The best things to do in La Candelaria in Bogotá include world-class museums, modern street art, historic streets and authentic Colombian food. The charming district of La Candelaria is the historic heart of Bogotá. Bogotá is a sprawling city, but most of the sights are concentrated in La Candelaria. Although the Colombian capital is huge and has many modern high-rise buildings, La Candelaria almost looks like a village with its colonial houses, narrow cobbled streets and mainly low-rise buildings. The colorful houses and lively street life make Bogotá’s oldest neighborhood one of the city’s best attractions. Continue reading for the best things to do in La Candelaria and the best places to stay.
How to get to La Candelaria in Bogota?
Although as a traveler you don’t have to travel great distances in Bogotá, it is good to know how to get around the city. What is the easiest and cheapest way to get to La Candelaria from the airport? And how do you travel from the hip Chapinero district to the historic La Candelaria?
Bogotá is known for its great public transportation by buses. Because of the superfast TransMilenio buses in Bogotá, public transport in the city is excellent and you can quickly travel between the main attractions in the city center and other trendy traveler-orientated neighborhoods.
We can also highly recommend using Uber. Bogotá has many Uber taxis, offering a faster and cheaper way to get from the airport to your hotel than public transport or a taxi. With a bit of luck you will be chatting to a local driver sharing all the ins and outs about his city and culture with you.
Where to stay in La Candelaria
The best place to stay in Bogotá is the historic city center La Candelaria. All the sights of Bogotá are concentrated in this neighborhood, so hotels are within walking distance of the best places to visit. The historic area also offers most budget-friendly hotels and many great hostels.
The best hostels and hotels in La Candelaria:
#1 Arche Noah Boutique Hostel for an affordable boutique hostel with a central location. The beautiful hostel is located in a white, colonial building. Arche Noah offers both private and dormitory rooms. There is a terrace, kitchen and sauna. Breakfast is served in the pretty courtyard.
#2 Candeleria House Boutique for a great guesthouse with very high review ratings from its guests. The guesthouse is located in a beautiful old building that has been renovated to meet modern standards while maintaining its authentic details. The rooms are cozy and homely furnished with details like bookcases and sometimes even a fireplace.
#3 Masaya Bogota for a pretty hostel with both dormitories and private rooms. The stylish decor, sun terrace and central location near the sights and restaurants ensure rave reviews.
#4 Selina LaCandeleria for a stylish hostel from the well-known Selina chain. The hostel is located in a beautiful monument. The interior combines modern and hip furnishings with the historic atmosphere and authentic elements of the monumental building. The colorful courtyard garden and great lounge make the hostel a wonderful place to relax after sightseeing.
#5 Botanical Hostel for a bright and colorful hostel in a central location. The roof terrace and garden are wonderful places to enjoy the sun. There are both dormitories and private rooms.
#6 Hotel Casa de la Vega for a beautiful hotel with a lovely courtyard. The rooms are simple, but cozy and clean. The reviews praise the friendly staff, the fresh breakfast and the great location.
#7 El Yarumo Hostel for a cozy hostel with one of the highest review scores in Bogotá. The hostel is located in one of the typical, colorful low-rise houses of the historic center. The rave reviews mention the hospitality, the warm welcome, the pleasant atmosphere and the beautiful green patio.
La Candelaria Map
The 8 best things to do in La Candelaria
The origins of the historic center of Bogotá date back to the seventeenth century. The architecture in La Candelaria shows many different architectural styles, starting in that century: from Spanish colonial influences to exuberant baroque monuments. Only La Calenderia has mostly low-rise buildings, which is much different from the rest of the metropolis. The colorful houses and lively street life make Bogotá’s oldest neighborhood one of the city’s best attractions.
One of the best things to do in Bogotá is exploring the neighborhood’s atmospheric streets and plazas. Among the most beautiful streets in the city center is Calle del Embudo, which runs from Plaza del Chorro de Quevedo and is known for its street art. You will also find most of Bogotá’s museums in La Candelaria.
#1 Plaza Bolivar
The heart of La Candelaria is Plaza Bolívar, a huge square surrounded by monumental buildings. The most important buildings of Colombia and Bogotá are on this square. The square was once called Plaza Mayor and later Plaza de la Constitución, but is now named after Simón Bolívar. There is a large statue on the square of the well-known freedom fighter who liberated Colombia and other countries from Spanish colonial occupation.
As early as the sixteenth century, the first building was erected on what is now Bolívar Square. It was a predecessor to the current cathedral from the early nineteenth century. The current church building immediately catches the eye with its monumental neoclassical and baroque facade. Next to it is the Archbishop’s Palace. Other well-known buildings are the Palace of Justice on the north side of the square and the parliament building with its columned facade on the south side.
#2 The street art of Bogota
The streets of the historic district of La Candelaria are characterized by their colorful street art, creating a unique modern contrast with the colonial buildings. In Bogotá, this art form in the public space has been legalized, which is reflected in the striking amount of graffiti art and murals. This has only been the case in recent years, after protests flared up when a 16-year-old was killed by police after painting a wall. Once legalized, the city became even richer in color and art. Graffiti artists started to unite and well-known artists from all over the world were invited to create new art in Bogotá.
The best way to get acquainted with Colombian street art is during the well-known Bogota Street Art Tour, which is one of the best things to do in Bogotá. The free tour of the organization Bogota Graffiti Tour will take you to the most beautiful and famous graffiti artworks in the city. The local guide will tell you about the background of the art, the legalization and the political significance of many works of art. It gives you a unique insight into Colombian culture. As with all free walking tours, the idea of the concept is that you pay afterwards what you think the tour was worth. The English tour starts at 10am at Gabriel García Márquez Journalists Park.
