Bogotá is a sprawling metropolis that is sadly often under-rated by passing tourists. It’s usually just a connection for visitors excited to get out to the lush hills of Colombia’s coffee region, or the Caribbean beaches of its north coast. However, spend a little time in Bogotá and you’ll realize that this huge red-bricked city with its ever-growing list of hipster restaurants and cozy cafés is worth getting to know properly.
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Bogotá natives are officially called Bogotanos/Bogotanas, but more colloquially Rolos/Rolas. They’re known throughout Colombia as being less open and friendly as their Medellín counterparts, much in the way that New Yorkers, Parisians and Londoners are seen across the rest of their respective countries. However, they’re generally very considerate people, and we’ve found them quick to jump to help someone who looks in need of assistance.
Safety in Bogotá
Many people are concerned about safety when they visit Bogotá, but keep your wits about you and you’ll very likely be fine. Colombia’s international reputation is long out-dated. That being said, trust your gut, don’t walk down dark streets, research which Bogotá barrios are the safest, don’t flash your valuables, and hop in a taxi if you’re ever feeling uneasy.
Getting Around in Bogotá
Uber isn’t technically legal here in Bogotá, but yellow taxis are inexpensive as long as you make sure that the driver has put the meter on before the journey begins. The traffic in the Colombian capital is said to be the second-worst in the world after Mexico City, so try to plan your inner-city travel to avoid rush hours.
How to Spend a Perfect Day in Bogotá, Colombia
We’ve been using Bogotá as a home base for the last year or so, and it truly has everything we look for in a city. Here are our top picks for making the most of one day in Bogotá, Colombia.
Breakfast in Bogotá
There’s so much choice here that deciding where to eat in Bogotá can sometimes be the hardest decision of the day. If you’re staying in the North of the city, La Herencia can cook you up a Colombian-fusion breakfast in a beautiful setting, or if Al Agua Patos serves up hipster fried bread piled with any topping you could think of.
Down in the South of the city, you’re much more likely to be able to find a family-run restaurant for traditional breakfast – you’ll likely spot them with a chalkboard outside on the pavement. In Bogotá, you can expect this local breakfast to be a meat and potato soup and/or scrambled egg, rice, and beans.
You must try: the Colombian favorite of cheese dipped in hot chocolate!
Top Things to do Bogota: One Day Itinerary
Explore the Paloquemao Market
There are plenty of Colombia tourist attractions in Bogotá, but if you’d like to see a slice of local life hectic enough to completely overwhelm your senses, take a taxi to the Paloquemao Market. This is a city within a city of market stalls selling everything from flowers to spices to fruits.
We highly recommend that you buy a few fruits you’ve never seen before; not only to taste something new but also to support the locals who earn a living there. Keep a close eye on your personal belongings as the tight, busy rows can make it easy for pickpockets.
Lunch in Bogotá
Without a doubt, what Colombians do best is serve up a hearty, tasty lunch. We strongly recommend that you head out for a typical lunch, which will involve a soup, a choice of main meal from a short set menu, and drink for between 10-15,000 pesos ($3-5 USD).
Our favorite typical Colombian lunch restaurants from our time living in Bogotá are Zarzamora in the student area of Javeriana and Restaurante Ledbury, further North in La Porciúncula area.
The best stuffed-arepas in the city can be found at Jimmy el Hambriento. It’s local enough that it may seem a little intimidating to someone who only recently arrived in South America, but the ladies who serve you are lovely, and the food is DELICIOUS. The Colombian way to eat it is to squeeze another line of sauce onto the arepa after every bite you take.
Take a Bogotá Graffiti Tour
After a teenaged boy was shot dead by the police in 2011, his crime being that he was painting graffiti on a wall at the time, there was uproar across the city, and the government ended up legalizing and even promoting graffiti in the capital. This form of art is now used to help remember Colombia’s difficult past and give hope for a united future, especially in the poorer barrios of the city.
The Bogotá Graffiti Tour not only dedicates their time to teaching you all about the graffiti in the city but is also very involved in helping the art community develop and execute new projects. Take the 2pm Bogotá Graffiti Tour starting at Parque de los Periodistas as part of your perfect day in Bogotá, and prepare to learn a lot about the history, culture and community.
There is no fixed fee, but you need to make sure you bring cash to tip the tour guide and donate to the organization’s community projects.
You can’t miss: checking out the graffiti on Carrera 2, an alley just off Plazoleta del Chorro de Quevedo. Some of it is incredibly lifelike and it’s one of the most popular Bogota things to do. You can’t hang around long though; this is reportedly the busiest street in Bogotá!
Where to see a sunset in Bogotá
What better way to see out the day than at the highest point in the capital? Bogotá is huge, so whenever we have visitors from back home we always make sure they go up Monserrate just to get to grips with how sprawling the city is.
Monserrate is a white church that sits at the very top of the mountain that overlooks Bogotá, and it can be accessed by cable car, tram or a particularly challenging uphill hike. After you’ve finished admiring the view, there is a row of souvenir shops and super-local food stalls just behind the church.
Alternatively, you could go up Torre Colpatria for 360-degree views of the city; this would save you time if you’re feeling rushed, but the viewpoints aren’t as high as Monserrate.
Dinner in Bogotá
For dinner, the best restaurant options in Bogotá tend to be in the north of the city. The areas of Parque 93 and Quinta Camacho have the greatest selection of excellent places to eat. Wu Dumplings & Beer is a fantastic option in the latter.
Locals’ favorites include the restaurant chain Crepes & Waffles, in which the crepes & waffles are but vessels for huge amounts of gorgeous savory or sweet fillings. In Europe and North America, we tend to think of crepes as snacks or desserts, but Colombians have turned them into full meals that will leave you having to undo the button of your jeans. You can find these all over the city. If you want to go super fancy, check out El Chato in Zona G; you’d be best to make a reservation beforehand.
