La Candelaria is the historic center of Bogotá, and the city's principal destination for tourists. Home to the top museums, the government palaces, and beautiful old colonial buildings along narrow cobblestone streets, it's a must see.
The colonial district is the first neighborhood of Bogotá. Colombia's capital city was founded here in 1538 by Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada y Rivera in a spot known today as El Chorro de Quevedo. The next year, authorities re-founded the city a few blocks away at what is now known as the Plaza de Bolívar. Bogotá then grew up around the neighborhood. Because the city expanded west and north, La Candelaria retained much of its colonial atmosphere. The neighborhood is full of cobblestone streets and centuries-old houses. It is now a tourist attraction and university district, as well as the site of Colombia's government. Here you'll find most of the public buildings, both from the City and the Country's government. Historical squares, 400-year-old churches, picturesque narrow streets are all here, mixing along modern developments of financial business high towers.
Many landmark events in the history of Colombian and South American independence took place in the La Candelaria, district including the near killing and escape of Simon Bolivar, the execution of revolutionary heroine Policarpa Salavarrieta, known as 'La Pola,' and the Grito de Libertad, known as the beginning of the region's revolution. And the district is indeed teeming with history, and there are a lot of interesting museums and old churches in what is the oldest Bogotá neighborhood. Some streets are reserved to pedestrians. The most important places are La Catedral, Plaza de Bolivar, Palacio de Nariño, Iglesia del Carmen, Biblioteca Luis A Arango (blaa), the Colonial Art Museum and the old architecture of the houses and buildings, almost all of the museums charge no admission. La Candelaria also contains numerous Catholic Churches, many of them centuries-old. The Colombian-American and Colombian-French cultural centers are found in La Candelaria, and a Colombian-Spanish cultural center is under construction.
There are two J Zone stations on the Transmilenio in La Candelaria: Museo del Oro and Las Aguas, with the Museo del Oro stop being the most convenient to most everything. But since few buses go to the tiny J Zone, it often makes sense to get of at the A Zone station Avenida Jiménez and walk a few extra blocks. Av Jiménez does not have the safest location, though, after dark.
Carrera 7 (Séptima), which runs through Plaza de Bolívar, is the main avenue, but is most often pedestrian-only, making it a bad place to look for busetas and colectivos. One-way southbound Carrera 4 (Cuarta) is where you'll find colectivos coming from the north, always signed with "Luis Ángel Arango" (the library), while you can find northbound colectivos on Carrera 5 (Quinta).
Inside La Candelaria, there really is no need to get around by any way other than on foot. Rare is the walk that takes more than 10 minutes, unless you're climbing a hill while adjusting to altitude, but that's another story!
- 1 Casa de Moneda, Calle 11 No. 4-21 (Next to Museo Botero), ☏ . M-F 10AM-8PM, Tu closed, Sa 10AM-7PM, Su 10AM-4PM. Has a collection of Colombian coins and the history of moneymaking. Free entrance.
- Cultural Heritage Museum.
- 2 Banco de la Republica Art Collection (Museo Botero), Calle 11 No. 4-41, ☏ . W-F 10AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-7PM and Su 10AM-4PM. An art collection consisting of nearly 3,000 paintings, sculptures and assembly of Colombian and Latin American masters from the 16th century to our days, the Botero Museum contains both works by Fernando Botero, Colombia's most famous artist, and the contents of his private collection. Visitors may appreciate a selection of Colombian painters works, for instance Gregorio Vázquez de Arce y Ceballos, the most important Colony painter, Alejandro Obregón, Enrique Grau, Latin American as Rufino Tamayo, David Alfaro Siqueiros and many other globally renowned, such as works by Picasso, Renoir, Dali, Monet, and others. Free entrance.
- 3 Gold Museum (El Museo del Oro), Calle 16 No. 5-41 (on one side of the Parque Santander), ☏ , fax: . Tu-Sa 9AM-6PM, Su 10AM-4PM. Impressive collection of gold and pre-Colombian artifacts from Colombia and surrounding nations. Don't miss this museum. The Gold Museum is unique and you won't find a better place to see the pre-Spanish artwork on gold. La Casa del Florero was the site of an 1810 protest by Colombians considered to be the initiation of the revolt against Spain. COP$2,800.
