9 Things to Do in Bogota (plus everything you need to know before visiting)
Planning a trip to Colombia and wondering if the mountain capital is worth spending your valuable travel time in?
With the balmy Caribbean Coastline, arid deserts, lush jungles, and coffee plantations all calling your name you can’t be blamed for trying to limit your city exposure.
But the answer is a resounding YES.
Bogota is often overshadowed by its younger brother Medellin which over the past few decades has exploded in popularity and been a trailblazer for eco-friendly city initiatives.
But there are also so many amazing things to do in Bogota which has the edgy-gritty-creative feeling of New York City steeped in Colombian history.
It is unabashedly COLOMBIAN.
Why Visit Bogota?
It’s an artsy city that allows you to feel like a local.
World-class graffiti artists, top-notch Colombian cuisine, and a UNESCO-preserved historical district (La Candelaria) set against a mountain backdrop.
You can’t say no to that.
Most attractions aren’t big-ticket items with lines of tourists wrapping around the corner.
Instead, you’ll spend your days exploring free art museums, wandering crowded fruit markets, and getting to know the sprawling streets of the city.
We’ll walk you through what we think are the 9 best things to do in Bogota plus tell everything else you need to know before you visit.
You’re going to fall in love with the Colombian capital.
Let’s start with the bad news…
If you’re hoping to come take advantage of Colombia’s infamous tropical climate you’re in the wrong place.
Bogota is located at 8,661 feet (2,640 metres) above sea level making it much cooler than most other major Colombian cities.
Average temperatures range from 44F – 66F (7 – 19C) and it can often be overcast.
You’ll find that most Bogotanos always carry an umbrella or rain jacket – just incase.
(Elevations do vary greatly within short distances outside of the city and the temperature changes rapidly with it)
What to Wear: Bogota is the perfect place to make use of your finest spring and maybe even autumn outfits. Be prepared for slightly cooler temperatures, especially in the evenings, so remember to pack wisely.
Note: for a more in-depth look at Colombian climate, check out our blog post: When is the Best Time to Visit Colombia
Bogota is a huge, sprawling city and most attractions are not typically within walking distance.
Getting from neighborhood to neighborhood you traverse freeways and cover large distances.
Luckily being a highly-developed urban environment Bogota has numerous cheap ways to get around.
Taxis are readily available and your at-home rideshare apps such as Uber work here as well.
And if you really want the local experience-ride the TransMilenio (this form of public bus transit services up to 2 million people per day and is the largest bus rapid transit system in the world).
Another common method of transport in Bogota is via bicycle.
Bike tours and bike rentals can be found at most hostels and many hotels (if you’re comfortable riding in an urban environment that is).
(photo courtesy of colombia.co)
Safety, Scams and Altitude
Bogota – and Colombia in general – is much safer than most people think.
Millions of foreigners visit every year and almost all of those are trouble free.
But it certainly isn’t without its problems.
We recommend taking some extra precautions and being more vigilant than you typically would in your home country.
As a general guide we recommend:
- Leave jewellery / expensive handbags etc… at home
- Don’t go wandering outside the tourist areas without a local
- Don’t flag taxis – get the hotel / restaurant to call them
- Use ATMs inside banks / shopping malls rather than on the street
- Keep your phone in pocket / bag while outside, try to limit use to when inside
- Keep only small amounts of cash on you when out and about
- Drink alcohol moderately, avoid making yourself vulnerable (and don’t leave drinks unattended)
- Avoid walking alone at night
- Don’t go off to party with people you’ve just met
For a real deep-dive into this topic check out our guide to travelling Colombia alone which takes an extensive look into safety while travelling Colombia.
Note on Altitude: Bogota sits at above 8,000ft. For those who dwell at sea level, this is quite the spike in altitude and it won’t go unnoticed. Take it easy the first day or so and stay hydrated to avoid the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Places to Stay
From clean and efficient hostels to homey Airbnb’s to glamorous boutique hotels, Bogota has a wide range of accommodations.
There are a bunch of different neighbourhoods to stay but most visitors tend to opt for either La Candelaria (the historic city centre) or Chapinero.
