Guide To Best Things To Do In Bogota

Last Updated on July 19, 2021 | ,

Best Things To Do In Bogota

The best things to do in Bogota? Soak up the artistic ambiance of its historic Candelaria neighborhood. Tap into the cultural collections of its many world class museums that pay homage to the influence of gold and sacred art. Commune with sacred sites atop the surrounding peaks of Cerros Orientales, part of the Andes. Admire Bogota’s diverse architecture that mixes Colonial and Gothic with Postmodern. Savor Colombian cuisine like ajiaco and onces.

Our guide to the best things to do in Bogota covers more than a dozen of the city’s cultural highlights. These attractions range from a tour of mind-blowing street art to a collection of works by one of Latin America’s most renowned artists. Other must-sees include a timeless pilgrimage site, upscale flea market, emerald exchange and Bogota’s oldest restaurant, still a legendary favorite!

Because of COVID-19, the tourism situation is in flux. Be sure to check the country’s requirements, the policies of individual establishments, and whether the attraction you plan to visit is open.

best things to do in bogota

The Lay of the Land

Bogota is situated in the middle of Colombia and is the country’s largest city and its capital, with a population of almost 11 million. There are twenty districts reflecting some fairly distinct economic demographics. The north and northeast are affluent suburbs, the central and west are largely middle class, and the southern areas are home to the city’s working-class and marginalized.

For many people, mention Colombia and images of Pablo Escobar and body bags come to mind. The scale of violence fueled by the drug cartels is now a thing of the past. In fact, in 2008, Colombia launched a tourism campaign with the slogan “the only risk is wanting to stay”. That said, robberies are a commonplace reality and common sense is warranted. Don’t use public transportation. Keep your camera and cell phone under wraps. Be alert and avoid walking the streets after dark.

Many of the best things to do in Bogota are largely in and around Candelaria. Other neighborhoods worth exploring if you plan to spend more than five days in Bogota are Zona T and Parque de la 93, pricey, leafy enclaves in the north, home to jetsetters and diplomats; the bohemian La Macarena, a favorite with expats that has great restaurants specializing in a wide range of international cuisines and a host of independent contemporary art galleries.

Best Things To Do In Bogota | Macarena District, Bogota
Macarena District, Bogota. Photo: Reg Natarajan, Flickr

Bogota’s 113 higher education institutions explain the decidedly youthful population you’ll find. The city’s natives are known as bogotanos and their descendants are called cachacos. Those who are not native are rolos.

The altitude of 8,530 feet above sea level makes Bogota one of the highest cities in South America. It’s location on the Cundiboyacense plateau surrounded by Andean giants is stunning visually but the oxygen levels may also affect your other senses. It’s generally not a big deal but take precautions against altitude sickness by drinking a lot of water, going at a slow pace–and saving your trips up Monserrate and Guadalup for your last day when you are fully acclimated.

Bogota’s heights mean that the weather is not what some might not expect from a South American country not far from the equator. We went in July and the air was fresh and cool and I needed a jacket in the evening. The skies were sunny every day of our 8-day visit but that is unusual–expect some cloudy and rainy days during your stay, whatever time of year you go. That said, late May to late September is pleasant and from early December to late February is considered the driest and warmest season for touring Bogota.

 

Bogota’s Back Story

Before colonization, Bogotá (originally known as Bacatá) was home to the people of Muisca, who belong to the Chibcha indigenous tribe. During the times of the Muisca, Bacatá was a center for commerce in the ancient world. It was conquered by the Spanish in 1538, who changed the name to Santa Fé de Bacatá, which was eventually corrupted to Bogotá. This region didn’t win independence from Spain until 1819, and since then has developed into a melting pot of Latin and Spanish influences.

Where to Stay in Bogota

Here are some highly-rated hotels that cater to all budgets.

