Bogotá can be a difficult city and many visitors see it as little more than a necessary stopover to get to other, more interesting destinations. And they’re not wrong, especially if time is limited. Colombia is about nature and exploring the incredibly diverse landscapes it has to offer, and whilst Bogotá is in the mountains, it’s very much a capital city. It is busy, polluted and can be stressful. Having said that, we love Bogota – it is where we call home – and it is definitely worth a visit, even if you only have one day in Bogota! Here is how you can make the most of your time.
Ideally, visit Bogota on a weekend. Not only can you enjoy ciclovia and Usaquén market, but families are out and about, traffic is calmer and it is just more enjoyable. If you can, come during a puente long-weekend, Holy Week, or December-January when most capitalinos escape the city for the holidays. It shouldn’t be too difficult to catch one, since Colombia has so many national holidays. 2-3 days is plenty to explore the city, but we would recommend a couple more if you want to do any day trips from Bogota!
1. CICLOVIA IN BOGOTÁ
Sundays and Public Holidays 7am-2pm
Every Sunday and public holiday Mondays, a network of roads are closed to create a cycle route around the city. It’s pretty extensive, connecting different areas of the city with 120 km of car-free roads for people go out cycling, walk their dogs, go running without fearing for their lives. Ciclovia is growing increasingly popular, with over 2000 people using it every weekend!
You can rent a bike from your hostel for around $30.000COP ($11USD/ £8/ €9). You can combine ciclovia with a trip to Usaquén or, if it’s a particularly sunny day, head to Parque Simon Bolivar. I wouldn’t recommend cycling around the Candelaria, it’s too busy! Stop for a snack on the way at any of the little stalls that sell lemonade, fruit cups, salpicón (cut up fruit in orange or watermelon juice).
2. MERCADO DE LAS PULGAS, USAQUÉN
SUNDAYS AND PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
Usaquen is a traditional, middle class area which used to be a village that was engulfed by the ever-growing capital. It is centred around a cute plaza with a church, and is popular for its Sunday “flea market”. It’s not at all a flea market, it’s a posh, artisanal market, selling everything from traditional handicrafts, bags and jewelry to plants, notebooks, spices and household decor… It is perfect for souvenirs, if a little overpriced compared to the Candelaria. There is a great atmosphere; kids running around, people lounging on the grass and street performers entertaining.
There are plenty of nice restaurants and cafés in the area, or if you can fill yourself with delicious street food such as mazorca (the most delicious corn on the cob you will ever taste – the corn is gigantic!), luladas, obleas… also look out for the rastafaris, they sell the most delicious vegetarian burgers I’ve ever had in my life (for $5.000COP). There are also lovely cafes – El Altillo is a cosy cafe that sells delicious cakes, or el ArtTé, an oriental tea house.
3. EL CHORRO DE QUEVEDO AND THE CANDELARIA
The narrow, cobbled street of el Chorro de Quevedo is the heart of the Candelaria, the first official neighbourhood of Bogotá. The Candelaria is the historical centre and tourist hub of Bogotá where the old, traditional houses have been maintained. Plaza Bolivar is the main square where lies the Primatial Cathedral of Bogota, the statue of Simon Bolivar and important official buildings such as the Lievano Palace, Congress, and the Palace of Justice. It is also full of pigeons, which, bizarrely, locals enjoy feeding maize and posing with them on their heads. Strolling around, you will also find plenty of graffiti art, artisanal craft shops, bookshops and museums.
4. VISIT THE MUSEUMS
If you are a fan of museums, head to Museo de Oro, Museo Nacional, and Museo Botero. You probably don’t want to visit all three – but a short visit will give you a feel of Colombian history and its national treasures.
- Museo de Oro (The Gold Museum) $4,000 or free on Sundays,
The Museo de Oro or Gold Museum is full of artefacts of every kind, from broken pots and tools to jewelry and death masks. It goes into great detail about metallurgy, so if you get bored easily and just want the highlights, focus on the third floor, where you will find the most glorious and interesting gold pieces in the rooms of “Cosmologia y Simbolismo” and “El Vuelo Chamánico”.
- Museo Nacional free
The Museo Nacional used to be a prison, and is now the largest and oldest museum in Bogota. It holds a range of historical and anthropological artefacts from all over Colombia. If you don’t get the chance to visit Santa Marta or San Agustin, you can appreciate some of the archeological finds right here! The newest room “Memoria y nación” is a well-curated and interesting room about Colombian national identity, culture and history. The permanent exhibition is free.
- Museo Botero free, closed Tuesdays
The Botero Museum is housed in Banco de la Republica, where you will find many painting by the Colombian artist Botero, famous for his depictions of oversized people, animals and objects. It also holds work of Dali, Miro, Picasso Monet and Matisse.
5. CANDELARIA TOURS
As unappealing as walking around as a conspicuous group of foreign tourists is, it cannot be denied that tours are always a great way to get a good overview of a culture, especially if you don’t have time to read up before visiting a place.
The classic free walking tour will take you to the important spots in the Candelaría, and you will learn about the history, politics and current social issues of Bogotá. The tour is runs everyday at 10am and 2pm from Santander park in front of the Museo del Oro. It is run off tips, suggested amount $20,000-30,000COP.
