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(NewsMadura) — Bogotá, one of the world’s tallest capitals, is touted as ‘2600 meters closer to the stars’.
While that height (8,530 feet) means you’re more likely to be shrouded in clouds than staring at a starry sky, when it comes to coffee and culture, the metropolis doesn’t disappoint.
Here are some of the best ways to experience the city:
Botero and beyond
Bogotá isn’t known for its art scene, but it should be. The city impresses with its numerous art galleries, of which there are over 100, many of which are free or cheap to enter. Every October, the city hosts the International Art Fair of Bogotá, a four-day extravaganza of artists displaying their contemporary works, in a variety of formats and media.
The Museo de Arte de la Universidad Nacional is one of the most established galleries, bringing together some of the most experimental and ambitious projects in the city. Located on the first floor of the Museo de Arte del Banco de la República, El Parqueadero offers a blank canvas for artistic productions in a space that began as the museum’s parking lot.
Galería MÜ is one of the first galleries in the country dedicated solely to fine art photography, focusing on exhibiting Colombian artists and organizing workshops on the history of photography.
Museo Botero is dedicated to Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most famous artist.
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Museo Botero pays tribute to Colombia’s most famous artist, Fernando Botero, with his signature plump women and plump fruit. Located in a beautiful colonial mansion whose rooms wrap around a courtyard, the gallery is free to enter. It houses 208 pieces from Botero’s art collection, 123 of which are works he created and 85 are from his private collection of renowned international artists, including Picasso, Money and Chagall.
A look at the walls
Bogotá has a unique street art culture, which is as much a part of the city as the walls themselves. Local artists are allowed to take over parts of the city’s buildings, and the result is a colorful, captivating and conversation-inducing collection of murals.
The Bogota Graffiti Tour is an intriguing way to discover the Colombian capital.
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The aptly named Bogotá Graffiti Tour offers two free tours per day. Graffiti art provides an insightful lens into a complex city, and a guided tour is a fantastic way to understand the social and political commentary this art form seeks to convey.
Cultural Deep Dives
Latin American history shines in some of Bogotá’s best museums. Aside from the well-known Museo del Oro – Gold Museum – which houses over 55,000 pieces of gold, many of which are sacred Amazonian ornaments, the city offers plenty of other institutions to lose yourself in for a day.
A former church turned museum, Santa Clara is a beautiful colonial-era building built between 1629 and 1647. It costs less than a dollar to visit and see paintings by some of Colombia’s most revered Baroque artists, alongside intricate gold floral designs and religious statues.
Museo del Oro houses more than 55,000 gold pieces.
Museo Nacional de Colombia is housed in a former prison, designed by English architect Thomas Reed in 1874. Ethnology, art and archeology can all be seen here from 10,000 BC, spread over 17 exhibition spaces.
Museo Colonial is another must-see museum, housed in a building that itself is historic – built in 1610 as a former Jesuit school, it oozes history. The museum houses a wide variety of paintings, sculptures, antique furniture and decorative arts.
The National Museum of Colombia reopened to the public in the summer of 2020 after four months, amid new pandemic security measures.
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A cup of cafe
No Bogotá guide would be complete without mentioning coffee. While the city is not in the coffee triangle, the region known for its coffee production, numerous coffee shops have sprung up in recent years as the country isn’t exporting all of its best beans.
Colombians Historically Drunk pasilla, the dregs of the coffee industry, which was brewed to a chillingly strong tinto. Thankfully things have changed since then, and although you will see the locals enjoying a cup tinto from a street vendor, the good stuff is not to be missed.
Numerous coffee shops have sprung up in recent years as the country doesn’t export all of its best beans.
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Lucia Londoño Tostadores and Varietale both offer great coffee tastings without leaving the city. Visitors will learn how coffee is grown, harvested, roasted and brewed and get one step closer to becoming coffee connoisseurs.
And those who prefer to jump straight to the coffee are spoiled for choice.
Arte y Pasión Café on Plaza Bolívar is a charming old coffeehouse with vintage decor. Amor Perfecto in Chapinero is one of the country’s premier coffee specialties and worth a visit for their award-winning coffee and unusual methods, such as the honey process – coffee dried in its own pulp, creating a sweeter brew.
Azahar in Parque de la 93 is a chic place that uses coffee that comes straight from farmers, and they are also completely transparent about their prices.
A market for distinctive souvenirs
Well worth heading north, Usaquén is a neighborhood that is somehow both charmingly old-fashioned and trendy, with a buzzing food scene.
But the most fun activity is the Sunday flea market, which is open from about 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (give or take, this is Colombia after all). The Usaquén Market has endless local crafts, including pottery, soap, jewelry, shoes, delicacies, and other handcrafted items.
Climbing for a view and searching for species
A trek to Monserrate on a clear day takes visitors a little higher for a bird’s-eye view of the sprawling city. The cable car offers a stomach-churning shaky ride, or there are copious steps. There is a church at the top and a few expensive restaurants, but the real attraction here is the city skyline.
Another wonderful outdoor activity is a visit to the Bogotá Botanical Garden, an oasis of calm in the middle of the chaotic city. Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and the gardens feature an impressive selection of flora from its many ecosystems, with a particular emphasis on Andean and páramo species.
Bogotá Botanical Garden showcases the biodiversity that sets Colombia apart.
Vannessa Jimenez G/NurPhoto/AP
Flavors of Colombia
One of the best things about Bogotá is its burgeoning food scene and the fact that visitors who spend dollars enjoy a great exchange rate, meaning you can eat standard Michelin star food that won’t break the bank.
Leonor Espinosa is one of the country’s most beloved chefs, and for good reason. She sources fresh food from local farmers and is passionate about weaving cultural traditions into her menus. LEO, her eponymous restaurant, offers a 13-course tasting menu.
Chef Leonor Espinosa stirs a rice dish in the kitchen of her eponymous restauranta LEO.
At Matiz, meanwhile, every dish is like edible art, with the menu throwing far and wide for its ingredients.
A more traditional, homemade experience can be found at La Puerta Falsa (False Door) restaurant in La Candelaria, where diners can slurp a bowl of warming ajiaco soup — made with three varieties of potatoes and chicken and served with avocado and rice — and finish with a warm one. chocolate milk, of course with almojabana bread in it.
Andrés Carne de Res is one of the city’s most distinctive spots. The restaurant seats 2,000 people.
The destination not to be missed, however, is Andrés Carne de Res, located in Chía, about an hour’s drive from Bogotá, depending on where you stay. But most people who flock to this infamous institution don’t go for the food – they go for the party.
Much better suited to non-pandemic times, the mammoth restaurant can seat 2,000 people — and they’re still having to turn people away at their door. The menus are 40 pages long, diners leave their tables halfway through the main course for salsa (there are five dance floors), and for some reason there is also a 25-foot climbing wall.
In addition to the DJ, there are several live bands on hand, as well as a few hammocks in the parking lot for anyone too tired to make the drive back into town.
Lucy Sherriff is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Bogotá who focuses on environmental, travel and gender issues.