Read more: the 25 best street art cities in the world
#3 The Botero Museum
Bogotá is full of world-class museums and the Botero Museum is in our opinion the best museum in the city. The name already suggests that the art museum is dedicated to the most famous Colombian painter, Fernando Botero. If you think you’ve never heard of the painter, take a look at his paintings of chubby people and animals in strange proportions and you will probably recognize his special painting style immediately.
The Botero Museum in Bogotá has the largest collection of Botero’s artwork. Not long ago, Botero himself donated the impressive collection of works of art to set up the museum. Although most of the museum is dedicated to Botero, it also has works by other famous artists such as Dali and Picasso on display. Visiting the museum won’t harm your travel budget, also you can visit the museum for free.
#4 Teatro Colón
The main theater of Colombia is located in the capital: Teatro de Cristobal Colón, or the Christopher Columbus Theater. The impressive neoclassical-style building dates from 1885 and was declared a national monument in 1975.
As beautiful as the facade of the Teatro Colón is, the Great Hall is even more impressive with horseshoe-shaped balconies surrounding the rows of red chairs. There are golden decorations, lovely frescoes and pretty chandeliers. It’s clear that the theater’s spectacular interior is set up to impress. You can book a ticket for one of the performances in the theater. But you can also buy a ticket for a guided tour around the theater. The tour lasts 50 minutes, is given in English several times a day and takes you to the Great Hall, the Foyer, the Bustos Gallery and the Golden Hall.
#5 Restaurant Puerta Falsa
Bogotá is the perfect place to get acquainted with Colombian food. In Bogotá we tasted the fermented drink chicha, drank tea made from coca leaves, ate way too many banana chips, enjoyed the tropical fruits and had some typical Colombian dishes. The best place for tasting authentic Colombian food? Head to the tiny but famous Puerta Falsa.
Our culinary highlight of Bogotá was a visit to the popular Puerto Falsa, where Colombian dishes have been served since 1816. We skipped its signature dish of chocolate milk with cheese and instead opted for Colombian ajiaco (a potato soup) and tamares in banana leaves. Although Puerta False is now one of the most famous attractions of Bogotá, you are still in the right place for an authentic and local experience. Is it already full? Then head to Antigua Santa Fe and La Puerta de la Tradición, two also traditional and authentic restaurants nearby.
Other tips for food in Bogotá? For tasty burgers you have to go to Wok-a-bar and order the El Diablo. For a local snack, we recommend the empandas to go from Comidas Rapida Henry, according to locals the best in town!
#6 The Gold Museum
Bogotá’s most famous museum is the Gold Museum, Museo del Oro in Spanish. In Colombia there are several such museums, such as the Gold Museum in Cartagena. But none of them can compete with the impressive collection of the museum in the capital.
The museum is dedicated to pre-Hispanic objects and gold work. The objects tell the story of the pre-Columbian history, culture and life of the oldest inhabitants of Colombia. The Museo del Oro has 30,000 gold objects and nearly 20,000 objects made of other materials, making it the largest collection archaeological heritage in Colombia.
The entrance to the museum is free on Sundays and on other days you only pay 5,000 cop for a ticket. Another great budget tip: join the free tour on Tuesday through Saturday at 11am and 4pm in Spanish and English. We were lucky enough to be the only tour enthusiasts on a Saturday morning and were given a special private tour of the collection. It was one of the highlights of our Colombia trip!
#7 A free walking tour
We recommend starting your visit to Bogotá with a free walking tour. It is one of the best ways to discover a new destination. A local will guide you around the old town, telling you about his home city, the country’s culture and local politics. You’ll probably get recommendations for local restaurants and other authentic experiences, while you get to know both Colombia and Bogotá. It is the perfect way to quickly become familiar with Bogotá and its most famous sights.
We joined this tour which started and ended at the Plazoleta Chorro de Quevedo. During the tour we got to taste many Colombian foods and we got an interesting introduction to Colombian history, culture and politics. As with all free walking tours, the idea of the concept is that you pay afterwards what you think the tour was worth.
#8 The funicular to the Monserrate
Bogotá itself is already at a high altitude, but if you want to go even higher, you have to go to the top of the Monserrate. This attraction offers a spectacular view of the city at an altitude of 3,150 meters! When looking out over the metropolis from above you’ll really experience how big Bogotá actually is. The city extends to every corner of your view.
The easiest way to get to the top of Monserrate is with the funicular. The funicular was built in the 1950s to provide visitors with a quick way to get to the mountaintop. This is still the most popular way to reach the top and we highly recommend using it. The views from the cable car are beautiful, but you’ll also avoid climbing 1500 steps. We do not recommend making this strenuous climb unless you are used to doing activities at this type of altitude.
At the top of Monserrate, a white church welcomes you on the mountaintop. The church is not particularly spectacular. Visitors mainly come to the top for the panorama over Bogotá. So make sure to check the weather before you go up. It would be a great pity if you don’t see anything, because it’s too cloudy or rainy.
Tip: watch out for the sun! Because of the cool temperatures you won’t feel the urge to use sunscreen, but the altitude is treacherous. Because you are closer to the sun, you’ll quickly and easily end up with a sunburn in Bogotá, even in the early morning.