Typical colombian stuff & souvenirs, Bogotá
Buying souvenirs is somehow tricky. If you look for a particular thing it's always smart to buy it in the place of its origin. You usually not get only better selection but also the price. But sometimes it's just not very handy to carry all the staff with you, especially if the trip is longer and off-track. In this case it's better to do your shopping in the city of your departure.
Bogotá has way too many arts and crafts shops, flea markets and souvenir stores where you can buy souvenirs. Some of the best and centrally located are:
Galería Artesanal de Colombia
Calle 16 No. 5-60
(in front of Museo del Oro)
Galería Artesanal Colombia Linda
Carrera 7 No. 23-49
Centro Colombiano de Artesanias
Carrera 7 No. 22-66/78
Mercado de San Alejo is probably the best flea market. It's held every Sunday between 09:00am and 05:00pm on Calle 24 with Carrera 7.
What to buy: You can find everything from jewellery, bags, hats, scarfs, table clothes, hammocks, basketworks, paintings and other pieces of art, musical instruments, pirate music CDs and film DVDs and many more.
I bought a nice pair of Mafaldas shoes (60.000 COP) and some typical sweets (cocada and coffee cookies).
What to pay: very affordable
Telonius is a small shop very close to Platypus hostel so I was passing by several times a day. I was first attracted by the unusual mural on the outside wall of a building. Then one day, it just started to rain, I went inside and was pleasantly surprised at a great assortment of beautiful and original pieces of arts and crafts. I met the friendly owners, Patricia and Saúl, and they told me that they travelled to different parts of Colombia to collect them.
The interior of the shop is nicely painted as well. Walls are in different colours and decorated by several paintings of the same style as the mural of the facade. A relaxing music is coming from the background.
What to buy: Everything in the shop is made of natural materials. You can get an assortment of original knitwear, paintings, necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings, bags and other things.
I bought a nice knitted scharf/neckerchief (picture 2). The price was 35.000 COP.
Colombia produces first-grade precious stones and the emeralds are among the most perfect in the world. Bogotá is the main emerald trade centre. Due to their extraordinary quality, colour, purity, size and hardness, Colombian emeralds are considered unique in the world. Prices vary a lot; transparency, cutting and carat weight are major value indexes. Emeralds should only be acquired in well-known jewellery shops and certificate is always requested.
Every large shopping centre in the city contains at least a couple of joyerías (jewellery shops) although the main cantre for emerald shopping is in and around Carrera 6 between Calles 12 and 13, in Centro International, where there are at least 90 shops. Galeria Cano in Centro International and Centro Comercial Andino (Carrera 11 No. 82-52) sell emeralds as well as gold jewellery using stunning pre-Columbian design taken from the Museo del Oro. The emerald bourse in Avenida Jiménez is also recommended. But never buy from street vendors on that Avenida or in the vicinity of the Gold Museum.
What to buy: emeralds and gold jewellery
Pasaje Rivas is not a modern shopping centre but consist of many small shops along narrow passageways. At this market you can find a lot of different things like souvenirs (for example hammocks for a good price) and a lot of handicraft, handmade furniture and things for the home. It is a nice place to walk around in for a while watching all the different things for sale and the people.
The best place to shop for typical Colombian crafts is in a mini mall across the street from the Gold Museum. Very good quality stuff at rather low prices. Typical items include replicas of 'chivas' - bright-painted Colombian rural buses, Indian pottery, models of patios of typical Colombian houses, figurines of donkeys with coffee bags (with or without Juan Valdes), shirts and sweaters, gourmet coffee, reproductions of gold artifacts, etc. In many places they give you as a gift a Colombian flag bracelet.
What to buy: All of the above. Prices are really good - almost everything is under US$5.
What to pay: really cheap considering the work that went into them. and they are actually Colombian, not made in China.
Centro Colombiano de Artesanias and Colombia Linda are shopping centers for souvenirs and any kind of artscraft you can imagine. Their small shops and stalls are packed with every kind of artesanias, clothes, hats, bags, jewelery, baskets, decorative articles, musical instruments, cheap CDs, paintings and a thousand more items to have a pick. I found a lot of small gifts for my friends. I even found a stall with clever educative games which I was looking for!
