Stone street lined with colourful buildings. Glass skyscrapers in the distance.

The Essential Travel Guide to Bogota, Colombia

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Bogota. The name alone brings up curious thoughts in many people. Echoes of a troubled past still raise caution in the minds of those who visit. And while some concerns may be real, most are not.

High in the Andes, Bogota is a brilliant city that offers a full spectrum of experiences. Get lost beneath the unmistakable skyline of glittering glass skyscrapers and towers of orange brick against a wall of mountains. Wander the tight, winding alleys of cobblestone in La Candelaria. Kick back at the hipster coffee shops and modern gastro pubs that line the streets of Capinero and Zona Rosa.

And bask in wonder at all of the glorious street art.

We’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Bogota, from its iconic sights to its tasty bites.

What to Do in Bogotá, Colombia

As most big cities do, Bogota offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for history and culture, or food and nightlife. For travellers passing through for a few days or digital nomads settling in for a few months.

Here are some of the best that Bogota has to offer.

Get Lost in La Candelaria

La Candelaria is the historical centre of Bogota. Here you’ll find a bunch of interesting museums and galleries, funky shops, great restaurants and some of the best street art in town.

Nearly everyone who visits Bogota spends time in La Candelaria, many even base themselves here.

📍Location on Google Maps

Skinny stone alley with brick buildings on either side covered in colourful graffiti.
Get Lost in the Alleys of La Candelaria

Climb to Cerro de Monserrate

Part of what makes Bogota such a unique city is the wall of mountains rising abruptly on its eastern side. The city itself just ends and a wall of green towers above the landscape.

Most notably, Cerro de Monserrate, an incredible viewpoint and 17th-century church that is hugely popular with locals and visitors alike. And it’s easy to see why, as the view over the city below is spectacular.

There are several options for reaching the top, the two most common are the cable car and the funicular. A third option, and the one we’ve had highly recommended by locals, is hiking.

📍Location on Google Maps

Taking the Cable Car to Cerro de Monserrate

The fastest way to reach the top of Monserrate is by cable car. Cable cars are a common part of public transit in Colombia as many residents live on the steep slopes of the hills surrounding large cities.

The cable car to Monserrate costs around 25,000 COP and takes 4 minutes to reach the top.

It is occasionally closed on holidays and some Mondays.

A white church sits on top of a mountain covered in trees.
Monserrate, Towering over Bogota

Taking the Bogota Funicular

A slower, but arguably, more interesting way to reach Monserrate is via the funicular. The funicular is like an inclined tram that climbs the steep mountainside on train tracks.

Built in 1930, it’s slower than the cable car, and the views aren’t as impressive, but there are few experiences like it. One thing to note is that the incline can be a bit nerve-wracking for those uncomfortable with heights.

Cost:
12,000 COP – 21,000 COP

Hiking to Cerro de Monserrate

For the best overall experience, the hike to Monserrate is the way to go. Many people avoid this option as there have been occasional muggings along the route. However, locals have informed us that this is rarely the case these days. As well, since the route is gaining in popularity, there are typically many people on the trail.

The hike takes around 1.5 hours each way and takes you through some lovely scenery. Keep in mind, that you gain roughly 500 meters of elevation in this time, so if you’re not physically up to it, it’s best to use one of the other options.

Visit the Iconic Botero Museum

Fernando Botero was a Colombian artist whose work is larger than life — literally. His iconic work features paintings and sculptures that are essentially fat caricatures of people and animals. And even to the untrained eye, his art is unmistakable.

Sadly, Botero died in September 2023. Thankfully his art lives on.

His sculptures are found all over Colombia and around the world, including London, Moscow and Singapore.

But the best place to see his fascinating work is at the Museo Botero, in the heart of La Candelaria. The museum features a vast collection of Botero’s work and the work of several others from his personal collection.

