Unexpectedly, I really enjoyed Bogota.
It didn’t look like it at first. When I arrive in a new city, I use a combination of my guidebook and google to find out what things to do there and it didn’t look like there was much in Bogota. But then, the city ended up surprising me. Maybe it was the young and uplifting vibe. Or it was all the amazing things we ended up doing.
Even if it might look like there are not many attractions in Bogota, you can find lots of sights worth visiting. We have gathered the best things to do in Bogota and compressed them into this list, so you can also have a fantastic time in the city.
The top things to do in Bogota
#1 Do a Bogota Graffiti Tour
The one thing you should do in Bogota is joining a graffiti tour. We went with Bogota Graffiti Tour, who claim that they are the original ones who came up with this tour. While I don’t know if that’s true, I do know that the tour was lots of fun. You need to book in advance through the website, but it’s quick and easy to sign up.
The graffitis you can see everywhere in Bogota have a sad backstory. In 2011, the police shot a young graffiti artist. Massive protests arose through the city and as a consequence, Bogota decriminalized street art. But not just that. The city turned around completely and has since then invited a lot of artists to paint buildings. That’s why you can see such fantastic street art all over.
The Bogota Graffiti Tour does a great job of tying in recent history with many touristy places in the city. We walked through La Candelaria, for example, a colonial neighbourhood you shouldn’t miss and that we’ll talk about in more detail in a moment.
The tour, similar to a free walking tour, is based on donations. You pay as much as you think it’s worth it. The money will go to local artists and communities.
#2 Explore La Candelaria
La Candelaria is Bogota’s most beautiful neighbourhood, and the best area to visit if you want to see the city’s colonial roots.
Start at the Plaza de Bolivar, the Old Town’s main square. Here, you can find the Cathedral of Bogota, the Palace of Justice and the city hall. From here, one of the best things to do in Bogota is to randomly walk through the narrow alleys and discover the historic buildings, churches, palaces and monuments.
While walking around, be sure not to miss the Santuario Nuestra Señora de El Carmen. The name is quite a mouthful, but this church is worth seeing for its red and white striped exterior. The decorations continue in the same style on the inside which is very different from the other churches you can see in Bogota.
Talking about churches. Make sure not to miss the Iglesia de San Francisco, which you can find in front of the Gold Museum. It might not look that impressive from the outside, but it has a giant gold altar inside that you shouldn’t miss. The entrance is free, so make sure to pop inside for a look.
#3 Visit the Museo del Oro
If you have been travelling through South America before, you know that quite a few cities have gold museums. I really liked the ones in Lima and Santa Marta, but none of them even came close to the museum in Bogota. In fact, I would go as far as saying that the Museo del Oro in Bogota is one of my favourite museums in the whole country!
I have never seen as much gold in one place. It is fascinating to look at the ancient artefacts made by indigenous tribes and it made me wonder how they had been able to craft such intricate art. The most famous piece is the Muisca raft which is also called the El Dorado raft. It shows a ceremony during which the new chief covers his body with gold dust and then jumps into a lake, together with lots of other gold artefacts as offerings to the gods.
#4 Enjoy sunset from Monserrate
Monserrate is probably the most famous hill in Bogota. As it is more than 3000m high, you can see it from almost anywhere in the city. That means that from the top, you have a very nice view of Bogota.
There are three different ways of going up. You can either walk, take a cable car or a funicular. We went by cable car and I highly advise you against walking. It is not safe and robberies still happen along the way, especially at night. Take the cable car or the funicular and enjoy your time at the top.
We came in the evening, which is a great time if you want to watch sunset. Early morning, from what I’ve heard, is also nice because the air is not as hazy yet and you get a better view. Plus, if you’re early enough, you get to see the sunrise and you probably won’t have to fight with as many other tourists as we did.
#5 Visit the National Museum of Colombia
Did you know that the National Museum is the oldest museum in all of Colombia? It was built in 1832. The collection includes 20,000 pieces and gives a great overview of Colombian and pre-Colombian history. We came here an hour before the museum closed and had nowhere near enough time to see everything, so make sure you have enough time. From pottery to paintings and even a mummy, there’s lots of stuff to discover.
The building, by the way, once served as a prison, which explains its weird layout.
#6 See the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá
One of the best day trips from Bogota takes you to the Salt Cathedral. You can reach it by catching a bus to Zipaquirá, which takes about an hour. Take the TransMilenio, which is Bogota’s system of express buses, to Terminal del Norte, and catch a bus to Zipaquirá from there.
If this sounds too complicated for you and you’d rather not worry about public transport, then you can also join a tour to the Salt Cathedral. Check out this tour which takes you to Zipaquirá and back again and already includes the tickets to the salt mine.
Zipaquirá was once famous for its huge salt deposits and already in pre-Columbian times, people mined those deposits. With the arrival of the Spaniards, the mines got larger and larger and around 1923, the miners carved a sanctuary into the rocks for the first time. Eventually, that turned into a huge cathedral complex that you can now visit.
One of the best parts of the Salt Cathedral is the lights. Every room is illuminated in its own special way. Plus, the complex is so large that you can spend hours walking through it without having seen everything. Don’t miss out on the water mirror, which you can see in the photo above and which is one of the coolest places down there.
#7 Stroll through the Botanical Garden
If you’re finding Bogota too hectic, you should check out the Botanic Garden. We didn’t have enough time, so we never made it here, but we heard great things about it.
