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Bogotá is the lively capital city of Colombia. With amazing museums, delicious eats, and so much to explore in and just outside of the city, Bogotá is a MUST when you are visiting Colombia. While we are typically more outdoor adventurers and shy away from cities, we felt visiting Bogotá added a necessary component to our travels through the country. While some other tourists will tell you to skip it altogether, it’s so easy to see in just a day or two during your trip. Don’t skip it! I think you’ll end up loving it 🙂
The city is so large though it can be overwhelming to plan a visit. Especially if it is your first visit to South America, like it was ours. There are about a million neighborhoods to choose from, lots of historical sites, and safety considerations. Where to start? No worries, my travel-loving friend. In this guide, I’m covering everything you need to know about planning a trip to Bogotá. Keep on reading for where to stay, what to do, what to eat, and how to stay safe.
Don’t have time to read the whole article right now? Here’s the highlights:
🏙 Bogotá is the capital city of Colombia and a must visit on your itinerary
☀️ The best time to visit is December-February, March, or June-August
🏨 Stay in the Chapinero neighborhood
🍲 Check out the Gold Museum, explore La Candelaria, and eat ajiaco soup
😎 Be aware of your surroundings, don’t walk with your phone in your hand, and take metered/marked taxis
Save this article and come back later to explore more of this Bogotá guide.
A little about Bogotá
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!
This is authentic Colombia at its best. While many other cities like Medellín and Cartagena are no strangers to tourism, Bogotá is lower on the radar of many international travelers. In fact, while planning this trip many people told us just to skip over Bogotá completely! But don’t let that keep you from visiting! You may not see quite as many tourists as other big cities in Colombia, but it is safe and lively. You’ll experience a wonderful taste of Colombian culture and art in the capital city.
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! Check out how we enjoyed our day in Bogotá right over here.
Now that we have a little bit of background, let’s get into it. In this article, I’ll be sharing everything you need to know to plan your trip to this exciting city.
When to visit
Bogotá is located high in the Andes mountains which is both a blessing and a curse. Colombia’s location nearer to the equator means the temperature is rather similar all year round but the mountains create a constant source of fog and rain. Colombia has a rainy season and a dry season but it’s not half of the year being rainy followed by half the year being dry like you may expect.
The rainiest months in Bogotá are April, May, October, and November. The driest months are December, January, and February. Any other month, you’ll find rather frequent rain showers throughout the day. When we visited in June, we experienced at least 6-7 rain storms in one day but they were usually light and short.
The busy season in Bogotá falls around the winter holidays and the summer holidays. Expect to see many tourists and families visiting Bogotá between June and August and then again between December and January.
With that being said, there’s no truly “bad” time to visit Bogotá. You can’t go wrong with a visit in the summer or winter. However, if you want to avoid the most crowds and the rainy season your sweet spot is March or September.
There are also some great festivals in Bogotá you may want to plan your trip around! I’ve got all the info on festivals, events, and more on the weather over in this post.
What to pack for Colombia
The good news… the temperature in Bogotá hovers around a comfortable 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. The bad news? Even in the “dry” season, you can’t completely escape the rain. But the fog and the rain is quintessential Bogotá, so take it in stride!
The #1 thing to pack for a trip to Bogotá is a rain jacket (Shocker, I know). You’ll also want a pair of comfy but cute shoes to traverse around the city. Along with a rain jacket, you should invest in a water resistant backpack to protect your things from those afternoon showers. Or just a nice plastic poncho 😉
The city is rather laid back. If you want to fit in with the bogotanos, wear nice pants or jeans and a top. Athleisure isn’t really a thing around here! But you don’t need to dress to the nines unless you really want to! I wore plenty of warm layers–shedding a jacket was nice for those small bursts of sunshine.
The outlets are also the same as the US, so no need for a power converter! Many places in the mountains don’t have AC/fans and we are creatures of habit so we packed a mini rechargeable fan. I also played white noise on my phone every night, so I’m investing in a portable white noise machine for future travels! I am a bit of a sleep diva, what can I say?
Make copies of your passports as well. Many places will ask for them (like museums) but we don’t like to carry our passports on us while sightseeing.
Where to Stay in Bogotá
For your first trip to Bogotá, you can’t go wrong with a stay in Chapinero. Chapinero is located in the northern portion of the city near other super trendy and hip neighborhoods. This location is very safe and very walkable! You’ll find no shortage of amazing eats within Chapinero and it boasts plenty of bars and clubs if nightlife is your thing.
The drive to La Candelaria–where many tourist spots are– is only about 20 minutes. Uber or taxis are cheap and easy! Just have your hotel call the taxi for you if you go that route.
Chapinero isn’t the only great neighborhood in Bogotá, though. Be sure to also check out Usaquen or Zona Rosa. You can read more about those areas in this post.
Luxury stay: Four Seasons Hotel Bogota
Mid-range: Bioxury Hotel
Budget: Selina Bogota Parque de la 93
What to Eat
I’m going to be honest right off the bat here, friend. Colombian food is truly nothing to write home about. BUT!!! There are definitely items that are delicious and you should try them all. Here’s a few things I think you should try:
This soup is creamy, flavorful, and perfect for those foggy, rainy Bogotá days. Ajiaco has potatoes, chicken, and cream with avocado and capers… so tasty!
Hot chocolate and cheese
Don’t knock it til ya try it! I was skeptical but our tour guide with Beyond Colombia insisted and I’m insisting you try it too! Dip the cheese in your chocolate and then dip the bread in it–the perfect sweet treat after lunch!