Hours:
Monday: 09:00 am-07:00 pm
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday – Saturday: 09:00 am-07:00 pm
Sunday: 10:00 am-05:00 pm

Price:
Free

Website

📍Location on Google Maps

Painting of a cartoonishly fat man with a beard, holding a paint palette.
The Iconic Style of Botero

Ciclovia in Bogota

Experience Bogota by bicycle during Ciclovia. Every Sunday, over 100km of urban streets in Bogota are closed to vehicle traffic and are filled with cyclists and runners. The tradition started as an experiment back in the 70s with little expectation.

However, on that first day, thousands of cyclists took to the streets and a new tradition was born.

What is so incredible about Ciclovia is the strange calm and order that come to Bogota’s otherwise chaotic streets. For many people, this is the only time they would dare ride a bicycle through the heart of the city.

Rent a bike from one of the many shops, like Bogota Bike Tours in La Candelaria, and join the thousands who roll through the streets of Bogota.

Stand in Awe at the Plaza de Bolivar

Plaza de Bolivar is the main square in the heart of Bogotá’s cultural centre. The massive square, bustling with people, is surrounded by large stone buildings that are an echo of the colonial era. And is, in many ways, the cornerstone of the city that is the cornerstone to the rest of the country.

It’s home to several important historical buildings including the National Capitol and the Metropolitan Cathedral. In the centre of the square, a statue of Simon Bolivar stands atop a concrete pedestal, its base often scrawled with political graffiti.

People gather here to converse, sell handicrafts, busk and beg. It’s also the place where occasional protests erupt, both peaceful and otherwise.

It’s worth visiting for the architecture alone. The history is a bonus.

📍Location on Google Maps

Tall colonial stone cathedral behind a large open square. A pedestal and statue are in the foreground.
Plaza de Bolivar, the Centre of Bogota

Shop at the Usaquén Flea Market

Each weekend, on the northeast edge of Bogota, is one of the best markets in Colombia. The Usaquen Flea Market is a phenomenal spot to pick up everything from fresh produce and homemade snacks to funky artwork, artisanal textiles and other unique gifts.

Spread out over several streets, the Usaquen market is arguably the best unconventional shopping experience in all of Bogota. Unlike many local markets in this part of the world, most of the goods are truly artisanal and not the same carbon-copy plastic trash found elsewhere.

Whether looking for fresh art pieces for your apartment or clever souvenirs for home, this is the place to be.

Note: It can get quite busy in the mid-afternoon so it’s best to get there early. Also, due to cyclovia normal bus routes aren’t running on major roads. So getting here by bus may take some extra time.

📍Location on Google Maps

Colourful hand bags sitting against a stone wall.
Locally-Made bags for sale at the Usaquén Market

Visit the MAMBO

Often overlooked by travellers, the Bogotá Museum of Modern Art (MAMBO) is one of the best museums in the city. Located near the base of Monserrate, the relatively unassuming building is home to some of the most interesting art in Colombia.

Showcasing permanent collections and feature exhibits, you’re sure to find something that catches your eye.

As a bonus, their shop holds some truly unique items that make far better gifts than the tourist stuff you’ll find elsewhere.

Website

Price:
12,000 COP

Hours:
12 pm – 6 pm

📍Location on Google Maps

A collection of different paintings hanging on a red wall.
A Random Sampling of Artwork from the Bogotá MAMBO

Play Tejo, Colombia’s National Sport

What is tejo? In short: Gunpowder and beer.

No visit to Colombia is complete without playing the country’s national sport of tejo. The sport dates back to pre-Columbian times but details of its exact origins are blurry.

How do you play tejo? The concept is quite simple. You throw a metal puck at a target set in a box of clay. The target itself is a small metal ring lined with packets full of gunpowder. The goal is to land the puck in the centre of the ring. But the real fun is hitting the packets, which explode when contacted.

And beer is almost always consumed while playing.

It’s one of the most unique experiences you’ll have while visiting Bogota.

Club de Tejo 76 is known to be one of the best places to play Tejo in Bogotá.

