The best things to do in Bogotá include historic streets, free world-class musea, stunning viewpoints, local street art and interesting guided tours. As Bogotá is usually the city where you’ll start your Colombia trip, we recommend staying there for a few days and exploring the city. The capital is the bustling heart of the country, where historic buildings and impressive monuments alternate with modern high-rise buildings and hip restaurants. The city is located at an altitude of 2,600 meters in the mountains and therefore has a unique cool climate. Add to that the delicious food and the many sights for the best start of your Colombia trip you could wish for! Read this blog for the best things to do in Bogotá, including practical tips and the best areas to stay.
How to get to Bogota in Colombia
Bogota is the capital of Colombia and is located in the heart of the country. As it has the largest international airport in the country, it is usually the first destination of any Colombia travel itinerary.
You won’t find many other tourist destinations in Colombia near Bogotá. Most nearby is the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral which is usually visited by tourists on a Salt Cathedral Tour from the capital. The surreal landscape of the Tatacoa Desert is located about 6 hours southwest of Bogotá. The well-known tourist destination Salento, known for its colonial atmosphere and palm tree valley Valle de Cocora, is about 7 hours west by bus. To the north from Bogotá you will find a region of colonial villages like Villa de Leyva. This village is about 3.5 hours of driving from Bogotá, making it a popular weekend destination for residents of the capital. Unfortunately, it will take you longer to get to Villa de Leyva from Bogotá by public transport.
Because of Bogotá’s airport, you can easily travel from the capital to other larger destinations in Colombia with a domestic flight. You can reach popular cities such as Medellin and Cartagena the fastest and easiest by plane.
Transportation in Bogota
Although as a traveler you don’t have to travel great distances in Bogotá, it is good to know how to get around the city. What is the easiest and cheapest way to get to the historic center from the airport? And how do you travel from the hip Chapinero district to the historic La Candelaria?
Bogotá is known for its great public transportation by buses. Because of the superfast TransMilenio buses in Bogotá, public transport in the city is excellent and you can quickly travel between the main attractions in the city center and other trendy traveler-orientated neighborhoods.
We can also highly recommend using Uber. Bogotá has many Uber taxis, offering a faster and cheaper way to get from the airport to your hotel than public transport or a taxi. With a bit of luck you will be chatting to a local driver sharing all the ins and outs about his city and culture with you.
Where to stay in Bogota
The best areas to stay in Bogota are the three neighborhoods La Candelaria, Zona Rosa and Chapinero. While Bogotá still has a reputation for being unsafe, they are known as tourist-friendly districts. We can’t say that it is 100% safe – tourists will always be targets in relatively poor countries like Colombia – but we have never felt unsafe in these areas and most visitors don’t.
La Candelaria is the historic city center. It is, in our opinion, the best area to stay, as all the sights of Bogotá are concentrated in this area and it offers most budget-friendly hotels and great hostels. Zona Rosa and Chapinero are known as trendy and upcoming neighborhoods with many great restaurants and bars. Chapinero has a hip atmosphere with coffee shops and Western restaurants. Zona Rosa – also known as Zona T – is known for its nightlife. Because of the super-fast TransMilenio buses in Bogotá, public transport in the city is excellent and you can quickly travel between the main attractions in La Candeleria and these neighborhoods.
The best hostels and hotels in Bogota:
#1 Arche Noah Boutique Hostel (La Candelaria) for an affordable boutique hostel with a central location. The beautiful hostel is located in a white, colonial building. Arche Noah offers both private and dormitory rooms. There is a terrace, kitchen and sauna. Breakfast is served in the pretty courtyard.
#2 Candelaria House Boutique (La Candelaria) for a great guesthouse with very high review ratings from its guests. The guesthouse is located in a beautiful old building that has been renovated to meet modern standards while maintaining its authentic details. The rooms are cozy and homely furnished with details like bookcases and sometimes even a fireplace.
#3 El Yarumo Hostel (La Candelaria) for a cozy hostel with one of the highest review scores in Bogotá. The hostel is located in one of the typical, colorful low-rise houses of the historic center. The rave reviews mention the hospitality, the warm welcome, the pleasant atmosphere and the beautiful green patio.
#4 Selina LaCandelaria (La Candelaria) for a stylish hostel from the well-known Selina chain. The hostel is located in a beautiful monument. The interior combines modern and hip furnishings with the historic atmosphere and authentic elements of the monumental building. The colorful courtyard garden and great lounge make the hostel a wonderful place to relax after sightseeing.
#5 BOG Hotel (Zona Rosa) for a design hotel with panoramic views of the city and the mountains. The hotel was designed by the Portuguese designer Nini Andrade Silva and inspired by the Gold Museum. There is a spa, an outdoor swimming pool, a gym and a restaurant with a bar.
