18 Uniquely Columbian Things to Buy in Bogota

18 Uniquely Columbian Things to Buy in Bogota

To those who understand Russian, the word "Bogota" sounds very similar to the one translating as "rich". And, indeed, the city does live up to this name connotation in terms of peculiar things worth exploring in addition to coca, coffee and emeralds. Here's the longer list of ideas...
Image Courtesy of: Artemas Liu

1. Chocolates

Chocolates
Colombia is a major chocolate producer and Nacional de Chocolates Santander brand chocolates might be some of the best chocolate you’ve ever tasted. A bar of 75% pure dark Colombian chocolate sells for around $2. For an extra kick you can pick up a bar of dark chocolate with coffee bits. For “designer” chocolates, try XoCo. You can pick up a box of beautiful and colorfully designed handmade Santander chocolates at their stores in malls, such as Andino and Santa Barbara. Try their exotic Colombian flavors, such as maracuyá, uchuva and zapote ($12 and up). If you’re planning on taking chocolates back with you, best to pack them in your carry-on luggage so they don’t become a delicious mess as they melt on the tarmac at the airport.
Where to find it:
Andino Shopping Mall
Cra. 11 ##82-71, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
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2. Chamba Pottery

Chamba Pottery
Chamba is black clay pottery coming from a village in the department of Tolima. It is simple, rustic, and elegant. Chamba has even caught the attention of stores like Crate and Barrel, bringing Colombian rustic chic to smart dinner tables everywhere. You can go all out with plates, cute tinto cups and saucers, serving dishes, but maybe just a few soup bowls would do. If you ever happen to be in Bogota in December, an excellent place to go to actually get to know the artisans who make their living creating Chamba pottery is Expoartesanías – the massive handicraft fair at the Corferias fairgrounds. While knick-knack shops do sell chamba ware, it may be best to go to an Artesanías de Colombia store which sells top-quality chamba, although for a higher price. Artesanías de Colombia is, by the way, the organizer of the Expoartesanías event. Made of clay, chamba is of course quite fragile, so take care when packing it in your luggage. Artesanías de Colombia is located at Las Aguas church downtown (their main offices): Carrera 2 No. 18A – 58 and they have a second, smaller location adjacent to the Andrés Carne de Res restaurant at the fancy El Retiro shopping mall.
Where to find it:
Artesanías de Colombia
Cra. 2 #18-58, Bogotá, Funza, Cundinamarca, Colombia
Calle 81-82 #11-94, Bogotá, Colombia
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3. Emeralds

Emeralds
Colombia is the land of emeralds with the green gem mined in three areas of the country. While you can even purchase them wrapped in newspaper downtown on the street (Avenida Jiménez) and at stores along Calle 13, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s best to go to a reputable jeweler. But beforehand, do a little research on what to look for (You should, at least, know your “4 Cs” : color, clarity, cut and carat). At Joyeria Bauer you are assured of getting top quality emeralds and will be guaranteed to getting the best in professional customer service. Founded by a German immigrant, they have been around since 1893! Bauer now has three stores in the north of the city: at the Centro Comercial 93 (Calle 93 and Carrera 15), at the Centro Comercial Andino and at Unicentro (Calle 123 with Carrera 15).
Where to find it:
Joyeria Bauer
Carrera 15 # 93 - 60 Local 215 Centro Comercial Centro 93, Bogotá, DC, Colombia
Cra. 11 ##82-71, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
Ak. 15 #124-30, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
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Offline reading and travel directions:
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4. Aguardiente

Aguardiente
Bogotanos do adore their whiskey, but if you want to take back a truly Colombian spirit, look for the powerful liquor, aguardiente. Sure to warm you up on a chilly Bogota night, Colombians drink aquardiente straight up, sharing a bottle among friends. Made from sugar cane, aguardiente literally means “burning water”: you were warned. Look for these traditional brands: Nectar, Antioqueño and Cristal. There are now even some versions without sugar, which may make the day after less brutal and make imbibing a less guilty experience for the health conscious. Any supermarket will carry all of those brands and more, and you could also try local mom and pop liquor stores that still flourish on the streets of the city. Éxito (Carrera 7 No. 32 – 84) and near the Zona Rosa shopping district, Pomona (Carrera 11 No. 76-19) and Carulla (Calle 85 No. 15-29).
Where to find it:
Éxito
Cl. 67 #7-63, Bogotá, Colombia