Experience the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral

In the town of Zipaquirá, 45km from Bogotá, you can visit one of the most unique places in Colombia. Nearly 200m (650 feet) underground, a massive cathedral is found inside a former salt mine.

Back while the mine was still operational, miners built a small altar at which they prayed for their safety in the rough conditions. Since then, the cathedral has expanded to seat over 8,000 worshipers every Sunday.

The easiest way to visit the Zipaquira cathedral is through a tour which typically includes transportation and lunch. However, you can get there on your own by bus in roughly 2 hours.

Hours:
9:00 a.m. to 5:40 p.m.

Price:
84,000 COP – 129,000 COP

📍Location on Google Maps

Dark cavern with purple and orange lights. A large cross hangs against the far wall with people standing beneath it.
Explore the Cavernous Salt Cathedral

Check Out The Amazing Bogotá Street Art Scene

Of all the unique architecture, restaurants and activities to do here, the Bogota Graffiti Tour is one of the best. Bogota is one of the world’s best street art cities and this tour is the greatest way to not only see the art but learn about the scene and its importance to locals.

Seeing the incredible murals is only half the experience. Learning about the different styles and significance of artists and their work is profound.

Personally, this tour turned me into a fan of street art as a whole. And more so, introduced me to the work of one of my now-favourite artists: Bogota legend, Stinkfish.

If you’re into street art of any kind, you should do this tour. If you’re the person who thinks it’s all nonsense and vandalism — you should absolutely take this tour.

Book on their website, these guys are the OG’s, don’t settle for a knock-off.

Price:
Free for public tour. Private tours are available for a fee.

Tip: After the tour, pop into Street Lynx, a small, local street art gallery. It’s a great shop for picking up gifts or learning about street art-related events.

Brightly-painted stairs and walls along a wet concrete basketball court.
The Street Art Scene in Bogotá is Next Level

Relax a the Botanical Gardens and Simon Bolivar Central Park

If you need a break from the urban sprawl without leaving the city, head to one of Bogotá’s huge green spaces. The José Celestino Mutis Botanical Gardens and Parque Central Simón Bolívar are two massive outdoor parks roughly 20 minutes by bus from the city centre.

While not a substitution for the lush landscapes outside the city, these parks are a great place to immerse yourself without going far.

Simón Bolívar Park is free to visit and has a huge lake and many walking paths. The botanical gardens is the largest of its kind in Colombia and features plant species from every vastly different region in the country.

📍Location on Google Maps

Eat your way through Town on a Bogotá Food Tour

Bogota is a fantastic city for food lovers. As given its size and economic diversity, it showcases the entire spectrum of Colombian cuisine.

Further in this post I’ll go into more detail about some of Bogotá’s specialties if you’d like to explore them on your own. However, if you’re new to Colombia or only have a short window of time to see Bogotá, your best option is to hop on one of the many incredible food tours found around the city.

There are countless tours available, and some are better than others. It’s a good idea to ask around to other travellers at your accommodation who have taken one recently. Or to simplify things, check out this highly-rated one.

Take a Self-Guided Beer Tour

Colombia is known for two significant mind-altering substances: Coffee, and the other one.

What Colombia is not known for is its craft beer scene. But that is changing, specifically here in Bogota.

If you’re a beer fan and are tired of the same old lager styles typically found throughout this part of the world, you’re in the right place. There are a ton of great beer joints scattered throughout Chapinero and Zona Rosa, featuring some truly unique brews.

While I’m no aficionado, I certainly enjoy a quality beer. And in Bogota, I tasted one of the most uniquely delicious beers of my entire life over at Statua Rota, in Chapinero.

Two large glasses of beer on a wooden table. One orange, the other dark red.
Sample some incredible brews from Bogotá’s Emerging Craft Beer Scene

The Bogotá Gold Museum

I’m adding this to the list because some people will be genuinely interested in visiting. However, I feel that this is one of the most overrated things to do in Bogota. Yet it’s on every list.