- 4 Museum of Colonial Art (Museo de Arte Colonial Bogot), Carrera 6 No. 9-77, ☏ , email@example.com. Tu-Sa 10AM-5:30PM, Su 10AM-3:30PM. Under Eduardo Santos administration on August 6, 1942 the Colonial Museum containing Viceroy-ship art, silver plates, the Virgin of the Light and the most characteristic Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos collection, among other valuable Colombian culture treasures opened its doors. Declared National Monument National in 1975, Las Aulas Cloister is one of the oldest buildings in Bogotá.
- 5 Museum Francisco José de Caldas (Casa Museo José Francisco Caldas), Carrera 8 #6-87, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 8AM-5PM, Sa 8AM-2PM. Centered on the life of the revolution martyr. Showcases his mapping expedition of Colombia and how he contributed to the revolution by building a fort and a rifle factory in Antioquia. Free entrance.
- Museum of Regional Costumes.
- Museum of Colonial Art, Carrera 8 No. 8 - 91, ☏ , , email@example.com. The collection is made up of more than 1,600 pieces, including: easel paintings, sculptures, silverware, engravings, textiles, metalwork, ceramics, furniture, among others corresponding to numismatic pieces, ornamental pieces, prints and manuscripts. The most outstanding groups of pieces correspond to those of devotional painting and sculpture from the 17th and 18th centuries. Equally important are the works that have been loaned from private collections and that have been enjoyed by the public.
- National Police Historical Museum, Calle 9 No. 9-27, ☏ , . M-F 8AM-noon and 1-5PM, Sa 8AM-2PM. Its main interest resides in the rooms dedicated to the hunt of Pablo Escobar. Guided tours in Spanish and English. Free entrance.
- Bogota Bike Tours, Carrera 3 No. 12-72, La Candelaria (From the Museo de Oro Transmilenio station walk two blocks south and then uphill to Carrera 3), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 8AM to 6PM. Twice-daily four-hour bike tours of central Bogotà, leaving at 10:30AM and 1:30PM. Learn about the Colombian capital's history and culture, taste exotic fruits, view graffiti and learn how coffee's roasted. Visit off-the-beaten-path spots you wouldn't likely see on your own. On Sundays (or any day) you can rent bikes for La Ciclovia, when many major avenues are shut to cars. Bogota Bike Tours rents bikes for COP$7,000 per hour or COP$20,000 for four hours. COP$35,000.
- Restaurante Hibiscus, Calle 12D #2-21, La Candelaria (next to Hostal Cafe Casu), ☏ . Cooperative of social economy with friendly and helpful staff. Good and varied breakfasts and lunches. The association holds a supermarket besides as well. Around COP$7,000 for breakfast or meal of the day.
- El Fogón de las Sopitas, Calle 12 No. 8-38, La Candelaria (it's inside some kind of mall), ☏ . M-Sa. This restaurant is always busy serving one of their delicious soups. Every day of the week they have a slightly different menu. Come here for traditional ajiaco (COP$10,000) or Sancocho with chicken (COP$11,000). All soups come with rice, avocado, refreshment and yes, a banana that you can add to your soup. Try it! from COP$15,000.
- PitaWok, Carrera 4 #12C-54, La Candelaria, ☏ . Small and friendly restaurant with excellent Middle-East and Thai food: shawarmas, kebabs, pitas, Wok dishes and Arabian pastries. Food delivery as well. From COP$5,000.
- La Monapizza, Carrera 4 #12-25, La Candelaria, ☏ . Excellent pizzeria with sizes ranging from pizzeta to grande. The pequeña is more than enough for one person. From COP$8,000 for the small pizza.
- Ricasole Picadas, Carrera 4 #12C-54, ☏ . W-Su 11:00-20:00. Well known for their picadas - A delicious traditional Colombian mix of small fried pieces of meat, chicken, sausages, potatoes, french fries, arepa, cassava (yuca). One plate normally serves two people. Eat with a toothpick and dip it in either the spicy or the herbal salsa. Fresh fruit juices are excellent, too! COP$15,000.
- Crepes & Waffles, Avenida Jimenez (Cl 13) No. 4-55, La Candelaria, ☏ . M-Th Sa 11:45AM-8:30PM, F 11:45AM - 9PM, Su 11:45AM - 5PM. This great ice cream is made from fresh fruits and local chocolate and therefore comes with a real flavor you won't forget for quiet a while. Stick to their routine: Tell them how many (big!) scoops of ice cream you wish and whether in a homemade waffle or in a cup, pay and then choose among more than 20 flavors: café, coconut, maracuya, dark chocolate, blackberry, arequipe, lemon, black forest, biscuit, hazelnut, almond. The list is long and changes daily and according to season! Crepes & Waffles supports Colombian single women by hiring them. You will hardly find any man working in one of the many branches all over the country. from COP$3,000.
