Colombiafrank’s 2023 Bogota Travel Guide

Last updated on September 23rd, 2022 at 02:44 pm

Dear Reader

My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!

At the end of this guide you will find a list of many other helpful Colombia travel guides.

The main attractions in Bogotá

Below are the best places to visit in Bogota.

Monserrate

Monserrate is the city’s most famous viewpoint and main tourist attraction. From La Candelaria it is only a 10-minute walk to the valley station. Just follow the “Eje Ambiental” – the small canal that flows down from the mountain just outside of La Candelaria. After Los Andes University you can either follow the road or turn right and follow the path to the right of Casa Bolivar. If you’re a bit sensitive and don’t want to run into beggars or other weird types, consider taking a taxi for the short distance. The mountain is full on weekends and holidays. If you have no other options, go very early in the morning.

A funicular and a gondola go up the mountain from the valley station. There is also a walkway leading up and depending on your physical condition, the ascent takes between 45 and 90 minutes. Please note, however, that the altitude and the thin air should not be underestimated, even for sporty people.

Guadalupe

The Virgen of Guadalupe is also a place of pilgrimage for pilgrims. It is located on the neighboring mountain of Monserrate and the statue can also be seen from afar. However, there is no train, but a road leads up. There are buses on weekends.

You can also visit Guadalupe in the evening and enjoy the magnificent view.

La Candelaria

The historic district of Bogotá is a great place and I’ve lived here since 2015. It can’t compete with Cartagena, Popayán or the old towns of European cities, but it has its own charm. Sometimes it’s a bit dirty, there are beggars on the street corners and in the morning you have to be careful not to step on dog cones. However, the main tourist attractions can be found in this area.

For lunch, this neighborhood offers a range of dining options, from $2 for a set menu to gourmet restaurants. It is for sure the most cultural corner of Bogotá with the largest number of hostels.

In the evening the picture changes drastically as most restaurants are only open for lunch and the busy streets become very quiet. Whether you decide to stay at La Candelaria depends heavily on your interests. Whether you are a backpacker or a luxury traveler. If you are keen on sightseeing and learning about culture and history, don’t waste time commuting as Bogotá has the worst traffic in the world.

Gold Museum

The Gold Museum is a must-see for anyone also traveling to the Guatavita Lagoon. It is just 10 minutes’ walk from La Candelaria. Travelers interested in the history and culture of Colombia should definitely visit it. I’m not usually a big fan of museums, but I enjoyed this incredible collection of old gold treasures. Entry is free on Sundays and the Gold Museum is closed on Tuesdays.

Botero Museum

There are more artists in Colombia than just Fernando Botero, but he is by far the most famous. This beautiful museum offers a wide exhibition of his art. However, pieces by recognized European and contemporary artists are also on display. Botero became so rich with his art that he bought many of these pieces himself and donated many to the state. So today we have two great museums in Colombia with spectacular art, one here in Bogotá and one in Medellín. Pass by, it’s free.

Art Museum of the Republik – Art Museum Miguel Urrutia (MAMU)

This amazing museum is connected to the Botero Museum but is completely different. It is one of the finest museums in Bogotá, with a wide range of Colombian and Latin American collections. Temporary exhibitions are also held, where famous artists such as Andy Warhol, Henri Cartier Bresson and Vik Muniz have already been exhibited.

Plaza Bolivar

The Plaza Bolivar is the heart of the city, so to speak. Adjacent to the huge square you will find the Palace of Justice, the Parliament, the Mayor’s Office and the Catedral Basilica Metropolitana. The Carrera 7 also starts here.

Casa Narino – House of the President

The President’s House is just a 5-minute walk from Plaza Bolivar. There used to be guided tours, but they may be offered again in the future.

Restaurant Puerta falsa

The Puerta falsa restaurant is arguably one of the most iconic restaurants in Bogota. It’s just off Plaza Bolivar and perfect for a local lunch.

Chorro de Quevedo

The Chorro de Quevedo is the birthplace of Bogota. One can find restaurants and cafes as well as many outdoor artists. The place is very busy, especially on weekends. The clientele is rather alternative, but it is definitely worth a visit.

Teatro Colon

The Teatro Colon is an opera house and one of the most magnificent buildings in the country. It is also a member of the 7 Wonders of Colombia. Guided tours are also available on the site.

Plaza de la Concordia

The local market hall in La Candelaria offers more than just fruit and vegetables. You can see me there at least twice a week. When visiting La Candelaria, I definitely recommend visiting the market hall.