The museum itself is found in the heart of La Candelaria. It’s four floors of gold artifacts dating back centuries. And while there are some unique pieces, unless you’re truly interested in historical artifacts, one floor is more than enough.

Historically significant? Sure. One of the best things to do in Bogota? Certainly not.

📍Location on Google Maps

What to Eat in Bogotá, Colombia

As mentioned above, Bogotá offers a full range of restaurants with food options from across Colombia and around the world. However, Bogotá is home to a few specialties of its own that might be harder to find outside the city. So you better give these a try while you can!

Ajiaco

The quintessential soup in Bogotá. You’ll find this delicious comfort food in almost every local restaurant.

It’s almost a soup-stew hybrid made with chicken, potatoes and corn, and a local herb called guascas. It’s served piping hot and often topped with avocado and capers.

White bowl filled with a dark soup topped with cream, corn and a green garnish.
Delicious and Filling Ajiaco

Chicha

Chicha is a fermented corn beverage dating back to the time of the Incas. And while technically illegal in Colombia, it’s found all over Bogotá — especially in La Candelaria.

Its flavour is uniquely sharp and pungent. It’s sour and fruity like kombucha, yet earthy and deep like a well-crafted beer. However, unlike most fermented drinks, the alcohol content is quite low, rarely higher than 3%.

Hot Chocolate with Cheese

This is a bit of an odd one, but hear me out — stir salty cheese into hot chocolate. A less-known but very Colombian snack is hot chocolate with cheese.

The hot chocolate itself is much more complex than what you’re likely used to and flavoured with a hint of cloves and cinnamon. And it’s not as sweet as typical hot chocolate.

A fresh, salty cheese, similar in texture to mozzarella, is stirred into the hot chocolate before drinking. As strange as it sounds, the sweet-salty combination is delicious!

Tip: Pair it with a pandebono — a Colombian cheese doughnut.

Lechona

This extravagant dish originated in the region of Tolima, southwest of Bogota, and is — arguably — one of the greatest foods in Colombia.

Lechona is an entire pig that has been de-boned and stuffed with a mixture of rice, peas and potatoes seasoned with herbs and spices. The pig is then slow-roasted for 10 hours until the skin is crisp and the meat rich and juicy.

As it roasts, the juices cook the rice and the spices infuse the meat, yielding an incredibly delicious final result.

It’s difficult to find lechona outside this region of Colombia but can be found all over Bogotá, specifically in La Candelaria and Chapinero (and everywhere between).

White plastic takeaway container filled with meat, rice and a piece of crisp pig skin.
Lechona: The Best Street Food in Bogota

Bandeja Paisa

Technically this is a specialty of the Medellin and the Antioquia region, it’s something you must try while in Colombia. So if you’re only visiting Bogotá, be sure to include this in your plans.

Bandeja Paisa originated as a meal to fuel those making the long and arduous trek through the Andes. It is served on a large plate or platter piled with grilled chicken, chorizo sausage, shredded beef, chicharron, stewed beans, fried egg, roasted plantain, rice and avocado.

It’s a massive pile of food that can be a feat for one person to finish.

And while it goes without saying — this is not vegan-friendly.

Where to Stay in Bogotá

La Candelaria – Budget

As the city’s cultural centre, La Candelaria is the most popular part of town to stay in for most travellers. And certainly the cheapest for backpackers.

It has the highest concentration of restaurants, sights and activities, and a ton of accommodation options.

Restaurant options are typically on the working-class, local side of things. Cheap, quick eats can be found everywhere in this district, but you’ll also find a smattering of higher-end places near Plaza Bolivar.

The only thing to consider is that because of the high number of tourists that stay here, petty crime, such as pickpocketing, is not uncommon.

Here are a few great places to stay in La Candelaria.

🛏️ Ulucaho Hostel

🛏️ Selina le Candelaria

🛏️ Hotel de la Opera

Walls along a sidewalk painted brightly in red, blue, white and yellow.
Random Street in La Candelaria

Chapinero – Mid-Range

Near the central business district, you’ll find the trendy Chapinero district. Chapinero is more central than La Candelaria and therefore further from most of the typical sights. There are fewer budget hostels here but plenty of really great mid-range hotels.

