Colombia Travel - Bogota City Guide (Things to Do and Places to See)
Colombia has so many traveler highlights, that for many Bogota just becomes a point of transit. But in reality, it's probably one of the nicest places to plan a trip around, visit and spend time in.
Even if you only have a day to spare, by all means make the most of it and enjoy a city that rewards travelers who know where to look and never disappoints those who just turn up hoping for the best. From taking leisurely walks around the city center, to exploring the picturesque mountain terrain it is built on, to trying out delicious local food. there are plenty of things to do and see in a city which is nowhere as dangerous now as it was once upon a time.
To get the best out of this vibrant city, connect with a local Colombian travel expert who can create the perfect itinerary for you.
Bogota, the capital city of Columbia is an ideal destination for sightseeing, food and fun if you know where to look. The city has an interesting blend of modern and colonial architecture; the northern end is where you can find the modern posh buildings, clean parks, tudor style homes, plenty of trendy restaurants and vibrant night-life. The centre of the city is where the heart of Colombia’s culture lies, in the colonial neighbourhood of La Candelaria. Note: Tourists should avoid the south as it is still slightly unsettled, with a lot of poverty (most locals would agree with that, too).
Anytime is the best time to visit Bogota. However, if you are more of an adventurer, then we strongly recommend between January and March; that’s the peak season and also the driest time of the year, with ideal temperatures to hike up to the top of Cerro de Monserrate for a scenic view. In March, you will be able to catch the Ibero-American Theater Festival, possibly the largest performing arts festival in the world.
You can even visit this city between the months of July and August; it's that time of the year when the annual Bogota Carnival takes place to celebrate the establishment of this historic city. Find yourself rejoicing in all the street parties, street-theater and puppetry; you even see animated locals narrating ancient folklores. All in all, it's a festive mood you can easily lose yourself in. Even if you miss the carnival there are plenty of small events and happenings hosted throughout the period between July and August to enjoy.
It is only from September to November that the season slacks off a little. The temperature stays the same, but these months are Colombia’s wettest, so it wouldn't hurt to carry a raincoat.
Important Note: If you are visiting Bogota during Holy Week, specifically for the Easter festival (held tentatively in March or April), be sure to book well in advance (at least 6-8 months).
How to get around:
Spend 2 minutes on the streets of Bogota, and you will quickly come to terms with the chaotic nature of the city’s traffic. It is strongly recommended to travel with a local guide in a hired taxi; they are your best bet to get around the hustle-bustle of this buzzing metropolis. If you decide to tour the city on your own, you can look out for local cabs; if you know where to go and can speak broken Spanish, you’ll do just fine!
Alternatively, if you have fewer pesos to throw away, take a ride in one of the collectivo buses that stampede like large elephants through a herd of mini cabs and motorcycles. Less attractive and more of an adventurous experience, a ride in a cramped-up collectivo bus is only recommended for those who can leave any thought of luxury behind for a brief moment and enjoy the prospect of thrilling ride.
Your third option is to take Bogota’s large transit system called Trans-Milenio. If you purchase a daily pass and enter one of the platforms, you will be reminded of any subway station in the west—except the the station is above ground level and utilizes large, red buses. At the platform you will find maps and timetables to plan your journey accordingly. Just make sure you avoid taking a Trans-Milenio during rush-hour, it’s extremely crowded and you will find yourself jammed inside a jungle of human limbs.
Things to do:
It is important to understand that Bogata is an enormous city, both in terms of size and demographics. Around 8 million people inhabit this city, and with the increasing demands of a growing population, the city is stretching itself far and wide, with many of the constructions low cost residential buildings. Apart from those and the few dramatic skyscrapers, the major chunk of the city retains its rich colonial heritage.
Finding accommodation downtown would be your best bet, as most of the city's action happens there. And if you're feeling adventurous, you could hit the gorgeous hiking trails that proliferate all over the surrounding hillsides.
Cerro de Monserrate
What really dominates the skyline of Bogota is the mountain of Cerro de Monserrate; the view from the summit is one to die for, as you can see all of downtown and south Bogotá, and even large parts of the north.
If you don’t fancy hiking, there are a couple of other ways ways to reach the top of the mountain, including cable car and funicular railway.
