Bogotá is Colombia’s high-altitude capital, sitting at an average of 8,660 feet above sea level (2,640 meters). Additionally, it’s the third-largest city in South America, boasting a population of around 8 million in the Capital District. Known for its historical center in La Candelaria and its world-class museums, mountain views, and fine dining, Bogotá is a must-visit destination for lovers of culture and the arts. Outdoor enthusiasts may also want to explore the lush area surrounding this South American capital, which features hiking, waterfalls, and eco-tourism activities.
Since Bogotá is a sprawling metropolis, deciding how to spend your time here can be challenging. With this in mind, we’ll review the top 20 things to do in Bogotá, Colombia. For example, discover the city’s most popular tourist attractions, the best day trips, and even a few hidden gems that only locals know. Whether you’d like to explore funky La Candelaria, upscale Chapinero, or some of the local markets, this Bogotá travel guide has got you covered.
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Table of Contents
The Best Things to Do in Bogotá
Explore La Candelaria
The Candelaria neighborhood makes up Bogotá’s historic center, ranking it the top thing to do in the city. This area is filled with Spanish colonial buildings, cobblestone streets, churches, endless museums, and even street art! You’ll probably spend a good amount of your time in La Candelaria since it houses most of the city’s main attractions.
For example, you can find many of Bogotá’s best museums, like the Gold Museum, the Botero Museum, and the Colonial Museum here. Moreover, historic sites like Monserrate, the Plaza del Chorro de Quevedo, and the Calle del Embudo are also located in this neighborhood. For this reason, you could genuinely spend multiple days just in La Candelaria!
Visit the Gold Museum
If you’re wondering what to do in Bogotá on a rainy day, one of my best travel tips is to head to the Gold Museum (El Museo del Oro). Located in the city center in the Candelaria neighborhood, you can spend between 1-4 hours exploring this treasure of a museum. I’d highly recommend booking a guided tour to fully appreciate the exhibits (I did a private tour with Galavanta!).
At the very least, make sure to pick up an audio guide at the admissions desk. The price is currently only $8,000 COP, which is approximately $2 USD. You can purchase your audioguide when you pay the entrance fee at the front of the museum.
The fee to enter the Gold Museum is $4,000 COP Tuesdays-Saturdays. However, note that the museum is free on Sundays and is closed on Mondays. Furthermore, you must purchase tickets in person at the ticket office and in cash. So, remember to go to the ATM before your visit!
All exhibits in the museum are in both Spanish and English. You’ll begin your tour on the second floor, where you’ll learn about metalworking during pre-Columbian times and how it pertained to both politics and religion. As you continue, the third floor deals with metal symbology, Shamanism, and offering ceremonies.
In the Offering Boat Room, you can view the Muisca raft, one of the museum’s primary exhibition pieces. Finally, the fourth floor is home to “the Exploratory,” an interactive room contemplating Colombia’s ancestral culture.
Ride to the top of Cerro Monserrate
Monserrate is a mountain that sits over 10,000 feet high (3,000 meters) in Bogotá’s city center. In addition to being a significant tourist attraction, this site is also a pilgrimage destination. In fact, you can visit an important 17th-century church with a shrine devoted to El Señor Caído (“The Fallen Lord”) at its summit. If you choose to visit during your time in Colombia, remember that there are three ways to reach the top. You can hike Monserrate mountain, take the cable car, or ride the funicular.
The funicular is open Monday to Saturday from 6:30 am to 11:45 am, and Sundays from 5:30 am to 6 pm. Meanwhile, the cable car operates Monday to Saturday from 12 pm to 10 pm, and Sundays from 5:30 am to 6 pm. Walking the more than 1500 steps to the top of this mountain is another option! No matter which route you go, make sure to pack plenty of water–the altitude can be a challenge for some tourists.
At the top of the “Cerro,” you’ll find a white sanctuary, some of the best views of Bogota, and a few restaurants. Pro tip: Take some time to rest at the top by stopping for a sweet treat at Casa Santa Clara. I suggest trying a Colombian specialty: hot chocolate with cheese!
