Cerro Monserrate and La Calera, Bogota seen from above

Bogotá is a huge city with about 8 million inhabitants. But just seeing it from above, you will be able to understand the dimension of Colombian’s capital. Monserrate Hill (Cerro Monserrate) in La Candelaria is the best-known option to get a panoramic view of the city. On top of it is the Basilica Sanctuary of the Lord of Monserrate (Basílica Santuario del Señor de Monserrate). However, the city’s North side can only be seen from the top of La Calera.

The ascent in the cable car
The ascent in the cable car

From the Bogota’s center you can see Monserrate Mountain and the Sanctuary, which is located in the East, and makes the orientation in the city center a lot easier.

The hill was baptized in honor of the black virgin of Montserrat, a saint of Catalunya, to which also the first chapel (which was built on top of the mountain in 1657) was offered.

The current basilica is from 1925 and is dedicated to the “Fallen Lord of Monserrate”, in honor of an art work of Pedro de Lugo Albarracín, carved in wood which is in the center of the church. The image of the saint of Monserrate is in a chapel inside of the basilica.

Facade of the Basilica
Facade of the Basilica

In addition to the church, there are some restaurants, cafes and handicraft markets on Cerro Monserrate. The panoramic view of Bogota is one of the biggest attractions of Hill Monserrate.

To get to the top of Monserrate you can walk up or choose between the cable car or funicular. The funicular has been operating since 1929 and the cable car since 1955. Already from those ones you can have a great view of the city. Both cost the same price, 17,000 COP (about 5 Euros) for return tickets. However, the funicular is just running in the morning. Our choice was the cable car and the ride is very nice.

The cable car and the funicular depart from the building that serves as the base for the Sanctuary, which is in Carrera 2, 21-48, Paseo Bolivar, a few minutes from the city center.

Handicraft market
Handicraft market
Beautiful nature on Cerro Monserrate
Beautiful nature on Cerro Monserrate

The same day we went to Cerro Monserrate, we were lucky enough to get to know La Calera as well. We were taken by two Colombian friends, Maria Paula and Paola (Gracías, chicas!). We went in the evening so we could see the North side of the city all lit up.

The well of desires
The well of desires

You can get there only by bus, car or taxi. La Calera is actually a road (Vía La Calera) and there is no sanctuary or something similar, but restaurants, bars and booths selling drinks and snacks.

The view is very pretty as well. And after seeing both sides of the city from above, it is possible to get a feeling of how big Bogota actually is.

Bogota: A day in La Candelaria with just FREE attractions

We arrived in Bogota at night after spending a whole day on different airports. This morning we got up early to work (the digital nomadic life is great, but not always easy), then we left in the morning to stroll through the city. As we are staying in the district La Candelaria, which is the city center, we decided to visit the main attractions here, which are among the main ones in Bogota. We explored everything on foot and we didn’t have to spend one cent to visit all these places. Now we will give you our itinerary with only free attractions in La Candelaria, Bogota.

Hostal Cosu: creative coffee
Hostal Cosu: creative coffee

Before we started walking around, of course we had to eat breakfast. We found a super cute restaurant very close to our accommodation, all decorated with reused materials. Hostal Cosu offers different salads, pastries, coffees, sandwiches and breakfast combos, with very reasonable prices. My combo with a huge cup of hot chocolate, toast, butter and marmalade cost 4,000 COP, something around 1,15 Euro.

Then we went to the church of La Candelaria, a colonial building from 1703, which is declared as a National Monument. In the same street as the church there are the Botero Museum and the House of La Moneda (Casa de la Moneda). The two museums are located in a single building. You can see an impressive collection.

Botero Museum. In the background paintings by Miró and Picasso
Botero Museum

I recommend to start with Casa de La Moneda, because it shows a little bit of Colombia’s history (Nuevo Reino de Granada) and Bogota (Santa Fe) through the collection. In the same building you will also find art collections of several Colombian artists, that show the diverse styles throughout the years. However, the most valuable pieces of this part of the museum are shown in the room of colonial custodies, which is protected by vault doors, as they keep original religious pieces, made of lots of gold, precious stones, diamonds and pearls.

The Botero Museum is undoubtedly the most famous and one of the most important ones in Bogota. There are more than 100 pieces by the main Colombian artist, Fernando Botero, donated by himself, as well as paintings by some of the world’s most important artists such as Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Juan Miró, Salvador Dali, Claude Monet and others. I wrote a post just about this museum as well.

National Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora del Carmen
National Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora del Carmen

In the street perpendicular to the building of Casa de la Moneda (Carrera 5) is the National Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora del Carmen. A beautiful church from the outside and inside. But you have to keep an eye on the opening hours as it opens and closes many times a day. We went on a time when it was closed, but the cleaning lady let us have a peek. 😊

Going back to Calle 11, where Casa de La Moneda is, walking further down you will see the Gabriel Garcia Márquez Cultural Center, and going even further you will arrive to Plaza Bolívar, where the Primada Cathedral is located, and next to it the Chapel of the Sacred , the Justice Palace, the National Capitol, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Liévano Palace, the Bogota City Hall.

