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Bogota Travel Guide

Dear Reader

My name is Frank and I run a travel agency based in Bogota, Colombia. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please write them in our comments section. Thank you and have a great trip to Colombia!

1. Introduction

 

Bogota

Bogotá is Colombia’s Capital and has over 10 million habitants. It is Colombia’s political, economic and touristic center and sits on over 2,600m (8,600 feet) above sea level. It was founded 1538 by the Spaniards but was already inhabited by the Pre-Muiscas 18,000 years ago. Bogotá has an area of 1,775 km2 (685 Square miles), which is more than double the size of Singapore. Most of the tourist attractions are in the historic center (La Candelaria), which was once also the domicile of the rich and powerful, until the 1960’s when riots and political manifestations shocked the area. Since then, middle and upper class prefer to live in the north of Bogotá.

Today La Candelaria hosts the Congress and is also the touristic center of Bogotá with most of the tourist sites inside or close by. Furthermore, most hostels for backpackers are situated in the historic center. Additionally, most of the universities are in, or around, La Candelaria.

When I visited La Candelaria in 2009 it was not a nice place. In the last years it became very safe and people are investing heavily in services and infrastructure. The city center becomes more and more attractive also for quality tourism. Still, people call me “avant-garde” as I live here since over 4 years.

2. What to see in Bogota and Activities

2.1. Tours

There are a bunch of tour operators in Bogotá and some offer great tours. Below you will find the most common public tours, which I can recommend. If you are more the private-tour type of person, you can always contact me and I will offer you a great experience.

Graffiti Tour

The Bogotá Graffiti Tour is my most recommended one. Not only it is free (actually you are expected to leave a nice tip) but parts of the earnings flow into social projects. The tour also changes depending on the guide and the climate. The tour guides will not only take you into the world of street art but dive deep into the history of Colombia and Bogotá. I learned a lot and it was big fun! The passion and professionalism of the guides, and the quality of information of the tour, makes it earn the #1 tour award in Bogotá. The only downside is that the tour can become quite crowded (> 30 people).

The tour starts every day at 10am and 2 pm at La Plaza de los Periodistas, this is right outside La Candelaria, right next to the monument and lasts between 2-3 hours. The language is usually English.

What to Bring?

Comfortable clothing

Rain Protection

Sunscreen

Something to shoot videos and/or pictures. The tour is safe and you should have no worries to also bring a more expensive camera

Free Walking Tour

The Bogotá Free Walking Tour is another excellent option to discover the city center while walking and learning about Colombia, Bogotá, and its history. The guides are excellent and have answers to all your questions. Most of them have a very sophisticated study background. Also, this tour is free but it is expected to give a tip.

The tour starts every day at 10am and 2 pm at Santander Park in front of the Gold Museum, this is 5 minutes-walk from La Candelaria and lasts between 3 hours. The language is usually English.

What to Bring?

Comfortable clothing

Rain Protection

Sunscreen

Something to shoot videos and/or pictures. The tour is safe and you should have no worries to also bring a more expensive camera

Starts every day at 10:30am and 01:30 pm at the shop of Bogotá Bike Tours.

My dad (70) made this tour when visiting me and he was blown away. The tour costs COP 40,000. The great thing is that by bike you will be able to cover many sites in little time. Also, you will visit Paloquemao and taste some of Colombia’s super delicious fruits. The tour takes approx. 4 hours. The language is usually English.

What to Bring?

Comfortable clothing

Rain Protection

Sunscreen

Something to shoot videos and/or pictures. The tour is safe and you should have no worries to also bring a more expensive camera

2.2. Inside the City

 

Monserrate

Coming to Bogotá and not visiting Monserrate is like blasphemy. It is the most iconic point of the city and the main tourist attraction. Getting there is very easy, though. From la Candelaria it is only 10 minutes walk. Just follow the “eje ambiental” – the small channel the runs down from the mountain just outside La Candelaria. After the University Los Andes you can either follow the street or take a right and follow the path on the right hand side of the Casa Bolívar.  If you are a bit sensitive and would not like to encounter beggars or other strange fellows, you will be well advised to take a taxi for this short distance. On weekends and public holidays, the mountain gets packed. If you have no other options, make sure you go very early.