Peruse The Botero Museum
The Museo Botero, located in the Candelaria neighborhood, is one of the best free things to do in Bogotá. Famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero donated 208 pieces of art to create this institution under the condition that it be open to the public. It opened on November 1, 2000, and is now considered one of Latin America’s most important international art collections.
Even if you aren’t familiar with Botero’s work, you’ll enjoy experiencing his signature style in person. If you didn’t know, he’s best known for depicting people and other subjects on a larger-than-normal scale! Apart from Botero’s 123 pieces in the museum, you’ll also find 85 artworks by other artists, including Picasso, Monet, and Dalí.
Opening hours for the Botero Museum are from Monday and Wednesday to Saturday from 9 am to 7 pm, and Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm. Note that the museum is closed Tuesdays. Moreover, audio guides are available for purchase if you’d like to better understand the pieces and their background.
Wander the Botanical Garden of Bogotá
The José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden is Colombia’s most extensive botanical garden. Founded in 1955 to honor famous botanist José Celestino Mutis, this attraction covers 19.5 acres. It features collections of plants from all over the country among its 19000 live plants. Additionally, the Jardín Botánico de Bogotá specializes in preserving and collecting Andean species of flowers.
The Bogotá Botanical Garden is open Tuesday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm and from 9 am to 5 pm on weekends. However, it’s closed on Mondays. The ticket price for foreigners is $10,000 COP. We suggest picking a sunny day to walk around and explore the gardens! If you get hungry, there are plenty of food stalls and options for a quick snack nearby.
Check out Plaza Bolívar
Plaza Bolívar is the main square in Bogotá’s historical center, making it one of the top tourist attractions in the city. Named after the “Liberator of America,” this plaza is also home to a statue of Simón Bolívar, which Pietro Tenerani sculpted in 1846. Additionally, you can find noteworthy buildings like the Palace of Justice, the National Capitol, and the Primatial Cathedral of Bogotá here.
Apart from learning about Colombian history, there is another popular and quirky activity here! Funnily enough, many tourists visit Bolívar Square to take a picture with the hoards of pigeons. Moreover, there are tons of food vendors in the square if you’d like to try any Colombian street food during your trip.
See the Santuario Nuestra Señora del Carmen
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Carmen is a Catholic temple built in the Florentine Gothic Style. Situated in the historic Candelaria neighborhood, this church was designed by architect Giovanni Buscaglione. Although construction began in 1926, Santuario Nuestra Señora del Carmen was not consecrated until 1938.
You’ll most likely recognize this church from a distance, thanks to its red and white striped façade! Fun fact: this candy cane-like pattern continues on the inside, too. The National Shrine of Our Lady of Carmen is open every day from 7:30 am-11:30 am. Nonetheless, even if the temple is closed to visitors, we still recommend walking by to see the exterior of this colorful landmark!
Go on a free walking tour
One of the first things we suggest doing in a new destination is taking a walking tour. These group tours help you better understand the city’s layout and some of the main attractions you’d like to visit. In Bogotá, Beyond Colombia offers a free walking tour every day at 10 am. Especially if you only have one day in the Colombian capital, we highly recommend attending this three-hour city tour.
Your guide will take you through the Candelaria neighborhood, pointing out the main sights. They’ll also teach you about Bogotá’s history, culture, architecture, and gastronomy. For example, you’ll learn about the real legend of El Dorado, Pablo Escobar’s exploits in Bogotá, and more!
If this walking tour sounds up your alley, remember to make a reservation here. While the price is technically free, Beyond Colombia’s guides work based on tips. With this in mind, it’s polite to tip around $ 40,000 COP per person (in cash). Beyond Colombia also offers a free War and Peace Tour and a free Bogotá Food Tour.