#6 Casa Legado (Chapinero) for a beautiful hotel with a fresh, light interior with colorful details. There is a green garden and a shared lounge, making guests feel at home. Great detail: the free bicycles to explore Chapinero.
#7 The Click Clack Hotel (Chapinero) for a hip and modern hotel in a central location. The hotel is a 2-minute walk from Parque de la 93, Bogotá’s hip culinary zone. Zona Rosa is also within a 10-minute walking distance. Breakfast is included in the price and can be served in the restaurant or in your hotel bed. The restaurant is a popular spot in Bogotá, known for its elaborate weekend brunches.
Tourist map of Bogotá
10 best things to do in Bogota
As the capital of Colombia, Bogotá is one of the most famous destinations in the country. It is one of the best places to visit in Colombia because of its South American atmosphere, delicious food, characteristic old town, monumental sights and colorful street art. We recommend that you allow at least two full days to explore Bogotá, but more days would be even better.
#1 The historic district of La Candelaria
Bogotá is a sprawling city, but most of the sights are concentrated in the historic district of La Candelaria. Although the Colombian capital is huge and has many modern high-rise buildings, La Candelaria looks like a village with its colonial houses, narrow cobbled streets and mainly low-rise buildings.
The origins of the historic center of Bogotá date back to the seventeenth century. The architecture in La Candelaria shows many different architectural styles, starting in that century: from Spanish colonial influences to exuberant baroque monuments. Only La Calenderia has mostly low-rise buildings, which is much different from the rest of the metropolis. The colorful houses and lively street life make Bogotá’s oldest neighborhood one of the city’s best attractions.
One of the best things to do in Bogotá is exploring the neighborhood’s atmospheric streets and plazas. Sights of Bogotá not to be missed are Plaza de Bolivár, the Palace of Justice, Bogotá Cathedral, Colón Theater, the Archbishop’s Palace and the red-white striped Santuario Nuestra Senora del Carmen church. Among the most beautiful streets in the city center is Calle del Embudo, which runs from Plaza del Chorro de Quevedo and is known for its street art. You will also find most of Bogotá’s museums in La Candelaria.
#2 The Botero Museum
Bogotá is full of world-class museums and the Botero Museum is in our opinion the best museum in the city. The name already suggests that the art museum is dedicated to the most famous Colombian painter, Fernando Botero. If you think you’ve never heard of the painter, take a look at his paintings of chubby people and animals in strange proportions and you will probably recognize his special painting style immediately.
The Botero Museum in Bogotá has the largest collection of Botero’s artwork. Not long ago, Botero himself donated the impressive collection of works of art to set up the museum. Although most of the museum is dedicated to Botero, it also has works by other famous artists such as Dali and Picasso on display. Visiting the museum won’t harm your travel budget, also you can visit the museum for free.
#3 The street art of Bogota
The streets of the historic district of La Candelaria are characterized by their colorful street art, creating a unique modern contrast with the colonial buildings. In Bogotá, this art form in the public space has been legalized, which is reflected in the striking amount of graffiti art and murals. This has only been the case in recent years, after protests flared up when a 16-year-old was killed by police after painting a wall. Once legalized, the city became even richer in color and art. Graffiti artists started to unite and well-known artists from all over the world were invited to create new art in Bogotá.
The best way to get acquainted with Colombian street art is during the well-known Bogota Street Art Tour, which is one of the best things to do in Bogotá. The free tour of the organization Bogota Graffiti Tour will take you to the most beautiful and famous graffiti artworks in the city. The local guide will tell you about the background of the art, the legalization and the political significance of many works of art. It gives you a unique insight into Colombian culture. As with all free walking tours, the idea of the concept is that you pay afterwards what you think the tour was worth. The English tour starts at 10am at Gabriel García Márquez Journalists Park.
Read more: the 25 best street art cities in the world
#4 The funicular to Monserrate
Bogotá itself is already at a high altitude, but if you want to go even higher, you have to go to the top of the Monserrate. This attraction offers a spectacular view of the city at an altitude of 3,150 meters! When looking out over the metropolis from above you’ll really experience how big Bogotá actually is. The city extends to every corner of your view.
The easiest way to get to the top of Monserrate is with the funicular. The funicular was built in the 1950s to provide visitors with a quick way to get to the mountaintop. This is still the most popular way to reach the top and we highly recommend using it. The views from the cable car are beautiful, but you’ll also avoid climbing 1500 steps. We do not recommend making this strenuous climb unless you are used to doing activities at this type of altitude.
At the top of Monserrate, a white church welcomes you on the mountaintop. The church is not particularly spectacular. Visitors mainly come to the top for the panorama over Bogotá. So make sure to check the weather before you go up. It would be a great pity if you don’t see anything, because it’s too cloudy or rainy.
Tip: watch out for the sun! Because of the cool temperatures you won’t feel the urge to use sunscreen, but the altitude is treacherous. Because you are closer to the sun, you’ll quickly and easily end up with a sunburn in Bogotá, even in the early morning.
