There are many interesting things to do in Bogota. The capital of Colombia, a city of no less than 7.5 million people, well deserves to be explored and has plenty of things to see and do to keep you entertained – though many mistakenly decide to only spend a few hours there, while on a layover to go elsewhere.
It’s a pity, really. Bogota has a lot to offer, a lot more than meets the eye, and despite being such a vast metropolis, the vibe is friendly and the locals are extremely welcoming.
Perched at 2600 meters above sea level in the Andes, Bogota it’s a world apart from the sunny Cartagena. The average temperature here is 14 degrees Celsius, and it pretty much rains every day. It’s a bit like England! Yet, you can’t help but warming to it.
Are you curious to find out more? This posts highlights the things you shouldn’t miss in Bogota, and includes a few tips on how to make the most of the city. You may also want to learn more about the country by reading these facts about Colombia.
The beautiful cathedral in Plaza Bolivar
19 Things To Do In Bogota That You Shouldn’t Miss
Go to Plaza de Bolivar
Located in the historic heart of Bogota, Plaza de Bolivar is actually as eclectic as it gets in terms of architectural styles. The Capitolio Nacional, where the congress sits, is built in a neoclassical style. The Alcaldia (the City Hall) is built in French style and dates back to the early 20th century.
The Catedral Primada, which is on the eastern side of the square, is Bogota’s largest church and was built in neoclassical style. The only example of colonial style architecture in the square is the Capilla del Sagrario, which is right next to the Cathedral. Whichever way you look at it, Plaza de Bolivar is an interesting place and visiting is one of the things to do in Bogota.
Admire San Francisco Church
The Iglesia de San Francisco is Bogota’s oldest church. Located right in front of the Gold Museum (more about that below), it doesn’t look like much from the outside, but I assure you the interior is magnificent. Don’t trust me? Pop in for a moment – it’s free anyways!
Walk around La Candelaria
Visiting La Candelaria is one of the ultimate things to do in Bogota to appreciate the colonial feel of the city. It’s a lovely neighborhood of cobbled alleys, museums galore, theaters, cafés and street art. It’s also where you will find the National Shrine of Our Lady of Carmen, a Gothic church with a unique red-and-white striped pattern that was built between 1926 and 1938.
The area has some good hostels and other places to stay, and some fairly good restaurants too.
La Candelaria one of the safest neighborhood in Bogota, so you can explore by yourself. But if you are curious to learn more about its history and how it evolved into becoming a place for artists, you may as well join a guided tour such as this Bogota full day grand city tour or this La Candelaria, Mount Montserrate and Museo del Oro full day tour.
Enjoy the view from Monserrate
Among the unmissable places to visit in Bogota there’s Cerro de Monserrate. This peak towers over Bogota with its 3200 meters. It’s been a place of pilgrimage since the 1600s and a church was built at the top in the 1650s. The views of the city from Monserrate are impressive, but the site is also famous for the statue of El Señor Caido – which depicts Jesus Christ right after being taken off the cross. There is also a park, which is nice to explore.
To get to Monserrate, you have three options:
CABLE CAR – Called Teleferico, it gives you the best views of the city. Tickets are COP 12000 ($3.50 USD) one way.
FUNICULAR – Best on a Sunday, when the cable car gets too busy. The price is the same as that of the Teleferico.
WALK – If you feel fit and the altitude doesn’t bother you, you can walk all the way up the more than 1500 steps to the top. Although there are meant to be uniformed guards on the trail, robberies are often reported so take precautions should you decide to walk it – and by all means don’t go alone.
Bogota gets terribly congested with traffic, and as the day goes along, the pollution increases and the views from Cerro Monserrate become less clear. Go up quite early in the morning for clear views. Also, keep in mind that the temperature inevitably drops even more compared to the already cold city, so bring up an extra layer.
Enjoy a different view from Torre Colpatria
You can get a good 360 degrees view of Bogota from its tallest skyscraper, Torre Colpatria, where you can access the mirador (viewpoint) on the 48th floor. Make sure to go as it is one of the things to do in Bogota.
Visit La Zona Rosa
Zona Rosa, whose official name is Zona T, is the upscale area of Bogota – with all the luxury shops, restaurants and hotels and some of the best bars and nightlife in the city. It’s definitely where to go in Bogota if you want to treat yourself to a good dinner, but keep in mind that prices are going to be higher than in the rest of the city.
In Zona Rosa you’ll also find the famous Andres Carne de Res, a restaurant which originally opened in Chia but that now also has opened here in Bogota. It’s more than just a restaurant – here you can spend the night dancing to salsa and merengue tunes.
The gay friendly part of Bogota is Zona G, which also has some great bars.
