Bogota, Colombia: A Vibrant Capital City
Home to more than 8 million people, Bogota, Colombia is nestled along the Andes Mountain Range. The capital city sits 2,640 meters, or 8,660 feet, above sea level. Due to its high altitude, you should take a day or two to get acclimated before doing strenuous activities like hiking or sports. Bogota was founded in 1538 and still retains its historical charm in areas such as La Candelaria. Aside from being historically significant, Bogota is also known for its arts, gastronomy and culture. Explore this vibrant capital and take day trips from Bogota while visiting Colombia.
Top Places to Visit in Bogota
La Candelaria: La Candelaria is the historic neighbourhood in the city. Located a few minutes walk from Bolivar Plaza and home to la Casa de la Moneda, the Botero Museum, among other important museums and landmarks. La Candelaria lends you hours of walking down narrow, colonial streets lined with colonial-style houses and buildings.
Gold Museum: With more than 55,000 pieces of gold on display, the gold museum showcases shiny artefacts from Colombia’s indigenous cultures. Learn how these pieces were created and about their significance. Temporary exhibits are also common.
Monserrate Peak: The mountaintop el Cerro Monserrate is an iconic symbol of the city of Bogotá located 3,152 meters, or 10,341 feet, above sea level and is by far, the best view of the city's landscape. Visitors can make their way to the top on foot, by train or by cable car. Once at the top, you can visit the beautiful church, buy some handicrafts at the small market, or simply take in the amazing view.
Historic Churches in the City Centre: Bogotá is home to some magnificent and impressive churches. Particularly worth a visit are the Iglesia de San Francisco and Iglesia de la Tercera. These two churches offer any tourist an incredible glimpse into the artistic and architectural contrasts of the colonial churches in Bogotá.
National Museum: Located in the city centre, the National Museum is the largest and oldest museum in the Colombian capital, it exhibits a wide range of artwork, anthropological and ethnical artefacts, historical documents, indigenous cultural pieces, and several temporary exhibitions that exhibit both national and international collections.
Best things to do in Bogota
- Walk through La Candelaria: La Candelaria is Bogota’s historic district, a very interesting area for a Bogota day tour. Featuring Spanish colonial buildings, museums and a big square called Plaza Bolivar, visitors can spend hours meandering through this area that seems to be frozen in time.
- Sample Exotic Fruits: Paloquemao Market is the ideal place to try many exotic Colombian fruits such as lulo, granadilla, guanabana, mangosteen and more. Many visitors have never even seen these delicious fruits and a lot of people also enjoy them blended into a smoothie. Make sure you include this market during your tour in Bogota.
- Visit a coffee farm: The coffee triangle region in Colombia is where most of our famous coffee is cultivated and processe. However, around Bogota you can still visiting coffee farms where you can learn all about the coffee making process. This is a great alternative if you don't have time to travel to the coffee region.
- Ciclovia: On Sundays from 7:00 a.m. at 2:00 p.m. more than 120 kilometers of roads in the city become a space for citizens to run, walk, tour the capital by bicycle, practice aerobics or learn to dance. This program is more than 40 years old and is considered the first of its kind in the world.
- Birding in Bogota: Bogotá might not seem at first glance like the best place to base yourself for a Colombia birding tour, but that really couldn’t be further from the truth: a dedicated birder could happily spend at least a week birding in and around Bogotá and rack up a species list well into the hundreds, with around 10 endemic species seen. If you love birding and nature, check out one of our Bogota Birding tours.
- Visit a flea market: If you are visiting Bogota on a Sunday, the traditional flea market in Usaquén could be a good experience to at tour your Bogota tour. At the flea market, you can buy handicrafts and appreciate the architectural beauty of the town, which became part of Bogotá in the 1950s. Find unique pieces of art and souvenirs at this market and then have lunch at one of the many nearby restaurants.
- Night life: Bogota offers many options to go out and party or "rumbear". Although there are bars and clubs throughout the city, the Zona Rosa is full of bars and restaurants and is the largest sector to enjoy the nightlife.
Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira: The famous Cathedral is the most pospular place for a day tour from Bogota. This Cathedral was built inside a network of monumental chambers and tunnels that were left behind when commercial mining operations stopped.
Guatavita Lake: The peaceful lake, located about 2 hours by car from Bogota, was once an important ceremonial site for the ancient Muisca civilization which later gave rise to the legend of El Dorado.
Chingaza National Natural Park: If you love hiking or birding this is the perfect destination. The park is located in the mountains and outside of the city offering easy access to good montane elfin forest and paramo.
