Let me start off by saying this is not your average travel blog post. I am not going to be able to recommend you a ton of stuff or tell you about the amazing things we saw, did and ate because as the title might suggest…we were bummed out in Bogotá. In other words, there was a toque de queda (Spanish for CURFEW) half the time we were there and the other half of the time? Everything was closed, tarps were put up, and there were more police officers than I’ve ever seen in my life. Now before you read this and think, “Wow Rachel are you really upset that this poor country’s political unrest ruined your vacation? How very white privilege of you!” I know exactly how this is coming across and that’s not what I am actually saying. An entire country’s political unrest didn’t personally affect me in the same way it’s affecting Colombians. Again, just want to say…while we were indeed sad everything was closed because there was a lot of cool stuff I wanted to see…I don’t blame Colombians for protesting their government as soon as I landed at El Dorado.
OKAY, now on to the real fun stuff. Except less fun than other blogs about Bogotá because we didn’t get to do much. But I will share what my itinerary WAS so you can see all the cool things we WERE going to do before the entire city shut down. We were lucky to spend twenty days in Colombia! Had there been no political unrest and the city was functioning as normal the basically 3 full days we had in Bogotá would have been just right but because there was so little to do…it felt like an eternity.
|Day 1||Exploring La Candelaria (Historical Downtown) |
– Plazoleta Chorro de Quevedo
– Plaza Bolivar
– Palacio de Justicia de Colombia
– Capitolio Nacional de Colombia
– Catedral Primada de Colombia
– Museo Santa Clara
– Casa del Cabildo Eclesiástico
– Capilla del Sagrario de la Catedral de Bogotá
– Palacio Arzobispal de Bogotá
– Santuario Nuestra Señora del Carmen
– Palacio Liévano
– Pasaje Rivas
– La Puerta Falsa
|Day 2|| – Cerro Monserrate |
– Santuario Monserrate
– Quinta de Bolivar
– Parque de los Periodistas
|Day 3|| – Museo del Oro |
– Catedral de Sal de Zipaquira
From the following itinerary, here’s what we actually did:
Plaza Bolivar (which is surrounded by Palacio de Justicia de Colombia, Capitolio Nacional de Colombia, Palacio Liévano, and Catedral Primada de Colombia)
A lot of the protest the two days before we arrived happened here: the square with their major political buildings. By the time we arrived, the graffiti damage (mostly seen on the Justice Building) had been done and for the most part, streets leading to the plaza had been closed off to prevent large crowds from entering from multiple streets. We visited fairly early in the morning so even though there was a protest there that afternoon, we missed it. Netting covered the Congress building and the Cathedral to prevent what happened to the Justice Building which is great for the beautiful buildings…less great for blog post photos. Oh and here’s a better picture of just a few police officers keeping watch over the empty square.
Close to the Plaza, is the Santa Clara Museum, which was probably what I was most looking forward to seeing but due to the protests, was closed. It’s a small museum of mostly religious artwork but the interior is the REAL art. Here’s a picture from TripAdvisor. If you’ve been or plan on going, please send me pictures so I can live vicariously through you!
Another place I would have loved to visit was Santuario Nuestra Señora del Carmen. This Cathedral is distinct in its outward appearance–a hodgepodge of very different architectural styles, Byzantine and Arabic art and its unmissable red and white stripes (check out the picture above from TripAdvisor). While I could have gone to see at least the outside of it, I gotta admit we didn’t go out of being lazy. I could lie and say it’s because La Candelaria (the neighborhood we stayed in and where most of the things on my itinerary are located) was the epicenter of all the protests and therefore dangerous. But honestly, we didn’t go because the streets of La Candelaria are steep AF. I guarantee you even a WKU senior would struggle walking around. When you build a city in the mountains what you get is constant rain, cooler weather and unfortunately, streets that aren’t fun to walk on.
The last place in La Candelaria where I would have loved to have gone was La Puerta Falsa, which is a very touristy restaurant (if you’re researching things to do in Bogotá, I am willing to place a big bet you’ve already read about it). They serve traditional Colombian food and are seriously known for it. At 4.5 stars with over 2,ooo Google reviews, they are doing something right. But because they were closed, dear reader, we had to do something wrong which was eat at the almost empty tourist restaurant next to it called La Puerta de la Tradición, which Google review-wise, really tanks next to its famous neighbor. It also tanked with our tastebuds but here’s what we ate:
If it looks like a lot of food for two people, it both was and was not. We didn’t get to eat the night before because we couldn’t order food or find any restaurants close to our Airbnb before the curfew set in. So…we ordered with our empty stomachs, which would have been great had the food been good. We started with Colombian hot chocolate, which is traditionally served with cheese, buttered bread and an almojábana (cheese bread). I have always found it both humorous and horrifying that Venezuelans like cheese on everything. And I mean everything…even sweet things like sticky buns and pancakes (when I make pancakes my husband eats them WITH CHEESE! NOT PEANUT BUTTER AND SYRUP LIKE THE LORD INTENDED). My husband would always say to me he couldn’t wait for me to try Colombian hot chocolate because it is served with a big ole hunk of cheese. LADIES, I have to say, I AM SORRY COLOMBIA FOR ALWAYS CALLING YOU OUT ON THIS BECAUSE IT WAS A GAME CHANGER, TRULY. I mean, mostly dipping the buttered bread in the hot chocolate was a game changer but I can at least appreciate the cheese and chocolate now. We also had changua, which is a breakfast soup native to Andean communities. It was definitely interesting! Andrew ordered a bandeja paisa to share. Bandeja paisa is the DISH of Colombia. I had actually already eaten it in Buenos Aires at a Colombian restaurant so I knew not to get two separate orders because…it’s a lot of food. Lastly, we ordered a tamale, which happened to be the best tasting out of the three. Another note on Colombian food…their arepas are…not good. I am used to eating Venezuelan arepas and I just have to say eating Colombian arepas are like eating flavorless sawdust. I’m sorry.