5. Obleas

Obleas
When Bogotanos are out riding their bike on the Ciclovia every Sunday and need a sugar fix, they order an oblea at street stalls. These are paper thin wafers filled with delicious arequipe (caramel). If you’re in need of some extra calories – and who isn’t?- you can add a little raspberry or strawberry jam or some sweet cream. The undisputed king of obleas in Colombia is a truly mom and pop Bogota success story: Obleas Jose A. After rigorous investigations, it has been established that the “A” stands for Antonio and that this chain has been around since 1972. Now in his 60s, Don Jose Antonio is doing something right as his oblea shops (over 40 so far) are all over Colombia now. And yes, he’s on Facebook, in case you were wondering.

You can pick up a tin of the delicate obleas with a container of the magical arequipe to share with your friends back home. Check these locations: Carrera 11 No. 73-28 (near the Centro Comercial Gran Ahorrar, which is believed to be their first), Calle 84 No. 15-43 (near the Hospital Country) and in the Candelaria at Carrera 5A No. 12-08. If unable to find Jose A., go to any grocery store, where you can find several brands. Remember that the smooth side of the oblea faces the interior of the oblea sandwich, so the arequipe clings to the ridges of the wafer. (You’ll understand when you see them.) Please remember that arequipe is forbidden in carry-on luggage! That explains the trash cans full of arequipe at the security checkpoint at the El Dorado airport (seriously!) – and perhaps some of the pudgy stomachs of the employees, too!
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6. Messenger Bag from Cyclus

Messenger Bag from Cyclus
A truly urban and environmentally friendly gift is a messenger bag from Cyclus. These handmade bags are made from recycled innertubes, picked up from the sides of chaotic Colombian roads - and are extremely cool. In addition to messenger bags, check out their wallets, purses, backpacks, computer carrying cases, belts and more. The company was created by two young industrial design students and was a result of their thesis project. Made in the neighborhood of Chapinero, innovative and “green” Cyclus products have grown in popularity and are now sold in the U.S. and in Europe. As their slogan goes, “it’s a round trip.” Visit their store on the mountain side (east side) of Carrera 7 with Calle 54. They have a cool website, too at cyclus.com.co.
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7. Coca Tea

Coca Tea
For centuries, coca has been a sacred plant among the original Colombians. It is a relatively recent phenomenon that the coca leaf has been demonized, fumigated and been an unfortunate actor in a decades-long bloody conflict. You might be surprised at just how important that plant was among the original Colombians centuries ago as you explore the famed Gold Museum. Golden poporos, in which powdered lime was kept to be mixed with coca leaves that were later chewed, are some of the most unusual and lovely pieces on display. The stunning Quimbaya Poporo, in fact, dated from 300 A.D. and found in a burial site in 1930, was the first piece obtained by collectors of the Banco de la República.

Coca tea is legal, and is known for helping you get over altitude sickness – and giving you a little extra boost. Some drink it to lose weight! Try the organic market Clorofila at Carrera 13 with Calle 78 or at their Park Way neighborhood location (Calle 41 No. 24-20). Another option is BioPlaza, also with two stores: Tr. 17 No. 98-13 (just off of Calle 100 and below Carrera 15) and at their second location on the Calle de los Anticuarios at Calle 79B No. 7-90. Both BioPlaza locations have restaurants, with the one at their Calle 100 location being very popular for lunch during the week.
Where to find it:
Clorofila Market
Cl. 41 #24-20, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

BioPlaza
Tv. 17 #98-13, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

8. Hammock

Hammock
Everyone needs a hammock. And hand-woven Colombian hammocks are colorful, sturdy and will cheer up any room. Some of the best come from the town of San Jacinto on the Caribbean coast. Colombian hammocks are the perfect place for you to try to get through that Gabriel García Márquez novel you have in your bookcase or just laze on a Sunday afternoon. High quality hammocks can be purchased at handicraft shops, such as Artesanías de Colombia (Las Aguas church downtown at Carrera 2 No. 18A – 58 and adjacent to the Andrés Carne de Res restaurant at the El Retiro shopping mall) and El Balay at Carrera 15 No. 75-63.
Where to find it:
Artesanías de Colombia
Cra. 2 #18-58, Bogotá, Funza, Cundinamarca, Colombia

El Balay
Cra. 15 #75-63, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
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9. Fruit Juice Pulps

