Top 10 Things to Do in Bogota

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Bogota grafitti
Bogota grafitti (photo: Michael (a.k.a. moik) McCullough)
Colorful building in La Candelaria
Colorful building in La Candelaria

As much as I like to poke fun at expats who prefer to live in Bogota, versus Medellin, there are plenty of interesting things to do in Bogota as a tourist.

Luckily, much of it can be covered within a day or two, so even during a short trip to the city or country, you can cover the major bases.

Of the top 10 things to do in Bogota which I’ve listed below, the first 7 can be comfortably covered in a single full day of sightseeing.

1. La Candelaria

La Candelaria is often the first stop for visitors, and especially budget travelers, staying in Bogota.

That’s because this historic, bohemian neighborhood is a central and inexpensive location to base oneself for seeing many of the suggestions on this list, including Plaza de Bolivar, the Gold Museum, and Monserrate. Many of Bogota’s hostels are concentrated in La Candelaria.

Just be alert for pickpockets, and common scams, as it can be a little dodgy, especially at night.

Plaza Bolivar
A statue of Simon Bolivar stands in front of the National Capitol building in Plaza Bolivar

2. Plaza de Bolivar

Plaza de Bolivar is the center of government in Bogota, and therefore Colombia.

It’s a wide open square, featuring the National Capitol building, Palace of Justice, and Cathedral of Bogota. The city mayor’s office can also be found here, in the Lievano building.

Ajiaco Bogotano
Ajiaco Bogotano

3. Eat Ajiaco for Lunch

On a narrow street off Plaza de Bolivar are a row of restaurants serving traditional foods of Bogota, and Colombia.

In a city featuring world class hotels and restaurants, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to sample ajiaco, a regional favorite.

The thick and hearty soup consists of shredded chicken, potatoes, and a chunk of corn on the cob. Cream, capers, and avocado are also added.

Hands down, it’s my favorite Colombian food, and there’s no place better to get it than Antigua Santafe (Calle 11 #6 – 20, just off Plaza Bolivar in La Candelaria).

Mask at the Gold Museum
Mask at the Gold Museum

4. Gold Museum

Bogota’s Gold Museum, Museo del Oro, is the largest and best gold museum in Colombia.

One can easily spend an hour or two wandering its vast exhibits of pre-Hispanic gold, the biggest in the world.

And, perhaps best of all, entrance is no more than a few US Dollars, AND photography is allowed, so you can share your discoveries with the world.

Paintings by Fernando Botero
Paintings by Fernando Botero

5. Botero Museum (Donacion Botero & Museo Botero)

Fernando Botero is Colombia’s most famous artist, and his work can be seen around the world, as both paintings and sculptures.

Originally from Medellin, he has donated a large number of pieces to several museums in the country, including the Donacion Botero in Bogota.  Additional works by Picasso, Renoir and Dali are also on display.

Entrance is free, and photos are allowed without a flash. The Museo Botero is larger, and features a wider array of Latin artists.

Church atop Montserrate
Church atop Montserrate

6. Monserrate

On a clear day, you can take the small tram up Cerro de Monserrate for sweeping views of the capital. A church is situated atop the mountain, as are a bunch of souvenir shops.

As you can see in the photo above, after a week of rainy and cloudy weather in Bogota, I gave up on waiting for the perfect day to see Bogota’s most famous mountaintop.

Dinner at Andre Carne de Res
Dinner at Andre Carne de Res (photo: David Berkowitz)

7. Dinner at Andres Carne de Res

Ask any expat from Bogota where to go for a steak dinner and a wild night of partying, and you can expect to hear Andres Carne de Res in return.

Known for attracting crowds, and the occasional Colombian and foreign celebrity, it’s located just outside Bogota at a new location on Calle 82 #11 – 57.

Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá
Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá (photo: David Berkowitz)

8. Salt Cathedral

About an hour outside of the city, in the town of Zipaquira, a cathedral was carved within a salt mine. Today, colorful lighting helps to brighten the interior.

Guided tours are available for about 15,000 pesos ($8), and no flash photography is allowed.

Bogota grafitti
Bogota grafitti (photo: Michael (a.k.a. moik) McCullough)

9. Graffiti Tour

Bogota is widely appreciated for its street art. Even those without any knowledge of graffiti can appreciate some of the better works of art seen on the streets.

Therefore, it was only a matter of time before graffiti tours were provided to tourists, to help explain the history of the movement in the city, some of its principle artists, and an explanation behind some of the subjects they’re seeing.

Hanging out in the street after last call, during my first night out partying in Bogota
Hanging out in the street after last call, during my first night out partying in Bogota

10. Partying in La Zona Rosa

Bogota, like many of Colombia’s major cities, has a good reputation when it comes to nightlife and partying. The Zona Rosa (literally “Pink Zone”) is the term used for every city’s major nightlife district.

In Bogota, La Zona Rosa is located between Calles 79-85 and Carreras 11-15. It’s packed with restaurants, bars, and discotecas. Catering to upper middle class Colombians, and tourists, the prices here tend to be higher than in other parts of the city.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. The Gold Museum is the most overrated activity in Bogota, and I make sure to warn all gringos who visited me NOT to go there.

    I’d put a bike tour, preferably Mike Ceaser’s Bogota Bike Tours, or cycling the Ciclovia, or something with bicycles.

    Finally, Plaza Lourdes is my favorite city site, the best view from below, and one 99% of tourists don’t visit.

    • I don’t think the Gold Museum is overrated at all. Maybe it’s because I had no expectations, but I found myself needing more than the hour I had to give it.

      • I agree. The price is perfect. I recommend 3 hours. And take the tour – it’s free and in English. I was the only one that showed up for the English tour and Natalia, my guide, was amazingly knowledgeable, being an archeologist. It was time well spent. The last room, top floor, where the shaman voices can be heard was very different and interesting.

  2. Too downtown centered, I would say. Not enough Chapinero, Parque Simón Bolívar and surrounds (sport fields, Biblioteca Virgilio Barco, etc), Suba and so on.

  3. i have a 12 hour overnite layover in bogota. what to do? im thinking of just staying in the airport or in a nearby hotel. or maybe go to zona rosa for dinner and shopping then back to the airport? what time does the nightlife end?

  4. Unfortunate you had a rainy week while you were there. I agree it rains more then most places but usually only lasts an hour or so and hey, its only water! I agree the bike tour is pretty good. I´d also highly recommend learning salsa while you re in Colombia. http://www.bogotasalsaschool.com is a new place that is pretty good.