The capital city of Colombia has a rich history stretching back nearly 500 years to pre-Hispanic times. Bogota is high-altitude, it brings cobblestoned streets in the colonial-era La Candelaria, and there are museums with gold and with artwork. There’s food to get fat for. Bogota is a city of contrasts – yes it’s touristy, and there are heaps of attractions to keep you occupied, but it’s also cool and there are chic and gritty parts to it too. Here you can explore the vibrant Colombian culture and experience the best of what the country has to offer. Have a look at all the best things to do in Bogota to make the most of your Colombian travels.
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There are plenty of things to see in Bogota – from authentic markets to churches and museums. Regardless of your level of Spanish understanding, you’ll find tours and guides to help you out. That wasn’t our first experience of Bogota (but that was, now, many moons ago, when we ended dup overnighting in an airport hotel en route to Antigua Guatemala, without a word of Spanish and with no local cash!)
Where to Stay in Bogota
There are a host of places to stay in Bogota – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Bogota, mid-range places to stay in Bogota, and budget accommodation in Bogota.
Candelaria House Boutique, Bogota: The Candelaria House Boutique is located in the Centro Historico district in Bogota. This plush Bogota hotel’s units include a sitting area, flat-screen TV, a patio, a dining table, a private bathroom, a terrace, and a heating system (and trust me, you’re at altitude, you’ll like the heating!!) Bogota’s Candelaria House Boutique Hotel has a sun terrace and a garden area and provides free WiFi throughout. The Candelaria House Boutique Hotel is a fabulously comfortable top hotel in Bogota and you can see room availability here.
Arche Noah Boutique Hostel, Bogota: The Arche Noah Boutique Hostel is also located in the Centro Historico Bogota. Bogota’s Arche Noah Boutique Hostel units include a terrace a patio, and a shared bathroom with either a shower or a bath. There are also shared computers and a shared lounge. This mid-range hostel also hosts a class about local cultures, cycling and walking tours, and a gaming room. Here at the Arche Noah Boutique Hostel, you’ll also find a picnic area, sun terrace, barbeque facilities, and a garden. The Arche Noah Boutique Hostel is especially great for groups, so if you’re visiting Bogota as a group, this hostel is highly recommended. There’s more on this mid-range Bogota hostel’s room rates and availability here.
Ulucaho Hostel, Bogota: The Ulucaho Hostel is located in Candelaria, the historic center of Bogota. This budget Bogota hostel has rooms and dorms with shared or private bathrooms, a shared kitchen, free toiletries, and a patio. This great value Bogota hostel also has a snack bar, a picnic area, a public bath, a garden area, and a solarium. The Bogota Ulucaho Hostel has laundry services, and is a super laid-back place to stay in Bogota. Check out Ulucaho Hostel’s room rates and availability here.
The Best Things to Do in Bogota Colombia
Whether you want to explore the culture, the food, or the attractions of Bogota – or even just experience the city, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied here. The city is a great place to base yourself too, to explore further afield, and to acclimatize yourself to Colombia. And you will want to acclimatize. Bogota is at 2,640 meters above sea level, so take it easy when you arrive!
Take a free tour of Bogota
There is no better way to discover the nearly 500 years of history that lie on Bogota’s streets, than on foot. Walk around the historic city center to soak in the stunning colonial architecture and see famous sites like Rosario Square and Plaza de Bolívar. Best of all, you can enjoy these sights with the help of a knowledgeable local guide giving free walking tours. We took a series of free tours during our time in Bogota and I can’t fault them at all. They were knowledgeable, helpful and it’s a great way to get your bearings in the city. There are a variety of free tours in Bogota – and they’re NOT all the same, so pick the ways you want to explore the city and make your (free) booking.
Free walking tour of Bogota:
This is the key tour to take of Bogota to get your bearings – you’ll get the basics of history, see some of the more interesting monuments and buildings (from the outside), and get hints and tips on where else you should go during your time in Bogota: Book your place on the Bogota free walking tour here.
Free Bogota War and Peace Tour:
This free 3-hour walking tour is superb and the time flies by. You’ll get to understand how the armed conflict in Colombia originated and what the state of play is in the country now. You’ll hear about the history of Gaitan and walk through the streets where history happened. If you know nothing about the history of conflict in Colombia then come to this for an education and a half. It is truly eye-opening. Reserve a place on the War and Peace Walking Tour in Bogota here.
