It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that Bogotá has received more than its fair share of rain over the last month or two. The wettest times of year in the Colombian Andean region are, roughly, from April to June and September to November (though it’s not an exact science!). During these months it’s common for the day to start out sunny and dissolve into a heavy downpour lasting a few hours by lunchtime. Whenever I go out to explore Bogotá, I try to have a rainy-day activity as a back-up, just in case. Here are a few things to do in Bogotá when it’s raining.
Shelter in an art gallery or museum
One of my favourite things to do in Bogotá is explore the abundant offering of art galleries and museums. There are many museums in La Candelaria, Bogotá’s historic quarter, one of the most famous being the Botero Museum. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of sniggering at Colombia’s most famous artist’s unique portrayals of voluptuous figures. The museum also has pieces from Botero’s own private collection, including works from Picasso, Chagall, Miró, Monet and Matisse. One of my favourite exhibition spaces is just a block down from the Botero Museum on the corner of cra. 6 and calle 11. On the lower ground floor of the Gabriel García Márquez Cultural Centre (just by the Juan Valdez on the corner) there is an art space dedicated to displaying paintings, sculptures, photographs, montages and textile art of Latin American contemporary artists. It’s called the Sala de Exposiciones Débora Arango and every time I’m in the Candelaria I’ll pop in to check out the latest exhibition – it never disappoints! I think my favourite so far was a ‘Tin-Tin meets Frida Kahlo’ exhibition (see below)! The MAMBO (Museum of Modern Art Bogotá) is also well worth a visit. I really enjoyed a recent trip to the MAMU (Museo de Arte Miguel Urrutia) which also showcases the latest pieces from artists across Latin America. Other neighbourhoods with a fantastic offering of art galleries are San Felipe, stretching across the few blocks around calle 72 and carrera 21, and La Macarena, just up the hill from Bogotá’s International Centre.
Warm up with a hot chocolate (and cheese) at La Puerta Falsa
La Puerta Falsa is Bogota’s oldest restaurant in the historical centre of the Candelaria, founded in 1816. It is also the perfect place to warm up with a hot chocolate and a chunk of cheese on a rainy day. Many people drop the cheese into a mug of steaming hot chocolate and then scoop out the melted cheese with a teaspoon. I was a little skeptical about this combination at first, but when I finally took the plunge I found it delicious and satisfying! La Puerta Falsa is quite small (very cosy/cramped, depending on whether you’re a glass-half-full/half-empty kind of person) and popular. If there’s a queue outside, La Puerta de la Catedral is a few doors up and has a very similar menu. I actually suspect that the two restaurants’ food comes from the same kitchen nearby!
Get lost in a literary menagerie
Librería Merlin has an air of Paris’s Shakespeare and Company. This second-hand bookshop in downtown Bogotá has books, magazines, newspapers and comics in many languages, spread over three floors. The corridors and rooms are lined with piles of books and antiques, and there are plenty of sofas and chairs to sink into with a classic on a rainy day. There is a small collection of classics in English on the first/ground floor, to the right as you enter the shop, and a whole wall of English books from floor to ceiling on the third floor. The prices are written on the inside of the books, and you can normally negotiate a small discount at the till.
A classic rainy-day activity never dies! There are many large shopping malls to choose from in Bogotá – Titán and Centro Mayor being two of the largest, and Andino and Retiro in the Zona T being the two you go to for luxury brands. There’s also lots of handicrafts and souvenirs markets to choose from – I’ll often duck into one of the ones near the Candelaria on a wet afternoon (and invariably head home with a bagful of impulse buys!).
Have the perfect cup of Colombian coffee
Catación Pública is a specialty coffee shop close to the Sunday flea market in Usaquén. The expert baristas invite visitors to open the coffee jars on the counter and breathe in each one. Normally the one that smells best in the jar will be the one that tastes best in the cup. They will recommend the best methods for preparing the coffee you choose according to how you like your coffee. Each serving is enough for two cups prepared using two different methods. Alternatively, choose one preparation method and try two different coffees to compare flavours. Catación Pública is the only coffee shop in Bogotá to offer caramelized coffee cherries, a sweet and tangy delicacy which brings out the flavours in the coffee – I highly recommend trying some! It is possible to book a one-hour coffee tasting session (or ‘cupping’ as they call it here), but personally I think the Bogotá coffee shop tour is better value for money as you get to visit several different specialty coffee shops in one three-hour tour.
Hmmm… what have I forgotten? Tell us about your favourite things to do in Bogotá (other than staying in!) when it’s raining in the comments section below!