Bolivar City Park

The Simon Bolivar city park is huge and not only invites you to linger, but also to do sports. You can also row on the man-made lake. During a visit you should also make a detour to the Virgilio Barco Library.

Bogota Botanical Garden

The Bogota Botanical Garden is an absolute gem and gives an impressive insight into the incredible biodiversity of Colombia. After Brazil, Colombia is the country with the highest biodiversity in the world.

Paloquemao

Paloquemao is Colombia’s largest market and is always worth a visit. The best time is early in the morning. Flowers are also traded around Paloquemao, Colombia is also one of the largest flower producers in the world.

Usaquen

This once pretty village has been absorbed by growing urbanization and is now part of Bogotá. From La Candelaria it takes between 40 minutes to 2 hours in rush hour, depending on traffic, for a distance of 14 km. It’s a great, clean and safe place to stroll around. With plenty of bars and restaurants, it’s the perfect place to while away a few hours.

Zona Rosa

Bogota’s Zona Rosa is centered around the Andino shopping mall. You will find fashion chains, Colombian designers, shopping malls, bars, restaurants and casinos there. For travelers interested in shopping or nightlife this is the right place.

Quinta Camacho

Quinta Camacho is a small area with mostly 2-storey buildings. However, you can find very interesting restaurants, bars and cafes there.

La Macarena

The Quartier La Macarena is in the neighborhood of La Candelaria. The steep neighborhood convinces with a great culinary offer.

Perseverancia Market

The Perseverancia market is located in the La Macarena district. They say it’s the perfect spot for lunch. They have a selection of dishes from all over Colombia, highly recommended.

Zona G

The most striking building in this quarter is probably the Hotel Four Seasons Casa Medina. If you have the budget, you should stay there. The neighborhood has some of the best restaurants in town, is known for brunch and also offers a few bars.

Carrera 7

Carrera 7, starting from Plaza Bolivar, is a pedestrian street with lots of shops, restaurants and everything imaginable and impossible. Especially on weekends you will find a myriad of street artists. From predators to screaming babies to bands, dancers and other bizarre characters. Beware of pickpockets.

Central Cemetery

Also close to La Candelaria, the Central Cemetery can be reached very easily and quickly by bus. You can visit the cemetery on your own or join a tour.

National Museum

The National Museum is the oldest museum in Colombia. It is a special and beautiful museum built in a former prison. It has a permanent exhibition that offers a very interesting insight into the history of Colombia, as it is also a historical, archaeological and ethnographic museum. There are also temporary art exhibitions that change from time to time.

I was there once and was fascinated by this beautiful building with the very interesting exhibition. It is right next to the “La Macarena” district where you can find great restaurants.

Flea Markets

There are several flea markets in town on Sundays. Some are downtown and one of them is also in Usaquén.

A flea market is located immediately next to La Candelaria, Carrera 3 #17-10 in a public parking lot.

Other flea markets can be found near Carrera Septima on Calle 24 # 6-01. And as mentioned above, the flea market in Usaquen is of course found in Usaquen.

Introduction to the capital Bogota

Bogotá is Colombia’s capital with over 10 million inhabitants. It is the political, economic and tourist center of Colombia and is located at an altitude of over 2,600 m above sea level. The city was founded by the Spaniards in 1538, but was inhabited by the Pre-Muiscas 18,000 years ago. Bogotá has an area of ​​1,775 km2, which is more than twice the size of Singapore. Most of the tourist attractions are in the historic center (La Candelaria), which was also once the home of the rich and powerful until the 1960s when riots and political manifestations took place, leaving a great swath of destruction in their wake. Since then, the middle and upper classes have preferred to live in northern Bogotá.

Today La Candelaria hosts the congress and is also the tourist center of Bogotá, with most of the sights in or near by. In addition, most backpacker hostels are located in the historic center. Most of the universities are also located in or around La Candelaria. When I visited La Candelaria in 2009 it wasn’t a nice and safe place. In recent years, however, the situation has improved noticeably. People invest heavily in services and infrastructure. The city center is also becoming more and more attractive for quality tourism. Still, people call me “avant-garde” since I’ve been living here since 2015.

Guided tours and tours in Bogotá

Guided tours

There are a number of tour companies in Bogotá and some offer great tours. Below are the most common public tours I can recommend.

Graffiti-Tour

Starts every day at 10am and 2pm at Plaza de Periodistas.