There are 2 types of cable cars going up the mountain. There is also a trail, which takes about 45-90 minutes, depending on your physical condition. But be aware, the high altitude and thin air should not be underestimated, also for sporty people.

 

La Candelaria

The historic town of Bogotá is a great place. It cannot keep up with Cartagena, Popayán or the historic towns of European cities, but it has its charm. Sometimes it is a bit dirty, beggars approach you and, in the morning, you need to be careful not to step into dog shit. The main tourist attractions are here, though.

Also, for lunch, this part of town offers anything between USD 2 for a menu up to gourmet restaurants. For sure, it is the most cultural corner of Bogotá and where most hostels are situated.

In the evening, the picture changes drastically, as most restaurants only open for lunch, and the busy streets from during the day get very quiet. If you choose to stay in La Candelaria, depends a lot on your interests. No matter if you are a backpacker or a high-end tourist. If you are very interested in sightseeing and learning about the culture and history, you should not loose time commuting, as Bogotá has the worst traffic in the world. If you are more relaxed, like shopping and going out and want to stay in a more upscale district, there are places up north more suitable for you.

 

Gold Museum

The Gold Museum is a must-visit for everyone who is also going to Guatavita. It is only a 10 minutes-walk away from La Candelaria. People who are interested in the history and culture of Colombia should visit it. I am not usually a big fan of Museums, but this one I liked. Entrance is free on Sundays and they close on Tuesdays.

 

Botero Museum

There are more artists in Colombia than just Fernando Botero, but he is by far the most famous one. This beautiful museum offers a wide display of his art. However, you’ll also be able to find art of recognized European artists, as Botero became so rich that he bought a lot of their art and donated most of it to the state. And today we have 2 great museums with spectacular art, one here in Bogotá and even a bigger one in Medellin. Go and check it out, it is for free.

 

Museo de Arte del Banco de la República – Museo de Arte Miguel Urrutia (MAMU)

This amazing museum is connected with the Botero Museum but is totally different. It’s one of the most beautiful museums in Bogotá with a great variety of Colombian and Latin-American fixed exposition of art. It also has temporary exhibitions where famous artist such as Andy Warhol, Henri Cartier Bresson, Vik Muniz, amongst other, have been.

 

National Museum

The National Museum is the oldest museum in Colombia. It’s a beautiful museum built in what was once a prison. This museum has a fixed exhibition which offers a very interesting insight into Colombia’s history, as it’s also a historic, archeologic and ethnographic museum. Besides that, it also has a temporary art exhibition which they change from time to time.

I was there once and it was interesting and it is in a very beautiful building. It is also right next to the district “La Macarena” where you find great restaurants.

 

Markets

In Bogotá you will find different markets where you can not only buy food, but also where you’ll find restaurants and can eat delicious food and drink the best fruit juices of the world and all of this very cheap. It is an experience you should not miss when coming to Bogotá.

 

Paloquemao

This is the biggest and most famous market in Bogotá or even Colombia. It is huge and you will not only find fruits and vegetables you have never seen before, but also meat, fish and flowers.

 

La Perseverancia

This market is in the district La Macarena and probably has the best food corner in Colombia.

 

La Concordancia

This small market is in the middle of La Candelaria and offers some cheap and good lunch.

 

Parks

Bogotá is a very big city that offers a great variety of excellent parks and gardens to enjoy a break from the traffic and take a walk, jog, or hang out with someone. In Parks such as Park Simón Bolívar, Park Los Novios, or even the Botanical Garden you’ll find yourself lost in the middle of beautiful parks as big as Central Park, where you can just go for a walk, jog, or have a picnic.

Within the city you’ll also find cool parks where you can relax and still be next to a mall. Parks such as El Virrey, Park 93, and Park Chicó are all very close to each other and are situated in one of the best areas of Bogotá.

 

Ciclovia

Coming to Bogotá without participating in the Ciclovia is like going to Prague and not drinking a beer. On Sundays and public holidays, the traffic is banned from many streets and principal roads in Bogotá and you can discover the city while riding a bike until 2pm, when the streets open for the traffic again. Check out different bike rental shops, they will give you a bike and some more tips.