- Pastelerá Florida, Carrera 7 No. 21-46, La Candelaria. Daily 6AM - 10PM. When days are cold Bogotanos gather in this ancient confectioner's to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate santafereño that is actually a plate (COP$8,000): cassava bread, cheese bread and wheat bread come along with butter, cheese and marmelade and - of course - a cup of hot chocolate. You'll first get the empty cup and then they come and fill it to the brim from a big can. Traditionally you dip the bread and the cheese into the chocolate. Most even break the cheese into small pieces and leave them inside the cup to get melted and slightly change the flavour of both, cheese and chocolate. Afterward they spoon it. Great place to have breakfast, too (try their tamales). from COP$3,000.
- Melé, Calle 11 No. 2-29, La Candelaria. M-F lunchtime. This is one of the many places to enjoy a good corrientazo. They offer hearty soups and solid plates that will fill you well. Come early to choose from the complete menu of the day. COP$7,000.
While La Candelaria, and Centro in general, is not the city's premier nightlife destination by a long stretch, there's still a good range of places to visit. Dance floors are almost non-existent, though, so club-hoppers really should get on the Transmilenio and head north. The few dance options are usually packed with university students.
- 1 Gato Gris, Kra 1A No 13-12 (Candelaria), ☏ . This place is just charming in many ways. It is right at the Chorro de Quevedo, the birthplace of Bogotá. It has many nooks and levels, perfect for little intimate gatherings. Great rooftop with fireplaces and views of downtown Bogotá. Italian dishes are delightful, ceviche not so much.
- Anandamayi House, Calle 9 No. 2-81 La Candelaria, ☏ , email@example.com. Anandamayi is a very comfortable and inexpensive hostel in the most beautiful colonial house in la Candelaria old town. Very nice vibe (the owner is a Buddhist lady), but it is quite a few blocks walk from the Transmilenio (calle 16 vs. calle 9). This area is known to be dangerous at night. Hostels like Fatima are better located. US$9-14.
- The Cranky Croc, Cl. 12d #3-46 La Candelaria, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. In the heart of La Candelaria is the newest and cleanest hostel in Bogota. Run by Aussia ex-pat Andy and his crew, this historic building has been completely remodeled and features a wet bar, indoor barbecue and cafe serving breakfast and the Friday night all you can eat barbecue. The hostel also includes a huge kitchen, clean rooms and dorms with lots of hot water, 2 outdoor patios, free coffee, excellent Wi-Fi and Internet terminals, laundry facilities, and motorcycle/car parking at a small additional fee. Dorm bed COP$65606, single with shared bath COP$80,000, double with bath COP$90,000.
- Destino Nómada - dnhostels, Calle 11 No. 1-38 La Candelaria, ☏ , email@example.com. The hostel is in the middle of 'La Candelaria', Bogotá´s historical center. From the Hostel's street, you will be able to reach all the most important cultural spots, and a party area within just a few blocks. The hostel is surrounded by 2 of the biggest universities in Bogotá (Externado and La Salle), which keeps the area full of students always willing to interact with fellow travelers and makes the location safer as it's up to the next door museums, theatres, famous restaurants and again the universities to keep it that way and 24/7. The hostel includes free coffee and a local drink called 'Agua de Panela', free towels and linens, pick up service from/to the airport, TV room, High Speed Internet Access with enough computers & Free WI-FI, fully equipped Kitchen, Bar with budget drinks and specials, BBQ every Friday and more. The hostel also receive Credit and Debit Cards. COP$25514 for dorm bed.
- Hostal - Café CASU, Calle 12D Bis #2-19, Piso 2, La Candelaria, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Upstairs, very secure and a bit quieter than the other English-speakers hangouts. COP$109344.
- Hostal Colonial La Quinta, Calle 13A No. 1-43 La Candelaria, ☏ , email@example.com. Check-out: 1PM. Good location, breakfast included, 24-hour security, free wifi, laundry for COP$2,000, TV. COP$40093.
