Rough around the edges & admittedly not the prettiest city we have ever been to but we would encourage anyone visiting Bogota to see beyond the concrete & grime & really take the time to enjoy what there is to see.
A city surrounded by mountains with a deep & complex history, there are representations to its roots to be found everywhere. Given a chance you will hopefully see as we did the diversity & culture that exists in the city today.
We have put together our top picks & tips to help you to experience Colombia’s capital at it’s best!
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1. Take A City Bike Tour
A tour with Bogota Bike Tours was our favourite thing that we did in the city, purely because we took so much in over just a few hours. We opted for a private tour with one of our friends, at the cost of 60,000 COP per person, it was for us definitely worth paying a little more for a more personal service. Group tours with Bogota Bike Tours operate daily at a cost of 40,000 COP per person & run at both 10:30 am & 1:30 pm.
We started our tour with our guide Matteo, the 2 of us & our friend Karlie at the Bogota Bike Tours office in the La Candelaria area of Bogota. Matteo spoke to us about what we wanted to see at the start but we were happy for him to show us the city from his point of view, as for us no-one knows it better than the locals!
Matteo started by taking us around the La Candelaria area & talking us through the history of the city throughout, we then headed onto Parque de los Periodistas next to the statue of Simon Bolivar for a more in-depth conversation about Colombia’s history – if you don’t yet have a clue who this Simon guy is, don’t worry after a visit here you’ll be sure to leave knowing, if you can’t wait until then give him a google!
What we liked most when Matteo was overloading us with as much history as he could was that he got us all involved by asking questions, this meant that he wasn’t just speaking at us with a ton of information but involving us in what he was saying too. We actually felt when we came away that we had taken on a lot more information because of this.
Next up we were off through Bogota traffic, which can definitely be a little hair-raising at times, to take in some more of the cities important & historic sites. After this we headed to local market to sample some fruits, all of which were included in the price of our tour. We were surprised with what Matteo had in store next when we stepped into a small cafe & out the back was a big hall like area with locals playing Colombia’s national sport Tejo, a game where metal disks are thrown at a clay board which is dotted with exploding targets that contain gunpowder, all letting off an almighty bang when the target is hit – so much fun but terrifying at the same time!
After a lot of laughter & some screaming at all of the explosions from us girls it was back on the bikes for us to cycle through Bogota’s red light district, certainly an eye-opening experience on a Friday afternoon. We then stopped off at a coffee factory, where the process was fully explained to us & we were treated to a taste of some of Colombia’s finest coffee! Matteo still had more in store for us after this with a cycle over to the Memory, Peace & Reconciliation Center, a project that represents over six million victims of internal conflict in Colombia with the surrounding water said to show the tears of the people. Lastly it was onto the La Merced neighbourhood that we were very amused to see resembled one of that in the UK & past the Bogota beer company to explain the introduction of beer to the city by the Germans.
The whole tour was not only a whole round history lesson, it was fun, different, interesting & varied & we could not recommend doing it enough! Our tour was in English but tours in other languages are available upon request, as well as other tours such as walking & cooking classes being available too. Bogota Bike Tours can be contacted through their website for more information on all of these.
2. Go On A Street Art Tour
Another tour that we took & loved was the Bogota Grafitti Tour leaving from Parque de los Periodistas every morning at 10 am & in the afternoon at 2 pm. This by donation tour (recommend 20,000 – 30,000 COP per person) was an excellent way to get to know the city through it’s street art scene.
Focusing mainly on the La Candelaria area, our guide Jay, Bogota born & New York raised had a real passion & deep knowledge for everything street art. What we really liked about the tour was the description of the different pieces of art & how they related to & fitted in with the city, we really feel that by having a deeper understanding of it we were able to appreciate the pieces a lot more. The variety in the art is fascinating with artists not only from Colombia but all over the world gathering to paint the city of sea of colour & at the same time telling its story. Some artists are even commissioned by certain building owners to add value to their properties.
The tour lasted around 3 hours in total & was in English although Spanish & German tours can be arranged privately. Pre-reserving your tour is advised, this can be done quickly, easily & for free through the Bogota Grafitti Tour website.
You can see more of our street art tour over at streetartchat.com which showcases street art from around the world & includes a guest post from us!
3. Visit The Cities Museums
There are a lot of museums to choose from in Bogota, so we chose a couple to cover what we were interested in most & really enjoyed both. Our favourite was most definitely the Botero museum, with works by famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero representing people & items in their true form as perceived Botero himself – with shape! Bogota is not the only place in Colombia where you will find his work but we would definitely recommend visiting this museum for the extensive collection of paintings not only from Botero himself but from artists including Monet & Van Gogh too.
The other museum we visited was the Museo Del Oro, or gold museum which contains the largest collection of gold in the world. Although we were well & truly jewelled out by the end of it, this museum is worth a visit if you have a couple of hours spare.
4. Take In All Of The Plazas & Churches
As with any city in this part of the world there are lots of churches & lots of plazas. We would recommend arming yourself with MAPS.ME & taking a wander around at your own pace – not forgetting to look up at all of the ornate details on the buildings as these can quite often be missed!
