Bogota, Colombia, once known as a destination tourists would avoid, is on the rise as this vibrant city demonstrates the best of Colombian culture. Approximately 2600 meters above sea level, this capital is one of the highest in the world. It has grown into a multifaceted cultural center with a charming old town, interesting museums, beautiful views, and comforting cuisine, it is no wonder that Bogota is now on everyone’s list as one of the best cities in Colombia.
As Colombia’s capital Bogota brings together the best of all Colombian cultures. From the natural aspects of the stunning surrounding greenery to the nightlife where you can salsa until dawn, Colombianas are lively people with infectious spirits. While the top attractions in Bogota may be obvious, there is so much more to see and do in Bogota. You won’t just see and do things in Bogota, you will experience and immerse yourself in Bogota.
What to Do in Bogota?
Bogota is a lively city that is continuously expanding, with everything there is to do we are confident that there is something for everyone! While it is hard to condense the list of activities, we did our best to outline where to go in Bogota. Afterall, you can find everything from beautiful art, to architecture, to cuisine, and cultural nightlife here!
Street Art Tour
An impressive aspect of Bogota is the street art scene. Used to provide creative expression, send a message, or provide signs of peaceful protest, street art has had many uses over the years in Bogota. You can find street art everywhere you go in Bogota, but if you want to learn about the history and movements behind these concrete masterpieces, we recommend taking a graffiti tour, as local guides can provide you with an informative take on the colorful images. These tours have become very popular over the years, and we agree that it is one of the best things to do in Bogota.
It is impossible to visit Bogota and not venture up to Monserrate to see the best view of the city. You can walk, take a cable car, or a funicular, and once you are at the top, the panoramic views are absolutely breathtaking. However you decide to get to the summit, Monserrate is quite literally one of the top things to do in Bogota. There is even a small white cathedral, so this location is very popular for local weddings and events. Be careful with who you climb the mountain with, as legend has it, couples who walk up to Monserrate together never get married. While the views are stunning day or night, it is recommended to make the trek during the day as pickpockets will sometimes wait for unsuspecting tourists.
Colombian Cuisine and Nightlife
A city as vibrant as Bogota, unsurprisingly, has an amazing food and night scene. Some must-try Colombian staple dishes are ajiaco (chicken soup with potatoes, corn, and avocado), arepas (a kind stuffed bread), and bandeja paisa (Colombia’s national dish; rice, fried plantain, avocado, fried eggs, beans, etc.), they are all beyond delicious and recommended by every local! The nightlife is just as lively, in many districts you can find a place to salsa the night away and enjoy a night of delicious drinks and rhythmic music. Some of our fan favorites are listed below:
- La Puerta Falsa- This small establishment has been in business for just over 200 years! Serving locals and visitors from around the world, the 20 seat restaurant serves classic Colombian dishes. From chocolate completo to tamales, this is one of the best places to visit in Bogota for authentic Colombian cuisine.
- Andrés Carne de Res– One of the most popular things to do in Bogota is to visit Andres Carne de Res, for good reason, as it boasts more of an experience than a meal. This uniquely decorated restaurant and bar turns out some of the most fun parties in Bogota, not only will you have a great meal, but you will have a fantastic chance to meet some locals at a favorite spot!
What to See in Bogota?
Seeing is believing, these beautiful places in Bogota demonstrate beautiful architecture and stunning art throughout the city, guaranteed to make a lasting impression, as you can see most of these sites in a day!
Bogota’s old town district, La Candelaria is the perfect place to walk around and see the old Spanish Colonial influence. Bright colors, cobblestones, and wooden balconies, the old bohemian feel creates a nostalgia for a simpler time. The historic district is also home to universities, hotels, restaurants, cafes, and squares where you can also see budding artists, which makes sense that with so many things in proximity, this is usually a traveller’s first stop when they get to Bogota. But, one of the most impressive buildings in La Candelaria is the Santuario Nuestra Señora del Carmen. At the top of the Bogota must see list, you can spot thiscathedral from a mile away. Painted with red and white stripes it almost resembles a candy cane. The inside is even more decorative, as the outside colors match the inside, but with the addition of ornate fixtures. You will be struck by how decorative the cathedral is, as it is not surprising that it is one of the top attractions in Bogota.
Politics and history come together at the center of this plaza, where Colombia’s Palace of Justice, the Capitol Building, the Cathedral of Bogotá, and the city mayor’s office all reside. You can learn about Colombia’s independence and even Pablo Escobar’s take over in the Palace of Justice. The square is notorious for its pigeon inhabitants and its people watching opportunities, so whether you are curious about the history of Colombia or the architecture of the city’s most important political buildings, the best place to go in Bogota is Plaza Bolivar.