- Hostal Fatima, Bogotá: Cra 4 # 12C-14, La Candelaria, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Including breakfast costs a little more, Free internet (but old hardware). The hostel probably has the most beautiful interior in La Candelaria, but mattresses are not solid enough. Hot water is limited by electric heating system. They have opened up a bar as well, which can be fun on some nights. Rates from COP$18,000.
- Swiss Hostal Martinik, Cra. 4 #11-88, La Candelaria, ☏ . Check-in: 1PM, check-out: noon. In a huge colonial house in the popular Candelaria district. Close to Bogotas major sites such as the Botero Museum or the Gold Museum. Offers clean rooms, big fully-equipped kitchen, hot water, laundry facilities, high-speed wi-fi internet and coffee. It can get a little noisy at night though. There is a big patio area, with hammocks and barbecue and a TV room. Hammock: COP$10,000, Dorms: COP$15,000-24,000, Private and doubles: COP$25,000-50,000. Every fifth night is half price . COP$10,000-50,000.
- Hostal Sayta, Calle 12B No. 0-57 La Candelaria (One block from the Chorro de Quevedo), ☏ , email@example.com. The tastefully decorated Sayta Hostal is located in a calm and safe part of the "La Candelaria" old town. There is free coffee, Internet and Wifi, hot showers and great rooms with comfortable beds. Friendly owners, too. From COP$20,000 for a dorm bed and COP$48,000 for a private room.
- Chocolate Hostel, Cl. 12f #2-43, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Rich colors and comfortable furnishings, laundry and wifi available. Breakfast available but not included in room charge. COP$76541.
- Hotel Aragon, Esquina 13, Cra. 3 #12 C, ☏ , , fax: . If the Platypus is full, you can try this hotel a few blocks down. It's actually a hotel so there are no dormitories. The place is basic and a little dated but the rooms are fairly clean and there's hot water all the time (but it may not be on your floor). It's a period style building with spacious rooms, in-room Wi-Fi, a big kitchen (free coffee in the morning), TV lounge, and big bathrooms. Rooms facing the street can be noisy. Single room COP$25,000 with shared bath, COP$40,000 for big double room.
- Hotel Dorantes, Calle 13 No. 5-7, La Candelaria, ☏ , , información@hoteldorentes.com. Hot water (not electric), beautiful building in need of attention. WiFi may be available (just ask for the key). Clean and friendly. Unique charm and kitsch. Avoid Friday and Saturday night if you plan to fall asleep before 3AM - perfect if you want to join the partying taking place outside. Huge double room COP$45,000.
- Hotel Internacional, Carrera 5 No. 14-45, La Candelaria, ☏ , email@example.com. A safe, inexpensive alternative to hostels. Shared bathrooms down the hall with strong hot water. No TV in rooms. Internet computers available in lobby. Shared kitchen available to guests. Tourist information in several languages. Clean private rooms from COP$17,000.
- Hotel Casa Deco, Calle 14 No. 2-30, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Very close to mayor touristic attractions like Gold Museum ,Botero museum, Monserrate, excellent service and great breakfasts. Rooms COP$218,000.
- Hotel Chorro de Quevedo, Calle 13 b n. 1-53, Barrio La Candelaria Centro, Bogota, ☏ . All the rooms have a bathroom and television with cable (lots of English language channels). The staff are really friendly, and ready and willing to offer travel advice. A great base to explore La Candelaria. Breakfast included.
- Hotel San Sebastian, Esquina con Carrera 3, Cra. 4 #3-37, ☏ , email@example.com. This comfortable and convenient hotel located in the pleasant area of La Candelaria offers 36 excellent accommodation, a stones throw from the top sights in Bogota.
La Candelaria is just not a safe neighborhood, this is not to say that you will have problems—in all likelihood you'll be just fine—but La Candelaria demands extra precautions. At night most residents lock their steel doors and leave the streets empty, which naturally makes them safer, but you are more vulnerable if you are walking around alone or in a small group. If you are staying in a hostel, though, there is usually a good nightlife scene without going outside! The big exception is on Thursdays and Fridays, which are the Bogotanos' "going out" nights, and the area stays bustling until late. During the day, you should generally be fine. When picking a place to stay, keep in mind that your personal security is best the less that you have to walk the quiet narrow streets at night; staying closer to Kra 7 or Ave Jimenez will decrease the distance to main streets. The neighborhoods to the south and especially southeast across the Circunvalar (the beautiful old decaying neighborhood of Egipto is particularly notorious) are very dangerous at all times of the day, and the violence from those neighborhoods can and does spill into La Candelaria.