A WEEKEND IN BOGOTA
To be honest, Bogota, a city of 8 million, was not at the top of my must visit list when I moved to Colombia. However, the VivaColombia flights were only $45 each for a round trip, so Daniel and I decided we should see the capital city for a weekend. I’m so glad we did! Bogota has a lot to offer, like an amazing nightlife, gorgeous parks, beautiful architecture and a phenomenal food scene. We walked over 30 miles through the city during the course of the weekend, save yourself some blisters and explore it here with me 🙂
We arrived on Friday evening and settled into the Hobu Hostel in Chapinero. When we searched for the best neighborhood to stay in in Bogota, La Candelaria, the historical center, was mentioned a lot. however, while beautiful during the day, the barrio isn’t safe to stay in at night. That’s why we chose the Chapinero neighborhood, a hipster up and coming area to the North of Candelaira. Our hostel was situated in a perfect location, so we could walk to Candelaria to explore in the day, and walk to Zona Rosa to hit the bars and clubs at night.
Be warned: Bogota is much more expensive than Medellin. It was normal to see beer prices doubled from what we usually pay, and most bars and clubs had $8 or even $10 covers to enter. Because of this, we limited our night out to Friday only, and met up with some locals to experience the craft beer scene, and dance the night away in Bogota’s famous bars!
After a late start to our day and breakfast at the hostel, Daniel and I set out to explore Bogota. With one taxi ride, we hit three destinations at once. Universidad de Los Andes, a pretty campus with a bustling student life, Simon Bolivar’s house turned museum, and the cable car up to the Monserrate view point. Simon Bolivar’s old home is now a museum with a lush walled in garden, and for the $1 entrance fee it was certainly worth the visit. Afterwards, the weather was gray and cloudy (the usual in Bogota) so we decided to give the cable car a miss and wait for clearer skies.
We walked from the museum down through Candelaria. grabbing a sandwich at the quaint Quatro Mesas restaurant and exploring the winding streets and colorful graffiti of the city. Eventually, we made our way to Libreria Merlin, a must see on your trip. The book store is in a four story house thats full of winding rooms and mazes of books. It featured walls of books in English that we spent hours pouring over, as well as hundreds of choices for any language you may be searching for. It is beautiful, and the perfect cozy respite from the cold, rainy weather outside.
That afternoon, we got lucky and the sun came out just in time to take the cable car up to Monserrate. The cost was $14 for two round trips, but if you go on a Sunday you can get tickets for half price (but will have to deal with the crowds!) The view point sits atop the mountains that form the eastern boundary of Bogota, and it showcases a church, market, and a couple restaurants and gardens. We spent hours up there, enjoying the sun, the view, and finally the sunset while all the lights slowly flickered on across the city. It was unforgettable, and my favorite part of our three day trip.
On Sunday we woke up refreshed, ready to join the masses at Ciclovia. Whats that? Ciclovia is an amazing Colombian tradition, where every Sunday they shut down the main street in many cities (In Bogota, it’s Carrera 7, called Septima) from 7am to 2pm for bikers and joggers to enjoy. We walked the entire stretch from Chapinero to Candelaria, enjoying the vendors, flea markets, and street performers that saturated the streets. Our walk ended in Plaza Simon Bolivar, a massive square full of families (and pigeons, ew!). One side features the dominating Cathedral of Bogota, but there is history on all sides in the surrounding Capitol building and Palace of Justice.
Right around the corner from the church is a classic Bogota establishment, La Puearta Falsa. The tiny restaurant has been in business since 1816, and is officially known as the oldest restaurant in the country! We went for lunch and enjoyed Bogota’s famous dish: Ajiaco. The hearty soup was full of potatoes, chicken and even an ear of corn, and was the perfect filling comfort food for the weather. After lunch we visited the Gold Museum (also free on Sundays!) to see the amazing carvings from the indigenous tribes of the country. Not only is it full of priceless, and beautifully carved gold pieces, all of the exhibits are also in English, a rarity for the country. Definitely worth stopping in for an hour or two on your trip!
Unfortunately, we stepped out of the museum just as a MASSIVE storm hit the city. We jumped in a cab to head back to the hostel, and in all of the confusion trying to get my backpack together, keep my camera safe, and open my umbrella in the downpour, my phone fell out of my pocket and i left it in the taxi. I realized almost immediately and was calling it and tracking it within five minutes, but the driver must be an old pro, and had already snatched it and turned it off so it couldn’t be traced. It was such a shame that he chose to be dishonest, but luckily I only lost 24 hours worth of photos, and my family can bring me a new one from the States when they come to visit next month, so I wont need to deal with hunting down an iPhone in a foreign language here!
While we’re on the subject of taxis, good luck figuring out your fare while you’re here. In Bogota, the number on the meter is not what you pay. Instead, that number corresponds to a price on a chart. Once you have that price, you need to look at the “special occasions” list on the bottom, like if it’s late at night or early in the morning, if it’s raining, etc, and then add on to the price for those as well. However, most taxi drivers either don’t have those charts or refuse to let you see them, and will instead just tell you a random number they think they can get you to pay. Only one actually gave us the chart, but then conveniently had no change for our bills… Maybe I’m biased because of my phone, but I found the taxi drivers and system in Bogota to be more dishonest and less straightforward than those here in Medellin.
The storm we were caught in was so powerful it knocked out our hostel’s power for the night, but we built a fire in the old fireplace and gathered around to order pizzas and share a few beers with the other guests. That’s the beauty of traveling, a tough day can end with one of the most memorable nights.
Our final day in Bogota began with a trip to Simon Bolivar park (yes, everything in the country, actually the whole continent, is named after him!) The park has a lake with kayaks for rent, walking trails, an amusement park, and so much more. It’s even bigger than Central Park in NYC! While nice to see, I think it would have been more enjoyable if it had been sunny and dry (does that ever happen in Bogota??) After a quick lunch at Taco Bell – yes you heard that right, expats, there are multiple Taco Bells in Bogota! – our homesickness was satiated with a Frito burrito and crunch wrap supreme, and we were ready to head back to Medellin.
The flight home was a short 50 minutes, and before we knew it it was back to work for another week (minus one cell phone of course) Ah well, we’re off to San Andres next Tuesday, so it’s not too bad!
All my love,
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