While there are less of popular sights, there are still a ton of great restaurants and nightlife options. Chapinero is also generally safer than La Candelaria as it’s a more middle-class part of the city.

Restaurants run a pretty vast range here featuring everything from cheap, local eats to upscale cafes and gastropubs.

Check out some of these Chapinero accommodations.

🛏️ Trip Monkey

🛏️ HAB Hotel

🛏️ Casa Leyte

Zona Rosa – High End

Zona Rosa (also known as Zona-T), in northern Bogotá, is the high-end part of the city. Here you’ll find all of the familiar international hotel chains, high-end restaurants, gastro pubs and brand-name shopping outlets.

If you’re the kind of traveller who likes to live large and in absolute comfort, Zona Rosa is the place to be. That said, it’s still a great part of town to explore for travellers of all budgets.

You’ll find some truly great restaurants in this area if you don’t mind splurging a little, including many familiar international chains.

Zona Rosa is also the safest part of Bogotá, generally speaking.

Here are some of the nicest hotels in Zona Rosa.

🛏️ Hotel Boheme Royal

🛏️ Hotel Jazz Apartments

🛏️ Salvio Parque 93

Getting To and From Bogotá

The two main ports of entry/exit in Bogotá are the airport and the main bus terminal.

Flying In or Out of Bogotá

The main airport is https://eldorado.aero/en El Dorado International Airport. It’s located northwest of the centre, roughly half an hour by car from La Candelaria. And although it is the busiest airport in South America, it’s typically quite calm and organized. It’s clean and has plenty of amenities for those spending a long layover.

Is your layover longer than normal? Check out our guide to spending one epic day in Bogota!

To or From Bogotá by Bus

There are several local bus stations that service the city. But the main bus station you’ll likely use for most travel is Terminal de Transporte de Bogota, Salitre. This is also around a 30-minute drive from La Candelaria — traffic pending, of course.

As with most bus stations in Colombia, it can be a little grungy in places, especially after dark. However, there are quite a few shops and restaurants serving local cuisine at great prices. Perfect for a fresh coffee after the long night bus from Salento.

Getting Around Bogotá

The Bogotá Transit System

Unfortunately, the city doesn’t have a convenient subway or metro system like Medellín. However, they have the next best thing. The TransMilenio [https://www.sitp.gov.co/] system consists of massive articulating buses that cruise through the city on dedicated lanes — as such, they are rarely affected by traffic.

To use the TransMilenio system, you’ll need to purchase a card. This can be tricky at first, as not every station sells them. If you’re flying into Bogotá, you should be able to purchase one at the TuLlave stand near the baggage claim area.

Cards cost around 7,000 COP, and it’s a good idea to fill up the card right away as recharge points can be just as tricky to find. Rides cost roughly 2,500 COP each. Once you’re in the heart of the city, you’ll have a better time finding purchase points.

Buses passing a person standing on a sidewalk between two streets.
While Initially Confusing, the Bogotá Bus System is Great

Uber and Taxis in Bogotá

Taxis have a bad reputation in Bogotá, and for good reason. While they are a convenient way to get around, there’s one basic rule you need to remember: Never flag down a taxi on the street, unless you are with a local.

Unregistered rides can take a bad turn. Often, these taxis will drive you all over the city to run up the meter. Even worse, you run the risk of catching one of Bogotá’s notorious “millionaire rides.” These involve the taxi driver and some associates robbing you blind. They’ll take you around the city, often at gunpoint, and make you withdraw large sums of money from ATMs.

Although things have improved over the years, you’re always safest hiring a taxi at a registered stand — such as at the airport or major bus station — or by using an app like Cabify.

Alternatively, Uber is widespread in Bogotá.

📷 Salt Cathedral: Bernard Gagnon (CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

📷 Monserrate: Felipe Restrepo Acosta (CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

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