Free Grafitti Tour in Bogota
The street graffiti of South America is a staple –and taking a tour around it will help you to understand so much of what has and continues to happen here. There are some amazing works of art here in Bogota and this tour takes you through the history and evolution of street art. It’s a superb way to see yet more of the city with a knowledgeable guide. I recommend this Bogota Grafitti Tour – it’s free!
Free Food Tour of Bogota
This 3 hour afternoon Bogota food tour is a fabulous way to find out more about the history of the city and you’ll get to explore some of the most typical flavors of Colombia. Explore food markets, and taste four of Colombia’s most traditional dishes. You’ll get to try empanada paisa, oblea, and arepas. And then at the end, some incredible Colombian coffee – prepared especially for you and in very different ways than you might be used to. There’s also the option at the end to try a coffee cocktail too! (They’re amazing, trust me – the espresso cocktail especially!) Want to try the food of Bogota? Book the Bogota Free Food Tour here.
Visit Bogota’s Gold Museum
At Bogotá’s Museo del Oro, all that glitters IS gold! The museum stretches over three floors where you can lay eyes on more than 30,000 pieces of gold artifacts. This museum attracts more than half a million visitors a year and we recommend visiting first thing in the morning. There are two floors of exhibitions and truly, all of it glitters! You’ll be stunned by some of the intricate workmanship. Most of the signage is in both Spanish and English, but we definitely benefited from taking the audio tour for COP$8,000. You can also take a free one-hour tour, which goes at 1100 and 1600 Tuesdays through Saturdays and run in Spanish and English, to learn more about the fascinating pre-Hispanic history of Colombia and see how people mined and processed the precious metal. Here’s the museum website for more info.
Visit Plaza Bolivar in Bogota
In the heart of the city is its most striking and well-known square, Plaza de Bolívar. The pigeon-filled plaza is where you will find the iconic Palace of Justice, the Cathedral of Bogotá, the Capitol Building, and the Mayor’s office. The plaza is absolutely teaming with history so take your time walking around and taking in all the sights. If you take a free walking tour then you’ll spend time here – learning about the history of the country. Be sure to take a good look at the Palace of Justice, it’s where the Supreme Court of Bogota is. This was first built in 1921, destroyed after the murder of Gaitan in April 1948, and then rebuilt. If you take the free walking tour of Bogota, then you’ll get all the history of this square as part of that.
Understand the history of armed conflict in Colombia and Bogota
Colombia’s darkest days might be behind it, but learning about the country’s tumultuous past gives one a greater sense of understanding and appreciation for this vibrant country. Visit key points of struggle in Colombia’s capital and get in-depth information from local guides to understand the complexities of the country’s past. This highly recommended tour is a superb way to do that.
Explore Bogota’s Monserrate
For unbeatable views of the capital, take the funicular to the Monserrate Basilica, perched on a hill high above the city. It is a way to spend a day, almost outside of the city. The Basilica Sanctuary of the Fallen Lord of Monserrate is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the country and the area has plenty of other fascinating spots to explore. Join a free tour of Monserrate to ensure you make the most of your trip up the mountain. Monserrate is at more than 3,000 meters above sea level, read our guide to travel insurance for Colombia and make sure you’re covered!
Visit the Botero Museum, Bogota
Art lovers simply cannot miss a trip to the Fernando Botero museum. The Medellin native is best known for his humorous artwork depicting fabulously voluptuous characters. You’ll see many of his sculptures in Bogota – and spotting them is also a great thing to do in his hometown of Medellin. (check it out in our things to do in Medellin here). Admission to the Botero museum is free and the colonial-era house in which it is housed also holds treasures from Picasso, Monet, and Renoir.
See Teatro Colon, Bogota
Enjoy a romantic night out on the town at Colombia’s national theater. The neoclassical building is a work of art in itself, but the theater regularly hosts operas, plays, and ballets. Teatro Colon dates back to the 1800s and is decorated with marvelous frescoes. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to go to the theatre during your time in Bogota, then it makes a great quick photo stop too!
Visit a street market in Bogota
Street markets are where you want to be to stock up on souvenirs and street food at the same time. Mercado de las Pulgas in the Usaquén neighborhood is a bustling market on Sundays where hundreds of vendors line the street with a ton of unique handicrafts. One of the Bogota free walking tours is an excellent way to explore more of the markets of Bogota – check them out here.
