Located high in the mountains with beautiful greenery, large buildings, and colorful artwork, Bogotá is a great taste of a large city in South America. Bogotá was our first stop during our 2 week trip to Colombia. Many people told us to just skip it while we were planning but I just couldn’t skip the capital! I’m so glad we didn’t–starting our trip in Bogotá gave us a great introduction to the history and culture of Colombia.
Even if you’re only able to tack on a day to your Colombia itinerary, you need to visit this beautiful city. Although our time in Bogotá was short we were able to cover a lot of ground in just 48 hours! In this guide, I’ll be sharing all the spots you need to visit, things to do, and places to eat during your one day in Bogotá.
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Bogotá is the capital city of Colombia nestled in the Andes mountains. It is actually the third highest elevation capital in the world at 8,661 feet (2,640 meters)! Similar to the rest of Colombia, Bogotá has a storied past with corruption, violence, and drug trafficking but in recent decades has emerged as an awesome city for tourism. The history adds to the magic of this city knowing all it has overcome and continues to overcome!
The city of Bogotá has a population of about 8 million people. It’s huge! The official language spoken is Spanish and knowing a few phrases will take you far here. We found everyone to be very friendly and willing to help if we at least tried to speak with them! The weather is mild year-round, with an average temperature of about 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit). There is both a rainy season and a dry season, but it’s best to just always be prepared for rain in the mountains!
Bogotá is a LARGE city and you will definitely need some form of transportation. The easiest way is to call an Uber. However, there is a city-wide ban on Ubers and it can be a bit unnerving because taxi drivers don’t like the extra competition. Some drivers will want you to sit in the front seat so you look less like an Uber patron. If you take Uber from the airport, they cannot pick you up in front of the doors but will have to pick you up by the highway. Just something to keep in mind. It’s relatively easy and very very cheap to get an Uber even though it’s technically “against the rules.”
Beat is another app that functions similar to Uber that is used in the city. I didn’t use it so I can’t speak to how good it is but I’ve heard it’s fast and reliable.
Taxis are widely available throughout Bogotá, too. Taxis are generally pretty cheap and I found that in Bogotá they typically run the meter so there’s no surprises in cost. Not all taxis are “official,” so try to stick to yellow marked taxis. If they don’t turn on the meter, just ask. And if they don’t have a meter–make sure you determine a price before you get in. They will definitely take advantage of tourists, so don’t be afraid to haggle a bit.
Bogotá has public transportation but considering Taxis and Ubers are so cheap, we didn’t feel the need to use this at all. In addition, with only one day in Bogotá, you’ll want to minimize your time getting from place to place… and using public transportation just ain’t the way to do that.
What to do with one day in Bogotá
Take a walking tour of the city
I HIGHLY recommend participating in a walking tour with only one day in Bogotá. It is a great way to get a lay of the land, learn some history about the city, and discover some local hot spots. You will most likely hit all the most important landmarks within the city center. We did the tour with Beyond Colombia and we had a great experience! It was free but you are expected to tip the guide at the end.
If you aren’t up to doing a 2-3 hour walking tour, here are some highlights so you can do it yourself:
Walk around this famous neighborhood to enjoy the architecture, the old buildings, and grab a snack from a street vendor!
Santuario Nuetra Senora del Carmen
Translated to the Sanctuary of Our Lady Carmen, this church makes a beautiful photo op. The decor is certainly unique!
Bolivar Plaza and the Palace of Justice
This is the main plaza with many government buildings and the Catedral Primada de Colombia, don’t miss this important square. Just beware of all the pigeons!
This park and square holds the Gold Museum as well as the Bank of Colombia. Perhaps not the most exciting but important to know where the Gold Museum is!
Grab a juice or fruit from a street vendor
On almost every street, you’ll see a vendor with a huge cart full of fruit. Most are selling either just the fruit you can try, slices of mango or watermelon, or even mixing up fruit juices right in front of you! Take the opportunity to try something new or grab a juice. You won’t regret it–it’s so fresh! If you have time, you can also take a food/fruit tour. If we had more time, we would’ve done this one.