La Candelaria

Without question, many of the best things to do in Bogota are in the La Candelaria neighborhood, home to historic sites, colonial monuments, and modern art. It is a place that truly embodies the history of Bogotá, as well as Colombia as a whole.

Best Things To Do In Bogota | La Candelaria
A colorful street in La Candelaria.

A great place to connect with La Candelaria’s vibe is Chorro de Quevedo Plaza, a square that is simultaneously quaint and hip. A popular gathering place for students and performance artists, this plaza is the starting point of many walking tours. Reached by an old narrow, cobblestone street called Calle del Embudo (Funnel Street), this spot is believed to be where in 1538, Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada founded the Spanish settlement that was Bogota’s predecessor. The square takes its name from an Augustinian priest, Friar Quevedo, who in 1832 purchased the site and set up a public water fountain in the centre. The original fountain is long gone but the square features a replacement in its center.

Chorro de Quevedo en La Candelaria
Chorro de Quevedo en La Candelaria. Photo: Pedro Szekely, Flickr

La Candelaria is a place of contradictions. It is both rich and poor, loud and quiet, beautiful and… not so beautiful. The neighborhood’s contradictions are the secret of its intriguing appeal.

 

La Candelaria Street Art Tour

Best Things To Do In Bogota | La Candelaria street art
La Candelaria street art. Photo: Meg Pier

Street art as a cultural medium has been the source of dispute for many years now. The fine line between vandalism and art is what makes street art so fascinating. Known as the art of the people, graffiti can be a lot more than meets the eye. In cities around the world, local governments have started commissioning artists to add some color to their streets, and give tourists an insight into the modern local artists of the area. Bogotá is no exception.

Bogota wasn’t always so graffiti-friendly. In 2011, police shot a graffiti artist in the back and public outrage ultimately led to the decriminalization of street art. The Mayor then went even further and invited artists to create murals on public buildings throughout the city. Graffiti artists were commissioned to create artistic tributes to cultural figures like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, with some artists receiving payments of up to $10,000 for their work.

La Candelaria is the perfect place in Bogotá to spot some of this magnificent work. Prolific artists from every corner of the globe have come to Bogotá to share their talents. Though you’ll have no trouble finding some street art in La Candelaria, here are some artists to look out for. Bastardilla is an anonymous street artist whose colorful murals pop up all over La Candelaria, they even have one in a children’s playground. If you notice a beautiful portrait displaying an indigenous person, that’s Guache, who’s famous for his highlighting of Bogotá’s indigenous roots.

Best Things To Do In Bogota | La Candelaria street art
Photo: Meg Pier
Best Things To Do In Bogota | La Candelaria street art
Bogota, Colombia. Photo: Pedro Szekely, Flickr

Another artist is Crisp, who is known for his stencil works that are often socio political in nature. If you’re looking for some more guidance on where to look, Crisp actually started a graffiti tour in La Candelaria, which is paid by donation.

Best Things To Do In Bogota | La Candelaria street art
La Candelaria street art. Photo: Meg Pier

La Casa de Poesía Silva

The first Spanish language poetry house, La Casa de Poesía Silva is the historic home of famous poet and writer, José Asunción Silva. Born in Bogotá in 1865, Silva is one of the most famous Colombian writers of his time. He had a tragic life filled with strife and misfortune which he processed through his personal poetry. This work drastically influenced South American poetry by introducing a sort of melancholic lyricism unknown at the time. His most famous work includes Crepúsculos (Twilights) and the Nocturnos (Nocturnes).

Best Things To Do In Bogota | La Casa de Poesía Silva
La Casa de Poesía Silva. Photo: La Casa de Poesía Silva

Though the building is the home of José Asunción Silva, it has since then become a public collection of literature and poetry, both Colombian and otherwise. It has been an inspiration to many other Spanish speaking literature houses around South and Central America. Opened in 1986, it later was established as a National Monument in 1995. 