Inside the garden, you can see almost 20,000 plants, so you can walk around for hours without having seen all of them. Most of the plants are local to the area, and coming here makes you appreciate the biodiversity of the region. Expect to see palm trees, orchids and many more exotic plants.
Another great place to relax, just next to the Botanical Garden, is the Parque Central Simon Bolivar. This park is giant and you can easily spend a few hours here, enjoying your escape from the hustle of Bogota.
Where to stay in Bogota
Bogota is a giant city, but when it comes to looking for a place to stay, you should focus on two areas. The first one is La Candelaria and the neighbourhood north of it. If you stay here, you’ll be close to the city’s main attractions.
The other one is La Zona Rosa. This neighbourhood is famous for its high-end shops and restaurants, but also for its nightlife. If you want to party, then this should be your preferred area. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to take an Uber or taxi to get to the historic old town.
Here are a few suggestions for specific places to stay in Bogota, broken down both by budget and by area:
Budget – La Candelaria: If you’re looking for a great hostel to stay, then choose the Hostal R10. It receives excellent ratings and offers affordable rooms either with a shared or private bathroom right in La Candelaria. From here, you can explore many of Bogota’s sights easily. Click here to check out prices now for the Hostal R10.
Budget – Zona Rosa: Finding great budget accommodation in the Zona Rosa is not easy. This is a far more expensive area than La Candelaria. One option is the 82 Hostel, which has clean rooms and a great location just next to the Zona Rosa. Book your stay now at the 82 Hostel.
Mid-Range – La Candelaria: The Hotel Casa de la Vega is located in a historic house right in the Old Town of Bogota. The location is perfect, the rooms are spacious and clean and most deals include a free breakfast. What more could you ask for? Check out more details now for the Hotel Casa de la Vega!
Mid-Range – Zona Rosa: One of the best-rated hotels in the Rose Zone of Bogota is the GHL Hotel Hamilton. It’s comfortable, the breakfast is nice and the staff is friendly. If you want to stay in this area, then this is one of your best choices. Click here to book your stay at the GHL Hotel Hamilton now.
A bit more comfort – La Candelaria: If you’re looking for a five-star hotel with a pool, right in the middle of La Candelaria, then you should stay at the Hotel de la Opera. Reviews mention an excellent breakfast and the pool and spa area will help you relax after a day of sightseeing. Book your stay now at the Hotel de la Opera.
A bit more comfort – Zona Rosa: The Sofitel Bogota Victoria Regia is one of the best five-star hotels in the Zona Rosa. A lot of reviews mention that the beds are super comfortable, and of course, the location is perfect if you want to explore this area. Check out the prices now for your next stay at the Sofitel Bogota Victoria Regia!
How to get to Bogota
The easiest way to get to Bogota is, of course, by plane. You will find flight connections from many places around the world, which make the city a convenient entry point for Colombia in general.
If you’re coming from within the country, then you have a few more options. You can also fly, which is a great option if you’re coming from further away. Colombia is huge and if you are coming from Medellin or Cartagena, a flight can save you a lot of time.
As an alternative, you can take buses. We came from the north, from Villa de Leyva, which was just a few hours away. Anything further than that and you will have to spend a long time on the bus. Cartagena, for example, is 19 hours away from Bogota!
Medellin is a bit easier to reach. The bus ride takes around 10 hours and buses leave either in the morning or in the evening for an overnight ride.
How to get around Bogota
If you’re staying in the historic centre, you can reach most of the items on our list of what to do in Bogota by walking. It’s the easiest way to get around, but not necessarily the safest. As long as you stay in the Old Town, you shouldn’t have any problems. Be careful, though, if you venture into any other neighbourhoods.
Your best bet for longer distances (for example, to get to the Zona Rosa and back again) is to take an Uber or a taxi. We have flagged down taxis on the street and never had any problems, but if you’re unsure, you can also ask your restaurant or hotel to call one for you.
The third option is to take the TransMilenio. These buses connect most areas in the city and are perfect for getting to the Terminal del Norte, for example, from where you can then go to Zipaquirá. You can check out the interactive map online which will help you plan your trip.
Best time to visit Bogota
No matter at what time of the year you visit Bogota, you are going to enjoy your stay. There is no season in this city that you will find considerably worse than the others.
Temperatures remain stable for most of the year, never very hot but also never extremely cold. It’s almost like a constant spring or autumn. You’ll need a light jacket during the day and something warmer for the evening.
It can rain at any time in Bogota, so pack an umbrella or a rain jacket when you leave the house!
The list of what to see in Bogota might appear short, but it is still enough to keep you busy for at least three days. The Salt Cathedral is a good day trip already. For the rest, you need at least two days if you want to do everything. Plus, part of the fun in Bogota is to just aimlessly wander through the city and enjoy the great cafes and restaurants.
From Bogota, if you decide to travel northwards, you should go to San Gil and then on to Santa Marta. Or maybe you prefer to go on to Medellin and then to Salento?
Whatever you do, we have lots of posts to help you plan your trip to Colombia. Check out the following ones which you are going to find helpful:
- How to hike the Cocora Valley and see hundreds of giant palm trees
- The best things to do in San Gil – discover cute historic villages
- Learn about the best street food to try while visiting Cartagena
- Visit Minca and swim in waterfalls or relax on giant hammocks
- Find out the long haul flight essentials you need for your flight to Bogota
Until your next adventure!