- Where the Locals Go
Nat Geo Student Expeditions leader Erika Skogg is a photographer, writer, and educator with a passion for travel. After braving the frozen tundra of Wisconsin in her youth, Erika made the move to sunny Bogotá, where she has been working as a media producer for Off Bound Adventures and writing for the local English newspaper for the past two years. Here are some of her favorite things about Colombia’s capital city.
Follow Erika’s story on her website ErikaSkogg.com and on Instagram @ErikaSkogg.
Bogotá is My City
When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is to La Candelaria, or Old City. Here you can photograph the colorful facades and really get a feel for colonial Bogotá, which feels like a museum in itself.
Whenever it’s cold where you are is the best time to visit my city because near the equator we have a constant temperature of about 65°F. Try to make it over the first weekend of April, when Bogotá hosts Estereo Picnic, a three-day international music festival.
You can see my city best from Monserrate, a church perched on a high mountain peak above downtown Bogotá. To get to the top you can take a funicular or a walking trail, but the altitude (more than 10,000 feet above sea level) may prove challenging for folks who are just arriving to Bogotá. I’d recommend trying both, although taking the cable car up and walking the trail down has always been my favorite. Enjoy the views with a cup of Colombian coffee–but don’t forget to bring change for the bathrooms.
Locals know to skip Andrés DC and check out the original Andrés Carne de Res in Chía instead, where the restaurant and bar takes up a few city blocks. It’s so enormous that there are TVs playing live footage of the many corners and dance floors where your friends could be.
Pasaje Rivas, near the Gold Museum, is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.
In the past, notable people like the beloved writer Gabriel García Marquez and artist Fernando Botero have called Bogotá home.
My city’s best museum is Museo de Oro, the Gold Museum, which holds the largest collection of gold in the world. It’s incredible to see how “rich” Colombia was before the Spaniards arrived.
If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city it’s to carry cash and keep your valuables close if you decide to brave the bus system. If you call a cab you’ll also need a password to enter the vehicle that they will give you over the phone. Uber and Tappsi are valuable apps to safely hail a cab on your cell phone.
The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is Quebrada la Vieja, a pine and eucalyptus forest in the Western mountains of Bogotá. A hike up the mountain offers views of city all the way to the top.
My city really knows how to celebrate long weekends because Colombia is ranked second in the world when it comes to holidays, with one day off fewer than top-ranked Argentina.
You can tell if someone is from my city if they claim to speak the best Spanish in the world.
For a fancy night out visit the neighborhoods of Usaquen or Zona G. Both are safe and quiet areas to explore–until a Colombian or international restaurant entices you in.
Just outside my city, you can visit the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá, explore a páramo ecosystem in Chingaza National Park, or hike to Guatavita Lake, where the legend of El Dorado was born.
My city is known for its illegal exports, but it’s really coffee and chocolate that they do best. Visit Luisa Brun in Parque 93 for their exquisite handmade truffles.
The best outdoor market in my city is Mercado de Pulgas in Usaquen. And each Sunday there’s Ciclovia, when the city’s major thoroughfares (including Seventh Avenue) are shut down to car traffic, and families, cyclists, and joggers mingle with vendors serving fried foods, fruits, and juices in the car-free streets.
Masa is my favorite place to grab breakfast (don’t leave without trying a pastry) and Di Lucca is great for late-night eats, along with any 24-hour gas station with an El Corral.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Vive.in.
My city’s biggest sports event is fútbol! Watch it at Estadio El Campín. We have two local teams in Bogotá, Sante Fe and Millonarios. Try the Western seats for cheaper tickets and a more in-depth experience of the city’s soccer culture, or the more expensive Eastern seats for the sophisticated atmosphere. It may be best to avoid the South and North sections where the intense super fans are located.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I grab a fresh empanada or arepa on the street on the cheap.
To escape the crowds, I visit a nearby farm on the weekends. Everyone has one and you’re always invited.
If my city were a celebrity it’d be Sofia Vergara because it’s loud and very Colombian, but keeps you hooked with its sincerity and Latin charm.
The dish that represents my city best is ajiaco–a not-to-be-missed potato soup with thin strips of chicken, corn, avocado, capers, and a hint of cream–and hot chocolate served with fresh cheese is my city’s signature drink. Yes, you put the cheese inside the hot chocolate. Sample them at the local restaurants that surround Plaza de Bolivar in La Candelaria.
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Plaza de Toros (the bull-fighting stadium) is my favorite building in town because it is a beautiful original structure made in the quintessential red-brick Bogotá style.
The most random thing about my city is that it is also called the Athens of South America–historically, for its preponderance of scientists, writers, philosophers, and intellectuals, and more currently for its many universities and libraries.
Galería Café y Libro and Titicó are the best places to see live music and dance salsa.
Pico y Placa, a traffic congestion mitigation program, could only happen in my city. There are time constraints on the dates and hours you are permitted to drive based on your license plate number. If you’re caught driving at the wrong time, you’ll get a heavy fine and your car will be frozen in place until pico y placa finishes.
If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the interactive Maloka Science Museum.
The best book about my city is Dog Days Bogotá because it’s a visual journey and honest look at Bogotá during the author’s time visiting the city to adopt his daughter.
When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is anything by La 33, a salsa band from Bogotá that’ll definitely get you moving.
In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because Bogotá, surrounded by the energy of the Andes, is where you can experience a romantic colonial past mixed with a strikingly modern present.
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