Chapinero is one of the nicest areas of the city and if you want to get out of the main tourist trail, visiting is what to do in Bogota. It’s where a large university is located, so the vibe is young and friendly. Here, you’ll find some very good restaurants – though not as expensive as those of Zona Rosa, and good places to stay that are a world away from the backpackers’ places of Candelaria.
Make sure to also go to Usaquen, the trendiest neighborhood in town. It’s packed with nice cafés and bars, and lots of vintage stores and it’s home to a cool market.
Explore Bogota by bike
One of the things that impressed me the most about Bogota is how biking friendly the city is. There’s something like 300 km of biking lanes, that have been built since 1998, and locals regularly use this mode of transportation to go about their daily business.
Needless to say, one of the top things to do in Bogota to properly see it is joining a bike tour such as this one.
Most bike tours start in La Candelaria and make several stops throughout the day, to visit museums, have a taste of street food, admire street art. Tours vary depending on the events going on in the city.
Join the Ciclovia Sundays
Speaking of bikes, one of the most fun things to do on Sundays is joining the Ciclovia. That’s when more than 100 km of roads are closed to traffic, and the locals get to use them to bike, skate, rollerblade, run and even walk the dogs. You can rent a bike to join in the fun. And if you get hungry you can stop at the many stalls that pop up at the side of the street.
Admire all the street art
If you love street art, you’ll be in for a treat. Bogota street art is thriving, and has been so for decades – despite the fact that graffiti artists had to work at nights and under cover not to be caught by the police.
In 2011, Diego Felipe Becerra was shot by two police officers as he painted his famous Felix de Cat, causing such a reaction from the rest of the artists community and the public that the two officers were eventually arrested. That’s when graffiti art was finally legalized in certain parts of the city, and it became an integral part of Bogota identity.
You can join a guided tour of Bogota street art that will take you to the most impressive pieces – some work on a donation basis, most you have to pay. You can book it here.
Visit the incredible museums
Colombia’s capital has some excellent museums and art galleries, and visiting them is among the things to do in Bogota on a rainy day.
Here are the best museums in Bogota:
MUSEO DEL ORO – Thought to be the most important gold museums in the world, the exhibit displays beautiful jewelry and ornaments used by indigenous Colombians before the arrival of Colón. It’s a great way to learn a bit more about the Colombian indigenous culture. Tickets cost $1 USD. Free on Sundays.
MUSEO BOTERO – If you have to pick just one museum to visit in town, go to Museo Botero. It’s a great gallery, funded by a donation by Botero (Colombia’s most famous artist) himself. Other than his paintings, you’ll also be able to see works of Picasso, Mirò, Renoir, Dali, Matisse and Monet. It’s located in La Candelaria and visiting is free.
MUSEO NACIONAL DE COLOMBIA – Located in a former prison, it is a great museum to learn about the country’s history before and after Spanish colonization. Admission is $1 USD – free on Sundays.
MUSEO SANTA CLARA – This 17th century church was deconsecrated in the 1960s and became a museum dedicated to baroque art – there are many incredible paintings on display!
Other interesting museums include the Museo de Arte Colonial and the Museo Historico Policia (Historical Museum of the National Police), which is a rather quirky museum with dummies of drug dealers of the likes of Pablo Escobar.
Hang out in Simon Bolivar Park
Simon Bolivar is to Bogota what Central Park is to New York: it’s the biggest park in the city, created in 1979, and it gets incredibly busy at weekends. It’s the perfect place to visit at the weekend, for a picnic, to hang out by the lake, rent a bike and take a stroll. During the summer, lots of concerts are held in the park.
Visit Bogota Botanical Garden
Another nice park you may want to visit to get a break from the chaos of the city is Bogota Botanical Garden. It only costs $1 USD to get in!
Mingle with the locals at the market
Bogota isn’t a touristy city – you can get much of a local feel here wherever you go, really. Yet, if you want to get a good understanding of the local vibe and way of life, a visit to one of the local markets is a must. The market in Plaza Paloquemao (literally burned stick!) has an incredible array of fresh produce, flowers, eggs, seafood and meat. You’ll also get to taste a lot of street food. Visiting is definitely among the things to do in Bogota.
Go on a food tour
One of the things to do in Bogota is trying local food. Colombia is a country with an incredible array of fruit that you won’t get to see anywhere else in the world. Most people who travel to Colombia complain that food is either incredibly bland, or too deep fried. In my month in Colombia, I actually tried a few things that were delicious, and I enjoyed the earthy, warm soups that are served any time of day. Bogota is a great dining destination.
Some of Colombia’s must try are:
- AREPAS – Corn patties that can be plain or filled with cheese. It’s a common street food.