 

Usaquen

This once beautiful town got swollen up by the growing urbanization and is today a part of Bogotá. If you are going there from La Candelaria, it will be at least 40 minutes or up to 2 hours during peak hour for a distance of 14Km. It is a great, clean and safe place to stroll around. With many bars and restaurants, it is a great place to spend a night.

 

Flee Markets

On Sundays there are several flee markets around the city. Some are in the city center and one is also in Usaquén.

 

Football Games

Football (or soccer) is a very big deal here in Colombia. Whenever the Colombia’s football team plays, the whole city stops: traffic becomes easier and there’s very few people on the street because everybody is somewhere watching the match. Colombians are known for being very happy and passional about football, that means that if you get to watch a football match with them you’ll get to see them at its most nerve-wrecking attitude, full of joy and celebration when they score; or all sad and down if they lose.

Basically, watching a football match with Colombians is a whole new experience that you should enjoy if there’s a football match during your visit.

2.3. Outside the City

 

La Chorrera

This is a great day trip. From the city center only takes about an hour to get there. La Chorrera is “Colombia’s highest waterfall”, so they say. I am not sure about that, but it is a great plan. Once there you walk to the first stop with parts of the waterfall and a natural pool and then you can hike even higher to a second spot where to see and feel the waterfall.

Getting there is actually very easy. My personal recommendation is for you to organize a private transport, or you can also go by public transportation. Going by bus, though, means that you jump off the bus on the main road and then walk for 90 minutes.

It is approx. 5.5 Km away from Bogotá. If you’re thinking about taking public transportation you can either take a bus from Trasnoriente or Cootransfomeque.

If you are tired on your way back, maybe you will be lucky and somebody will take you from the waterfall site to the main road to take a bus, like it happened to me. But usually in Colombia hitchhiking is not very popular and people are to afraid to invite strangers in their cars

 

Salt Cathedral Zipaquirá

The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá is also a great plan, which I can highly recommend to everyone. You can either go on a private tour, by train or the cheapest way to go to Portal Norte by TransMilenio (Bogotá’s public transportation system) where you find the buses leaving to Zipaquirá within the station. Don’t leave the station and cross the bridge, the buses on the other side of the highway drive to Villa de Leyva and other destination in Boyacá.

 

Laguna de Guatavita

If you go there, visit the Gold Museum first! It is a great plan although a bit remote. If you book a trip, it is perfect to combine it with the Salt Mine Zipaquirá. I think it is not possible to get there by public transport. The tours are only in Spanish, if you do not speak Spanish, you should get a bilingual guide, as the information on the tour is quite cool.

 

Andrés Carne de Res Chía

If you are in Bogotá a Friday or Saturday, you feel young, energetic and very hungry, then you need to go to Andrés Carne de Res in Chía. This restaurant hosts up to 2,000 visitors and can become the biggest and craziest party you have seen. To get there I advise to either book an accommodation in Chía or having a private transport organized. Be also ready to arrive in Chía and find yourself in a terrible traffic jam. Best you already bring something to drink for getting there. Before you head home, make sure to eat a Caldo and an Arepa right outside.

 

Chingaza

Colombia is one of the few countries that possess the ecosystem of the Páramo. Going to Chingaza is a great plan and I recommend to stay there at least one night. Depending on where you go, you can either camp or stay in a comfortable but rustically house.

 

Suesca

If you look for some outdoor activities and especially rock climbing, Suesca is the place to go. You can either book a tour or take a bus from Portal Norte.

 

Villeta

Most People from Bogotá usually drive south to Girardot or Melgar. There, they enjoy pools and Beer. I think those places are also the most contaminated with mosquitos and I do no like that. Villeta is not only closer to Bogotá, the climate is also not as hot. It is a perfect day trip for people who stay longer in Bogotá and need to heat up their bones a little bit.

 

Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva is probably the most famous colonial town in Colombia and coming to Bogotá it is totally worth visiting. Either by an organized tour or by bus (go to Portal del Norte by Transmilenio and cross the highway), it will take you between 4-6 hours to get there. If you watch the video, you will already know the most famous things to do. Saying that, there is more to discover and some great trails for hiking.