We particularly loved the Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Carmen, gothic style but & very unique with its dashing red & white stripes. It was something totally different to look at & is just as pretty inside as out. Bolivar square, Bogota’s main square is also not to be missed!
5. Get Up High
Taking the funicular up to Monseratte for incredible views of almost the entire city (it honestly stretches too far to see) is an absolute must. We decided on going up there for sunset so we could take in the views of the day going into night & it was absolutely spectacular.
Ending a busy day with the city looking so peaceful below us was such a surreal feeling. We paid 20,000 COP per person for our return funicular, the station can be reached by foot from La Candelaria in about 15 minutes. If you go to Bogota be sure to get up there, we are sure you won’t regret it.
Adventures are even better when shared with those you love ♥ We are so happy to have our very good friend Karlie join us for a couple of weeks of travelling. We had the most awesome but crazy day yesterday which included a street art tour, getting stuck in a hail storm, cycling through the streets of Bogotá during rush hour, a visit to a fruit market, a game including rocks, firecrackers & beer, being chased through the red light district by a dog, sampling some super strong Colombian coffee AND these incredible views, the perfect end to one of the best days ever 😀 Check out our story for more!! • • • • • #travelbuddies #travelfriends #awesomeexperiences #travelexperiences #makememories #i♥bogota #bogotá #cityscape #cityviews #cityskyline #citybestpics #cityexplore #citylimitless #colombiavibes #ig_colombia #igerscolombia #travelawesome #travelhappy #adventuretravel #adventuresdaily #adventurefolk #seetheworldthroughoureyes #travelblog #travelbloggerlife #welltravelled #traveladdicts #leicacamera #leicacraft #explorationinspiration #destinationaddict
6. Pick a Great Place For Sleeping & Eating
We actually stayed in the neighbourhood of Salitre Greco on the outskirts of the town centre for a few days before our friend Karlie arrived in Bogota. We found a great apartment through Airbnb & loved staying at a real Colombian house & wandering around a neighbourhood where no other tourists seemed to venture. There was a big shopping centre close by to us & a nice park which was especially nice to wander around on a Sunday when all the locals seemed to gather too.
When our friend Karlie arrived we moved to the La Candelaria area, Bogota’s colonial neighbourhood, to a hostel called Cranky Croc. We really liked Cranky Croc, the rooms were super clean, the showers really hot, the common area large, the decor pretty & the location fab.
For eating out we found by wondering around the La Candelaria area there were plenty of places to be found. The best places that we ate at, although a little more expensive, around 25,000 COP for a main course were Dos Gatos y Simone & Sant Just both located just off of Parque de los Periodistas. The former a Mexican restaurant with a Colombian twist, the latter a French/Colombian fusion restaurant with excellent quality food & a really cool vibe!
7. Venture Further Afield
One of the top things that we really wanted to see was the Catedral de Sal in Zipaquira, we took a local bus there from Bogota’s main terminal (not the north terminal), the journey being around an hour & a half & costing only 5,000 COP each.
The town of Zipaquira in itself is lovely, with a beautiful main plaza & some nice shops, cafes & traditional Colombian restaurants. The Catedral though, the reason we had made the journey out there was fascinating & quite like nothing either of us had ever seen before. Built inside a still working salt mine, the catedral has many altars that represent the story of christ. A tour is included in the cost of the ticket (50,000 COP) & can be taken in English or Spanish, depending on which you prefer.
For us the most special thing was the main altar, the whole area was carved out of the salt & all lit up & was a very special thing to witness indeed. We broke away from the tour at the very end & just took some time to take all of this in.
For us this was definitely worth the day trip out from Bogota & was very inexpensive to go it alone, though there are options for organised tours through hostels, hotels & agencies in the city should you wish. There are also various options for tours to the surrounding mountain areas to hike, take in the scenery or some of the many waterfalls which can all also be arranged through where you are staying or if you wish most areas can be reached by bus from the city.
8. Think Of Safety
As with any big city our advice is to always keep your witts about you, muggings in Bogota are not uncommon so really thinking about what you are carrying with you is what we would advise. For example, we would not use the ATM & keep the card with us all day, we would always take it straight back to where we were staying & lock it away just to be sure. The same goes for passports or any other items that you do not need to be carrying with you. Keeping an eye on your things is also a must, remember that most thieves are opportunists so leaving a bag out of your sight for a split second or phone in your pocket that can easily be reached into is not advised! Wondering around on your own especially at dark should always be avoided if at all possible too.
This is not meant in any way to instil fear into you, we just want to share our tips on staying safe in a city with a “dangerous” reputation. Walking around on edge all the time will also do you no good, remember that you are their to enjoy yourself, just being savvy & taking a little extra care is sometimes all that is needed to stay safe.
We hope you have found our Bogota tips helpful, any questions for us? Don’t be shy! Ask away in the comments!
If you have been yourself & have anything to add we’d also love to hear….
Happy Travels 🙂