For Costeños (coastal people of Colombia), Bogotá is a whole lot of NOPE. It’s too cold. The people too snooty and boring. The traffic too congested. Yet while the latter is true— invest in a skateboard or something— we find the capital city of 8 million to be incredibly welcoming. And at a perfect temperature to explore the abundant sites we never had in Barranquilla. Though that may be the east coast mentality talking though. If, like us, you are a newbie gringo to the city, you’ll most likely end up in La Candeleria. It’s the Old City of sorts, with European architecture and the majority of Bogotá’s museums, attractions, and popular hostels. Without even venturing out past La Candeleria, visitors can entertain themselves solely within its boundaries. Traffic-free experience guaranteed. Here’s how to enjoy La Candeleria, Bogota in 48 hours:
Bogotá Craft beer tour, 5 p.m.
Start your Friday off like a champ by getting classily intoxicated. This fledgling tour run by Bogota&Beyond and started in November of last year. It escorts you and your posse around the city in search of the newest and bestest microbreweries. For 70,000 pesos a person, try up to 20 different artesanal samples, as well as five full-on pints. Even if you’re not a beer connoisseur, you’ll receive an education. As well as the kind of social experience that earns you travel buddies for the rest of the weekend. My favorite brewery was El Mono Bandito, if only for the sexy ass lighting that would get anyone laid.
Eat breakfast at La Puerta Falsa, 9 a.m.
If it’s good enough for Anthony Bourdain, it’s good enough for me. Opened in 1816, this crazily-packed cafe is a legend and frequented by both locals and expats alike. Do yourself a favor and order a tamale, just like everyone else, made with chicken and pork belly, all stuffed in a banana leaf. Wash it down with chocolate completo, served to local politicians since its early days. Service is quick, portions sufficient, and the atmosphere rambunctious.
Graffiti Tour around La Candeleria, 10 a.m.
Bogotá is the city of street art, a title you will soon easily agree with. What started with political messages primarily during La Violencia, quickly exploded in 2012 with a boom of artwork around the city. After a series of controversial deaths of street artists, followed by protests, the government now regulates the culture with a bit of a contradiction. Street art is technically illegal here (think $60 fine plus damage fees), unless you get permission from the local government.
Back to the tour: it’s free— donations appreciated— and takes you on an easy walking route around La Candeleria. More than just an introduction to the various artists (Toxicomano, Stinkfish, Guache) and techniques (stencil, muralism) of street art, the tour guide weaves in tales of history and politics. Justin Bieber, huh? As someone from Philadelphia, the one of the original birthplaces of graffiti, I definitely gained a new appreciation of the art. Even for those crazy tags called “wild style.” The new mayor is not a fan of the art (ever hear of the “broken window” theory?) and is working hard to paint over the culture, so be quick about it before he gets his dumbass way. Watch the video below for our tour highlights:
Lunch at Saint Just, 1:00 p.m.
I’m normally a little wary of Trip Advisor’s top 10 lists, but our graffiti tour guide was quite insistent that we check out Saint Just. It’s a French-Colombian restaurant huddling under the giant lion and hummingbird mural. Make yourself comfortable at the bar, in full view of the tiny kitchen whipping out gourmet dreams. We settled with the lamb served with some ridiculously-juicy sauce, as advised, but obnoxiously drooled over every dish the short distance away. Expect a wait, especially for the check (#colombianservice).
Coffee break at Café Magola Buendía, 3 p.m.
Eating makes me tired. Too bad, we’re not done here. Inject yourself with caffeine at this trendy coffee shop maximizing its large space with comfy sofas, hammocks, and traveling hipsters. I went with one of their specials, the coconut cappuccino and surprisingly didn’t keel over from inevitable Colombian sugar overload.
Shop at Ricardo Corazón de Papel, 4 p.m.
Typical souvenirs of coffee and cigars are all good but for something a little different, head to Ricardo Aguirre’s colorful workshop. Here at Calle 20 # 3-29, pick up a hand-bound journal or notebook in an eccentric design, all on recycled paper. Designs vary on a monthly basis and are all created by local Bogotá artists. Forget moleskin people.
Admire the city lights from Monserrate, 5 p.m.
It’s so cliche. Take the Teleférico or funicular up the 3,152 meter high mountain overlooking La Candeleria and watch the sun set with the 5 million other tourists doing the same damn thing. For 20,000 pesos round-trip… yikes. Regardless, most believe the frenzy is worth the trip with its landmark old church (1640) and twinkly perspective. These days, it is possible to make the 1.5 hour hike up the mountain, but tourists are advised to avoid doing so in small groups or at night.
Dinner at Pizzeria Madre, 7 p.m.
More like a speak easy than a restaurant with its ambiance and live music, Madre is set back far Calle 12 in a giant warehouse. Famous for its brick oven pizza, it’s hard to go wrong. Prices are a wee bit expensive so be prepared to treat yoself.
Bike or people watch at La Candeleria’s Ciclovia, 7:00 a.m.
Feel like a fat ass from yesterday? Join all of Bogotá on the ciclovia, 120 kilometers of city streets closed down for pedestrians, bikers, and retro rollerbladers. If you can hunt down a bike shop that’s actual open or has bikes available, then awesome. Enjoy those roads. If you can’t plan that far ahead of time, just pop a squat on some bench and do some judgmental people watching (see video below). Prepare yourself for a cute variety of riding selections, creepy ass street performers, and juice vendors selling an orgasm in cup form.
Coffee break at Contraste Coffee Lab, 9:00
No one should wake up that early on a Sunday. Too late. Slap yourself with a flat white at Contraste, a tiny hole-in-the-wall ran by the same people who do both the craft beer tour and our next activity. You’ll need the fuel.
Amazing Race, La Candeleria style, 10:00
Ever hear of The Amazing Race? Ever want to do it but know you’re not that hot to make the cast? Our friends at Bogotá&Beyond are winning yet again with their version of this popular scavenger hunt. While a select Sunday during the month is the major event, the hunt still runs every Sunday no matter the turn-up. Recruit people from your hostel or something. Participants are divided into teams and given a list of challenges, all that must be photographed or video recorded (hint: dancing, duh). The challenges take place on the ciclovia, but this time you’ll be the one being judged. Prepare to learn new things about Colombia, embarrass the shit out of yourself, and practically punch your boyfriend in rage during the post-race tally. Stupid bonus round…
Lunch at Lucha Picante Pizza, 12:30 p.m.
Yes, more Italian. Though it’s not the best pizza, that’s not why people come to the pizza stand around the corner from their bigger Mexican restaurant. The owner is a former Mexican wrestler and has brought Mexican spices to the slices. Each costs a mere 3,500 pesos. Ask the oven boss to throw your slice— get the “teriyaki” one— in the oven for a second round. You’ll see why.
Museum hop, 2:00 p.m.
Whether or not you can stand museums, La Candeleria has two of the best: the Boltero Museum and the Gold Museum. The first revolves around Colombian’s beloved artist Fernando Boltero, one that had a petulant for painting obese individuals (he didn’t seem them that way). Two floors display his work, along with a few other select artists. The other is a shiny display of indigenous glory that we found way more interesting albeit educationally exhausting. Bling bling baby.