Primada Cathedral

Behind the Capitol is the Nariño Palace, the official residence of the president, but the access was closed due to a protest. We only saw the back part of it, where right in front is the San Agustín Cloister, a church that we also visited.

We had lunch in a restaurant in the city center. A menu for only 8,500 COP, about 2,40 Euros, with a soup as an entree, a main course (there were two options), juice and a dessert.

After lunch, we went shopping for some things we needed such as a SIM card or an adapter. Afterwards, we went to the Gold Museum (which is in La Candelaria, but it isn’t for free), but then we discovered that we had left our camera in the restaurant (a lot of emotions already on the first day). We ran back to the restaurant for several blocks and when we got there we were so happy knowing that they had kept the camera. In this moment we decided to finish our day so nothing else will happen. hehe

Being orientated in La Candelaria is very easy, as the streets are distributed by numbers. And, in addition to many attractions, there are many old and colorful mansions, several beautiful graffiti, restaurants and shops.

Despite the many recommendations to be careful, it seemed very safe, at least during the day (at night it gets weirder), there were many policemen and even army. However, there were reinforcements because of a protest and a military event in the Cathedral.

As you can see, our first day in Bogota was super productive, cheap and wonderful.

Translate to English by Juliane Boll

Bogotá: what you need to know and what to do in Colombia’s capital

Bogotá is usually the first stop for travelers in Colombia. The country’s capital is a huge city with 8 million inhabitants and almost 12 million in its metropolitan region. The city itself is not as pretty as Cartagena but offers many culturally events. You can visit Bogotá for many days and still have attractions which you want to see, but if you don’t have a lot of travel time in Colombia, you should plan to stay at least three or four days in the capital. During the eight days we’ve been in Bogotá, I’ve written several posts about the city, now I summarize what you need to know before you go there and what you can do.

National Capitol
National Capitol


Colombian Pesos (COP). See the current currency rate


Bogotá is the capital of the state called Cundinamarca.


Bogotá is located pretty high, surrounded by mountains. The altitude of the city varies between 2,540 to 3,600 meters, so most of the time it is cold. The average temperature is 14 ° C, and it just has little variety throughout the year, but it can reach negative temperatures. In a way the climate is pretty crazy as in the same day it can be sunny, rainy, cold and hot. The best would be if you dress in layers.

How to get there

Bogota Street and grafith with Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Bogota Street and grafith with Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Bogota has a modern international airport, El Dorado, where flights from all over the world fly to. From Brazil the flight connections are with the airlines Avianca, Copa Airlines and LAN. The airport is relatively close to the city center, 30 minutes by car and a little over 1h by bus. The taxi ride to the district La Candelaria, in the city center, costs 25 thousand COP.

The Colombian capital is linked to the rest of the country by many bus lines, arriving and departing from the Bogotá Transportation Terminal. For close cities, such as Zipaquirá and Villa de Leyva, buses leave from the bus terminal Portal Norte.

There is a general recommendation for avoiding night buses, because of the risk of road robberies. But in the whole country the roads are patrolled by military presence which help with its security.

Where to stay

In the district La Candelaria are a lot of tourist activities concentrated, so it’s highly recommended to stay there. It has many dining and transportation options as well. But, like every downtown neighborhood, it’s pretty busy during the day and a bit “suspicious” at night. Staying in La Candelaria or nearby, you save a lot of time as you can walk everywhere and don’t need to wait for public transportation.

Book your accommodation in Bogotá with Booking.com

Traditional dish of Colombia
Traditional dish of Colombia


When we came to Colombia, we were told to be very careful. It has been years of negative media due to the country’s situation related to drug cartels and the FARC. But a lot of things have changed in the country the past years. Throughout Bogota, there is a strong police presence and in some regions the Army is present as well (which is quite common in the whole country). Therefore, the recommendations to take care are similar as in all the big cities in the world: taking care of your belongings to avoid theft and avoid walking through empty dark streets.

During our fifteen days we have spent in Colombia, we have forgotten our camera in a restaurant, our wallet with money, cards and documents in a hostel and a shoe on a campsite. We always just realized long after we had lost the items and however, we have gotten everything back. The wallet was mailed to us to another city.



Bogotá has a very efficient transportation system, the Sipt: the Transmilenio bus (red), which circulate through the city’s main avenues; helping micro-buses (green), which connect the districts to the main stations and gates; the urban minibuses (blue), that also circulate on the main routes; the complementary buses (orange), which stop at the stations of the Transmilenio as well and, finally, the special buses (purple), that work in the peripheral city zones. You pay for them in a unified system. You need to have credit on a special city transportation card. The ticket costs 1,500 COP during normal hours and 1,800 COP during peak hours.

In most buses and the Transmilenio are electronical signs where the names of the next stops are written at.

Taxis are also very cheap. The minimum for one trip is 3,900 COP.

What to do

Here are the posts about what to do in Bogotá, which were already published. All these attractions can be organized in 3 or 4 days, except for Villa de Leyva, where you should spend at least one night.

Getting to know Bogotá with friends

If you want to get to know Bogotá in the company of locals, I recommend the company Colombian Buddy. It is from our friends Maria Paula and Paola, whose motto is “there is no reason to be alone in a country where you can have a friend”.

Translation to English by Juliane Boll