#5 The Gold Museum
Bogotá’s most famous museum is the Gold Museum, Museo del Oro in Spanish. In Colombia there are several such museums, such as the Gold Museum in Cartagena. But none of them can compete with the impressive collection of the museum in the capital.
The museum is dedicated to pre-Hispanic objects and goldwork. The objects tell the story of the pre-Columbian history, culture and life of the oldest inhabitants of Colombia. The Museo del Oro has 30,000 gold objects and nearly 20,000 objects made of other materials, making it the largest collection archaeological heritage in Colombia.
The entrance to the museum is free on Sundays and during other days you only pay 5,000 cop for a ticket. Another great budget tip: join the free tour on Tuesday through Saturday at 11am and 4pm in Spanish and English. We were lucky enough to be the only tour enthusiasts on a Saturday morning and were given a special private tour of the collection. It was one of thehighlights of our Colombia trip!
#6 Plaza Bolívar
The heart of La Candelaria is Plaza Bolívar, a huge square surrounded by monumental buildings. The most important buildings of Colombia and Bogotá are on this square. The square was once called Plaza Mayor and later Plaza de la Constitución, but is now named after Simón Bolívar. There is a large statue on the square of the well-known freedom fighter who liberated Colombia and other countries from Spanish colonial occupation.
As early as the sixteenth century, the first building was erected on what is now Bolívar Square. It was a predecessor to the current cathedral from the early nineteenth century. The current church building immediately catches the eye with its monumental neoclassical and baroque facade. Next to it is the Archbishop’s Palace. Other well-known buildings are the Palace of Justice on the north side of the square and the parliament building with its columned facade on the south side.
#7 Restaurant Puerta Falsa
Bogotá is the perfect place to get acquainted with Colombian food. In Bogotá we tasted the fermented drink chicha, drank tea made from coca leaves, ate way too many banana chips, enjoyed the tropical fruits and had some typical Colombian dishes. The best place for tasting authentic Colombian food? Head to the tiny but famous Puerta Falsa.
Our culinary highlight of Bogotá was a visit to the popular Puerto Falsa, where Colombian dishes have been served since 1816. We skipped its signature dish of chocolate milk with cheese and instead opted for Colombian ajiaco (a potato soup) and tamares in banana leaves. Although Puerta False is now one of the most famous attractions of Bogotá, you are still in the right place for an authentic and local experience. Is it already full? Then head to Antigua Santa Fe and La Puerta de la Tradición, two also traditional and authentic restaurants nearby.
Other tips for food in Bogotá? For tasty burgers you have to go to Wok-a-bar and order the El Diablo. For a local snack, we recommend the empandas to go from Comidas Rapida Henry, according to locals the best in town!
#8 A free walking tour
We recommend starting your visit to Bogotá with a free walking tour. It is one of the best ways to discover a new destination. A local will guide you around the old town, telling you about his home city, the country’s culture and local politics. You’ll probably get recommendations for local restaurants and other authentic experiences, while you get to know both Colombia and Bogotá. It is the perfect way to quickly become familiar with Bogotá and its most famous sights.
We joined this tour which started and ended at the Plazoleta Chorro de Quevedo. During the tour we got to taste many Colombian foods and we got an interesting introduction to Colombian history, culture and politics. As with all free walking tours, the idea of the concept is that you pay afterwards what you think the tour was worth.
#9 Teatro Colón
The main theater of Colombia is located in the capital: Teatro de Cristobal Colón, or the Christopher Columbus Theater. The impressive neoclassical-style building dates from 1885 and was declared a national monument in 1975.
As beautiful as the facade of the Teatro Colón is, the Great Hall is even more impressive with horseshoe-shaped balconies surrounding the rows of red chairs. There are golden decorations, lovely frescoes and pretty chandeliers. It’s clear that the theater’s spectacular interior is set up to impress. You can book a ticket for one of the performances in the theater. But you can also buy a ticket for a guided tour around the theater. The tour lasts 50 minutes, is given in English several times a day and takes you to the Great Hall, the Foyer, the Bustos Gallery and the Golden Hall.
#10 The trendy Chapinero and Zona Rosa
In addition to the historic La Candelaria neighborhood with all its sights, many travelers visit the trendy and young Chapinero. This district offers a completely different experience of Bogotá and it is definitely recommended to explore this side of the city as well, if you’re not already staying in a hotel or hostel there.
Read more: where to stay in Chapinero.
Chapinero is the hippest neighborhood in Bogotá. The district is characterized by coffee shops, trendy restaurants, coworking spots and great hostels and hotels. Zona Rosa, also known as Zona T, is a well-known nightlife area in Chapinero in Bogotá. It has the highest concentration of clubs and bars. Also famous is the culinary Zona G, which is known for its great restaurant scene.