Fruit Juice Pulps
Fresh tropical fruits: they are on every restaurant menu in Colombia whether in juices, breakfasts or desserts. It’s such a pity you can't take them back with you. The next best thing? Pick up some fruit juice pulp at the supermarket. These are popular with cooks and homemakers, who have neither time nor patience to make juice straight from the fruit themselves. If you’ve ever cracked open a guanábana (soursop), a bizarre fruit that resembles a dinosaur egg, you know that it’s a big gooey mess, and you’ll appreciate these pulps even more. You can impress your friends with that real guanábana juice, lulo, mango or blackberry juice – and make some killer cocktails. As these are packaged fruit products, there is no issue with customs. But make sure they go in your checked baggage, not carry-on. They sell for about a dollar each, but you can get a pack of about a dozen and save more – if you really love them. Find them near the fruit section at any of the main supermarkets, such as Éxito (Carrera 7 No. 32 – 84) and near the Zona Rosa shopping district, Pomona (Carrera 11 No. 76-19) and Carulla (Calle 85 No. 15-29).
Where to find it:
Éxito
Cl. 67 #7-63, Bogotá, Colombia
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10. Sexy Unico Underwear

Sexy Unico Underwear
If you’ve (or he’s) got it, flaunt it. For the man with 0% body fat, this sexy underwear company has got the perfect gift. The company is based out of Medellín, the major textile production area in Colombia. Unico skivvies – briefs, boxers and yes, thongs – come in bright colors with designs made to get you noticed and to raise temperature in the bedroom. For those who do not fall into the zero percent body fat category, thankfully Unico sells socks and pajama bottoms. Check out their store at the El Retiro shopping mall (Calle 82 No. 11-75 Local 118) in the Zona Rosa. Briefs start at around $30.
Where to find it:
El Retiro Shopping Mall
Calle 81-82 #11-94, Bogotá, Colombia
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11. Coffee

Coffee
Go to Colombia and bring back some coffee – duh! The dilemma is choosing what brand. The quality of Juan Valdez coffees is unmatched. Their cafes sprung up seemingly overnight in Bogota not too long ago and soon took over Colombia and beyond. In addition to serving up a mean cappuccino, these cafes also have stores where you can buy coffee and Juan Valdez merchandise (Check out their excellent people-watching location at the Centro Andino in front of the Zona T). But if you want the coffee that the old timers in Bogotá have sipped for decades, look for Sello Rojo. It’s not as chic, but a little more authentic. Of course, at any supermarket you’ll see a wide selection of 100% Colombian coffees. Including organic, decaffeinated, beans (grano), store brands and gourmet coffees, costing from around $5 a bag upwards. Try these major supermarket chains: downtown Éxito (Carrera 7 No. 32 – 84) and near the Zona Rosa shopping district, Pomona (Carrera 11 No. 76-19) and Carulla (Calle 85 No. 15-29).
Where to find it:
Éxito
Cl. 67 #7-63, Bogotá, Colombia
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12. Mercedes Salazar Jewelry

Mercedes Salazar Jewelry
This accomplished native Bogotá jeweler now sells her designs worldwide. Some of her necklaces, bracelets and earrings are sleek and modern, others kitschy-cool and others somewhat mystical with elements reflecting the indigenous traditions of Colombia. They are all creative and one of a kind and many are quite reasonably priced. Mercedes Salazar has two stores in the north of Bogota at the El Retiro mall (Calle 82 No. 11 75 Local 1-110) and at her original store and workshop near the Parque de la 93 restaurant area (Calle 93B No. 13-26).
Where to find it:
El Retiro Shopping Mall
Calle 81-82 #11-94, Bogotá, Colombia

Mercedes Salazar
Cl. 93b #13-26, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

13. Mochila

Mochila
Mochilas are hand-woven, cotton or woolen handbags, some with very colorful designs. The best are made by the Wayuu Indians and are so sturdy and tightly woven that they claim you can carry water in them. No doubt during your visit to Bogotá you will see students, hipsters and even workers in suits with a mochila slung over their shoulder. As with other handicrafts described here, you can spend a little or a lot on mochilas, with the best quality and most original ones costing upwards of $150. To find these, again it is recommended to visit an Artesanías de Colombia store, or go to the Expoartesanías fair in December, when the indigenous craftspeople converge on Bogota to sell their extraordinary wares. Mostly coming from the Caribbean Coast area, these artisans can tell you the significance of the geometric designs of the mochilas and you may even be able to meet the person who wove yours. While you can find cheap mochilas in tourist markets downtown, it’s best to go for the quality at Artesanías de Colombia: Las Aguas church downtown (their main offices): Carrera 2 No. 18A – 58 and adjacent to the Andrés Carne de Res restaurant at the El Retiro shopping mall.
Where to find it:
Artesanías de Colombia
Cra. 2 #18-58, Bogotá, Funza, Cundinamarca, Colombia