The Bogotá graffiti tour is one of my favorites and I recommend it to everyone. It is not only free of charge (payment with a tip), but part of the proceeds flow into social projects. The tour also sometimes changes depending on the tour guide and the climate. The guides will not only take you into the world of street art, but also delve deep into the history of Colombia and Bogotá. I learned a lot and it was great fun. The passion and professionalism of the guides and the quality of the information on the tour make them the #1 choice in Bogotá. The only downside is that the tour can get quite crowded (>30 people).

The tour lasts between 2-3 hours. The language is usually English.

Bring comfortable clothing, rain gear, and something to take videos and/or pictures. The tour is safe and you can bring a more expensive camera with you without hesitation.

Free walk in the old town

Starts every day at 10am and 2pm in Santander Park in front of the Gold Museum

The Bogotá Free Walking Tour is another excellent option to explore the city center while learning about Colombia, Bogotá and its history. The guides are excellent and have answers to all questions. Most of them have an academic background. This tour is also free, but a tip is expected.

The tour lasts 3 hours and the language is usually English.

Bring comfortable clothing, rain gear, and something to take videos and/or pictures. The tour is safe and you shouldn’t worry about bringing a more expensive camera as well.

Bogota Bike Tour

Starts every day at 10:30am and 1:30pm at the Bogotá Bike Tours shop

My father (70) did this tour when he was visiting and he loved it. The tour costs 40,000 COP. The great thing is that you can reach many sights in a short time by bike. Paloquemao is also visited. Taste some of Colombia’s delicious fruits! The tour lasts about 4 hours. The language is usually English.

Bring comfortable clothing, rain gear, and something to take videos and/or pictures.

Ciclovia

The Ciclovia takes place on Sundays and public holidays in Bogota and other Colombian cities. It lasts from 07:00 in the morning to 14:00 in the afternoon.

The most important main roads will be closed to traffic during this time. I recommend renting a bike and exploring the routes independently.

Main attractions outside Bogota

La Chorrera

La Chorrera is said to be “Colombia’s highest waterfall”. Not sure about that, but it’s a great place to visit. Once you get there, you will find a natural pool in the first station of the waterfall. You can also swim there but the water is crazy cold. Afterwards you can hike to a second point where you can see the waterfall again and which is perfect for selfies.

Getting there is actually very easy. My personal recommendation is to organize private transport or use public transport. However, taking the bus means that you then have to walk another 90 minutes from the main road.

Salt Cathedral Zipaquirá

You can book a tour or go there by train on selected days or take the TransMilenio to Portal Norte, where buses to Zipaquirá depart from within the bus terminal. You don’t have to leave the bus station or cross the bridge. The buses on the other side of the highway go to Villa de Leyva and another destination in Boyacá.

Guatavita Lagoon

For those who want to visit the Guatavita Lagoon, go to the Gold Museum first! It’s a great experience full of mysticism, if a bit remote. An organized trip is the best solution in my opinion, as you can combine it with a visit to the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá. Local tours are in Spanish only. So if you don’t speak Spanish I recommend arranging a bilingual guide as the information on the tour is very interesting and dives into the history of the Muiscas and the Spanish conquerors.

Restaurant Andrés Carne de Res Chía

For weekend stays in Bogota when you are feeling young, energetic and very hungry, the perfect destination is Andrés Carne de Res in Chía. This restaurant seats up to 2,000 people and as the evening progresses it transforms into the biggest and craziest party you’ve ever seen.

Chingaza

Colombia is one of the few countries that has the ecosystem of the Páramo. Chingaza is therefore a great destination and I recommend staying there for at least one night. Depending on where you go, you can either camp or stay in a comfortable but rustic house.

Suesca

Suesca is the right place for outdoor activities and especially for climbing. One can either book a tour or take a bus from Portal Norte.

Villeta

Most Bogotá residents usually head south to Girardot or Melgar. There they enjoy pools and beer. But these southern destinations are also infested with mosquitoes and I don’t like that. Not only is Villeta closer to Bogotá, the climate isn’t as hot. It’s a perfect day trip for those who are staying longer in Bogotá and want to warm up their limbs a bit in between.

Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva is probably the most famous colonial city in Colombia after Cartagena and is well worth a visit. Either with an organized tour or by bus (Transmilenio to Portal del Norte and on the other side of the highway). The journey takes between 4 and 6 hours. In our video you get a very good impression of this place. In addition to the sights shown, there are also some good hiking trails.

Playing golf in Bogota

Golfing in Colombia is a very new offer for tourists. Most golf clubs are private and no one is granted access as an individual. If you are interested in playing golf in Colombia, contact us and we will be happy to organize everything for you.