The former is where you’ll likely spend much of your time during the day and the latter has the better nightlife.
The two areas are about 45-minute taxi ride apart and either way you will likely spend time shuttling between both.
(our “Go-to” tends to be to stay somewhere near Parque 93 in the Chapinero area).
Below are some of our favourite accommodations in Bogota.
CX Hostel (Chapinero)
CX Hostel is actually two-separate buildings on two-separate streets in Chapinero. Freshly cooked breakfast is included and the front desk has a plethora of walking and bike tours available.
Republica Hostel (Chapinero)
A “luxury hostel” with delicious free breakfast, a vibrantly decorated lounge, onsite bar, and balcony views.
Alegrias Hostel Bogota (La Candelaria)
Arguably, the most beautiful hostel in all of Bogota. Vibrant, cozy, and artfully decorated. The private rooms even come equipt with a fireplace to ward off those chilly Bogota nights. An outdoor garden patio complete with hammocks, family-meal style dinners, and all right in the heart of the historical district.
This boutique hotel is on the higher end of travel budgets. But sitting in Zona G (famous for its world-class culinary options) and super close to several shopping centers this fancy-pants apartment is perfect for those who want to live a little lavishly.
Virrey B3 (Chapinero)
Solid mid-range hotel, spacious rooms, located near the heart of all the evening action, they have a DJ playing in the downstairs bar most evenings and…wait for it…they have a full on garden on the hotel exterior (see below).
Click-Clack Hotel (Chapinero)
Very cool, hip hotel with stylish rooms located right on the corner of Parque 93. They have a couple of bars located within the hotel including an awesome rooftop cocktail bar with great views (tip: even if you’re not staying here it’s well worth popping by this bar for a drink).
9 Best Things to Do in Bogota
Whether your interests are culinary (we’ll get to that later), cultural, historical, artistic, materialistic, or architectural; Bogota has more than enough to keep you entertained for weeks.
Here’s our fav 9 things to do.
1. CERRO DE MONSERRATE
A looming hill with a picturesque church perched atop it connected to the city by a funicular tram.
Or a very long steep walk for those who are up to the challenge.
A regular pilgrimage for the spiritually inclined or a great workout for the rest of us, the walk takes you up 1,500 ft above the city for a breathtaking view of Bogota far below.
An iconic Bogota attraction.
Try to arrive early in the day to beat the crowds!
Not up to the challenge? Take the cable car or funicular to the top. Both run throughout the day and cost between $3-5.
2. STROLL THROUGH LA CANDELARIA
Crumbling historic buildings juxtaposed against modern swathes of graffiti murals.
This is the most beautiful sector of Bogota.
It is also jam-packed with museums and art galleries for when you’re done admiring the Spanish architecture.
The impressive main square at Plaza Bolivar makes for a great starting point.
La Candelaria is a UNESCO-World Heritage Site and the tourist center of Bogota and thus has several tourist markets and plenty of food on its cobblestone streets.
3. TAKE A GRAFFITI TOUR
Massive technicolor murals cover the streets of Bogota.
And they are stunning!
Artists come from all over the world to dress up the buildings.
Original Bogota Graffiti offers free walking tours (a tip is welcome) to showcase the most prominent artists work, explain the social issues addressed in much of the art, and give some context to the painted streets.
The best part is the murals are always changing so it’s a new experience every time.
You will leave the tour with a whole new appreciation of graffiti and maybe even get to meet a few of the world famous artists!
4. GO MUSEUM HOPPING
The famous “plump” people and animals of Colombian artist Fernando Botero are featured in many plazas and galleries all over Colombia.
But Museo Botero here in Bogota is specifically dedicated to Fernando Botero’s oddly proportioned works of art.
Another noteworthy museum is the Museo de Oro.
It holds more than 55,000 pieces of some of history’s most ornately carved gold artefacts.
Make it a full museum day and visit Museo Nacional de Colombia as well.
The oldest and largest museum in Colombia is housed in what used to be a prison.
Note – on Sundays museums are free (but this also means they will be far busier)!
5. BICYCLE TOUR OF THE CITY
Bicycle tours of the city are quite popular.