  • Opening hours: Weekdays, 9 am to 1 pm, then 2 pm to 6 pm.
  • Address: Calle 12c # 3-41 Bogota, Colombia
  • Website: casadepoesiasilva.com

 

Museo del Oro (Gold Museum)

Museo del Oro is most famous for its vast collection of gold works found all over South America. The Banco de la República has bought and invested in the cultural heritage of Colombia as a whole, resulting in the building of museums such as the Museo del Oro. Their mission is to educate and preserve the historical significance of these ancient pieces, for future generations. The Museum’s whopping 34,000 pieces of pre-Colombian gold items, ranging from jewelry to ornate crowns, is sure to have you agog in awe at both the artistry and the luxury.

Best Things To Do In Bogota | Museo del Oro (Gold Museum)
Artwork from Museo del Oro. Photo: Museo del Oro del Banco de la República

Muisca Raft

Without question, the Museum’s pièce de résistance is a tiny, intricately-fashioned piece of ceremonial art. Made of 80% pure gold by the Muisca people sometime between 600 -1600 A.D., this finely-wrought sculpture has special ceremonial significance. Known as the Muisca raft, the work of art depicts a chief in the center of a platform, surrounded by 12 others in various regalia.

Best Things To Do In Bogota
Museo del Oro, Bogota. Photo: Reg Natarajan CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

According to legend, this votive offering is related to a ritual celebration of a new king assuming power. The investiture rites were said to involve the incoming chief being covered in gold dust and set a sail on a raft in Lake Guatavita with his noblemen, along with piles of gold and emeralds. The heir to the throne was referred to as “the “golden one” and when the Spanish arrived in the 16h century, the proverbial “El Dorado” was first envisioned, initially referring to a person and, over time, assuming the epic proportions of a magical kingdom of gold. While the Spanish sought wealth, to the Muisca, gold was valued for its spiritual powers.

The allure of gold may draw you to the Museum, the vast collection of other anthropological items tell the story of Colombia’s people and their ways of life. Aside from gold, the museum also features various other craftwork mediums on display, from woodwork to ceramics.

Best Things To Do In Bogota
From the magnificent archaeological collection of the Museo del Oro Calima. Photo: Museo del Oro del Banco de la República

Museo del Oro’s mission encompasses the archaeology and anthropology of the region’s pre-Colombian societies. There are exhibits offering an introduction to many of the cultures that pre-date the arrival of Europeans, including the Calima, Quimbaya, Zenu, Tierradentro, San Augustín, Tayrona, and Uraba.

Best Things To Do In Bogota
The ancient secrets hidden in the vaults of the Museo del Oro de Bogota. Photo: Museo del Oro del Banco de la República
Best Things To Do In Bogota
Photo: Museo del Oro del Banco de la República
  • Opening hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. On Sundays, 10:00am to 5:00pm
  • Admission Fees: COP$4000 ($1.14 USD) for adults, entry is free on Sundays
  • Address: Carrera 6 No 15-88 Bogota, Colombia
  • Website: banrepcultural.org

Be Dazzled By the World’s Emerald Capital

While the conquistadors came to Colombia looking for gold, they soon enough realized that the region was rich in emeralds. In fact, today Colombia is the source of 70-90% of the world’s supply of this gem.

For an overview of Colombia’s emerald empire, visit the International Emerald Museum. Bogota has a dedicated Emerald District near La Candelaria neighborhood, between 12th Street and 6th Avenue, and this is definitely the best place to buy emerald jewelry in the city. There is also the Emerald Trade Center of Bogotá on Avenida Jiménez. At Plazoleta del Rosario near the Gold Museum you can see scores of men who are hawking emeralds; be wary of this open-air black market.

Best Things To Do In Bogota | Emerald exchange
Photo: Museo Internacional De La Esmeralda

If you are considering purchasing an emerald while in Bogota, there are tours that offer education on what to look for, with insights on the mining, trade and cutting techniques. You can also take a deep dive on the history of Colombia’s emeralds with a day’s excursion to the mines of Chivor. It’s a long trip with extensive travel on bumpy roads but the foray into the scenic countryside and opportunity to extract your own emerald make for a unique experience!