Book a street art tour
Did you know that Colombia’s capital is famous for its vibrant street art and graffiti? In fact, one of the best things to see in Bogotá is all of the beautiful art surrounding its historic center. If you’d like to take a quick look at some of the murals in La Candelaria, take a walk down Calle del Embudo. Nonetheless, we highly suggest booking a guided tour to make the most of the experience.
Our recommendation is the Original Bogota Graffiti Tour, which is available at 10 am every day in English. If you’d like to attend, you can make a reservation here. Additionally, this company offers private Spanish, German, French, and English tours for smaller groups.
We highly suggest having cash on hand on the day of your tour. You’ll need it to be able to leave a donation at the end of the experience! The Original Bogota Graffiti Tour reinvests all donations they receive into the art community, funding both local and international projects.
Stroll Parque Central Simón Bolívar
The Simón Bolívar Metropolitan Park is one of the most popular parks in Bogotá, featuring 988 acres (400 hectares) of green space. Therefore, it’s a great spot to exercise, people watch, or even rent a paddleboat on the lake! This park is also home to Events Plaza, a concert venue where many international artists perform on tours through Colombia.
Simón Bolívar Park is open every day from 6 am to 6 pm and is free to visit! Plus, it’s located just down the street from the Bogotá Botanical Garden. So, why not spend a lovely day exploring both of these attractions?
Sample authentic Colombian food
You can’t visit Bogotá without trying some authentic Colombian cuisine! At the bare minimum, you have to taste ajiaco, arepas, pan de bono, and some good Colombian coffee. Moreover, if you like a sweet and salty combo, order the quirky hot chocolate with cheese. For beer lovers, don’t miss out on sampling local brews from Bogotá Beer Company.
Colombia is also home to an array of fruit that you may not recognize! For example, see if you can find lulo, guanábana, and mamoncillo. If you’re looking for a great place to try ajiaco (a potato and chicken stew) in La Candelaria, we suggest La Puerta Falsa restaurant or Casa Mamá Luz.
However, the best way to try a variety of Colombian food is to attend a food tour. We suggest Beyond Colombia’s Free Bogotá Food Tour, a three-hour experience that will introduce you to most of these exciting Colombian foods. You can reserve your spot here.
Taste chicha at Chorro de Quevedo
While you’re exploring La Candelaria, you’ll likely stop by the historic Chorro de Quevedo Plaza. This square is supposedly the spot where the Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada founded Bogotá in 1538. Funnily enough, Chorro de Quevedo is also one of the best places in the city to try chicha, a fermented drink made with corn.
Although this alcoholic drink was banned for decades beginning in the late 1940s, it’s recently made a comeback. In particular, this beverage is most popular among university students and tourists.
At present, there are approximately 20 chicherías (places that sell chica) in this area. Apart from the original flavor, you can also find strawberry, grape, and cherry, among other options.
Tour Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao
Visiting Paloquemao Market is one of the most authentic Bogotá experiences you can have. This bustling food market is filled with local vendors selling fruits, vegetables, herbs, meat, fish, and flowers. As you make your way through the indoor market, you’ll notice the stall owners say “a la orden,” which translates to “at your service.”
One of the top activities at Paloquemao is to sample the many tropical fruits native to Colombia. For example, we suggest lulo, guanábana, and granadilla! If you visit earlier in the day, you can catch the extensive flower market at Paloquemao, where you can find flowers for as little as $3,000 COP. The flower market operates from 5 am to 10 am daily.
The entire food market is open Monday through Friday from 4:30 am to 4:30 pm and from 5 am to 2:30 pm on weekends. If you don’t speak any Spanish, we’d highly recommend taking of private tour of Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao with Galavanta. Your travel guide will be able to effortlessly lead you through the market and its many stalls, pointing out the best places to try local Colombian food.
Stop by Usaquén Flea Market on Sundays
The Mercado de las Pulgas de Usaquen is a local market in Bogotá, where artisans gather to send various handmade goods. For example, you can purchase arts and crafts, antiques, food, street entertainers, and more here! If you plan to shop here, make sure to bring some Colombian pesos because not all vendors accept credit cards.