 

Playing Golf

Playing Golf in Colombia is a very new offer for tourists. Most of the golf clubs are private or very private and as an individual you will not get access. If you are interested in playing golf in Colombia, contact me and I will be more than happy to organize everything.

3. Accommodation in Bogota – Hotels and Hostels

Following some of my personal recommendations. I think accommodation is one of the most difficult topics in cities like Bogotá to give a clear advice as tastes differ a lot. I therefore recommend you also to check the pages of Hotels.com, Booking and/or TripAdvisor.

*💰: Price Range

Also there are always good options on:

The Orchids Hotel
La Candelaria
Carrera 5 # 10-55
Very Good Luxury Standard
💰💰
Historic house with few but great rooms.

Hotel La Opera
La Candelaria
Calle 10 #5-72
Good Luxury Standard
💰💰
Historic house and good spa.

Muisca Hotel
La Candelaria
Calle 10 #0-25 Este
Good Luxury Standard
💰💰
Simple but interesting hotel.

Casa Platypus
La Candelaria
Carrera 3 #12F-28
Regular Luxury Standard
💰💰
Mix between hotel and hostel.

Four Seasons Casa Medina
Zona G
Carrera 7 # 69A-22
Excellent Luxury Standard
💰💰💰
Best in town.

Sofitel Bogotá Victoria Regia
Zona T
Carrera 13 #85-80
Excellent Luxury Standard
💰💰💰
Great Hotel with great location. Will be refurbished until mid 2020.

Hotel B.O.G.
Zona T
Av. Carrera 11 #86-74
Excellent Luxury Standard
💰💰💰
Nice patio and great breakfast.

Click Clack Hotel
Parque 93
Av. Carrera 11 #93-77
Excellent Luxury Standard
💰💰💰
Stylish party hotel with 2 bars, one rooftop and one in the basement.

Hotel Casa Deco
La Candelaria
Calle 12C # 2-36
Regular Luxury Standard
💰💰
Cheap functional hotel.

JW Marriot
Chapinero
Calle 73 #8-60
Excellent Luxury Standard
💰💰💰
What should I say, Marriot has a worldwide standard.

Hostal R10
La Candelaria
Calle 12B # 5-07
Regular Luxury Standard
💰
New hostel in old building combined with student accommodation.

The Cranky Croc Hostel
La Candelaria
Calle 12d No. 3-46
Regular Luxury Standard
💰
Best hostel in Bogotá.

Selina Hostel
La Candelaria
Calle 11 # 3-43
Regular Luxury Standard
💰
New opened in a great beautiful house.

Selina Chapinero Hostel
Chapinero
Calle 74 # 15-60
Regular Luxury Standard
💰

The only good one in Zona T.

4. Where to drink a Coffee

There are several places in Bogotá not just to drink a coffee but also to have the whole coffee degustation experience. Yes, there is also Starbucks in Colombia but who comes to Colombia for going to a Starbucks, seriously???

Colombia also has its own Starbucks by the way, not one but two. The first one is called Juan Valdez. It is a Colombian Coffee chain and has the farmer with the donkey as its logo. The second one is Tostao. It did not exist 4 years ago and today it is everywhere. It is a Colombian adaptation, cheaper prices and cheaper interior. But it is always a great option for a coffee to go.

*☕: Coffee Degustation

Divino
La Candelaria
Carrera 2 # 12d-24

He is my neighbor and I always have my coffee there. Great Coffee from his parents farm in Pitalito, Huila.

Azahar
La Candelaria
Carrera 3 # 12b-60

Nice location, bit more expensive but exquisite Cappuccino.

Magola Buendia
La Candelaria
Carrera 3 # 17-60

One of the most interesting Coffees of Bogotá, you also can play Tejo.

San Alberto
Usaquen
Calle 117 # 6a-47

One of the best coffee producers of Colombia with his coffee place in Bogotá.

Mi Rincón Francés
La Candelaria
Calle 12c # 3-64

To me they have the best pastry in Bogotá, try the Eclairs.

