villas pick up some artisan handicrafts at the lively food driven Sunday market.
Make sure to try a bowl of Ajiaco—the definitive dish of Colombia’s capital. It’s a soup made of chicken, corn, potatoes and avocados—yes, please!
Bogota is in the Andean foothills at an extremely high altitude of 8,600 ft. Be prepared for cooler temperatures, especially early morning and evening and pack accordingly.
Stay: We checked into the historic Casa Medina, which the Four Seasons had just reopened 2 weeks before our arrival after elegant renovations and restorations. We all loved the hotel. Located in the Zona G neighborhood--Bogota’s upscale shopping and gastronomic hub--it’s also the best area to stay. Upon arrival, we had lunch at the hotel’s excellent restaurant Castanyules.
Art: Colombia has a growing art scene, which our group was eager to check out—We visited galleries NC Arte and Casa Riegner, which features upscale, conceptual art. We found Galeria Sextante a strange place, but enjoyed seeing the printers in the back. Our last stop, Galeria El Museo, focus is more on contemporary art. We were lucky to meet the owner Camila when we arrived, who gave who gave us a tour. If you are particularly interested in art, send her an email ahead of your visit. We also visited Flora, an alternative art space that was strange and we all agreed a miss.
View: Some choose to hike up Mount Monserrate, a steep mile and a half trek, but most take the cable car or funicular up to the top for stunning, panoramic views of the city. Have a tropical drink at the top before heading back down. Don’t skip this thinking it’s touristy!
Dinner: Book a table at Raphael, a short walk from the hotel with excellent food and a great atmosphere.
Unique Tastes: Start your day with some fresh fruit juices at Paloquemao market. Try some from fruits you just don’t see back home such as curuba, lulo, zapote and maracuya. Foodies will love this large market!
Morning Sights: Bogota is a big city and it’s helpful to have a car and driver to cover more ground, but you can choose to wander on your own. (We met a pre-arranged guide; arrange this through the hotel before you arrive.) Start by exploring historic La Candelaria, the old town section of Bogota where we were charmed by the colorful houses, colonial architecture and cobblestoned streets. We all loved the Botero Museum set in a renovated colonial house with drawings, paintings and sculptures from Fernando Botero—Colombia’s most famous artist. His distinctive works of full-bodied men and women are housed among pieces from the artist’s private collection—overall a very impressive museum. Another must is a visit to the Museo del Oro in the Plaza Bolivar, the main square of the city, to view the world’s largest collection of pre-Hispanic gold. We saw the Cardinal’s Palace and the Palace of Justice-- notorious for the 1985 attack when guerrillas stormed the palace killing 25 Supreme Court Justices. Don’t miss the Iglesia Museo de Santa Clara—both the church and the museum--a highlight, one block from the Plaza.
Consider this: If you’ve never visited a salt mine, you might be interested in taking the drive (approximately an hour and a half) to visit Zipaquira and its underground salt cathedral. We were underwhelmed, and felt we could have spent the afternoon differently, but others have told us they found it very interesting. You decide.
Dinner: Everyone loved Harry Sasson, it’s a buzzy scene in a gorgeous restaurant—just so fun and we all loved our paella. Another night we dined at Tabula serving elevated Columbian food in a beautiful space from chef Tomas Rueda. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to try Club Columbia, Abasto and Mercado –all were highly recommended from locals we met.
Extraordinary Meal: We were highly disappointed that we were not in Bogota on a weekend after hearing much about Andres Carne de Res. I would go as far as to say plan your trip around going here. It’s more than just a restaurant with 11 dining rooms accommodating over 2,000 diners! There’s dancing, singing, plus a store—we heard its an experience, a restaurant like no other. Locals and tourists alike drive the 45 minutes (Arrange a car to enjoy a drink…or two) for the ultimate party with excellent food.