- BANDEJA PAISA – A full meal of rice, beans, avocado, arepa, fried eggs and often also some grilled meat.
- SANCOCHO DE GALLINA – A chicken soup with potaoes, onions, corn and whatever else is available;
- AJACO – Similar to sancocho de gallina, this soup is typical from the Bogota region and is served with rice and avocado.
- EMPANADA – Similar to arepa, it’s stuffed with meat or cheese, folded and fried.
- HORMIGA CULONAS – A local delicacy, it’s literally bigbutt ants.
- PAPA RELLENA – Just your stuffed potatoes.
While the best restaurants in Bogota are in Zona Rosa, your best bet for excellent food that is also cheap is the street, and if you dig well, you’ll find some delicious stuff. It’s just by chance that I have discovered La Puerta Falsa (literally, the False Door), a small place that serves some of the best local staples.
If you have just arrived in Colombia and feel overwhelmed by the incredible offer of food, you may want to opt for a food tour (even better, a street food tour) to taste all the local specialties. For more information, click here.
Learn about coffee
In a country that exports some of the best quality coffee in the world, you will want to learn about the secrets to a good coffee. While the Eje Cafetero, the coffee region of Colombia is at some 10 hours drive from Bogota, you can still appreciate coffee in the capital and a coffee tour certainly is one of the things to do in Bogota. There even are guided coffee crawl tours (yes, seriously!).
You can even join this specialty coffee workshop.
Taste some beer
Latin America was never big on good beer – no matter how hard I tried in Costa Rica or even Panama, I never found a beer that I truly enjoyed. Except in Colombia, which has its own great breweries and where you can get draft beer.
The most famous brewery is Bogota Beer Company, which has opened several locations across the city where you can walk in to enjoy some good pub food and what is unarguably the best beer in the country. They even do beer tours of the city – it certainly is one of the things to do in Bogota if you like your pint!
You can book your beer tour here.
Learn how to salsa
Salsa is to Colombia what tango is to Argentina. You really have no choice here: when in Bogota, you have to sign up for a salsa class, and / or go to a salsa club. There are several in the city, but the best ones are Quiebracanto Club and Sandunguera.
If salsa really isn’t your idea of fun, then you may want to head to Salitre Magico, Bogota Amusement Park. There is a small entry fee of $1.50 USD, or you can pay $9 to enter and enjoy unlimited rides.
Take a day trip to out of the city
Bogota is lovely, but the surroundings are amazing too. The following places can be easily visited on day trips from Bogota.
Chicaque Natural Park
One of the easiest day trips from Bogota is Chicaque Natural Park, which is just 30 minutes south west of the city. There you will find a gorgeous cloud forest and plenty of trails to hike.
You can visit independently or on a guided tour such as this one. There is a $4 USD admission fee.
There are tree houses in the park where you can actually spend the night.
Zipaquira and the Salt Cathedral
The Salt Catedral, which was born out of an old salt mine, is one of the most fascinating things to see in Colombia. It’s located near Zipaquira, 50 km north of Bogota. The Cathedral was open to the public in 1995 and can host up to 8400 people.
You can get to Zipaquira on a combination of public transportation, or else you can join a guided tour such as this one.
La Laguna de Guatavita is located at around 18 km from Guatavita, which in and of itself is quite an interesting place to visit. The lagoon is a sacred lake and the ritual center of the Muisca indigenous peoples. It’s where the myth of El Dorado was born. Visits to Guatavita often include a tour of the Museo del Oro of Bogota, as this includes a lot of pieces coming from the Guatavita region.
You can go to Guatavita by a combination of public transportation, or opt for a guided tour such as this Zipaquira Salt Cathedral and Lake Guatavita tour from Bogota.
Chingaza National Park
A great place to visit from Bogota if you are keen on hiking is Chingaza National Park. Known as the place where Bogota’s water comes from, it’s at about two hours from the city.
If you are keen on visiting, you are better off booking a guided tour such as this one, which also includes a hike to Laguna de Butrago.
Villa de Leyva
Villa del Leyva is a gorgeous small colonial town at about 3 hours drive from Bogota. It’s a lovely place to explore for a day, though if you have more time I actually recommend to spend at least a weekend there. It’s where people from Bogota go for a getaway from the city.
If you are pressed for time but you still want to visit, you are better off booking a guided day tour such as this one.
Practical Tips To Organize Your Trip To Bogota
Guided tours of Bogota
If you feel you need some guidance when exploring Bogota, you may want to join a guided tour. BeyondColombia organizes free walking tours of the city – you just have to tip the guide.
Alternatively, you can consider this Bogota full day grand city tour.