Most hostels can hook you up with a rental to explore on your own or sign you up to explore with a tour.
Every Sunday 100 km of roadways shut down and fill with cyclists, skateboarders, and speed-walkers in an event known as Cyclovia Sundays.
(If you’re in Bogota on a Sunday we definitely recommend checking this out).
Bogota is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, a perfect escape from its infamously stifling traffic.
6. RELAX IN PARQUE SIMON BOLIVAR
A remarkably green metropolis already, Bogota made space for a massive central park (even bigger than that of New York) to really immerse yourself in nature.
You can walk the paths or simply relax lakeside to escape the hustle and bustle for a few hours.
(photo courtesy of Juan Diego Buitrago / EL TIEMPO)
7. PLAY TEJO
This explosive game is often dubbed as “Colombia’s national sport” and especially popular in Bogota.
(It’s similar to horseshoes but significantly more explosive).
Basically, you chuck a metal puck at a clay-pit filled with explosive gunpowder pockets (all while drinking beer of course)!
You receive points for causing an explosion as well as for landing directly in the center of the landmines.
At most bars, it is free to play as long as you’re drinking! Club Tejo De La 76 is a good option.
8. SAMPLE EXOTIC FRUITS AT PALOQUEMAO MARKET
Colombia has 30+ varieties of exotic fruits.
Nesquila, Lulo, Zapote, Mangosteen – the list goes on and on.
So get lost in the maze that is Paloquemao Market and sample every fruit you have never heard of.
9. TASTE COLOMBIAN COFFEE
Colombia is the world’s 3rd largest producer of coffee.
Whether you’re a coffee lover or not, it’s well worth taking the time to sample some of the world’s best coffee while also learning more about the coffee production process itself (which is an extremely important part of Colombian culture).
The actual coffee growing region is located elsewhere in the country but there are lots of excellent ‘coffee tasting experiences’ available within Bogota.
Flavours of Bogota run great coffee tastings.
Bogota’s Food Scene
A city of culinary excellence.
You simply will not find better Colombian food anywhere in the world.
From elaborate modern tasting menus to 200-year-old favorites, it’s no stretch to call Bogota the foodie capital of Colombia.
Here are some of the regional dishes and snack foods you absolutely can’t miss.
‘MUST-TRY’ COLOMBIAN FOOD
- The classic Arepa and Empanada. Corn-based and served with practically every meal.
- Tamales. Check out our restaurant recommendations below to see where to get a 200-year old favorite.
- Ajiaco. Corn, potato, and chicken soup.
- Bandeja Paisa. Technically a regional dish of Medellin. But it’s done so well here. Piles of chicharrones, chorizo, ground beef, rice, beans, avocado, plantains, and a fried egg. A great dish to share.
- Buñeulos. Little fried balls of doughy deliciousness.
- Hormigas Culonas. Literally translated to big-ass ants.
- Chocolate Completo. Hot chocolate served with white cheese and biscuit.
- Exotic fresh-pressed fruit juice. Bogota’s climate and close proximity to the Amazon Rainforest provide a plethora of native fruits.
- Chorizipan. Delicious meaty sausage served on a bun.
- Oblea with Arequipe. A thin wafer filled with caramel. A common street food.
Below are some of our personal favorite restaurants mixed with some Bogota staples to get you started on that list.
OUR FAVOURITE BOGOTA RESTAURANTS
La Puerta Falsa ($)
This “snack shop” has been operating in the same building serving the same menu since 1816. Over 200 years of tamale perfecting. This is traditional Colombian food. Serving the BEST tamale we’ve ever had (and it’s the size of your head), Ajiaco, and chocolate completo. You need all of it. So come hungry.
Café de le Peña Pasteleria Francesa ($)
Perfect for a mid-day pick me up. Colombian coffee prepared perfectly, passionfruit layered desserts, and traditional pan de chocolate. You can eat and lounge in plush chairs in the garden patio and hope the resident cat slinks your way.
Mesa Franca ($$)
A new restaurant on the Chapinero block co-owned by 4 of the kindest restauranteurs you’ll ever meet. You can tell it’s a labor of love with the utmost care in crafting the farm-to-table menu, unique cocktails with authentically Colombian ingredients, and lovely decor. This restaurant would be a success in any city around the world.