If you’re reading this on public WiFi and plan to book a trip, a walking tour, or accommodation, then check out my guide to the best VPNs for Colombia and why (and how you should protect your personal login details).
Chill out at the Simon Bolivar Park in Bogota
Escape the concrete jungle and enjoy a lazy afternoon in one of the city’s largest greenspace, Simon Bolivar Park. Rent a small boat and take to the water or buy some snacks and relax on the lush green lawns. In summer, you can also watch live music as the park is home to the popular Rock In The Park concert series.
Get some peace in the Botanical Garden of Bogota
One of the best things to do in Bogota is to take a trip to the botanical garden. Scores of exotic plants cover the 19 hectares of Jardín Botánico de Bogotá along with a few interesting animals that roam the grounds. The Bogota botanical gardens are the biggest in Colombia where you’ll find some iconic Colombia flora and fauna, as well as the Colombian national tree – the wax palm, which you can see in abundance in the Cocora Valley (our guide to visiting and hiking the Cocora Valley is here) near Salento and the Colombia national flower, the cattleya trianae orchid, more commonly known as the May flower or the May lily.
Play Tejo in Bogota
Not many national sports include gunpowder and drinking, but then again, nothing about Colombia is ordinary. Play a game of Tejo where the aim of the game is to toss a metal ring onto some packets of gunpowder to gain points. We wrote about playing Tejo in our guide here and it is fabulous fun to have in Colombia. Not sure about combining gunpowder and a few beers? Meet other like-minded travelers on this Tejo and beer tour and head to a tejo court, try some Colombia picada, four different Colombia beers (there are more available if you want) and then start your games of Tejo.
Explore La Candelaria, Bogota
La Candelaria is a vibrant bohemian neighborhood that is often the first stop on many visitors’ itineraries. We stayed in this area during our visit to Bogota and it was superb. The neighborhood is buzzing with cafés and bars and the streets are made more vibrant by the scores of murals decorating the buildings. There are some great options for places to stay in La Candelaria, and some fabulous places to eat and drink too. If you’d prefer to learn the history of the area while wandering, then there are a couple of tours around La Candelaria that will help you with this. The first will also take you to the major attractions in the Gold Museum as well as through the highlights of La Candelaria – and you can check it out here. The second is a little alternative – it’s a nighttime tour where you’ll discover the myths and legends of Bogota – go on, you know you want to! There’s more about Bogota myths and legends here.
Get lost in Colombia’s National Museum in Bogota
A visit to any country’s national museum is the best way to take a deep dive into the many layers of history that have shaped the nation and the National Museum of Colombia in Bogota is no exception. El Museo Nacional de Colombia is housed in an imposing 19th-century building that once served as a prison. You will get lost amongst the 17 galleries that offer both permanent exhibits and rotating collections. It is absolutely enormous and I suggest you come here with a plan of what you want to see. Admission is COP$4000 for adults. There are free audio guides, which make a massive difference to your experience and the National Museum is open from 0900 until 1700 Tuesday through Sunday.
Experience Andres Carne de Res
Andres Carne de Res is the premier party destination in Bogota; a restaurant turned entertainment mecca. This is party central. And it’s a Colombian party. Andres Carne de Res opened about 40 years ago and is about an hour’s drive from Bogota city center. It is dining, it is dance floors. There are over-the-top outfits and characters. There are more than 30 different steaks here, plus ceviche, empanadas, and arepas. And if you’ve got kids, they also have toys, a climbing wall, and coloring kits. Yes. For your ordinary rather introverted Brit is something of a wonderland – and for me a once in a lifetime type experience. As it’s so far out of the city, it’s best to take a taxi or, even better, get in the mood for the party by going there on a party bus. This guided night out to Andres Carne de Res one comes with music, party guides, a driver (of course), and rum and coke for 50 of the 60 minutes that it will take to drive there. Once you get there you’ll get skip-the-line VIP passes and then party all night before you can snooze your way back to Bogota.
Eat Colombian – and local specialties – in Bogota
Eat your way through the capital and see what Colombian food is all about. Dig into haute cuisine in Chapinero or keep it traditional with an array of street food in La Candelaria. Colombia has some interesting food and tastes – but the best way to experience them is in small amounts – because a lot of Colombian food is quite heavy and you can’t be dealing with food comas all the time! I really recommend this food tour, which gives you all the best of Colombian food from some excellent places around La Candelaria.