The indigenous Muzo Indians mined emeralds in Colombia as early as 500 AD. These people lived northwest of what is now Bogota on the slopes of the eastern Andes. The range’s Fura and Tena peaks rise approximately 2,755 and 1,640 feet above the valley of the Minero River valley, and are considered the guardians of Colombia’s largest emerald mines.

Best Things To Do In Bogota
Tena y Fura. Photo: Josephmore via Wikimedia Commons

These two peaks were considered sacred by the Muzo and revered as the parents of humanity. The pair of mountain gods taught the Muzo agricultural techniques, craftwork, and battle tactics. A Muzo legend attributes the creation of emeralds to the tears of their goddess Fura. After she committed adultery with the blue-eyed, blonde-haired explorer Zarbi who came to the area looking for the fountain of youth, Tena killed Fura and Zarbi.

The Spanish came looking for the emeralds in the mid-1500s. It took them nearly 50 years to subdue the Muzo who were fiercely warlike. Nonetheless, the Spanish eventually conquered the Muzo, forcing them to work in the mines that had been their own.

The Spanish sold the Colombian emeralds to Europe, India and elsewhere. The gems were cherished not only for their beauty, but also for their healing properties, believed to cure various ailments like fever, epilepsy, and dysentery.

Best Things To Do In Bogota | Emerald Exchange
Photo: Meg Pier

 

Botero Museum

Founded in 2000, the Botero Museum is a collection of art by artists from all over the world. The building itself is an old colonial building, a former Archbishopric which was turned into a museum in 1955. This collection went public in 2000 when Fernando Botero donated over 300 works. Work from Botero himself as well as a variety of international artists make up the collection.

Botero Museo
Botero Museo. Photo: Reg Natarajan, Flickr

Fernando Botero is one of Colombia’s most famous artists. Botero’s art is one of a kind, displaying people, animals, and objects in a bloated fashion, the subject’s proportions particularly rotund. Often his work is interpreted as a sort of social critique, with his art exploring topics such as abuse of power and social class. He has also created work as a reflection of Colombian daily life. Botero’s unique contribution to the art world is credited widely, with work solely displayed in the Botero Museum, MOMA in New York City, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Best Things To Do In Bogota | Botero Museo
Botero Museo. Photo: Reg Natarajan, Flickr
  • Opening hours: Wednesday through Monday, 9:oo am to 7:00 pm. On Sundays, 10:00am to 5:00pm
  • Admission fees: Free entry
  • Address: Cl. 11 #4-41, Bogotá, Colombia
  • Website: banrepcultural.org

Santa Clara Museum

Formerly a church and convent, the Santa Clara Museum displays the baroque artistry of Colombia’s famed artists. The church was built in the mid 1600s, and is a treasure in itself. The Baroque building’s interior is ornate with ceiling art, and murals cover every inch of the walls.

If those walls could talk, quite a history of past lives would be revealed. The doors of the Santa Clara convent opened in 1630 for 24 nuns who were novice members of the order of “Poor Clares,” so-called because of their vows of poverty. In the colonial period between the 16th to 18th centuries, young women were commonly handed over to nunneries by their parents. In that era, the dowry paid to prospective husbands was so expensive that it was common practice for families with several daughters to send the younger-born to the convent. There, they were sheltered behind the walls of the closed community for the rest of their lives. Convents were also paid a “dowry” for the life-long care of new nuns, but the cost was significantly lower than what was expected by a suitor.