Cerro Monserrate and Santuario Monserrate
Cerro in Spanish means “mountain” or “hill.” So this mountain/hill is called Monserrate and there’s a church on the top of it. Luckily, this was the one tourist attraction open in the city. Unluckily, it was the only tourist attraction open in a city full of tourists so we ended up waiting in line to go up the mountain via funicular for about 1-2 hours (I can’t remember exactly but it was closer to 2 hours than 1). And this line, unfortunately, is where I ate my first ant. Yes, you read that right: ant. Hormiga. Downtown there were a few people walking around with a sign that read “BIG ASS ANTS.” I was able to convince Andrew not to buy them the first time but I wasn’t so lucky the second. I only ate two out of the entire bag (two separate times, one time was to get my sister-in-law to eat one, too lol). They were kind of like smoky seeds? But definitely not a snack I’d ever repeat.
Once we finally made it through the line, we went up the mountain in the funicular and explored. On top you will find two “fancy” restaurants, the church, and a market filled with casual restaurants and souvenir shops. I put fancy in quotation marks because I am still a little bit bitter about all the blog posts I read about visiting Cerro Monserrate because not ONE of them mentioned the causal restaurants, of which there were MANY. Andrew and I both would have preferred to eat at one of these restaurants instead of La Puerta de la Tradición. So let me be the only travel blogger to tell you: there are more restaurants on top of this mountain besides San Isdro House and Santa Clara House…okay?
We liked walking up here a lot and had lots of fun! Even the part where another American overheard Andrew and I having a heated discussion about whether we should retake our pictures or not. Basically my husband does not like any picture he has ever taken. It’s exhausting lol. Love you, mi amor! We took the cable car back down to experience both. At the time of visiting (November 2019), a roundtrip ticket was 21,000 pesos.
That evening we found a restaurant close to our Airbnb called Enchiladas which is Mexican food in Colombia, it’s fine…but it was really good! Plus open when most places were not so really 10/10.
On our last full day in Bogotá, we shopped until we dropped…or at least attempted too! My husband is always in need of new clothes, most specifically pants and shorts. When I come to visit in Argentina, I am always sure to bring new pairs for him because clothing in Argentina is hella expensive so we decided to try shopping Colombia for clothes as it is a little more affordable. Before we got in the Uber to the mall, we went to a flea market! Which is much more my style considering malls in Latin America wouldn’t even think about carrying my size of clothing! The Usaquén flea market is held every Sunday in the trendy, hipster neighborhood of Usaquén. Had I known we’d be staying in the center of the capital’s protests, I probably would have opted to stay in Usaquén. (If you know Buenos Aires or live there, think Palermo when you hear Usaquén.) The market was probably our favorite part of the whole trip and I got some really cute earrings, which are my weakness in life! We also ate really good street food (this was before my body started rejecting all foods) and got caffeinated at Café Quindío which I think is essentially their Starbucks…I mean, they have Starbucks (Starbucks is the next McDonald’s…they are everywhere) I just think they might prefer Café Quindío as it is theirs.
The mall we went to was called Unicentro Bogotá in case you’re in Bogotá and need a large mall fix! It was also decorated so cute for Christmas which I loved! Being in Argentina for now two Christmases in a row is super depressing. They barely celebrate it and decorations are definitely not used that commonly so it was such a nice surprise to see that it was not that way all across Colombia!
That pretty much covers what all we did in Bogotá…for almost three full days, you can see we really didn’t do that much…hence the bummed out part. But adventuring with my mans is always worth it and he makes even the most boring parts of a trip fun. Before I leave you, I’ll hit you with where we stayed, an adorable, tiny Airbnb in La Candelaria (emphasis on tiny). The best part was I matched with the walls! The bathroom (not pictured) was incredibly small and the apartment is located at the top of what I think is the steepest street in Latin America but if you don’t mind sitting on the toilet while showering and have the calves of an Ancient Olympian, this is the Airbnb for you! Also, this location had us far enough away from the protests that we didn’t feel too unsafe though I will saw two men get arrested in front of the Airbnb for what looked like soda bottle bombs…so…fun!
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Last but not least, enjoy this quick photo dump and look forward to the next blog post in our Colombian adventure about the Coffee Region!