The bustling capital of Colombia, and one of the biggest cities in Latin America, Bogota is a city of contrasts. Vibrant universities, stunning colonial architecture, gritty urban pockets and chic modern living are the calling cards of this fascinating city.
Bogota is both the centre of Colombian business and a real cultural hub. With the Andes forming a dramatic rugged ridge along its spine and a skyline made up of soaring towers and beautiful historic churches, Bogota is nothing if not scenic.
Bogota is buzzing with tourist haunts, but if time is of the essence your list of must-see sites should first include La Candelaria, the city’s stunning historic district. Paved in cobbles, this picture-postcard district boasts many historic cathedrals and homes, beautiful architecture and the famous Plaza Bolivar with its statue of Simon Bolivar that dates back to 1846.
Next, make sure to leave yourself at least a full day to soak up Bogota’s excellent museum scene – the Gold Museum, Colonial Art Museum and Emerald Museum are all top picks. No trip to Bogota is complete without a stop at Monserrate, the celebrated mountain that dominates the city centre.
The best way to take in this iconic mountain is to ride the cable car to its summit, where a 17th century church awaits. Make a full day of it – pack a few snacks, bring your camera and sit back to drink in the most stunning views over Bogota.
Eat and Drink
Quickly emerging as a top South American culinary destination, Bogota once again lives up to its reputation as a city of contrasts. The food here is extremely diverse, ranging from the very traditional to the very modern.
Visit the Plaza Bolivar and seek out a restaurant serving ajiaco, a heavy potato-based soup that is said to be the best in Columbia. But the more popular (and famous) Colombian dish to try would have to be empanadas. Made with a savoury corn dough case, these little pockets of flavour come stuffed with beef, pork, chicken or vegetables and are deep fried. These delicious pastries can be found at just about every café and street food stall in the city.
For a truly unique drink sample the local hot chocolate, which is made with melted cheese instead of milk. Prefer an alcoholic beverage? Try aguardiente, a clear aniseed-flavoured spirit that the locals claim will give you less of a hangover than other liquors.
If there’s one thing Colombians do well, it’s dancing the night away with a few drinks, so get set to party when the sun goes down. Head out to Zona T or Zona Rosa and strut your stuff in some of the best clubs in Bogota.
Where to Stay
If you’re keen to stay close to the action, Zona T is the place to be. This popular tourist spot offers quality accommodation and easy access to great restaurants. Chapinero is also popular, owing to its vibrant atmosphere and selection of bars and nightclubs. If you prefer to experience historic Bogota, La Candelaria offers a top selection of accommodation options and charming Spanish colonial architecture.
Colombia is renowned for the quality of its gold, emeralds and shoes. In the more up-market districts of Northern Bogota, prices on these items tend to be fixed, however, haggling is welcome at the shops around the centre.
Set over several blocks and comprising thousands of stalls, San Andresito offers a great range of inexpensive clothing, craft items, electronics, watches, footwear and more. Again, it’s a brilliant place to brush up on your negotiating skills.
Bogota Like a Local
Head three hours north of Bogota to Villa de Leyva. One of Colombia’s best-hidden treasures, this picturesque village is known for its friendly locals and traditional regional cuisine. Check out Casa Terracota (Clay House), which was built by hand using only clay and baked in the sun.