Best Things To Do In Bogota | Museo Santa Clara
Inside Museo Santa Clara. Santa Clara museum offers an immersive experience in the baroque style of the seventeenth end eighteenth centuries, tailored for your discovery and enjoyment. Courtesy of Museo Colonial & Museo Santa Clara – Bogota, Colombia

In the 19th century, there was a movement across Latin America to limit the power of the church and confiscate its assets. In 1863, Columbia’s President Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera confiscated Santa Clara from the nuns, and the structure was eventually converted into the headquarters of the National Printing Office. In the 1960s, the idea was born of ​​transforming the church into a museum. In 1975, a long and delicate process began of restoring the old church and almost all its paintings and sculptures. In 1983, the Santa Clara Museum opened.

Best Things To Do In Bogota | Museo Santa Clara
Santa Clara, polycromted wood sculpture that you can find located in the main alterpiece of the ex-church, now museum. Cortesy of Museo Colonial & Museo Santa Clara – Bogota, Colombia
  • Opening hours: Tuesday through Friday, 9:00am to 4:45pm. On the weekends, 10:00am to 3:45pm
  • Admission fees:
  • Address: Race 8 No. 8 – 91 Bogota, Colombia
  • Website: museocolonial.gov.co

 

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Carmen

It won’t be hard to miss the Santuario Nuestra Señora del Carmen, or the National Shrine of Our Lady of Carmen. This exterior of this church is boldly striped in vivid candy cane red and white, and quite the antithesis of Santa Clara’s austere facade. At 187 feet in height, this stunner rises flamboyantly above the streets of La Candelaria–and her interior is every bit as ornate.

Catholicism was the official religion of Colombia from the time of its colonization until 1991. Now, about 70% of the population considers themselves Catholic with only 25% saying they are regular communicants.

National Shrine of Our Lady Carmen
Iglesia del Carmen. Photo: Fernando Garcia, Flickr
Photo: Makalu, Pixabay
  • Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 7:00am to 7:30am and 10:00am to 4:00pm; Saturday 7:00am to 7:30am; Sunday 7:00am to 12:30pm
  • Address: #8-36 Cra. 5 Bogotá, Colombia
  • Website: facebook.com/SantuarioNSCarmen/

Plaza Bolívar

Bolívar Square has been at the center of the country’s history for centuries. It used to be a public circus and bull market, among other things, and a wide variety of cultural and social events are still held here. Buildings such as the Palacio Liévano, the Capitol, and the Cathedral frame this public space, which is decorated with thousands of colorful lights every year for Christmas.

Located in the heart of La Candelaria, Plaza Bolívar is a true architectural wonder. Its history dates far before colonial times, when it was a sacred place for the Muisca people. Now known as the main square of Bogotá, Plaza Bolívar is dedicated to Simón Bolívar. Bolívar is known colloquially as El Libertador, for his efforts in freeing Colombia from Spanish rule. This square is now home to many historically significant buildings, including: the Primary Cathedral of Bogotá, the National Capitol building, Liévano Palace, and the Palace of Justice. 

The Primary Cathedral of Bogotá in Plaza Bolívar. Photo: Makalu, Pixabay

 

Quinta de Bolívar

Simon Bolivar is one of South America’s most influential figures. He led not only Colombia to independence from Spain, but also Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama. From a wealthy Venezuelan family, Bolivar went to Spain at 16 years of age to study. While there, he became acquainted with the ideas of the Enlightenment, which inspired the revolution he began in 1808 at age 25.

Bolivar’s roots were in the Basque region of Spain and the Canary Islands, settling in Venezuela in the 16th century. His family owned many of the region’s copper mines, but despite their wealth, his father died when Bolivar was three and his mother passed away before he was nine. Bolivar was raised largely by a family’s slave named Hipólita and a professor Don Simón Rodríguez, who planted the seeds of liberty and freedom.

The Quinta de Bolivar is a colonial house in Bogota’s Sante Fe district not far from La Candelaria.Bolivar owned the property for ten years. After being home to a college, a health home, a beverage factory, and a tannery;it is now a museum dedicated to Bolvar’s life.