El Retiro Shopping Mall
Calle 81-82 #11-94, Bogotá, Colombia
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14. Music

Music
Music is everywhere in Colombia, all the time. Bogotá, being the massive Colombian melting pot that it is, is also where the musical traditions from the entire country come together. And Colombians have their share of internationally acclaimed singers. For starters, of course, there is Barranquilla native Shakira, who now fills stadiums from Shanghai to Sofia. Look for some of her earlier albums, such as “Pies Descalzos”, which is considered to be her breakthrough album. But be sure to check out these artists and albums as well: Juanes, one of Medellín’s most famous sons (“Fíjate bien”), Carlos Vives who brought Vallenato music to a global audience (“Déjame entrar”), diva Toto la Momposina and the Colombian Pacific hip-hop group ChocQuibTown, to name just a few. While music stores are declining in number as the world goes digital, there are two decent shops with good selections at the Centro Andino. Try Entertainment Store (previously Tower Records) on the second floor or La Música on the first.
Where to find it:
Andino Shopping Mall
Cra. 11 ##82-71, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
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15. Sombrero Vueltiado

Sombrero Vueltiado
Image Courtesy of: CARLOS
Ignore the fact that they will probably look better on locals out on horseback in the lush green countryside than on you or someone you love back in Indiana: these iconic black and white cowboy hats made out of caña flecha, a type of reed, make great gifts. Of Indian origin, they are one of the main - and macho - symbols of Colombia. Former President Uribe, who was once wildly popular across the country, was often photographed at his ranch on horseback, always with his sombrero vueltiado. In fact, if you are running for office, putting on this hat is almost obligatory when trying to foment an image of a man of the people. (Voluptuous Colombian models and actresses also don the hat when vacationing at the beach.) Try Artesanías El Balay at Carrera 15 No. 75-63.
Where to find it:
El Balay
Cra. 15 #75-63, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
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16. Coffee Table Books by Editores Villegas

Coffee Table Books by Editores Villegas
You may think that giving someone a coffee table book from Colombia is a lame idea. But not Villegas coffee table books. This famous book publishing company was founded by an architect in 1986. Since then Villegas has churned out dozens of titles and won international acclaim. There are several beautiful books on Colombian architecture and design, including titles on the lifetime work of Rogelio Salmona, one of the most acclaimed architects of recent history, as well as books on spectacular modern Colombian country homes (Casa de Campo) and one on the use of bamboo in home constructions. Other editions include a colorful book on native orchids, a fascinating book with extraordinary photos on an Amazonian expedition by American Richard Evans Schultes (Amazonia Perdida) and a book on the historic botanical expedition of Spaniard José Celestino Mutis with lovely reproductions of his original drawings. Even the expected books on Colombia are well done (check out Colombia es Color), although it might be more interesting to bring back one of their Colombian cuisine cookbooks. Many, but not all, titles are in both Spanish and English, and most sell for $70 and upwards. Peruse all their titles at their store in front of (north side) the Centro Andino at Calle 82 No. 11 - 50 Interior 3.
Where to find it:
Librería y Galería Villegas Editores
3, Ac. 82 #1150, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
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17. Quinoa

Quinoa
If it weren’t for its bitter aftertaste, this highly nutritious seed (not a grain) from the Andes might have been more popular than rice. Although rice won the war with quinoa in the Americas, quinoa, packed with protein and fiber, is enjoying a surge of popularity. Many studies have shown quinoa to promote strong bones, reduce cholesterol and prevent gall stones. Quinoa is an excellent alternative to rice and is also great in soups (just be sure to rinse it!) Sneak in a little protein into baked goods or pancakes with quinoa flour. Bring back some toasted quinoa to sprinkle on salads or ice cream and a bag of Quinoa Pop cereal to jumpstart your morning. Try the organic market Clorofila at Carrera 13 with 78 or at their Park Way neighborhood location (Calle 41 No. 24-20). Another option is BioPlaza, also with two stores: Transversal 17 No. 98-13 (just off of Calle 100 and below Carrera 15) and at their second location on the Calle de los Anticuarios at Cll. 79B No. 7-90.
Where to find it:
Clorofila Market
Cl. 41 #24-20, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