Chicaque Natural Park: This natural park is located just half an hour by car from Bogota. It is located next to a huge rock canyon that protects the cloud forest of Chicaque and ancient oak forests. 258 species of birds have been recorded there.
When is the best time to visit Bogota?
Any time is good to visit Bogota, however if you want to be part of a festival these are the good times to go:
- March: The Ibero-American Theatre Festival, the most important theatre festival in the world, takes place every two years, bringing together artists from all over the world.
- June - July: Every year, Bogota offers a free, three-day rock and metal festival: the Rock Park Festival. This Picnic Stereo Festival, is the second largest rock festival in Latin America.
- July: Indiebo Independent Film Festival. This 10-day festival aims to raise awareness about society issues with the help of culture. You wild find different projections in cinemas, parks and other unconventional places.
- August: Carnival of Bogota: Founded in 1538, Bogota celebrates its birthday on August 6. Visitors can expect several events in La Candelaria to mark the occasion.
- August: The Summer Festival, celebrated during the second week of August. You will find cultural events, live music, events for children, international sports tournaments.
- October: Artbo is one of the most important cultural events inthe country. This fair gathers more than 75 art galleries and features about 500 artistes. It has for mission to promote the local art scene of Colombia nationally and beyond.
You can enjoy other festivals like the Indiebo Independent Film Festival, ArtBo, among others. In addition to this, you can enjoy film festivals such as Eurocine, the Documentary Film Festival, the Bogotá Film Festival, the Documentary International Show, and the French Film Festival, and from November 7 to 10 you can enjoy of the Madrid Fusión gastronomic festival.
The weather in Bogota is known for being unpredictable. The sky could be clear and blue, then the next hour it can be pouring down rain. It’s best to always carry a jacket and umbrella while exploring Bogota. The average temperature in Bogota is 15°C, or 58°F.
The warmest months are from May to June.
The best transports in Bogota
Bogota is located in the centre of the country and is often where international flights arrive and depart. El Dorado International Airport (BOG) is located in the western part of the city. It’s best to fly into Bogota since the city is surrounded by curvy roads because of the Andes Mountains.
There are different applications to request taxi service such as Easy Taxi, Tappsi and Uber. For all your transportation in Bogota, make sure you have cash on hand. A key part of the public transportation system in Bogota is the TransMilenio system. TransMilenio is a bus rapid transit system that runs all over the city. You can take TransMilenio to and from the El Dorado Airport, to the historic city centre of Bogota (Candelaria, Monserrate, Gold Museum, etc.…), to the neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city (Suba, Usaquen, etc.…), and to most of the tourist attractions zones.
Is it safe to travel to Bogota?
Colombia is the biggest city in Colombia and like in any other big city in the world, you can encounter some petty theft.
These are some simple tips that should keep you out of trouble:
- Don’t flash large amounts of money in public
- Look out for pickpockets on public transportation
- Call or use a smartphone app to arrange for a taxi instead of hailing it on the street
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Keep your phones and cameras out of sight
- Don’t wear flashy jewellery
- Avoid taking cards or passports out with you
The good and varied gastronomy, which forms a fundamental part of the cultural diversity of the city, is one of the strongest attractions of Bogotá. Learn which are the typical dishes of the region!
Arepa: An arepa is cooked dough full of possibilities. The most basic kind of arepa is filled with cheese and butter, but these babies can get extravagant. Some arepas are served filled with various meats, egg, cheese and crispy potato bits.
Empanada: They are a food prepared with corn flour and depending on the region they are filled with different ingredients. In the region of central Colombia they are stuffed with meat, spices and potatoes.
Ajiaco: The ajiaco santafereño is the most representative dish and a cultural reference of the cundiboyacense highlands. It is a soup prepared with chicken breasts, three different types of potatoes, cob and guascas (a spice), usually added milk cream and capers and accompanied by avocado slices.
Fritanga bogotana: A group of fried foods typical of the region. A plentiful chop with pork ribs, beef, chicharrón, among others, usually accompanied by ají, chimichurri and guacamole.
Masato: It consists of a creamy drink made with rice, cloves, cinnamon, among other ingredients. Its artisanal preparation is made in clay pots and it is kept in fermentation vessels so the flavor concentrates more.
Home to more than 8 million people, Bogota, Colombia is nestled along the Andes Mountain Range. The capital city sits 2,640 meters, or 8,660 feet, above sea level. Due to its high altitude, visitors should take a day or two to get acclimated before doing strenuous activities like hiking or sports.
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