Vegetable arches in the garden of Quinta de Bolivar. Photo: Felipe Restrepo Acosta, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Opening hours: Tuesday through Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm. Saturday and Sunday, 10:00am to 4:00pm
  • Admission fees: COP$4000 ($1.14 USD)
  • Address: Cl. 21 #4-30, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
  • Website: quintadebolivar.gov.co

Jardín Botánico de Bogotá

With 19,000 plants featured across 47 acres, this amazing oasis offers a relaxing ambiance and an education in Colombian indigenous Andean species. Located in the northeast of Bogota’s Engativa district, about a 20-minute drive north of Candelaria, the garden showcases Colombia’s abundance of biodiversity. The country’s proximity to the equator, far-ranging topography and a multitude of eco climates means that there is a huge spectrum of flora.

This tranquil spot is officially named the José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden. It was founded by one priest and named for another. In 1955, Dr. Enrique Pérez Arbeláez established the garden, with a grant of land by the city of Bogota. Himself a botanist and man of the cloth, he paid homage to a fellow priest and scientist Jose Celestino Mutis, who was a significant figure in the 18th century Spanish American Enlightenment. The history of these two pioneering researchers counters the perception that religion and science don’t often co-exist.

Plan to spend two-three hours here to explore the incredible orchid collection, with more than 5,000 specimens, as well as collections dedicated to woodland, aquatic and medicinal plants. There are greenhouses that feature flora from habitats that range from the Amazon to the Andes; and more than 600 palm trees, including the wax palm tree, a national symbol of Colombia. There is a cafe where you can have lunch or a snack.

Jardín Botanico José Celestino Mutis
Jardín Botanico José Celestino Mutis. Photo: Sebaxo93, CC BY-SA 3.0 
  • Opening hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. On weekends, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Address: Cl. 63 #6895, Bogotá, Colombia
  • Website: jbb.gov.co

Sacred Sites

One of the best things to do in Bogotá is to experience its sacred places. To the Muisca tribe, it was a place of healing and connection to the metaphysical. Towering above the city of Bogotá, two titans stand watch: Monserrate and Guadalupe. Both heights were sacred to the indigenous Muisca tribe in pre-colonial days. To the Muisca tribe, these were places of healing and connection to the metaphysical.

Monserrate was known as “grandmother’s foot” and Guadalupe was “grandfather’s foot”. The Muisca would bury their dead in the hills of Guadalupe. This tribe was also known for their advanced knowledge of archaeoastronomy and built several temples in this area as homage to their Sun God. From the city, winter equinoxes see the sun arching just over Guadalupe, and summer equinoxes see the sun rising between the two guardians of Bogotá.

 

Guadalupe from Monserrate
View of Guadalupe from Monserrate. Photo: megahogar, Pixabay

Monserrate

Monserrate is known as many things: a place of pilgrimage, an ancient site, and as a fabulous vista. For good reason too, as Monserrate is a glorious place rich in cultural heritage and beauty. The mountain can be seen from all over Bogotá, towering over the city like an ancient guardian. Over 10,000 feet in height, Monserrate is accessible by foot, funicular, and aerial tramway. a heart-stopping cable car ride.

Montanha Monserrate, Bogotá
Montanha Monserrate, Bogotá. Photo: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo, Flickr

The Catholic shrine was built between 1650 – 1657, with its Spanish Colonial-era founders naming the mountain Monserrate. This was an homage to the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery in Catalonia. The origin of the Catalonia monastery’s name refers to the “serrated” and barren peaks that hermitage is perched on. However, at the top of Bogota’s Monserrat, you’ll find a plateau with a spacious plaza surrounded by lush greenery. It’s said that the name actually is a tribute to one of the founder’s uncles who was an abbot at the Catalonian monastery.

