Amazing Things to Do in Bogota: Travel Guide to the Capital City of Colombia
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Bogota is the capital city of Colombia and has a population of over 7.4 million (2018 census). Bogota is the largest and one of the most ancient cities in Colombia. With the majority of its residents being citizens of Colombia, it is a perfect starting point to get to know the local environment.
Many travelers hesitate to visit Bogota as it is believed to be unsafe. However, after spending ten days there, I found that Bogota is absolutely worth visiting as there are a whole lot of activities to help you discover its great culture and historical significance.
Getting around Bogota, Colombia
Although Bogota is a massive city, it is easy to get around by foot and public transport.
Public transport: The main part of the public transport system in Bogota is TransMilenio. This is a rapid transit system that takes you all around the city and even stretches to the outskirts. It is cheap, but it can get super crowded during the day.
Uber: I have never used Uber in Bogota, and I have read mixed reviews about it. If you use Uber, be aware that it might not always be available.
Taxi: I always took the official metered taxis in Bogota. They can be found anywhere in the city. It is important to know the price and make sure that the taxi is metered.
Walk: If you are staying in the city center, or La Candelaria, you can easily walk to the major attractions.
Amazing Things to do in Bogota, Colombia
If you are searching for interesting things to do in Bogota, here are my recommendations for both tourist spots and local gems.
Visit Mount Monserrate
One place that all visitors are drawn to in Bogota is Mount Monserrate. This mountain rises over Bogota’s skyline and dominates the city. The top of the mountain features the Church of Monserrate, which was built in the 17th century and is devoted to El Senor Caido, a figure of Jesus that is removed from the cross.
Apart from visiting the church, the whole of Mount Monserrate is covered in greenery, flora and fauna, and coffee shops. For photographers, this is one of the best places in Bogota to get a picture of the Bogota skyline, especially during sunset.
Mount Monserrate lies 3,152 meters above sea level, and you have plenty of options to get to the summit. The most popular is to take the funicular, which costs 20,000 Columbian pesos for foreigners both ways. You can also walk to the top for free.
Walk around La Candelaria
La Candelaria is an excellent starting point for your Colombia trip because it reveals the interesting architecture and historical facts about Colombia. It is also a great place to people-watch and mingle with the locals.
If you visit La Candelaria after 3 pm, you will see chaos when the students get off school and play and chat loudly with each other in the neighborhood. There are interesting museums, colorful graffito, government buildings, traditional restaurants, hotels, and quaint coffee shops. This is my favorite area of Bogota because I was able to walk on the colorful streets and got to experience the historical culture and local life.
National Museum of Bogota
I passed this museum every day, so it was difficult not to notice it. You can go inside to learn about the pre-Colombian history of Colombia and visit the art gallery on the second floor.
Bogota Free Tours
There are free walking, food, and graffiti tours in Bogota, and they are becoming increasingly popular. So, if you love food and history, I strongly encourage you to take at least one of these tours.
The walking tour took me around the highlights of the city. We met in front of Museo de Oro and spent the majority of the tour in La Candelaria, exploring the colorful streets, graffiti artworks, hidden alleyways, and cuisines. The tour guide had a wealth of knowledge about the city and pointed out important facts and history as well as recommended lots of places to visit that I would not have considered otherwise.
Usaquen Flea Market
The Usaquen Flea Market takes place every Sunday. So, when I was in town on the weekend, I decided to pay a visit. I am not a fan of souvenir shopping, but I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of this local market. It is fun to watch locals making their crafts, see them entertaining the audience with their music, and try the aroma-scented coffee and delicious cuisine.
Restaurant Sobores del Pacifico
This restaurant in the center of Bogota serves the best seafood in the city. They have a wide selection of fish and shrimp dishes that come in huge portions at a reasonable price. I ordered the lunch special for 12,500 pesos, which included fish soup, a whole fish, rice, plantain, and a salad. The restaurant is not close to any tourist attractions, so it is a wonderful place to see a hidden part of the city and enjoy the local vibe.
Chocolate con queso
Chocolate con queso is well-known to everyone in Colombia. It is a popular breakfast dish and the one that locals have when they visit their grandma’s house.
The cheese that comes with the hot chocolate is doble crema, which has a texture similar to mozzarella. Put a chunk of doble crema in your hot chocolate, drink it, and eat the cheese at the end. It is a perfect balance of sweet and salty. The best place to try this treat is at La Puerta Falsa.
International Emerald Museum
Located on the 23rd floor of the Avianca building, the International Emerald Museum is a private museum that is open to visitors, who must show their ID to gain entry. The museum showcases the mining stages and practices as well as emeralds found in various geographic locations, and it has a store selling precious stones and jewelry. Moreover, the entrance to the museum offers gorgeous views of the city.
Where to stay in Bogota Colombia
Hostels: For budget travelers. there are many hostels in the city center for you to choose from. I stayed at the El Pit, an amazing and affordable hostel in downtown and close to the National Museum of Bogota, restaurants, shops and La Candelaria. Breakfast are included and dinner was cheap with a huge portion. You can also click here to book other hostels and read the reviews.
Casa Deco Hotel: If you prefer to stay in private accommodations, hotels in Bogota are also considerably cheaper than these in most North American and EU countries. I spent a night at the Casa Deco hotel in La Candelaria. It offers quality service, and an opportunity for you to explore the colorful old town.
Apart from aforementioned accommodations, Bogota has a wide selection of hotels in the city center and La Candelaria. Click here to check the rates and read the reviews before booking.
Tips and recommendations for visiting Bogota
-Bogota is generally safe in the daylight, but there are places to avoid and things to keep in mind:
-I do not recommend walking around after dark, especially after 9 pm, as parts of the city are empty and sketchy. If you arrive in Bogota at night, always take an official cab directly to your accommodation.
-You must not travel to Mont Monserrate on foot. Some of the neighborhoods between the city center and Mont Monserrate are deemed unsafe by the citizens due to drug trafficking, so I took a taxi to get there.
-Bogota is located 2,600 meters above sea level. It takes a while to adjust to this high altitude if you arrive from sea level, so take some time to ease into the city.
-I recommend that you learn some travel Spanish. Most hostel and hotel workers and tour guides speak English, but most restaurant owners and taxi drivers only speak Spanish.
-If you are lost and need to ask for directions, you will find that different individuals give you different answers, so be sure to ask more than three people for confirmation. You can also check Google Maps or download Mapme for assistance.
-Make sure to count your change and do not accept broken bills.
Have you visited Bogota yet? Share your experience and tips below.
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