Take a bike tour on Ciclovia Sundays in Bogota
Sundays are excellent days to visit Bogota. From 0700 until 1400 the main streets and roads of Bogota are blocked to motorized traffic – and the walkers, cyclists, and skaters take over. It is fabulous. You can cycle your way through the bustling city to see as much of Bogota as you can. Cycle through markets and vibrant neighborhoods and pass some major attractions to take in all the sites and sounds of the city. Either rent a bike here – or join a free bike tour and see the major attractions without the hassle of cars and buses all around you.
Drink craft beer in Bogota
We stayed just down the street from one of the Bogota Beer Company outlets – the BBC – and it was a seriously good decision. After making friends with the barman we worked our way through the history of the company, and the beers and found our favorites. I’d never thought of Colombia or Bogota as being the home to a craft beer industry, but it is, and it’s surprisingly good! You can discover five of Bogota’s most prolific craft beer-producing breweries and taste your way through their unique selections. Learn about the process of craft brewing from the Bogota Brewing Company by joining a Bogota craft beer tour.
Experience the nightlife in Zona Rosa, Bogota
Zona Rosa is Bogata’s ultimate nightlife destination. At night, the neighborhood comes alive with tons of trendy clubs, bars, and restaurants as well as laid-back pubs where you can enjoy a pint. This area is also known for its plethora of boutiques and shops and the charming Parque 93 recreational park.
Things to do near Bogota
When you’ve exhausted all the things you want to see and do in Bogota it’s time to get out of the city. And Bogota is a great place to base yourself to explore more of Colombia. There are some fabulous day trips from Bogota, which we’ve written about here in-depth – but here are 3 things to do near Bogota that you really shouldn’t miss!
Go to the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral from Bogota
The salt cathedral is one of the most visited attractions in the country. Join a tour to see this architectural marvel hidden deep inside a salt mine.
Visit Villa de Leyva from Bogota
Colombia has a fascinating prehistoric history uncovered by paleontologists over time. A trip to Villa de Leyva will transport you back in time to learn about ancient times in this corner of the world. There’s lots more on what to do in Villa de Leyva in our guide here.
Hike the Laguna de Guatavita from Bogota
Lake Guatavita is steeped in mystery and tradition and a day trip to this iconic location will bring you up close with one of the most spiritual places in the country. Book a guided hike up to the edge of the lake to enjoy the full experience.
Where is Bogota?
The sprawling capital city of Bogota sits in central Colombia, on the high foothills of the northern Andes mountains. The city is roughly 400km southeast of the country’s second-largest city, Medellín, and is easily reachable by air. We traveled to Bogota from Neiva – after exploring the Tatacoa Desert and then headed to Leticia in the Colombian Amazon.
How to get to Bogota
As Bogota is Colombia’s capital city, it’s pretty well connected. There are lots of buses (and bus stations), you’ll find lots of internal and international flights and a really good city transit system too.
Buses to Bogota
Bogota has an extensive public transport system and a bus network that extends the length and breadth of the country. Buses leave at regular intervals to all the major hubs in the country and bus tickets are relatively inexpensive.
Flights to Bogota
Bogota can be reached directly from many cities in the USA including Orlando, Miami, Washington DC, New York, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, and LA. There are also convenient flights from London, Heathrow as well as major European cities like Frankfurt, Barcelona, and Paris. Book a reliable airport transfer from El Dorado International Airport to your hotel to avoid overpriced local transfers.
Travel Tips for Exploring Colombia
- Read about Colombia in these incredible books
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- Book the best Colombia tours and guides on GetYourGuide and Civitatis
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- Book Buses in Colombia with Bookaway
- Book accommodation in Colombia with Booking.com and Hostelworld
Final words on the best things to do in Bogota
Bogota is a vibrant city with tons of chic neighborhoods and fascinating historic treasures. It’s a great city to explore with local guides to truly capture the essence of its diverse history and get to know the secret sides of these magnificent historic streets. Bogota surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to like the city so much. I’d read it was gritty and scary and wondered what on earth we’d find to do here, but we had a great apartment, ate some fabulous food, took some incredible walking tours, and also managed – from our base in La Candelaria to take some awesome day trips too!
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