The shrine on Monserrat is dedicated to El Señor Caído, the “Fallen Lord,” who has been venerated in Bogota for more than 400 years. A statue resides in the shrine made by sculptor Pedro de Lugo y Albarracin, who lived in Bogota around 1660. The icon weighs about 330 pounds, and is made of wood and molten metal. Miracles attributed to the statue have made the shrine a major pilgrimage site. A new church was erected between 1917 – 1925 as a result of damage by an earthquake and to accommodate the massive numbers of devotees. In 1956, Pope Pious VII designated the shrine a minor basilica.

Monserrate, Bogota, Colombia
Monserrate, Bogota, Colombia. Photo: Juan Carlos Pachón, Flickr

If you want to avoid crowds of families and pilgrims, consider going in the early evening, when serenity prevails amidst the gardens, fountains and cobbled walkways. We recommend timing your visit to have dinner. We had a lovely meal complete with heavenly views at Casa San Isidro. Enjoy the sunset and seeing the city lights come ablaze. At 1,700 feet above Bogota, the panorama is quite humbling.

There are multiple ways to reach the top of the mountain. For an aesthetically pleasing journey, cable cars go up and down the mountain, Monday through Sundays, for COP$20,000 ($6.67 USD). For something similarly priced but not as adventurous, there’s the Funicular Railway. Lastly, there’s the option to hike up on foot. It takes about an hour and is open Wednesday through Monday, 5:00 am to 1:00 pm to go up, and 5:00 am to 4:00 pm to go down.

  • Opening hours: Monday through Saturday, 6:00 am to 10:00 pm. On Sundays, 5:00am to 7:00pm
  • Website: monserrate.co/en/

Guadalupe Hill

Virgin of Guadalupe statue
Virgin of Guadalupe statue. Photo: Felipe Restrepo Acosta on Wiki Creative Commons

Even taller than Monserrate, Guadalupe Hill towers 11,000 feet over Bogotá. In colonial days, settlers erected many hermitages that were destroyed by earthquakes over the years. The 20th century saw a new hermitage built in 1945 by Jorge Murcia Riaño. Just a year later, a nearly 50-foot tall statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe was erected, that can be seen from far below the mountain. Guadalupe Hill is also an excellent overlook, offering fantastic views of Bogotá. It is accessible by car, foot, and there’s even public transport. The hermitage offers services for tourists on Sundays, from 7 am to 4 pm.

San Alejo Flea Market in Usaquén

The San Alejo flea market in Usaquén houses about 500 artists, craftsmen, collectors, art restorers, and small producers every Sunday. First held in 1987, the market is famous for its highest concentration of antiques in the country; and for ten consecutive years!

The flea market is set up in the northern city where artisans sit behind their stalls in a picturesque and pretty barrio. They sell antique and unique crafts, jewelry, clothing, books and curiosities. As a Bogotá Cultural Heritage and Touristic Interest site, this authentic encounter is memorable for both customers and sellers. While it’s a little more costly, you’re also paying for the experience of an eventful day surrounded by historic buildings and intangible culture.

Usaquén flea market
Usaquén flea market, sale of handicrafts, antique and various objects in this traditional neighborhood north of Bogotá.
  • Opening hours: Sundays and holidays, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Address: Cra. 7 #2470, Bogotá, Colombia

Bogota’s Cuisine

One of the best things to do in Bogota is taking a deep dive into its incredible cuisine. Dishes reflect the city’s cool climate, indigenous roots, and Spanish influence, revolving around carbs, cheese, and soups. The outlying savannahs and proximity of the equator also mean a diet rich in grilled meats and fruit. Consider taking a food tour; among the options are exploring a market with a chef to get the cultural back story on local ingredients; chocolate-making and tasting; or street food to sample grilled corn, papas rellenas, pastel de pollo and more!

