A visit to Colombia is not complete without a stop off in the country’s capital city, Bogota. The people, the city feel and the new and old history is different amongst Colombia’s three main cities and to explore the country’s diversity requires a comparison of how the people of Bogota differ to the traditions and ideology of other cities – Medellin and Cali.
Bogota mixes important historical buildings with a thriving business district and other flairs of cultures through different neighbourhoods. Unlike some big cities where there’s a checklist of things to see and do, in Bogota, it’s more about experiencing than ticking off landmarks and key sights. Feel the differences as you travel from the old town to the financial district, feel the passion for dance at salsa bars and immerse yourself in the Bogota way of life. This 3 day itinerary of Bogota provides a snapshot of what to do in Bogota so you can compile your list of highlights and things to see and do in Bogota.
Day One – Walk the historical area
Bogota is the third highest capital city in the world, perched at an altitude of 2,640 meters. Unless you’re coming straight from Quito or Laz Paz (the cities that are slightly higher), I would recommend easing into your first day. Taking time to wander at your own pace, try some of the local dishes and acclimatise to the elevation.
Start with a walking tour of the historical centre to touch up on Colombia’s history, learn about the important buildings and get the rundown on the unrest the country has endured.
Get a local recommendation from the tour guide on where is good to eat nearby where the tour ends. Spend the rest of the afternoon people watching around Plaza de Bolivar and walking through La Candelária, the oldest neighbourhood in Bogota. Personally, we needed a rest the first afternoon to help us quickly adapt to the altitude.
Head out to the affluent and urban neighborhood of Chapinero for a great selection of restaurants in Bogota and bars catering to all budgets and dining requirements.
A couple poses for a picture on their bikes during a Bogota art tour.
Day two – Best thing to do – Bike around Bogota
I took day two up a notch by heading out on a bike tour around Bogota – I’d recommend the same if you’re feeling good and are dealing with the altitude. Bogota does not have a metro, instead a series of TransMilenio buses to get people in, out and around the city. Once in the central area, the city has invested in specific bike lanes to keep the flow of people moving. Seeing the city by bike is one of the best things to do in Bogota. It’s a great way to cover a lot of ground over 3 hours – stopping off at places for lessons on the street art and the coffee producing industry, while also wandering the local markets and tasting exotic fruits.
Most of the bike tours start in La Candelária, just a short stroll to a popular lunch spot SQPR that have a daily affordable lunch menu with local dishes with an international twist. We loved this place, and frequented it three times over our stay in Bogota – once for lunch and another two times for strong coffees and hearty breakfasts.
Get your salsa shoes ready as you’re going out! If you plan to head to Cali after Bogota then this part of the tour is crucial – you need to know the basics before you head to the salsa capital of Colombia. Regardless of your onward journey, salsa is very much an important part of Bogota’s culture and it’s ingrained in the locals way of life. No matter the day of the week, visiting a salsa bar is one of the best things to do in Bogota. There are plenty of salsa bars dotted around Bogota but our Bogota friends took us to El Goce Pagano a very traditional establishment that is renowned as one of the oldest salsa bars in Bogota – complete with a back wall full of vinyls which the DJ still spins each night. I wouldn’t say we dominate a dance floor but can usually dance well in clubs, this was a different type of skill. Regardless of our amateur level, the laughs we had while learning to salsa remains our favourite memory from our time in Bogota. Make sure you let loose and get into the spirit of the dance. The locals are super friendly and enjoying guiding newbies around the dance floor. There’s no judgement and it’s an absolute hoot! It’s one of the things to do in Bogota, Colombia.
Cable Car going up Monserrate.
Day three – Top thing to do in Bogota – take the cable car to Monsterrat
Take the morning easy letting your legs and body recover from last night’s activity. Head to Chapinero to leisurely wonder looking at street art and good coffee and food options. Azahar Café 93 or Domestica are two great coffee shops that also serve up delicious healthy breakfast and lunch options.
In the afternoon, I made my way to the cable car up to Monsterrat, the spectacular vantage point, church and eateries located on the top of the valley overlook Bogota. Once at the top, take some time out to admire the views and the impressive expansion of the city, Bogota is very spread out. If you’re peckish there are plenty of vendors selling meats and traditional Colombian meals. It’s one of the Bogota things to do.
Learn all about the popular Colombian game of Tejo – a tradition throwing sport on a tour to a Tejo court. A tour that leaves from Chapinero will transfer you to the court where you’ll learn the basics before you compete against fellow travelers. After you’ve won the match the group heads to one of the biggest nightclubs, Vintrash, for some drinks and dancing. It’s a way to finish your tour off and see the Bogota nightlife.
Selina Bogota La Candelaria’s Facade.
Other important things to know about traveling in Bogota, Colombia
Where to stay in Bogota, Colombia:
Most of your time will be spent in La Candelaria or Chapinero. These two places have plenty of accommodation options and the best hotels in Bogota. Selina has properties in these popular Bogota neighborhoods and Chicó Norte and provide a great base and are the best hotels to come back to after a big day of exploring.
There is no metro in Bogota, catching the TransMilenio is possible but Uber is also in Bogota and we ended up walking or catching an uber to places.
Colombia’s currency is the Colombian Peso. Most places take cash (efectivo) only but the ATMs are easy to find and money is easy to withdraw.
If you’re staying in Colombia for a while, grab a local SIM to have data. It helps when it comes to booking Ubers and navigating throughout the cities. Claro and Movistar are good options.
Onward travel in Colombia:
From Bogota many travellers head to Medellin or Cali. There are two main bus terminals in Bogota depending if you’re going North or South. The Bogota El Dorado International Airport has great connections to Cartagena and the north of Colombia.
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