Museo de Oro
There are plenty of museums in Bogota, and no doubt, all of them are equally significant in terms of fascinating artifacts and ageless treasures. But one place worth mentioning is the Museo de Oro, popularly known as The Gold Museum (also a key highlight of Colombia). It houses roughly up to 34,000 stunning pieces of golden artwork from the 13 pre-Hispanic civilizations, along with detailed information boards that explain the history and culture of local people in the pre-colonization period. The entrance fee is inexpensive, but for history-lovers, the education and learning are invaluable.
Walking Tour of La Candelaria
La Candelaria is a historic neighborhood located in the city's downtown and it proudly boasts some of the most popular museums and attractions. Take a tour and you will observe a striking contrast between old and modern Bogota. The beautiful buildings depict Spanish colonial architecture in every brick, while you can find some of the most unique graffiti murals on the streets.
If you wish to connect deeply with a particular city, then walking tours are probably your best bet. Your chosen travel experts will take you around the town so that you can march in celebratory parades, dance on the street, drank chicha from street vendors, and most importantly enjoy some genuine cultural exchange. The locals are warm and welcoming and there are numerous free events that you can participate in.
Experience Plaza Bolivar
Plaza Bolivar is Bogotá’s biggest plaza, and also considered to be the center of the city. It is home to the very first cathedral in Colombia and also houses many government buildings. The place is always buzzing with frequent events, protests and concerts.
Biking Tour of the City
Touring Bogota on a bike makes so much sense since there’s so much ground to cover, and it’s truly fun and educational, not to mention a great workout. Each tour lasts up to 4-5 hours covering all the major highlights of the city. If you choose to try out this fun-filled experience, our travel operators will hook you up with the best biking companies in town. Your chosen guide will not only show you the plazas, beautiful parks and historical monuments of Bogota, but you will also learn more about the culture, troubled past and current political situation of this beautiful nation.
Try 6 Colombian Fruits
From left: Mangostino, Guayaba Manzana, Lulo, Maracuya, Uchuva and Feijoa
Colombia has a large collection of fruits which you’ve probably never heard of, or that look like nothing you may have ever seen before. In Bogota, we highly recommend either buying or tasting a few of these unique fruits in the local market of Paloquemao. If you think it’s good and if more is better; make yourself a refreshing drink, or try making your own exotic fruit salad (our travel operators can arrange a food tour and encourage you to participate in cooking classes).
Explore Colombia’s Coffee Culture
Editorial Copyrights: Banco de Fotos SENA 2011.
In Colombia, coffee and culture go hand in hand. Not only is Colombian coffee is famous throughout the world,the locals never hesitate to wax eloquent about their love for this beverage. They aren’t just growing and roasting coffee here; the locals have actually have mastered the art of enjoying it. Walk into any barista or coffeehouse and anyone will tell you all about the specific origin and type of beans that determine the overall flavor.
Editorial Copyrights: DOCUGLAM + FASHION ACTITUD
Editorial Copyrights: DOCUGLAM + FASHION ACTITUD
We strongly recommend you to stop by at Cafe Cultor in Chapinero (ideal for English speakers). If you are looking for a fun and lighthearted experience, we urge you to flock to a couple of coffee shops, like Amor Perfecto in Zona G and Catacion Publica in Usaquen; these are great places to work, meet locals, or just enjoy people-watching (if you like doing that!).
Eat and Party at Andrés Carne de Res
Editorial copyrights: David Berkowitz
Editorial copyrights: Grace Lillo
Located in Chia, just on the outskirts of Bogota, the Andrés Carne de Res is an exclusive restaurant-turned-nightlife venue. It’s the go-to party place for everybody (especially families). Inside, you will be teleported to a world filled with walls covered in recycled ornaments, hand-painted signs and autographed posters. The intricate details incorporated in the décor makes the place even more special; there is something to be discovered in every inch of the venue. Spend the night eating delicious traditional Colombian foods and dance to foot-tapping beats.
Shop at the Local Street Market
Any tour of Bogota is incomplete without shopping at the local street markets for artisanal souvenirs. One such notable mention is the Usaquen market, a weekly affair held every Sunday in the Usaquen colonial district, where locals sell artisan products, handmade goods, souvenirs, and a variety of other products of historic significance. You can even find local musicians performing melodious Latino tunes for your amusement while you’re shopping.
If you’re in downtown Bogota, head to the daily market of San Victorinio, located near the city’s La Candelaria neighborhood. Here you can find anything imaginable, from eateries, trendy local clothing and all kinds of local artisan-work.