We started our Colombian travels in the belly of the beast, Bogota. As with most capital cities, Bogota is said to be dangerous so we were extra cautious but overall we were pleasantly surprised. We had low expectations for the city and were primarily using it as a hub to start our travels but we quickly discovered Bogota has a lot of its own not to be missed charm.
What to Do
This bike tour was the highlight of our trip and was a great way to get familiar with the city. It was 4 hours and had so many fun stops including visiting a coffee factory, playing Tejo (basically cornhole with gunpower!), stopping by a local fruit market, and eating street food. It was equally as informative as it was fun! There is a free walking graffiti tour that is very popular as well but we were able to see the street art from our bikes plus more cool sights.
The hike up Monseratte is fantastic! However, it is challenging as Bogota is already 2,600 meters high before you start climbing the mountain. There are steps the entire way and every time you need a break it is a perfect spot for a picture and scenic vista. We did the hike during the day and felt very safe, there were police men monitoring the trail. Once you reach the top there is the beautiful church and gardens.
Contrary to what I had researched, there were a lot of restaurants to choose from. There are two formal restaurants but several small ones serving “comida tipica.” There are some tables outside where you can eat and take in the beautiful view. We shared a bandeja paisa, a traditional lunch meal in Colombia. If you don’t want to hike you can take the funicular (a very steep train!) or gondola up the mountain. We rode the funicular on the way down in the front row and it seriously felt like a ride at an amusement park! It goes slow but is very steep.
This museum makes every Bogota list so we had to check it out. It is really nice and interesting. Plus with the price at only $1 USD it is a great way to spend an afternoon in the city!
The street shopping scene in Bogota is nuts! There are people everywhere. We thought this must be due to the holiday season but apparently it is like this every day. From board games to fake Ray-Bans they have it all. Head to Calle 12 and you can’t miss it. If you can handle the chaos you may even snag some bargains!
We took a day trip to visit the Catedral de Sal (Salt Cathedral) in Zipaquira. We simply hopped on a bus from the North Bus Terminal and paid less than $1 for the hour ride. The town is nice but there is not much to do aside from its main attraction, the Salt Cathedral. The cathedral is very impressive and the salt mines are massive however we thought it was a little cheesy and overpriced. If you have an extra day check it out but don’t plan your entire trip around it.
In the heart of the historic area lies this famous plaza. It is a nice stop to see some beautiful architecture. They often have free events here. We were able to watch a holiday light show! Also be sure to check out the beautiful Iglesia Carmen when in Candelaria.
This famous national “sport” is very entertaining. With a combination of gunpowder, rock slinging, and plenty of cervezas it is a fun Colombian pastime. Grant loved it and we ended up playing in Medellin and Salento as well.
Where to Eat
The fruit market across the street from the tejo court has delicious and unique fruits you must try! They also have a lot of restaurants that sell typical lunch meals for super cheap.
This restaurant is a trip! With a menu the size of a magazine and more levels than you can count, it is a sensory delight on so many levels. There is crazy decor and lots of people spontaneously dancing salsa. They even gave us “Welcome to Colombia” sashes! We visited the location in Zona Rosa which was perfect before a night out but several people we talked to prefer the original Chia location.
Bogota is always a little overcast and chilly, which is perfect coffee weather! We randomly found Tintoreria when strolling around Candeleria. It is such a cozy spot for a cup of coffee on a frigid day. Our friend from Bogota also took us to Amor Perfecto which had delicious coffee and modern decor.
Must try street food includes arepas, empanadas, salchipapas, and fruit cups with cheese!
Being craft beer junkies from San Diego we weren’t immediately impressed with BBC, but after trying their Septimazo IPA and Chapinero Porter we caved! They have several locations throughout the city. Check out more than one since they all have a different vibe and varying food menus.
We almost didn’t make it up to Usaquén since it is in the north part of the city but I am so glad we did! Around Parque Usaquén there are trendy restaurants including several asian options. We had sushi at Wok and it was great! Their non-sushi options are equally delicious as well.
This Colombian chain is all over the city and is a yummy treat. They have an extensive menu and it is a great spot if you want breakfast for dinner or ice cream on your waffles!
Where to Stay
We don’t usually stay in hotels so this was a nice treat. The rooms are suite style with couches and the lobby is beautiful! Our only complaint with the location is that we ended up taking a cab to Candelaria most days so it was a bit far north.
We ended the last few days of our trip in Bogota as well to leave from the Bogota airport. We had already done most of the sight seeing things aside from Zipaquira, so we picked a hostel that would be easy to work from and it was seriously the best! So far on our travels this hostel ties with our one in Salento for amazingly beautiful and cheap amenities.
As Bogota is considered a dangerous city there are some safety tips that are important to keep in mind. We barely used our cell phones since we heard on multiple occasions that they get stolen right out of your hand. We had a cab driver and barista tell us that the city is dangerous and we shouldn’t use our phones. As we are a society who is super dependent on our phones, don’t forget you may want a pad of paper, a map, and a camera to take instead! We also didn’t wear our wedding rings as a precaution. Apparently muggings are common but fortunately we had a good experience. We also noticed a positive police presence on the hike to Monseratte and at the event at Plaza Bolívar.
Getting around Bogota is fairly simple considering the size of the city. For the most convenience, cabs are the best choice. They were always around $5 USD. They run on a meter too, which is nice so you don’t have to haggle.
We also took Uber a couple of times which was even cheaper than the cabs but we didn’t always have our phones so this wasn’t our main mode of transportation.
Bogota doesn’t have a metro even though it is much needed but instead they have a bus system, TransMilenio, which is very popular with the locals and by popular I mean extremely crowded. It is very cheap and we used it a couple of times, mainly for fun and to check it out. The benefit to taking TransMilenio is that they have a designated lane so you don’t have to wait in the crazy Bogota traffic!
We had a lot of fun in Bogota and while it is a huge city with a bad rap there are plenty of reasons to visit this Colombian capital.
Want more information to plan your trip to Bogota? Check out the Colombia Lonely Planet here.
Pleasantly Surprised in Bogota,