The flea market takes place every Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. However, we recommend visiting earlier rather than later! Usaquén tends to get more crowded around lunchtime.
Visit the instagrammable Rose Pastry Shop
If you’re looking for a photo-worthy experience in Bogotá, you must visit Rose Pastry Shop! As soon as you walk through the door, you’ll feel like you’re seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. This popular pink café offers avocado toast, flatbreads, salads, and fruit bowls, as well as sweet treats. For example, some pastries include cheesecakes, pavlova, mini cakes, and cronuts.
As you can imagine, this instagrammable restaurant gets pretty packed on the weekend! With this in mind, we highly recommend making a reservation online. Conveniently, Rose Pastry Shop is located in the Chapinero district of Bogotá, near many hotels like the Four Seasons Casa Medina, the Hilton, and the JW Marriott.
Go shopping along Calle de los Anticuarios
One of the best shopping streets in Bogotá is Calle 79b, better known as “Calle de los Anticuarios“. From the name, you may guess that this road began as a great spot to find antiques. In fact, it all started when a group of Bogotanos and foreigners began buying the historic homes in this area in the 90s and converting them into antique shops.
Presently, this street is home to both antique shops and some of the top independent design shops in the city. As you make your way down Calle 79b, you may be tempted to stop in every store! However, some of our favorites are Dessvan, Julieta Suárez, and St. Dom Bogotá.
Try your hand at “Tejo”
“Tejo” is a traditional throwing sport in Colombia involving a metal disc (tejo) and a clay board (tabla) with targets that contain gunpowder (mechas). Essentially, the idea behind the game is to throw the metal disc at the board and make the target go off! You then win points based on where your disc lands. As a friend once explained, tejo is like cornhole but with explosions.
Another thing to know is that you usually drink beer while playing! For example, most tejo joints will let you play for free as long as you’re purchasing beverages. If you’d like to try playing tejo while in Bogotá, we suggest Club de Tejo La 76.
Note that it’s the most fun to play tejo with a group of at least four people. Plus, your clothes will probably get a bit dirty since clay is involved! With this in mind, you may not want to wear your best clothes.
Popular Day Trips From Bogotá
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá
The most popular day tour from Bogotá is a short 60 to 90-minute drive from the city: the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral. You may be thinking: why do so many people want to visit this church? Well, this particular Roman Catholic Church was built 660 feet (200 meters) below the surface in salt mine tunnels near the city of Zipaquirá. Thanks to its unique architecture as an underground church, it was declared the First Wonder of Colombia on February 4, 2007.
The Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral is open daily from 9 am to 5:40 pm. Just remember if you’re visiting on a Sunday that it is a functioning church, so there is a mass service in the afternoon! Even if you’re not religious, you’ll still enjoy visiting this “Jewel of Modern Architecture.”
The easiest way to take a day trip from Bogotá to the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral is to book a guided tour. Here are the ones we recommend:
- Salt Cathedral Small-Group Tour from Bogotá with Entrance Ticket
- Private Zipaquirá and Salt Cathedral Tour from Bogotá
- Salt Cathedral Zipaquira – Group tour and daily departure
Approximately 35 miles (57 km) northeast of Bogotá, you’ll find Lake Guatavita: the real basis for the legend of El Dorado. While you’re here, learn about the history and folklore surrounding this destination, as well as the Muisca people. Aside from its historical importance, this small lake is also home to a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna. So, take a short hike here to spot wildlife and see some fantastic views of the lake below!
