My first taste of Colombia, a country that would later become my second home, was the old historic neighborhood of La Candelaria in Bogota. Near the heart of the city, La Candelaria is very popular with tourists and backpackers and where the majority of the city’s hostels are located. It is a beautiful neighborhood with 300+ year old buildings, quaint little streets, graffiti that shows the incredible talent of the city’s artists, and the city’s main art, history, and gold museums.
The barrio has a young, bohemian feel and there are actually a number of universities located in La Candelaria. Students fill up the local bars on the weekend and there is plenty of street food and entertainment throughout the night.
Besides being a fun neighborhood, La Candelaria is perfectly situated in the downtown of Bogota, near most of the city’s major sites. The barrio is located above Carrera 7 and south of Calle 14.
What to See & Do
Botero Museum – Colombia’s most famous artist, Botero, is known internationally as the guy who “paints fat people.” The museum in Bogota is quite large and displays not only works by Botero but also a number of paintings from his own private collection by the artists Monet and Picasso.
The Gold Museum – Located in front of Santander Park, the Gold Museum is one of the largest and most important museums in Colombia. Gold is what made Colombia a powerful Spanish colony and helped finance the country after it won its independence from Spain. The museum has over 36,000 pieces of gold and artifacts from Colombia’s past. The indigenous groups of Colombia were expert gold craftsmen and it is a miracle their work wasn’t all melted down in the gold rush of the Spanish colonization.
Plaza de Bolívar – If you are looking for the heart and center of Bogota, this is it. The plaza, named after the famous Simón Bolívar who helped lead the movement for independence from Spain, was the original center of Bogota and contains the city’s National Capital, the Primary Cathedral of Bogota, and the Palace of Justice for Colombia.
Monserrate and Iglesia de La Candelaria – The hill (or rather mountain) of Monserrate stands over the city and can be seen from most neighborhoods. It serves as a pilgrim destination but also a tourist one. You can walk up the mountain (not recommended as it can be dangerous) or take a tram up. At the top there is a church as well as a restaurant, a few small cafes, and a number of souvenir/tourist shops. It is a great place to watch the sun set over the city.
Couple Travel Tips
- Be very careful at night in La Candelaria. This is not the safest section of the city and muggings are common.
- If you do decide to go to the top of Monserrate, dress warm. The wind at the summit can be very strong and the higher elevation means the temperature is quite a bit lower than in La Candelaria.
- La Candelaria is home to many nice restaurants and bars but if you are looking for a nice date night out, consider heading north to the more modern sections of the city.