We stumbled upon the opportunity to visit Colombia while we were looking for airfare for our trip to Brazil. The cheapest route to Brazil included a 15-hour layover in Colombia’s capital city: Bogotá! We were thrilled to visit another South American country, even if our visit was wedged between two consecutive red-eyes!
We wondered exactly how much of Bogotá we would be able to see in one day. We wanted to make sure we had time to rest between red-eyes (so we would have lots of energy for Brazil!), and we wanted to take advantage of our time in a new country. Luckily, even with only 15 hours, we were able to do both! We booked a hotel for the day, which gave us an opportunity to sleep in a bed for a couple of hours, shower, and store our luggage. Before exploring the city, though, we made sure to fuel up with some Colombian coffee! (Watch out, the coffee is fuerte!)
THINGS TO DO
We spent the afternoon in La Candelaria, a historic neighborhood in downtown Bogotá. The neighborhood hosts a number of museums, cathedrals, and other tourism sites, which allowed us to efficiently cover a lot of ground with the limited amount of time we had. As we walked along the cobblestone streets, we were struck by the juxtaposition between modern city and colonial architecture. We were definitely intrigued by the city and ready for our own self-guided walking tour.
Santuario Nuestra Señora del Carmen
We started our day in Bogotá by visiting the Santuario Nuestra Señora del Carmen. The eclectic church, completed in 1938, was a blur of red and white stripes, framed by jeweled mosaic columns. The interior was equally as colorful!
From the church, it was only a five minute walk to the Plaza Bolívar – the main square in Bogotá. The plaza was framed by four impressive buildings: Palacio de Justicia (Palace of Justice), Palacio Liévano (Liévano Palace), Capitolio Nacional (National Capitol), and the Catedral Primada de Colombia (Primary Cathedral of Colombia). In the center of the square was a statue of Simón Bolívar. He is known as The Liberator for his role in establishing Colombia as a sovereign state. Before the city of Bogotá was established by Spanish conquerors, the region was inhabited by indigenous peoples and the city was named Bacata.
The first building we saw was the Palacio de Justicia, which has been rebuilt twice due to conflicts in Bogotá. It was destroyed during riots in 1948, and it was destroyed again in 1985 by guerilla warfare. The current building was created in 1985 and contains the Supreme Court of Justice and the Constitutional Court. The inscription at the entrance states, “Colombians, weapons have given us independence. Laws will bring us liberty.” Powerful stuff.
Palacio Liévano is known as the cultural hub of Bogotá. The current building was completed in 1907, after earthquakes and fires destroyed the previous administrative buildings. It was named after Indacelio Lievano, who was the engineer that funded the project. It currently serves as Bogotá’s city hall.
Construction for the Capitolio Nacional began in 1876 and was completed in 1926. It houses the Congress of Colombia.
The final building that we visited was the cathedral. The cathedral was built four times, with the final construction occurring between 1807 and 1823. It’s the largest cathedral in Colombia, and one of the largest cathedrals in all of South America.
After exploring Plaza Bolívar thoroughly, we started our walk to the Museo de Oro (gold museum). Along the way, we stopped for a snack and tried some of the foods not available in the United States – such as mayonnaise flavored potato chips! My parents especially loved walking along Carrera Septima (7th avenue), which was full of markets and street entertainers.
Museo de oro
The Museo de Oro (gold museum) is one Bogotá’s most popular attractions because it contains the largest collection of gold artifacts in the world! We were especially impressed with the artisanship of the indigenous people.
The most famous gold artifact is the Muisca Raft. It is sometimes referred to as the “El Dorado raft” due to its reference to the legend of El Dorado. It represents the ceremony in which the Muisca chief dove into a lake covered in gold dust and jewels for religious offerings. The artifact contains 229 grams of gold! Three farmers discovered it in a cave in 1969.
The Museo de Oro was our final stop for the day. We accomplished a lot in the afternoon, and we still had time to rest for a bit at the hotel before our evening flight.
FOOD IN BOGOTÁ
We love to try unique foods in different countries. Here are a few of our favorites from Bogotá:
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Bogota Airport. It was a brand-new hotel located right by the airport, which made it ideal for our brief stay between flights. They offered us a free shuttle back to the airport, and we enjoyed excellent service at the restaurant. We would definitely recommend this hotel to others!