Try Ajiaco Bogotano at Hotel de la Opera

The Hotel de la Opera in La Candelaria is located next to the Cristobal Colon Theater, just three minutes from the Botero Museum. Being just one block from Bolivar square and a 15-minute walk to Monserrate, it’s too convenient not to stop by and admire! It’s El Mirador restaurant offers fantastic views and a tasty rendition of Ajiaco Bogotano, a comfort food typically made with chicken, three kinds of potatoes, and corn. Must-have ingredients are guascas, a type of herb, and a special type of potato called papa criolla. Ajiaco is served with heavy cream and capers.

Ajiaco Bogotano at Hotel de la Opera
View from the top of Hotel de la Opera restaurant. Photo: Meg Pier
Ajiaco Bogotano
Ajiaco Bogotano— The dish is typically served with a slice of avocado. Photo: Avior Airlines

Onces at La Puerta Falsa

One cannot truly experience Colombian cuisine without trying “onces.” Pronounced “ohn-says,” it means “eleven” in Spanish. Many different cultures around the world partake in an elevenses tradition of taking a short break for a sweet snack at 11 a.m. In Colombia, this equivalent of an English “cuppa” tea occurs in the late afternoon to fill in the void before dinner, which in Latin America usually is eaten after 8 p.m.

However, there’s another story about where the name “onces” originates. Urban legend says that it started as a code word for when men wanted to drink with their friends. The most popular alcoholic beverage around Bogota is the anise-flavored Aguardiente, which has eleven letters. Eleven in Spanish is “onces.” Rather than risk a fight with their wife about going to a bar, men started saying “I am going to onces.” This allowed men to sneak off with their buddies and enjoy a few drinks without a huge discussion.

Onces are universally known to Colombians as an afternoon snack and the drink is generally coffee these days.One of the most famous places for onces is Bogota’s oldest restaurant, La Puerta Falsa. Open since 1816, the restaurant’s name translates to “the fake door,” “the wrong door,” or “the inauspicious door.” This is because it was originally unnamed, just a place for hungry passerbys. However, it sat directly across the street from a false door, likely used to confuse assailants and criminals from breaking in. Without a name, people started calling it “the place near the false door” which ended as La Puerta Falsa.

Onces
Onces. Photo: Onces y Breaks para Empresas y families
Onces at La Puerta Falsa. Photo: 颜雪雯

La Puerta Falsa is only half a block from Plaza Simón Bolivar. Stop by the tiny establishment for classic Colombian onces like a cheesy bread made with tapioca flour called pan de queso, or bread made from cornmeal flour and cuajda white cheese called almojabana. To fit in with the locals, drop some cheese into your hot beverage and fish it out with a spoon.

La Puerta Falsa
Outside of La Puerta Falsa. Photo: La Puerta Falsa

We hope you enjoy exploring Bogota and its ancient yet cutting-edge culture! Have you been to Colombia’s capital? Pay it forward and share an insight on what you think are the best things to do in Bogota for those following in your footsteps! Planning a trip? Feel free to ask a question!


How To Use This Map

Click on the map and it will open in a new window. Click on any of the icons to see more information about that point of interest. Hope you enjoy it!

Book Your Trip to Bogota

Rent a Car

For car rentals, we recommend thriftycars4rent.com because they offer good quality vehicles at the lowest prices.

Book Your Stay

Hotelscombined.com will help you find the best possible hotel prices no matter what your budget is.

Tours

We recommend GetYourGuide for Tours. They offer highly unique tours with Local Guides.

Recommended Excursions

 

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I never ever go on a trip without it. I recommend  World Nomads Travel Insurance.

You may also be interested in these posts:

Header photo of La Candelaria by Pedro Szekely, Flickr

Previous

Guide to Scotland’s Hebrides Islands, A Dream Vacation

1 thought on “Guide To Best Things To Do In Bogota”

  1. Hey Great Post! I always wanted to explore Bogota. Now when I am finally going to visit it. I am gonna explore as many places as I can. Thanks for sharing this useful article. I love the information you have shared. 🙂

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Best Cultural Destinations