Visit the Gold Museum
El Museo del Oro, or The Gold Museum, holds the largest collection of pre-hispanic gold and jewels in the world. This is an absolute must-visit while in Bogotá and is one of the most visited tourist attractions for a reason! It’s closed on Monday though, so plan accordingly.
Located on the tip of a mountain just on the edge of Bogotá lies Monserrate. Head to the top to explore the Monserrate sanctuary and take in the amazing views over the city. You’ll also have the opportunity to shop for souvenirs, grab a snack, or dine at the Casa Santa Clara restaurant. You can either hike to the top or take the funicular. Unless you’re visiting between 9 am and 12 pm, I wouldn’t walk. Police are typically present in those morning hours but otherwise the area is frequented by pickpockets. Just save yourself the trouble and take the funicular! It’s a fun experience and you get to see very cool sweeping views on the way up.
District Market Square La Concordia
Stopping by the District Market Square La Concordia is a great way to try a bunch of different Colombian goodies in one place! This would be an awesome stop for lunch or even just a snack. Grab a fruit juice (I won’t judge if it’s your second… or third!).
Try a shot of Chicha
You MUST try chicha from The Chicharia while you’re at the District Market Squarel! It’s an alcoholic drink that has a similar consistency as a smoothie but is made from just corn, water, and corn syrup. It has such an interesting history… the government banned it several decades ago and it was marketed as making people dumb. Obviously, times have changed and no one thinks that anymore as it’s just as bad as any other alcohol! The government never repealed the ban, they just don’t care anymore so it’s totally safe to try.
Eat Ajiaco Soup and Hot chocolate with Cheese
For lunch, order the traditional Colombian dish of ajiaco soup. Bogotá is the best place in Colombia to try ajiaco. The soup is a creamy potato and corn soup with chicken and served with avocado. It’s perfect for those cool, rainy Bogotá days! You can try it at many Colombian restaurants but I recommend Los Balcones de La Candelaria. La Puerta Falsa is also a popular choice, being the oldest restaurant in Bogotá but it’s usually pretty crowded around lunchtime.
And you also must order the hot chocolate. When you order the hot chocolate, it will come with bread and a slice of cheese. Dunk your cheese into the chocolate and dip your bread to eat it all together! Cheese with hot chocolate? Not my first pick, either. Try it anyways! It’s actually quite delightful and a very Colombian thing to do.
Dinner in Chapinero
For dinner, head to Chapinero! This neighborhood holds many highly rated restaurants. Harry Sasson is said to be the best restaurant in the city by the famous Colombian chef, Harry Sasson (creative name, right?) and El Chato, which was rated one of the top 50 restaurants in Latin America in 2018. If you’re just after something simple yet delicious, Punta y Cantina has fantastic margaritas and delicious pibil tacos.
Once it’s time to hit the town at night, you can most likely count me out. I’m ready for bed by nine pm, haha! But if going out IS your scene, you’ll want to head to Zona Rosa. This is the neighborhood where you’ll find the best bars and nightclubs! Just be mindful of your surroundings. It’s best to go out in a group and watch your drinks! A common crime here is slipping pills into drinks so you can be robbed later… and this goes for both males and females!
Things to do with more than one day in Bogotá
For travelers with more than just a day or for those just looking for some alternative activities, here are a few recommendations!
Callejon Embudo is a great place to explore if you want to see some local street art.
Fernando Botero is the most famous artist from Colombia. Check out his museum to see a huge collection of pieces he has created and donated to the country! You’ll see plenty of his works as you travel around Colombia, as well.
Andres Carne de Res on weekends
Find yourself in Bogotá on the weekend? About 45 minutes to an hour north of the city center in the Chia neighborhood, you’ll find Andres Carne de Res. It’s almost like a block party of sorts with restaurants, drinks, and a nightclub like atmosphere once it gets dark!
There is so much to do and see in Bogotá! When planning your trip to Colombia, you’d be remiss not to reserve a day or two for the capital city. Being in Bogotá allows you to experience a city that isn’t quite as touristy, like Cartagena, and be at the seat of the action. Bogotá is a great place to truly learn about Colombia’s past, present, and future. The people are warm and welcoming, the weather is mild, and the views are gorgeous. You won’t regret spending one day in Bogotá!