5. Nightlife

Nightlife in Bogotá comes alive basically all Fridays and Saturdays. In Bogotá you can visit hundreds of bars, pubs and nightclubs where you can go, drink something and have fun. Bogotá’s nightlife is highly concentrated in Zona Rosa (goes from Avenida 79 to Avenida 85, and from Carrera 11 to Carrera 15) and in Zona T which is located in front of the Andino shopping mall. This area is very safe due to its constant traffic of people.  Nightclubs such as Armando, Morena, Andrés Carne de Res, and 440 are great options around that area to enjoy your night.

Chapinero is another area of Bogotá where most of the nightlife can be found. It goes from Calle 44 to Calle 74 and from Carrera 4 to Avenida Caracas. This is a middle-upper class neighborhood, and hosts Theatrón, one of the biggest gay clubs in South America. I have been there several times; it is huge and big fun with great music.

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

  • Always remember that if you’re going dancing you should take care of your personal items, specially your phone. And keep an eye on your drink.

6. Cultural Agenda

Bogotá is a city that offers a lot of events throughout the year. Most of these events are organized by the government, seeking to help the growth and promotion of cultural activities within the city.  Events such as Jazz al Parque al Rock al Parque are free music festivals. ARTBO is the week dedicated solely to art, performances and galleries. “Burger/Sushi/Pizza Master” is a food contest held between restaurants all over the city. The book fair is held annually at Corferias, where every pavilion is filled with books and books to buy and conferences.

You can take a look at the cultural agenda to see if during your trip to Bogotá you’re lucky to go to one of these events.

7. Neighborhoods

Bogotá is understood through neighborhoods and “zones”. The most elite places to hang around, do some shopping, have a nice lunch, or go for a walk are Zona T, Zona G, and between the Calle 93 to Calle 85. This is where the middle-upper class of Bogotá lives.

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

7.1. Where to Stay

As a tourist it really depends on your agenda where best to stay because in Bogota’s traffic you can loose lots of precious time. All the cultural and historical sites of interest are located in or around La Candelaria, the historic part of Bogota. Also 90% of the hostels are in this area. If you stay in Bogota only 2-3 days with the most important tourist attractions on your agenda, my advice is to stay in La Candelaria, everything will be in walking distance.

The best hotels of the city although are further north. If you are also interested in Bogota’s vibrant nightlife, shopping and also include Golf or a trip to Villa de Leyva, you should consider staying in or close to Zona T or G. Also La Candelaria, although it is perfectly safe after my opinion, can get a bit dodgy at night. If you are easily scared, you also should consider staying further north.

8. Shopping

Zona T – Here you will find everything you are looking for. Designer clothes, big chains, fake Rolex on the street. With the shopping mall Andino and all the shops and other shopping malls around it, you mostly will get what you need.

Las Americas – If you are looking for Outlets that is the place to go.

Chapinero – Same as in las Americas, Outlets of many brands.

Center – The Center is not only La Candelaria but the whole area around it (don’t walk south, that might be risky). You will find clusters of shops, meaning a whole street for shoes, one for kitchen stuff, other for shoes or artisanal and much more. If you are on the Carrera 7, just keep on walking westwards and better go during the day, as at night the whole area will be deserted. If you look like a foreigner, people will look at you. It is not an unsafe area but still be cautious going there.

9. Sundays in Bogota

Sundays in Bogotá are great, because the Museums are free and you can go to the Ciclovia. Sundays are also the typical family day and although Bogotá is a big city, most Colombians live with their families for a long time or have their own family at young age. As it is a family day, in the afternoon most restaurants will close. Also la Candelaria and other lively districts become very quit. The only places you still will face many people are the shopping malls.

10. Where to eat

Harry’s Bar
Calle 70 # 5-57

Harry Sasson is probably Colombians most famous chef. In this relaxed restaurant you can get a bit of everything.

Harry Sasson
Carrera 9 # 75-70

Another restaurant of Harry Sasson, more upscale.

Leo
Calle 27B #6-75

Got into the Restaurants TOP50 in 2019. There is a no à la Carte but a degustation menu.

