Bogotá is the beating heart of Colombia – a feast for the senses and a must-visit Latin American city with centuries of stories to tell. Stretching across the fertile Andes mountains, all the way to sprawling savanna, Bogotá is bursting with world-renowned attractions and plenty to see and do. But step off the tourist trail leading through the Spanish-influenced city center, and you’ll find Bogotá has many more barrios (neighborhoods) worth exploring.
The most memorable things to see and do in the city are the hidden gems in Bogotá – the spots only locals know about that make them love their hometown even more. Travel restrictions around the world are still ever-changing, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the Colombia travel advisory for updated information while planning your trip. Also, don’t forget to do a quick Google of each attraction before visiting.
All set to explore? When you find yourself in Bogotá, don’t miss out on must-sees, but be sure to squeeze in a few of these 10 secret gems and lesser-known landmarks off the beaten track.
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The tallest building in Colombia – and the second-tallest in the whole of South America – stands out in the relatively low-rise cityscape, but it harbors a secret. See, this is no ordinary building: it hasn’t been financed by a wealthy citizen or a corporate entity. Instead, it was crowd-funded by 5,000 ordinary Colombians who figured their city could use another attraction. With each investor owning part of the BD Bacatá, the structure has been dubbed “the biggest product in the world.” The story behind the impressive architectural feat makes it one of the best hidden gems in Bogotá – even if you can’t miss it!
Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Comedor_Q
Quinta de Bolívar
This historic homestead, built in 1800, sits at the foot of the leafy Cerro de Monserrate and has an interesting history. The colonial home was donated to Simón Bolívar, the military and political leader, in 1820, in gratitude for his role in the war of independence. Over the years after his death in 1830, Quinta de Bolívar was a brewery, a girls’ school, and a tannery, among others. Today, this beautiful building serves as a museum celebrating the life of Bolívar and the 423 days he spent living at Quinta de Bolívar.
The artsy, bohemian neighborhood of La Macarena is one of Bogotá’s best-kept secrets for a number of reasons: Centrally located, though less crowded than the iconic La Candelaria area, La Macarena draws the city’s cool kids and creatives to its galleries, parks, and global restaurants. Spend a relaxed day strolling along the quaint streets, exploring the century-old green oasis, Parque La Independencia, and perhaps visiting the impressive Planetarium of Bogotá, while you’re at it.
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La Puerta Falsa
If an eatery has been serving the same type of food for over 200 years, it’s safe to assume you’re in for something seriously special. As a tourist, it’s incredibly easy to overlook this tiny restaurant that seats barely 20 patrons, but La Puerta Falsa is the best place in the city to try traditional Colombian cuisine and recipes that haven’t changed for centuries. If you find yourself seated for lunch in this iconic spot, be sure to try the famous tamales and a bowl of ajiaco – a hearty, flavorful soup made from chicken and potatoes.
Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Museo_Bot
In 2000, celebrated Colombian artist Fernando Botero donated 208 art pieces – 123 of his own and 85 created by international artists, including Picasso, Monet, Matisse and Klimt – to the Bank of the Republic. Today, free of charge, visitors can marvel at these spectacular pieces housed in a colonial mansion in the heart of historic La Candelaria. Essentially curated by Botero himself, the museum is a must-visit for any art-lover – or simply someone who wants to experience Colombia’s creativity first-hand.
The “G” in “Zona G” stands for “gourmet,” and that tells you everything you need to know about this gastronomic hub. This premier dining destination is heavily concentrated with incredible restaurants and ritzy hotels frequented by the city’s rich and famous. Fine dining is the pastime of choice in Zona G, and you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. No matter what you feel inclined to feast on, whether brunch, crepes, or burgers, there’s a restaurant that specializes in it. Dress up and get ready for a dinner to remember at this hidden gem in Bogotá.
Usaquén Flea Market
Once a week in Bogotá, outdoor vendors gather in the small but bohemian Usaquén neighborhood, setting up stalls to sell arts and crafts, gifts, food, and provide entertainment to visitors. You could easily spend a Sunday afternoon meandering through this local gem, listening to the live music and stocking up on souvenirs. Join local families jostling from one stall to the next and be sure to try some of the homemade delicacies when you start feeling peckish. This is one of those hidden gems in Bogotá that give you a true taste of the local lifestyle.
This is a bit of a cheat because it lies just under two hours outside of the city center, but it’s still a must-visit when you find yourself in Bogotá. Lake Guatavita is a sacred site from centuries ago, where the Muisca people dropped gold into its depths and the well-known legend of El Dorado was born. This hidden gem of Bogotá is well and truly hidden, lying within a crater fringed by dense forest. Follow a path up 150 steps to the top of the crater and see a piece of ancient South American history.
Quebrada La Vieja
The Andean mountains boast some of the most beautiful nature on earth, and the best place to appreciate it is Quebrada La Vieja, a secluded hiking trail leading up the mountain to spectacular views of the city. Walk along a babbling stream, through dense forest and lush greenery (and keep an eye out for the birdlife) to the apex of the mountain. The harmony between city life and natural scenery is so effortless here, it looks like they were meant to be together.
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