On your visit, make sure to bring some cash to pay the small entrance and parking fees. To get the full experience, we recommend booking a tour with a local guide. Some tour options even combine the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral and Guatavita Lake into one day trip. Here are some of the best guided day trips of Guatavita Lake:
- Village and Lake Guatavita Day Tour + Optional Lunch
- Full-Day Guatavita and Salt Cathedral – Daily and group tour
- Zipaquira Salt Cathedral and Guatavita Lagoon from Bogota (Private Tour)
La Chorrera Waterfall
La Chorrera Waterfall sits at approximately 1,936-feet high (590 m), making it the tallest waterfall in Colombia. For the outdoor lover, a hike to the top La Chorrera is the top day trip from Bogotá! Luckily, this natural attraction is located just an hour’s drive from the city, in Parque Aventura La Chorrera.
The hike to La Chorrera is strenuous and takes about three hours roundtrip. However, we think this trek through the Andean cloud forest is totally worth it! Especially if you travel with a tour guide, you’ll be able to learn about the native flora and fauna in this Andean ecosystem while appreciating the incredible views.
Remember that you’ll be hiking at a higher altitude than you probably are accustomed to at home. With this in mind, we recommend packing plenty of water. Additionally, make sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes and pack a light rain jacket. Here are the day tours from Bogotá to La Chorrera that we suggest:
- From Bogotá: Hike to La Chorrera Waterfall with Meals
- Hike to the highest Colombian waterfall! (La Chorrera and Chiflon)
- Hike La Chorrera and El Chiflon mighty waterfalls from Bogota
Where to Stay in Bogotá
Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina
I worked with both Four Seasons properties during my stay in Bogotá and was compensated for four nights in exchange for this review. As always, all opinions are my own.
Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina is located in Zona G, the best neighborhood in Bogotá for fine dining and foodie culture. The property itself is a colonial-style mansion designed by Colombian artist-architect Santiago Medina Mejia in 1946. You’ll notice elegant details throughout the hotel, including beamed ceilings, hand-carved wooden furnishings, and fireplaces. Plus, each of its 62 guest rooms is entirely unique.
Casa Medina is split into two sections: Tower A (the original building) and Tower B (the expansion). You’ll find the lovely on-site Castanyoles Restaurant, the spa, gym, and a café for to-go coffee and treats in Tower B. There are five categories for guest rooms: superior, deluxe, premier, grand premier, and grand premier rooms with fireplaces. Additionally, there are four types of suites and two categories of specialty suites.
No matter which room category you choose, each is equipped with unique touches. For example, all rooms have antique furnishings, a custom-made bed, air conditioning, a Nespresso coffee machine, a Bodum tea kettle, Loto del Sur bath amenities, thick terry bathrobes, and plush slippers. Although this property sits along the bustling Avenida Carrera 7, I found street noise to be minimal thanks to the double-paned glass in the windows.
Another significant advantage to staying at the Four Seasons is access to a concierge who will help you plan your activities, make reservations at restaurants, and secure transportation. Other premium services include same-day laundry, in-room dining, valet parking, and pet services. Interested in learning more about this property? Check out this in-depth review of Four Seasons Casa Medina.
Four Seasons Hotel Bogota
The Four Seasons Hotel Bogota is situated in the capital city’s “Zona Rosa” (also called “Zona T”), known for its upscale restaurants, shopping, nightclubs, and cafés. The Casa Medina property has more of a historical style. However, this second property is sleek, modern, and oriented towards the business traveler. Nonetheless, the Four Seasons Hotel Bogota also sits a short 20-minutes from the historic district.
It also features a restaurant with all-day dining, a contemporary bar, a fitness center with a steam room, room service, and a six-room spa. This hotel offers three categories of guest rooms, two types of suites, and one specialty suite. However, each room includes a custom-made Four Seasons bed, air conditioning, a Nespresso coffee machine, a Bodum tea kettle, Loto del Sur bath amenities, thick terry bathrobes, and plush slippers.
Moreover, you can expect premium services such as airport pick-up, breakfast in bed, restaurant reservations, and access to private transportation. In Bogotá, it’s crucial to have access to a car to move around the city. That’s why it’s such a plus that the Four Seasons concierge will help you arrange everything from start to finish!