Prices are really good and quality is not bad.
Centro Colombiano de Artesanias is on Carrera 7 #22-66/67 tel: 3364709
Colombia Linda is on Carrera 7 # 23-49.
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I spent a fascinating afternoon with an American girl l met in my Spanish class who was an emerald expert. We visited tons of shops where you could buy a simple emerald from 50 dollars to thousands of dollars. A lot of people come here only for the emeralds and coffee of course and take them back to the states or Europe to have them mounted in a ring. You do have the option to buy ready made rings. A good place to buy emeralds is the Tequendama Hotel where you are sure of a guarantee. Never every buy emeralds on the street.
I accidently came across Herencias on my last day when looking for the shop to buy Colombian chocolate. It is a very nice shop offering a great selection of beautiful pieces of arts and crafts. First thing that drew my attention were colourful chinchorros in the shop window. Although I did not intend to buy anything I went inside to have a look. It is a light spacious shop and nice music was coming out of the loudspeakers. I asked what the music was and they told me it was a Colombian singer Beatriz Arellano.
What to buy: There is a wide range of choices from different parts of Colombia, from beautiful chinchorros (typical Wayuu hand woven hammocks) and mochilas (shoulder bags) from La Guajira, leather bags decorated with mola (textile art of the Kuna, indigenous people who live in small villages close to Panama), marvelous handmade silver filigree for which the jewelers from Mompox enjoy international fame, to artisan vases, masks from Nariño, coffee from different regions and a lot more.
In Mompox I was not in the mood for shopping so I was quite happy to see a good collection of their famous silver filigree. I bought earings (same one as I saw in Mompox before). Of course, the price was a little higher. But still, I found 22.500 COP a very good price for such beautiful piece of art.
What to pay: It is not the cheapest shop but well worth a visit if you look for something special.
There are a few blocks around which are only shops selling emeralds and emerald jewelry (Colombia is famous for its emeralds). They are beautiful! Almost all of them have display cases right in the window as well as inside, and doors are open so it's easy to walk around the blocks and see lots.
There is one plaza somewhere in the core area as well, in which I was told people go to to specifically buy/sell/trade emerald gems.
Of course you can find emeralds in mall jewelers as well.
What to buy: Emeralds if their your fancy!
Tip: I'm not sure if aaalll emeralds sold there are real and thus if there is a need to make sure they are not fake. Sorry, not sure how to do that.
What to pay: I didn't really look at prices, but I believe they are very good! At a jeweler's in Hacienda Santa Barbara (a mall on the north side of Bogotá, I'd considered a gold cross pendant, the upright of the cross close to an inch in length, in the middle of the cross a square emerald; if I remember correctly the cost of that was about $50US --- and we're talking Colombian (what is it, 18 carat!?) gold and emerald here! The only reasons I did not purchase it was b/c it was early on in my trip & wanted to watch my spending, and also, I'm not a huge jewelry person.
I would not recommend buying them in a plaza; seeing you are a tourist, it's possible you could be quoted a higher price for a gem.
For souvenirs look for the shop El Zipa, in the shopping centre Unicentro (on 2nd floor). Very nice and not expensive. Replicas (gold) of "la balsa" the raft from the El Dorado legend, (Muisca culture), see Lago Guatavita. The original can be seen in the Gold Museum in Bogota.
Hacienda Santa Barbara is also a nice shopping centre, built around an old hacienda. On sundays there is a nice outdoors craft market 1 block away from the shopping centre, in Usaquen.
Info updated February 2011.
farmers market (plaza de mercado)
What to buy: You can go to a farmers market (plaza de mercado) and buy coffee (beans or grinded) for very cheap price and of course is the best coffee in the world
What to pay: around 2 dollars for a pound
In La Candelaria, in the area with narrower alles I saw this place which is kinda sami-workshop of Artisans and could chose and place specialized order and get your own special souvenir.
Close to the Gold Museum, there is this souvenir place where you get to see all traditional Czech souvenirs. English is not that much spoken.