Crepes & Waffles
Carrera 9 # 33

Crepes & Waffles is a Colombian restaurant chain where Colombians line up to get their meal. If you want to dive into a real Colombian environment, this is your place. The menu is big and food is tasty and all about as said in the name, Crepes & Waffles.

Criterion
Calle 69a # 5-75

The Rausch brothers are also one of the most famous chefs in Colombia and Criterion is their first high-end restaurant. The cuisine is Colombian and prepared at its best.

Rafael
Calle 70 # 4-63

At Rafael you will get a fusion of Colombian/Peruvian food.

La Mar
Calle 119b # 6-01

La Mar has its origins in Peru and is a typical “Cevicheria”. Whoever went to the original in Lima will have big expectations to its seafood dishes and style.

Casa Vieja
Carrera 6a # 117-35

Casa Vieja stands for pure traditional Colombian food. Visiting Bogota it is almost a must to try the Ajiaco.

Bistronomia
Carrera 6 # 119-24

This is another restaurant of the Rausch brothers. European and American cuisine is served in a very nice environment.

Andrés D.C.
Calle 82 # 12-21

Andres is known for its huge parties and big stakes. If you are a Carnivore, like loud music and crazy Colombians, this is the right place for you.

11. Best Time to Visit

In terms of weather Bogotá can be visited throughout the year. Between the 24. December and 15. January the city is literally dead. Everybody who can travels and the others stay at home. There are no parties and you can be happy to find even some restaurants that are open at night. Those public holidays are all for the families and all the business owners try to send people home. If you would like to party over this period, I advise you to travel to the tourist hotspots like Santa Marta or Cartagena.

12. Airport

The city of Bogotá connects with many destinations worldwide and with the whole country. It happens a lot that if you travel within Colombia that you will have a stop over in Bogotá.

Arriving at the airport in Bogotá is the most usual for international travelers. Don’t bring foreign money, get your money on a ATM at the airport and your exchange rate will be far better and you will not have to give a finger print. Leaving baggage claim many people will offer you taxi service. Leave them and go to the official taxi stand right outside.

13. Transportation

The public transportation system in Bogotá can be quite difficult to understand as there are many different kind of buses cruising through the city. Therefore I will focus on Transmilenio, which is the mass transportation system number one here. Maybe in a later stage I will also explain the rest of the SITP System if one day I will understand it myself.

The TM was introduced in the year 2000 and works as a in itself closed system. You can enter with a prepaid card, which you can buy and charge at most stations. Be careful, they tried to rip me off already several times. Always make sure that the whole amount is credited to your card as you will get no receipt.

The TM’s are running on Bogotá’s main streets and are actually quite fast, if there is no rain, accident, bus break down, manifestation or other funny causes. Also during peak hours avoid using the system. The system runs from like 04.30 in the morning until around 11 in the evening. To me the routes of the buses make no sense but an easy way to get around that is downloading the TM App. You just type in the stations and you will be given the correct connection (it happened to me only once in the last 4 years that the bus did not stop at a station and the driver told me that they still did not update the app). The design is similar to the undergrounds in mayor cities. There are north/south axes and east/west ones. Like on a chess field, more or less. With the prepaid card you actually can also use any other SITP bus. Collectivos although, the really old crappy buses that turn streets into fog holes, you still pay by cash when getting on them. All clear?

Good and easy ways to get around are Taxis and they are also very cheap. Saying to avoid drivers ripping you off is easier said than done as it also happens to Colombians. Therefore us an app or let somebody call a taxi for you. Uber works but is a kind of not legal. Therefore you always will be asked to sit in the front seat that Uber drivers are not identified by cab drivers and beaten up by them.

14. What I like about Bogota and What I don’t like

To be honest, I like the climate in Bogotá. As I work a lot and do sports when I have some time left, the fresh temperature is just perfect. I other cities with warmer climate I would be tempted to sit outside drink coffee more. Also from Bogotá you get everywhere quite “fast” as the whole country is connected to the capital. Also people are focused on business in general. There is always something new to discover and the city is continuously changing.
What I really don’t like is the pollution, awful traffic and dog shit on the sidewalk in the morning.

2019-10-10T14:46:24+00:00

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