Accommodation in Bogota

Bogotá is divided into neighborhoods and “zones”. The most elite places to hang out, shop, eat or walk are Zona T, Zona G and between Calle 93 and Calle 85. Bogotá’s middle upper class lives here.

There are some other well known neighborhoods like Usaquén, Chapinero or the Parkway where you can also find some very nice restaurants, bars or shops.

As a traveler, where is the best place to stay depends extremely on individual interests, as Bogota’s traffic can waste a lot of valuable time. All cultural and historical sights are in or around La Candelaria, the historical part of Bogota. 90% of the hostals are also in this zone. If you only want to stay 2-3 days in Bogota and have the most important sights in your itinerary, I recommend staying in La Candelaria, everything is within walking distance. However, the city’s best hotels are further north. Should one also be interested in Bogota’s vibrant nightlife, shopping and golfing, or a trip to Villa de Leyva or Zipaquira, one might consider staying in or near Zona T or G. La Candelaria, while perfectly safe in my opinion, can be a bit dodgy at night. Somewhat anxious people should better stay north.

Nightlife in Bogota

Nightlife in Bogotá actually shakes 7 days a week, peaking on Friday and Saturday. In Bogotá you can visit hundreds of bars, pubs and nightclubs where you can have a drink and have fun. Bogotá’s nightlife is concentrated in Zona Rosa (from Avenida 79 to Avenida 85 and from Carrera 11 to Carrera 15) and Zona T, which is in front of the Andino shopping center. This area is very safe due to its constant flow of people. Nightclubs like Armando, Morena, Andrés Carne de Res and 440 are great ways to enjoy the night.

Chapinero is another area of ​​Bogotá that is great for going out. This zone is from Calle 44 to Calle 74 and from Carrera 4 to Avenida Caracas. This middle-class neighborhood is home to Theatrón, one of the largest gay clubs in South America. I’ve been there several times as a straight person; it’s huge, has great music and is just plain fun!

If you love electronic music, you should check out Baum or Cinema Club.

When dancing, be careful of your personal belongings, especially your cell phone. Drinks should also not be left unattended.

Cultural agenda in Bogota

Bogotá offers many events throughout the year. Most of these events are organized by the government to promote growth and cultural activities in the city. Events like Jazz al Parque or Rock al Parque are free music festivals. ARTBO is the week entirely dedicated to art, performances and galleries. “Burger/Sushi/Pizza Master” is a food competition held between restaurants across the city. The Book Fair is held annually in Corferias, where each pavilion is filled with books for sale and conferences.

Check the cultural program before your arrival, there may be an exciting event taking place during your travel time.

Events in Bogota:

Free events in Bogotá:

More info:
https://bogota.gov.co/que-hacer

Sundays in Bogota

Sundays in Bogotá are great as the museums are free and you can walk along the ciclovia (car-free streets). Sundays are also typical family days and although Bogotá is a big city, most young Colombians live with their families for a long time or have families of their own from a young age. Since Sunday is a family day, most restaurants close in the afternoon. La Candelaria and other lively neighborhoods will also become very quiet. The only places where you always run into people are in the big shopping malls.

Best travel time to Bogota

Regarding the weather, Bogotá can be visited all year round. Between December 24th and January 15th the city is literally dead. Everyone who can travel gets the hell out of there and the rest stay at home. There are no parties and one is lucky to find an open restaurant. These holidays are family days and all entrepreneurs send their employees home to their families whenever possible. If you are still planning to come to Colombia at this time and party here, I recommend traveling to tourist hotspots such as Santa Marta or Cartagena.

Bogota airport

Bogotá is connected to many destinations worldwide and to the whole country. When traveling within Colombia, it often happens that you have to make a stopover in Bogotá.

Arriving at the airport in Bogotá is the most common for international travelers. There is no need to carry foreign money, you can withdraw money from any ATM with a debit or credit card. In addition, the exchange rate is much better and you don’t have to give a fingerprint, as required in the exchange offices. When exiting baggage claim, many bystanders offer a taxi service. Walk past them all and go straight to the official taxi rank right at the exit.

What I like and dislike about Bogotá

To be honest, I like the climate in Bogotá. Since I work a lot and do sports in my free time, the pleasantly cool temperature is just perfect. In other warmer climate cities, I would be tempted to sit outside and drink more coffee. You can also get everywhere from Bogotá quite “quickly” since the whole country is connected to the capital. The people are also focused on business in general and tend to be more reliable in the Latin American context. There is always something new to discover and the city is always changing.

What I really dislike is the pollution, the terrible traffic and the dog bumps on the sidewalk in the morning.

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