When you’re going to Colombia, it’s likely you’ll come across Bogotá in some way or another. Many tourists skip the capital because of its allegedly dangerous and uninteresting reputation and travel straight on to another Colombian destination. Unjustly so, if you’d ask us: Bogotá is a sparkling city where old and new go hand in hand, perfect for at least 2 days of sightseeing.
Because Bogotá is situated 2.640 meters above sea level, you might experience some altitude sickness. It’s also a very busy city with lots of air polution. And of course there are neighbourhoods where you really shouldn’t go at night (avoid La Candelaria when it’s dark and everything south of it altogether). But Bogotá is so much more than the problems it’s certainly still facing today. The people are extremely friendly and will definitely talk to you with pride about their city and country. There are top-notch restaurants where you’ll eat delicious food at reasonable prices. Every sunday, you can join thousands of Bogotán cyclists on the ciclovia enjoying kilometers of free highway without any concern of being pushed over by wild drivers. And maybe the coolest part of it all: you’ll feel like you’re one of the few foreigners discovering the city of Bogotá!
Climb Monserrate to get a view of Bogotá
At the foot of Cerro Monserrate a funicular will take you up to the top of the hill some 3.150 meters high for just a few bucks. You’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the city you’ll never forget. If you’ve got a lot of time, you can also walk up or down the mountain in about 1,5 hours. Once back down, it’s only a 15-minute walk to the historic city centre, La Candelaria. At the beginning of the walk, you’ll come across Casa Bolívar, a pastel coloured house where the most famous rescuer of Latin-America once lived. Definitefly worth a visit for the price of € 1.
Walk the streets of La Candelaria
The historical centre of Bogotá can be overwhelming with all those tourists, beggers, street vendors and locals roaming the streets. It’s a place where you’ll have to be a bit more on your guard, but don’t let that spoil the fun of discovering this colourful barrio. La Candelaria and the centre are home to almost all the important buildings, musea and churches. Add some brighly coloured houses and plazas, and beautiful street art to that, and you’ll understand why this is the most popular area in Bogotá.
Visit Museum del Oro and Museo Botero
The names speak for themselves of course: In the Museo del Oro you can discover everything about gold and how this precious material was part of the worship traditions of the local people. You’ll see the most beautifully handcrafted relics and pieces of art dating back to long lost times. Another museum that’s worth your time is Museo Botero, dedicated to Colombia’s most famous modern artist. Botero is known for his characteristic corupulent figures. A must-do!
Our favourite restaurants in Bogotá
- Leo: officially the best and most expensive restaurant in Bogotá, but still very reasonably priced if you compare it to restaurants at home. For each dish, Chef Leonor Espinosa goes back to the natural eco systems found throughout Colombia. She chooses to use local products and prepares them based on ancient indigenous knowledge. Ants with a zest of lime straight from the Amazone or a plate reminiscent of the Andes mountains: eating at Leo really tastes like a journey through the whole of Colombia.
- Cava (Zona G): a cosy wine bar near the hotel we stayed in and where the house dog loves to lie down between your legs.
- Cevichería Central (Zona Rosa): a trendy restaurant where you can eat ceviche at a good price. Perfect for lunch.
- El Chato (Zona G): place to be for the hipsters of Bogotá. Service is a little slow, but that’s something you’ll get used to here in Colombia.
- La Puerta Falsa (Centro): tiny Colombian restaurant where you can eat cheap Tamales, a local rice dish cooked in banana leaves.
Our hotel in Bogotá
We slept in Mika Suites, located in Zona G. A very decent hotel in a safe, calm area with friendly staff, and lots of good restaurants and bars in the neighbourhood. It’s a 30 minute walk from Zona Rosa (known for its nighlife), 10 minutes from Chapinero and a 30 minute drive by taxi to the centre.
- Choose a hotel in the more northern parts of Bogotá, such as Chapinero, Zona G or Zona Rosa where it’s safe for tourists to walk around at night.
- Bogotá is huge. Taxi’s will drive you around for next to nothing (one half an hour drive will cost you around 11.000 COP or 3 euros). However, don’t stop a taxi on the streets. We’d recommend to use the Tappsi app with which you can call an official taxi that’s driving around close to your location. Afterwards, you even get to review your ride. Über also exists, but is considered illegal in Colombia.
- Upon arrival, we bought a mobile data card from Tigo which came in very handy. It’s cheap, convenient and perfect if you want to use apps like Tappsi without having to look for free wifi.