Since we were flying back out of Bogota, we thought it would be nice to spend a couple days and check out the city. We basically did a whirlwind tour, and these are the highlights:
La Candelaria is the city’s colonial center and main tourist zone. The main plaza is Plaza de Bolivar, and that is the area where Bogota was founded by conquistador Gonzalo Jimenex de Quesada in 1538. Right around the plaza is the Palace of Justice, Palacio Lievano (City hall), Capitolio Nacional (House of Congress) and Catedral Primada, a 19th-century Catholic bastion where Quesada is buried. The streets around also have a number of other important sites including Casa de Narino, the President’s home and Silva Poetry House.
We also visited Museo de Oro, Bogota’s famous gold museum. The museum has more than 55,000 pieces of gold, many of which originate from pre-Hispanic Colombia and other parts of South America. It’s very well done and provides a lot of great information on the history of gold and its role in pre-colonial Colombia.
And of course, just strolled around the area, taking in the graffiti.
Also in the area, is the famous La Puerta Falsa, a hole in the wall restaurant that is situated in a 350-year old colonel house. It’s name was adopted as the church across the street had fake doors that were built as a defense mechanism to mislead attackers to the city. The restaurant didn’t have a name so the locals just started calling it “La Puerta Falsa”.
Up a narrow stairwell of the house, there are a few tables and there is no menu – you get a typical Santafereno home cooking. The restaurant only serves a few items: Tamales, Ajiaco (potato and chicken strew with corn on the cob, rice and avocado), fresh juice and Chocolate Completo (hot chocolate with bread, cheese and sponge cake…and you put the cheese in the hot chocolate and scoop it out while melted). We decided to keep it simple and go for tamales and lulo juice, both delicious!
Quinta de Bolivar
Just down the street is the house of Simon Bolivar. It is a colonial house built in the 17th century and gifted to Bolivar because of the role he played in the war of independence. He owned the house for about ten years but spent very little time in it. The gardens surrounding the property are extremely peaceful.
Monserrate dominates Bogota’s skyline, and can be accessed by foot, funicular or teleferico (Cable car). We had planned to take the funicular up and the cable car down, but the cable car was closed while we were there.
This area was once inhabited by the indigineous, and in 1620, Cofradia de la Vera Cruz began using the hilltop for religious celebrations. In 1640, a church was built to honour Montserrat’s Virgin Morena and in 1657, a monastery was built. Today, besides the stunning views, you’ll find the church (where many locals attend mass), a couple restaurants and a market. It’s a great place to spend the morning.
Andres Carne de Res
Everyone you will meet will tell you that you must go here, and it’s hard to understand why until you do it. We booked dinner Friday night, and jumped in an uber to drive an hour to Chia. Upon arrival, you’ll see the bright lights – the seven kilometer restaurant originally started as a tiny roadside grill serving the best carne de res (beef) to the locals. Today, it is a massive steakhouse, dance club, bar and party all in one. It is truly a production – upon entering, you are greeted with fruits. The 70-page menu is a magazine, but of course, carne is the main event and well worth it. At some point, a band will come over and honor new guests with sashes in Colombian colours, and definitely expect confetti, dancing and other surprises. It is an eclectic and chaotic experience, but it must be done!