My first stop in Colombia (I flew from Lima, Peru) and I chose to stay in La Candeleria at a very cool hostel called Graffiti Hostel. Honestly, I rate this hostel highly as they are in a good location but also for using local graffiti artists to make their mark in different areas of the hostel.
I literally stayed here for a whistle stop before I needed to move onto a warmer climate.
Things to do:
- Free Graffiti Walking Tour – this was super interesting and if you’re new to the world of graffiti; these guys discuss the different styles and techniques. We ended in a really cool graffiti cafe that had some cool designs on canvas, items etc so you can buy souvenirs or you could just simply enjoy the coffee. These tours run twice a day and are tip based so make sure you have some cash for your guide.
- Free Food Walking Tour – considering this was my first stop in Colombia, this tour was a fantastic introduction to the food, drink and customs of Colombia. The guide will take you to many places to try and explain how some of these foods are made from arepas, ajiaco, pan de bono, empanadas, obleas, coffee etc. This is a free walking tour so you’ll need to have cash to pay for the food etc but the guide does get this at the same cost it would be for locals and don’t forget to tip your guide!
- Museo Botero – there are other museums located here too including Miguel Urrutia Art Museum and Museo de Casa de Moneda.
These are free museums with complimentary WiFi and I have to say that the Museo Botero has many original pieces by the artist himself PLUS you’ll also find the odd Salvador Dali and a few Pablo Picasso pieces. Unexpectedly, I enjoyed this museum and as it’s small, you would only need just over an hour here.
In which you can then go check out the other museums on the same site.
The Museo de Casa de Moneda was quite interesting as there is one magnificent and valuable piece located in an underground safe that has 3 security guards around it. This is a religious piece called ‘La Lechuga’ (means The Lettuce) as the name describes if 1,485 emeralds, 1 sapphire, 13 rubies, 28 diamonds, 62 baroque pearls and 168 Amethysts displayed in Baroque art – these are the most beautiful and regiouse jewels of Colombia which dates back to 1700.
It was created by Jose de Galaz from the Custodia de la Ignacio and another reason why it’s so heavily guarded that this treasured piece got stolen and wasn’t “found” until late 19th Century – this is described to be the most richest piece in Latin America and is worth going to see.
Unfortunately, I was museum’d out so I never got a chance to go into Miguel Urrutia Art Museum to see any of the temporary art exhibitions however, there is an expensive coffee and food onsite for when you take breaks in between.
- The Gold Museum – the largest museum in the world that houses a massive collection of gold. A lot of the gold objects were made by the indigenous tribes and there were a lot of objects that I couldn’t figure out what they were used for – until I went on The Lost City trek and saw some of the indigenous guides using these objects (made out of wood) and explained what they were used for. The mentioned that the gold pieces in this museum dates back hundreds and these tools (made from different materials) are still used today. Also, you do not need an audio guide here as I felt that it didn’t make a difference compared to what’s on the description on each of the pieces.
- Catedral de Sal – This is an underground church that’s in a salt mine located north of Bogota. The actual Cathedral was built in 1954 that has a size of 75 meters in length and 18 meters in height, with a capacity for 8400 people. The underground church as 14 chapels that represents the suffering of Jesus Christ. There is an admission fee.
- La Catedral Primada – located in the Square and is a large church with nuns running this place. One thing that really caught my eye is towards the alter, if you look up where there are four corners and mosaic images. Only in one corner, there is a 3D foot popping out of the place (no other corner has this)- I mean, it might mean that this specific Saint did something special with their foot but I wished I could speak Spanish so I can ask the nuns the story behind this. If anyone else goes, please PLEASE find out the story and let me know.
- Church of Lady Candelaria – this church is red and white on the outside (which reminds me of a candy/sweet) but it’s actually a cute and simple church dedicated to Lady Candelaria – it’s worth seeing the architecture on the outside as I’ve never seen a church designed this way before.
- Emerald Shopping – if you didn’t know, Colombia accounts for 70-90% of the world’s emerald market. I would say Bogota is the best place to buy either the emeralds themselves or buy jewellery with emeralds (other places in Colombia do sell these but it’s a lot higher price compared to Bogota). There is literally a district in the heart of La Candeleria where emeralds come straight to after they have been mined to be cut and debuted in the emerald market. This district consists of dealers, cutters, international traders as well as many small jewellery stores. This is located on Jimenez Avenue between 6th and 7th Street – you cannot miss the emeralds being displayed in the shops.
- Emerald Silver Ring Making Class – Well this was an experience for me as I’ve never come across this in my life so I HAD to do this. I found out about this as I met an inspiring fellow traveller staying at my hostel who was doing this and she kindly let me tag along.
Would you even need to guess to know that this took place in the Emerald District?
We literally went up in one of the buildings into a small workshop in which we literally have to heat up the silver, bash it out, thin it out with the machine and make it with one emerald. But some of you that know me, one tiny emerald is not enough so I actually got an additional two emeralds which cost me extra but was worth the experience.
It is a shabby ring but it’s great because I made it. This experience costs from 220,000 COP (approx £70) and for additional emeralds, it was 50,000COP each (approx £12 each). It’s definitely something that I will remember Bogota for.
- La Puerta Falsa – The oldest restaurant in Bogotá serving you original got chocolate with cheese. This is worth a visit to get an authentic taste and the actually building has a lot of character since its from 1800’s and is slowly sinking into the ground but still surviving.
There are other general walking tours that show your general and historical sites so you can get a background history and make a mental note to come back on another day.