Where to stay in Bogota
Most people who visit Bogota stay in La Candelaria, where you’ll find the majority of boutique hotels and hostels. A few good ones can also be found in Chapinero and Zona Rosa.
Here’s a selection of the best places to stay in Bogota:
- Fernweh Photography Hostel is walking distance from La Candelaria. It’s the perfect place to stay if you have a passion for photography. Rooms are comfortable, and there is a nice reading room.
- The Candelaria House has gorgeous, large room – each one different from the other – that look more like those of a historical house than of a hotel.
- Zohar is a good small hotel in Candelaria with comfortable room that go from the budget ones with shared facilities to the more comfortable ones with all the comforts.
- Hotel El Dorado is located in Chapinero. It features comfortable rooms with contemporary style furniture and the staff is incredibly kind.
- Sofitel Bogota Victoria Regia is a fabulous hotel in Zona Rosa. Rooms are large and modern, there is a gym, a spa, and the onsite restaurant serves delicious food.
How to get to Bogota
Bogota is very well connected to the rest of the country by an incredible web of bus routes. The main bus station is La Terminal, around 5 km west of the city center in an area called La Salitre. There, you’ll find buses going to and coming from the rest of the country.
For buses from Cartagena to Bogota, click here.
For buses from Medellin to Bogota, click here.
For buses from Barranquilla to Bogota, click here.
Bogota airport is called El Dorado (the airport code is BOG) and it’s one of the most important ones in Latin America, with has flights to various locations in the country and to the rest of the world.
From there, you have various options to get to the city.
TRANSMILENIO –This is one of the best ways of moving around Bogota and the most budget friendly way of getting from the airport to the city – it only costs COP 2500 (around $0.70 USD). The bus will go all the way to Universidades, the closest stop to La Candelaria. To use the Transmilenio, you will have to buy a Tullave Card – it costs COP 5000 ($1.50 USD). It works on a top up basis so you can recharge it in a the station or in several shops.
TAXI AND UBER – Taxis are a great way to travel from the airport to the city. A ride will be in the range of $15 USD if you are getting off at La Candelaria, but much like in most of South America, you will have to haggle the price. Uber is another good option and a bit cheaper than the taxi, but it only works if you have data – you will have to book it once you are in the terminal and can use its free Wi-Fi, or need to have a local SIM (more about that in a bit).
PRIVATE SHUTTLE – This is by far the easiest and most comfortable way of getting from the airport to Bogota. You just have to make sure to book it in advance. You can book your Bogota airport transfer here.
Unless you want to move around by bike, you can count on Bogota’s very efficient bus system. Here are the various options:
TRANSMILENIO – Bogota doesn’t have a metro but you can use the Transmilenio, which are probably the best way to move around as they run on a dedicated lane in the center of the road. A ride costs a mere $0.70 USD – as explained before, you need to get a Tullave Card and top it up any time you need credit. Transmilenio runs from 4:30 am to midnight.
BUS – Public buses in Bogota run on the road just like all cars, so they move around incredibly slowly. What’s good about them is that they actually reach a wider area than the Transmilenio, and you can use the Tullave card on them.
TAXI AND UBER – Unless it’s the middle of the night and you can’t get a bus, taxis aren’t a great way of moving around town. They work on a meter system and with the terrible traffic jams in Bogota they take about forever. The same goes for Uber, which however is a bit cheaper.
Safety in Bogota
Colombia is one of the best places to travel alone. I didn’t have any issue when I visited Bogota, and in the last few years crime rates have decreased thanks to the efforts of the police forces. Check the latest reports on safety here. However I recommend you use your caution when you walk around, especially at night. When in doubt, opt to take a taxi.
Getting a SIM card may be a good idea when in Colombia – you can use it for local calls, and to surf the web or use apps such as Uber. The good news is that you can easily get yours as soon as you land – there are shops at the airport. There are various providers, but Claro is by far the one with the best coverage and most competitive prices. You will need a copy of your passport when purchasing the SIM Card.
Make sure to also purchase travel insurance before visiting Colombia. You can get one here.
Are you planning a trip to Colombia? Make sure to read my posts:
- 29 Beautiful Places To Visit In Colombia
- The Best Itinerary For 2 Weeks In Colombia
- 7 Great Day Trips From Bogota
- A Concise Guide To Villa De Leyva, Colombia
- A Concise Guide To Salento, Colombia
- A Complete Guide To Hiking Valle De Cocora, Colombia
- 31 Incredible Things To Do In Cartagena
- 15 Useful Things To Know Before Visiting Cartagena
- The Best Day Trips From Cartagena
- Where To Stay In Cartagena – The Best Neighborhoods And Places To Stay
- The Best Airbnb In Cartagena