Named after Simon Bolivar, a leader in South America’s independence from Spain, Plaza Bolivar is an essential stop when visiting Bogota, even if you only stay long enough to toss some corn at the pigeons and pet a few llamas.

The famous cathedral in Plaza Bolivar

The famous cathedral in Bogota, Colombia’s Plaza Bolivar.

Plaza Bolivar is located in La Candelaria, Bogota’s historic district. This area has more soul than the ritzy Zona Rosa in the north, but to me it also felt more touristy and, unfortunately, less safe.

Perhaps I let reports of others who said the neighborhood felt dicey, especially at night, prejudice me against La Candelaria. But when we were climbing the steeply-inclined cobbled alleys and admiring the gratified one-story buildings, I felt like I had to be on guard.

The panhandlers here were more aggressive than up north. Every few blocks street vendors tried to draw our attention to blankets piled with knick-knacks and jewelry.

Plaza Bolivar is located in La Candelaria

Plaza Bolivar is located in La Candelaria, a neighborhood that felt more historic than where we stayed in Zona Rosa. Still, we felt like we had to be on guard down here more than in the ritzy north.

It didn’t help that we were only hassled once in Colombia. And it happened in La Candelaria.

We were taking pictures in front of the Gold Museum when a man wearing a crumbled suit approached us and asked where we were from. He was inappropriately touchy-feely, wanting to repeatedly hug both of us and tugging my earlobe when he described how local robbers rip jewelry off their victims.

He had what he said was a Colombian police report documenting a recent robbery. He asked for some pesos so he could get cleaned up for his job interview tomorrow. We gave him the equivalent of $5 USD – he wanted more – and politely declined his repeated offerings to give us a tour of the area.

Funny enough, he was American.

We visited a few sites in La Candelaria, mostly museums, but Plaza Bolivar was my favorite. It was big. It was historic. And it was full of animals. Well, at least pigeons and llamas.

pigeons and petting the llamas in Plaza Bolivar.

Sure, the surrounding area may feel a little sketchy, but I loved feeding the pigeons and petting the llamas in Plaza Bolivar.

I made a video about the plaza below. Learn why the Palace of Justice looks so much newer than its neighbors. (Heads-up: it’s a pretty sad and gruesome story.) And watch me get mauled by a pack of hungry birds at the 1:16 mark. Greg handles the bird mob with significantly more grace a few seconds later.

Hope you enjoy!

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