Chicha is a fermented corn beverage that is most frequently described as a “corn beer.” It tastes nothing like beer but rather a sweet corn smoothie. The description sounds odd, I know, but you just have to try it! It’s still technically illegal in Colombia but authorities don’t really care so you can buy it freely most places.
Tropical fruits are abundant within Colombia. You can find your typical mango, banana, and strawberry but lulo is a unique fruit you can’t find just anywhere. The taste is similar to a mix of pineapple and lemon and some people prefer to add sweetener to their lulo juice.
Arepa is rather popular within Colombia and Venezuela. Maize is ground up to form a dough and then used to make something similar to a thick tortilla. You can eat it on its own, stuff it with cheese or meats or any number of things!
The best things to do in Bogotá
With Bogotá being the capital city, there is an abundance of things to do! Pack your walking shoes because you’ll be busy exploring this vibrant and beautiful capital city. Here are the highlights you absolutely can’t miss.
Located up on a mountain, the Monserrate sanctuary is a must-do when visiting Bogotá. Take the cable car up, up, up to the top and enjoy the sweeping views of the city. Take a peek into the sanctuary and get those great Instagram photos.
La Candelaria is the historical neighborhood within the center of Bogotá. Many of the tourist spots can be located within this neighborhood! When checking things off your list, you’ll definitely wander through here at some point. If you like to just take things slow on foot, take an Uber or taxi to the center of La Candelaria and just wander down the beautiful streets.
Museo del Oro
Museo del Oro, or The Gold Museum is a MUST do while visiting Bogotá. This museum holds the largest collection of pre-Spanish gold in the country. Even if museums aren’t your jam, you will definitely enjoy looking at all the amazing artifacts.
Fernando Botero is the most popular artist from Colombia. He donated much of his art to the country to create a more lively art scene. The Botero museum is a great place to stop in and learn more about his life and art.
Andres Carne de Res
This restaurant/club combo is located about 45 minutes from the city center but is worth the trek if you’re looking for fun and adventure. You may be coming for dinner but as the night goes on, Andres turns into a fun and lively nightclub.
Walking tour of the city
The BEST way to get introduced to a city is a walking tour! You can learn so much and get the basics of the culture and history of a city. I highly recommend a tour with Beyond Colombia. You will learn so much and cover many of the spots mentioned in this guide. The bonus? It’s free (but tips are expected and greatly appreciated!).
Simon Bolivar Plaza
You can’t visit Bogotá and skip Simon Bolivar Plaza! The most important buildings are located here like the Palace of Justice and the Congress building. It’s a wide, open square where you’ll find people relaxing, vendors selling fruits and souvenirs, and locals strolling along the plaza.
This is only scratching the surface! Head over to this full guide to check out how to spend 1-2 days in Bogotá.
Safety Tips for Bogotá
Bogotá is absolutely a safe city for tourists to visit, but just like any city in Latin America or the world… It’s a large city and you need to take precautions. I’m sure you’ve heard it before but I’ll belabor the point here.
- Avoid La Candelaria at night. It’s not quite as “upscale” as the Zona Rosa or Chapinero neighborhoods and is often a hot spot for petty crime at night.
- Be mindful of how much you drink and never leave your drink unattended.
- Carry your phone in your FRONT jeans pocket and don’t walk around with it in your hand.
- Leave expensive jewelry at home.
- Avoid hailing taxis if you can and ask for your hotel/hostel to call one for you. If you do need to hail one, make sure it’s marked and metered.
- Stick to touristy neighborhoods. La Candelaria (in the day), Chapinero, Usaquen, Zona Rosa, and many of the neighborhoods in the northern portion of the city are safe to wander. Going south of La Candelaria isn’t recommended.
My final tip isn’t so much of a safety tip but something to be aware of. Uber is widely used in Bogotá but your driver may ask you to sit in the front. Uber isn’t “illegal” but the company isn’t liked by taxi drivers or the government due to competition and regulation rules. The app will work and is very quick and cheap but isn’t approved by authorities. To look less suspicious, drivers will have you sit in the front. You also won’t be able to get a pick up from the arrivals section of the airport because police are cracking down at the airports. You can get an Uber from the airport, you’ll just have to walk out towards the highway.
Day trips from Bogotá
If you have more than one or two days i Bogotá, here are some great ways to explore outside the city!
The Salt Cathedral
Located in the town of Zipaquirá 200 meters underground is the Salt Cathedral. The cathedral with 3 sections is carved from mine tunnels but now is an important pilgrimage site and tourist area alike.
Just about an hour outside Bogotá is the tallest waterfall in Colombia! Grab your hiking shoes and take the trail for about an hour through beautiful vegetation until you reach La Chorrera
Chicaque National Forest
Colombia holds the title as the second most biodiverse country in the world and Chicaque is an awesome way to experience that. Only 90 minutes away from the city lies the beautiful cloud forest where you can hike to see wildlife, fly through the forest via zipline, and enjoy a lunch among the trees.
If you are only visiting Colombia for a very short time, there are numerous coffee farms you can visit from Bogotá. This is a must do on any Colombian itinerary as much of the delicious coffee we enjoy comes from Colombia! I recommend venturing to Jardín or Salento to experience a coffee tour, though those towns are further than a day trip would allow. So, if your itinerary only allows for a day trip to Colombia it’s certainly better than not touring a coffee farm at all!
Bogotá is a great city to visit and can be explored just in a day or two if you’re short on time. There’s plenty to do and learn right here in the capital city! You can’t go wrong with a quick visit here. Just plan well with where to stay and what to do so you can be efficient with your time! And don’t forget to pack that raincoat! We had so much fun exploring and meeting the friendly Bogotanos… I think you will, too!