If you will be in Bogota on a Sunday, you have to stop by the market in Usaquen. Many stalls lined up with vendors selling hand crafted goods for reasonable prices. As you walk through the market, the only thing you will be able to notice is how striking the colors of the products are, it’s like you’re walking through a rainbow. A popular place to get the perfect souvenir, the Usaquen Market is one of the best things to see in Bogota!
- The Gold Museum– Bogotá’s Museo del Oro is easily one of the most interesting and impressive museums in Bogota. The museum has over 55,000 pieces of gold on display from the pre-Hispanic civilizations, which provide a beautiful and meaningful display of the pre-Hispanic traditions. In this museum, it’s really true, all that glitters is gold, as it is one of the best things to see in Bogota.
- Museo de Botero– Fernando Botero is one of Colombia’s most famous artists, known not only in Colombia, but all over the world. He created paintings where his subjects were drawn engorged, or ‘chubby’ as some say. The paintings are quite whimsical and fun to look at. In the Museu de Botero there are works by other artists as well, such as Picasso and Monet. An art lover’s dream, the Museo de Botero is one of the top attractions in Bogota.
- Museo Nacional de Colombia– The National Museum of Colombia is perfect for any history buff. Take a trip through time as you learn about every aspect of Colombia’s history, from the indigenous tribes, to the Spanish colonization, even parts of Colombia’s more recent tumultuous history. The Museo Nacional de Colombia is the perfect place to explore the historic traditions of this beautiful country and one of the best things to do in Bogota.
Best Things to Do Near Bogota
One of the best things about Bogota is there are so many places to visit around the city, you won’t have to travel far to experience various sites from serene nature to quaint villages.
Laguna de Guatavita
If you’re looking for some relief from the bustling city center, just 60 kilometers north of Bogota lies Lake Guatavita. An aqua blue crater lake that rests in the middle of the forest, you will have to hike to this special destination. Very important to the indigenous tribes of the area, some of the gold found in the The Gold Museum was discovered at Lake Guatavita. The story goes that Lake Guatavita is where the legend of El Dorado originated, you can hire an experienced guide to really show you around and even delve deeper into the legends!
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá
About an hour from Bogota, just outside the town of Zipaquira, there are beautiful salt mines that are about 200 meters underground. The salt mines were excavated and carved out to build a beautiful underground cathedral and it’s decorative crosses. We recommend visiting in the morning in order to beat the crowds, as masses are held on Sundays, it is advised to tour the cathedral during the week.
Villa de Leyva
About three hours north of Bogota is the small colonial village, Villa de Leyva. With cobblestone streets and an old colonial feel, this town is very popular among weekenders traveling from Bogota. Check out the Casa Terracotta, which is an entire functioning house made of clay, or visit a small vineyard that is just as quaint as the town is, there is even a museum of fossils! Providing the perfect weekend getaway, Villa de Leyva is one of the best things to do near Bogota.
Best Areas to Stay in Bogota
Bogota is a sprawling city with many neighborhoods, so it can be tough to choose exactly where the best place to stay. Whether you’re looking for something more historical, or something more hip, you will be able to find your niche in Bogota.
Teusaquillo might be the best area to stay in Bogota for tourists, especially if it’s your first time in the city, as it has easy access to all of the main sites. It neighbors the downtown district, and is known as one of the safer neighborhoods and perfect for families, when they want to visit Colombia. This neighborhood also has a lot of relaxing green space as it is right next to Simon Bolivar Park and the botanical gardens in Bogota.
This historic neighborhood is one of the most popular and most touristic. La Candelaria is one of the best neighborhoods in Bogota if you’re looking for beautiful buildings and cobblestone streets, but it can be noisy at night, and surprisingly not as safe as one might guess in the most popular part of town. Always beware of pickpockets!
If you’re looking for somewhere more relaxed, bohemian, and free, we recommend staying in Chapinero. You can find some of the best food in Bogota in the neighborhood’s hip cafes, fine restaurants, and even on the street. If you’re wondering what to do in Chapinero bogota, food is always the answer! This neighborhood is also the area with a strong LGBTQ community presence, so large in fact, one of the biggest gay clubs in the world is in this neighborhood. Compared to La Candelaria, Chapinero is very safe, it is good to note that the northern part is a little safer than the southern part of Chapinero.
It may be surprising that Bogota’s top neighborhood for nightlife is one of the safest in all of Bogota. In Zona Rosa you can party until the sun comes up, either salsa dancing or at one of the wild nightclubs. During the week the bars and clubs slow down, but just wait until the weekend where it seems that even the streets themselves begin to dance! The Zona Rosa district is the best area to stay in bogota if you’re looking for endless fun!