Nightlife in Bogotá
In the evening, round up a few friends and take a taxi down to a tejo club in Barrios Unidos area – we recommend Club de Tejo Piqueteadero La 28B for a true Colombian experience. It’s best to book ahead if you can, as it’s very popular with locals.
To play, you need to buy a crate of national beer, choose yourself a ‘tejo’ – a weighty metal disk – and see who can throw it the most accurately onto the ring of gunpowder on a board of clay several meters away. Always an explosive night!
The nightlife in Bogotá is fairly spread out, with pockets of different vibes. You can find small craft beer bars on Calle 45 in Palermo, intimate cocktail bars in Quinta Camacho, mid-range bars in Zona T, high-range bars in Parque 93 and booming multi-storied nightclubs scattered around Chapinero.
Our recommendations are Huerta for cocktails and El Sindicato for craft beer. BBCs (Bogotá Beer Company) are on every corner, where you can guarantee great beers and laidback vibes.
If you’re looking for a full night out with a swanky Colombian twist, get your dancing shoes on and head up to Café Gaira in the Parque 93 area. This is owned by the much-loved Colombian singer, Carlos Vives, and has live bands who perform all night for the 3-storied bar filled with eager salsa dancers. Further out of the city, Andrés Carne de Res in Chia is not just a club, it’s an experience.
Day trips from Bogotá
Actually, one of the best things about Bogotá is all the things you can see outside of Bogotá, within an hour or two on the bus. Near the small town of Choachí, the tallest waterfall in Colombia, La Chorrera, is an hour’s drive and 3-hour hike from the city center.
If you like waterfalls but don’t fancy hiking, you can get a bus or taxi straight to Tequendama Falls, a spooky waterfall with a haunted hotel. In the other direction, you can visit Guatavita Lake, on which the legend of El Dorado was based, and the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá.
Compare Hotels and Airbnbs in Bogotá
A lot of the accommodation in the city is located in the old town of La Candelaria, as that’s the hub for tourism activities. While the colonial architecture, museums, and stalls are beautiful during the day, we’re really not fans of La Candelaria at night, and even as people who have lived in the city for 8 months now we don’t feel very safe in that area.
Instead, we advise people to stay further north in the city, in areas such as Parque 93, Usaquén, Quinta Camacho, Zona T or Zona G, where locals also choose to live. Don’t worry about missing out on the touristic vibe; as mentioned previously, taxis are cheap so it’s easy to visit La Candelaria during daylight hours.
Where to stay in Bogotá
While not the cheapest place to stay in Colombia, there are still bargains to be found in Bogotá. Mad Nomad Hostel in Zona T offers dorm beds for as little as $8 USD, as does the boutique hostel Selina, which has 3 locations in the city – we consider Selina 93 to be the best.
For a mid-range hotel, you can expect to pay $30-60 a night. Consider Hotel Virrey Park in Chico or Scala 68 in Zona G.
But what Bogotá really does well is studio apartments, which let you have your privacy and enjoy a more local-feeling life during your visit. Have a look at Apartestudios Margarita in El Retiro or Soy Local Parque 93 for some highly-rated studio apartment options.
These are mostly to be found in the Parque 93 area, one of the city’s most fancy. Choose from a wealth of well-known international chains such as the NH Bogotá Pavillon Royal Hotel and Sofitel Bogotá Victoria Regia, or opt for a more local boutique hotel like The Click Clack Hotel (who do an incredible reservation-only unlimited brunch on a weekend, by the way!).
Best time to visit Bogotá
The temperature in Bogotá stays the same all year round, but it does have 2 rainy seasons (March to May and October to November), which you’d be best to avoid.
Bogotá sits at an elevation of 2,640m, so you may feel some effects of the altitude over your first few days in the city. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, headaches, nausea and dehydration, and being physically fit doesn’t mean you won’t be affected by the altitude. Try and take it easy when you first arrive, avoid alcohol and drink coca tea from a local café to help any altitude sickness, or go to the pharmacy if that doesn’t help.
Even though the temperature in Bogotá is a constant 17-20 degrees Celsius (63-68 degrees Fahrenheit) all year round, this high altitude means you are more prone to sunburn than normal, so make sure you’re protecting your skin.
Bogota Time Zone:
Colombia has one time zone which is Colombia Time (COT). Bogota is 5 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Colombia does not observe daylight saving time.
- Bogota is the same time as New York.
- Bogota is 3 hours ahead of California.
- Bogota is 5 hours behind England.
Fun Facts about Bogotá
- With a population of 8 million, Bogotá is the 4th most populous city in Latin America
- Bogotá is one of the best places on the planet to buy emeralds, with nearly 60% of the world’s emeralds being produced in Colombia
- Bogotá is known as the city of 4 seasons in one day, as it’s quite normal to see abrupt changes in the weather. Take clothes that you can layer so that you can adjust accordingly!
- Bogotá was once the capital of Gran Colombia, a large confederation of what we today know as Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador
- Bogotá is home to some of the oldest universities in Latin America, with the University of Santo Tomás being founded in 1580
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We hope our list of things to do in Bogota Colombia helps create your perfect day when you visit.
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Cuppa to Copa Travels was created by Lozzy & Andy, a couple of Brits who have been travelling within Latin America since October 2017. During much of this time, Bogotá has been their homebase to rest in when the travel fatigue kicks in. They provide in-depth city guides for Latin America and general travel advice for long-term travellers and digital nomads at www.cuppatocopatravels.com.