A more interesting option is the Bogota Graffiti Tour – discover how and why street art flourished in Bogota as the graffiti tour will tell you story of various works, from the prettiest to the most political. The tour runs 10am and 2pm every day from Parque de los Periodistas (near Las Aguas/ Universidades, where stands the domed statue of Bolivar). More info at
Bike tours are also a popular alternative to seeing the city. Expect to pay around $40.000COP. Personally I think the Candelaria is too crowded most of the time for cycling – I’d rather catch the ciclovia where you can cycle at leisure! However, if you want to cover more ground in less time, this is a good option!
6. WALK UP MONSERRATE FOR A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
Get up early and walk up to Monserrate and take in the lovely view of the city. The walk takes about an hour and is not difficult, but you may suffer due to the altitude. Alternatively, get the cable car or funicular up for $10,000COP and walk down! At the top, you can enjoy the spectacular views of the city, visit the church and peruse the souvenir market and try out some typical Colombian food. For some peace from all the other tourists, keep heading all the way past the souvenirs and food to reach the back of the mountain, which is a lot quieter.
7. SIMON BOLIVAR PARK AND BOTANICAL GARDENS
If you are lucky enough to get some sunshine, head to Parque Simon Bolivar (free) or the Botanical Gardens ($3.500) for a picnic and a wander!
Simon Bolivar Park or “El Simón” is a huge park where local families spend sunny weekends having picnics, flying kites, riding bike, running. Just behind Bolivar Park lies the Botanical Gardens, Colombia’s biggest Botanical Gardens. It features plants from every Colombian altitude, climate and region and the only one in the nation that specialises in preserving and collecting Andean species of flowers. They also have regular special events and exhibitions, such as Jardín Botánico Nocturno with food markets and live music.
8. ESCAPE THE CITY AND HEAD TO LA CALERA
Escape the city and head to the hills – go to Alto de Patio towards La Calera which is around 20 mins on bus away. There are various restaurants and cafés, where you can go and enjoy the spectacular mountain view over the city. Many keen cyclists even brave the the 6.4km climb at the weekend!
You can get the bus from Calle 72 with Carrera 11, opposite the Universidad Pedadgógica with colectivos with a sign saying “Calera”. It should cost $2.300COP. You can get off at Alto de Patios (you wil see signs – if you reach the toll you’ve gone too far).
9. NIGHTLIFE… HAVE A CRAZY COLOMBIAN NIGHT OUT!
Like any capital city, Bogotá has a buzzing nightlife. For the most traditional Colombian night out, head to Andres Chia. The only way to describe it is quirky – it is full of random, strange objects hanging from the ceiling – Colombian flags, retro signs and glowing hearts. At the weekend, the bar staff are dressed in costumes. It is huge and you can go for dinner, casual drinks or a fun, full-on night out. It is 45 minutes North of Bogotá, but worth the effort! Otherwise, there is a less crazy version in Zona T/ La 85.
The main areas to go out in Bogotá are Chapinero and Zona T (La 85). Chapinero, or “Chapi-gay” is full of fun casual bars and clubs. The gay bars are around Plaza de Los Hippies – Teatron, the biggest gay club in Latin America makes for an unforgettable night out. Heading South, around Calle 51 is where the students go out – Café Cinema, Casa Babylon, Disco Jaguar, La Negra. For a more middle-class night out, head to Zona T (La 85) – but you’ll have to dress to impress! Most places are crossover – that is mix of everything – reggaeton, salsa and international chart music. For electronic music and alternative DJ nights, head to Octava, BAUM or Videoclub. For salsa fans, El Goce Pagano, Quiebra Canto and Cuban Jazz Café are traditional salsa bars in the Candelaria with live bands where you dance all night! If you prefer a quiet drink, BBC have lovely bars all over the city or head to any local cigarerría if you just want cheap beer.
10. EAT TO YOUR HEART’S CONTENT!
It may be difficult to believe, but Bogota is food heaven! Whether you are looking for traditional Colombian dishes, street food or fine-dining – Bogota has it all!
While bandeja paisa is known as the national dish, it is actually a regional dish from Medellin (Paisa is a term for people from the region of Antioquia). The regional dish of Bogotá is ajiaco – a deliciously creamy, potato-y chicken soup with avocado. “El mejor ajiaco del mundo” is a restaurant just off Plaza Bolivar that genuinely does the best ajiaco I’ve ever had!
When it comes to street food, arepas and mazorca are typical snacks that you can not miss. Arepa are grilled corn pancakes – you can’t beat a breakfast arepas with scrambled egg and cheese! I used to have every single day, no exaggeration Mazorca is the most delicious, giant corn on the cob you have ever tasted – with lots of salt and butter!
You can find cheap corrientazos (“electric lunch”) from $10,000 which is typical Colombian dishes that usually involve some kind of unspecified meat, plantain and rice. You will find corrientazos all over the country, and you will likely be eating corrientazos for most of your time in Colombia.
Luckily, Bogotá, being the grand capital has plenty of international cuisine! There may be no metro, but Bogota has its priorities in order! There are some incredible restaurants run by top chefs where you can eat for a fraction of the price you would pay anywhere else in the world! Some of the top names include Harry Sasson, Salvo Patria, El Cielo and Criterion. Chapinero’s Zona G, The 85, Usaquen and Parque de la 93 are full of restaurants – the most difficult part is making the choice!