Andre Carne De Res ($$$)
This restaurant is equal parts carnivore consumption and theatrical experience. Phenomenal food, dancing, and drinking make this restaurant/club one of a kind. The decor is wild and eclectic and this 3,000 person venue is a full dining experience you can’t miss on the weekend (the main location is in a place called Chia about a 45-minute drive outside of Bogota but there’s also a city centre option).
(photo courtesy of andres carne de res)
La Food House ($$)
A simple burger joint done right. We go back for the Chorizipan sausage pilled with toppings. It’s a meaty comfort food restaurant serving mostly Gin cocktails.
For the true foodie’s who want an immersive culinary experience, you have to step into chef Leo Espinosa’s 12-course tasting journey. She focuses on the exotic regional ingredients that Colombia has to offer and pairs her dishes with local wine. This is a meal worth splurging on. A similar meal in the US or Europe would cost 5 times as much.
Sant Just Traiteur ($$)
A little hole in the wall serving French-Colombian fusion food frequented by the locals. Busy at any time of the day or night, you can pair your farm-to-table meal with some coca leaf tea. Seats near the open-air kitchen are the best in the house.
60 Natives ($$)
We’ll let the video below explain.
Colombia is new to the beer scene.
But local craft breweries are popping up all over Bogota!
Stop in and sample some of the local brews you’re bound to encounter throughout the country.
- Bogota Beer Company. A classic.
- Cerveceria Gigante. A small nano-brewery with tasty pub food.
- Papaya Gourmet. They also offer great craft brewery tours.
- Dos Carerras. Great for sampling their beer and the best of some of the others around town.
Places to Visit Near Bogota
If you have the luxury of time in Bogota then we recommend venturing out of town.
There are several noteworthy day-trips worth the drive.
ZIPAQUIRA SALT CATHEDRAL
Slightly over an hour from Bogota, the salt cathedral is located 600 ft beneath earth’s surface.
A beautifully hand-carved cavern painstakingly and dangerously constructed over the last two centuries.
The chandeliers and statues are breathtaking and every Sunday you can attend mass deep underground.
CHICAQUE NATIONAL PARK
Only 40-minutes from the capital you can immerse yourself in one of South America’s most beautiful cloud forests.
Surround yourself with nature and hope to spot some local wildlife or perhaps take to the trees with some zip-lining.
(photo courtesy of chicaque.com)
LAGUNA DE GUATIVITA
Located about an hour outside of Bogota this lake is a great option for getting outside of the bustling city and taking in some natural beauty .
Learn about the history of the “sacred lake” and its connection with indigenous cultures, ancient rituals involving gold, and early Spanish conquistadores.
VILLA DE LEYVA
At about 3-4 hours drive from Bogota the picturesque town of Villa de Leyva is a bit further than most on the list.
But – if you have a spare day and want to experience Colombian life in a smaller town -this is the place to go.
Beautiful colonial buildings preserved from the 16th century, a HUGE central plaza filled with wonderfully cobbled streets – it’s a town virtually untouched in 400 years.
Is Bogota Really Worth the Visit?
Personally: every time we visit Bogota we enjoy it more and more.
It easily makes our list of one of the Best Places to Visit in Colombia.
The misty mountain capital has an alluring pull.
There’s so many fun and interesting things to do in Bogota and this guide is only the starting point.
If you’re a “city person” you’re going to love it and should definitely make it part of your Colombia itinerary.
Fancy Visiting Colombia With Other Travellers Aged 25-45?
We’re Other Way Round and we bring together groups of adventurous travellers aged 25-45 for an immersive & authentic experience of travelling Colombia. Here’s some of our most popular Colombia trips.
MOUNTAINS & PUEBLOS
8 Days in and around Colombia’s Andes mountain region covering Medellin, Guatape & Jardin. See Itinerary
BEACHES & JUNGLES
8 Days exploring the most exotic places in Colombia including Cartagena, Bogota & Parque Tayrona. See Itinerary
15 Days covering the very best that Colombia has to offer. See Itinerary