BioPlaza
Tv. 17 #98-13, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

18. A Hip T-Shirt

A Hip T-Shirt
A major university town, Bogotá is a vibrant city, full of creative young designers. If you consider yourself a hipster or have hipsters in your life, check out the one-of-a-kind (and often just plain weird, but in a good way) t-shirts at Tienda Ochosesenta (Calle 81 No. 8-81). Ever gone to a party and seen someone with the exact same t-shirt as you? The clothes (they have more than t-shirts) at this northern boutique, all created by local designers, are usually very limited editions, so that embarrassing party scenario will probably never, ever happen. Be sure to check out their accessories and jewelry. One word of warning: some of the sizes are made for young Bogota hipster bodies, not necessarily thought out for Scandinavian physiques (make sure you try them on!). T’s start at around $30. BrincaBrinca (Carrera 14 No. 85-26) has a similar concept and a larger selection. For more trendy if grungy designer duds, check out Bastardo (Carrera 5 No. 57-14 Local 101) in a residential yet hipper by the moment neighborhood in Chapinero.
Where to find it:
Tienda Ochosesenta
Cl. 81 #8-81, Bogotá, Colombia

BrincaBrinca
Cra. 14 #85-24, Bogotá, Colombia

Other Interesting Souvenirs from Colombia


If traveling to Colombia is not on your immediate agenda, or you simply can't afford an extra space in your luggage, fortunately, these days, you can find a wide selection of authentic and truly interesting Colombian souvenirs online. Presented here are some of the Colombian products sought by foreign visitors, now available online for your convenience.

1. Wayúu Hammocks - The most exclusive and beautiful hammocks in the world, made by the 'Wayuu' Indians of Colombia. Hand-made, these hammocks take several months to produce using elaborate weaving technique passed down through generations. The 'Wayuu' hammocks are extremely large (weighing up to 6 kilos) and strong enough to hold the whole family. The thick fringes can be used as blankets on cold nights in the desert.

2. Colombian Treats - These could be various and include delicious, caramel spread with an unforgettable flavor, good to eat as is or added to various dessert recipes; passion fruit flavored lollipops with a bubble gum inside; or a Chocoramo pound cake - one of Colombia's favorite desserts - eating just one of which, you will crave for more.

3. Arepa flour - The staple ingredient of the maize flour dough, known as "masarepa", used in a variety of traditional Colombian dishes, such as arepas, hallacas and bollos, as well as empanadas (fried, corn bread filled with potato, tomato and onion), arepas de huevo (corn bread filled with fried egg), hallaquitas, tamales, tortillas, gorditas, polenta and milho fritto. This flour is easily digested, contains no additives, and is suitable for gluten-free and nut-free diets.

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Bogota Walking Tours

City Orientation Walk

City Orientation Walk

The capital of Colombia Bogotá is a sprawling, high-altitude metropolis renowned for its rich historical scene. The cobblestoned center of the city, known as La Candelaria, abounds in colonial-era architecture and numerous museums, including Museo Botero, showcasing Fernando Botero's works, Museo del Oro (museum of gold) and others. The most notable sites of Bogotá are included in this orientation walk.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 km
A Tour to Cerro de Monserrate, Bogota

A Tour to Cerro de Monserrate, Bogota

Cerro de Monserrate is sometimes called the mountain-guardian of Bogota and has been a place of religious pilgrimage since colonial times. Due to its outstanding surrounding beauties, it became a natural, religious and gastronomic attraction, accessible by a walking path, cable car or funicular. On the way up, there are also several attractions such as Iglesia Nuestra Señora de las Aguas and Casa Museo Quinta de Bolivar. The tour to the peak is fun and healthy, so it's definitely worth a try!

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.7 km
Religious Tour in Bogota

Religious Tour in Bogota

Religion has always played an important role in the history of Bogota, and Columbia in general. The sumptuous churches of Bogota are true architectural marvels of a great historical value. All in all, they are well worth your attention, so do spare some time to take the religious tour of Colombian capital.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 km