Updated: Dec 10, 2021
The picturesque colonial streets in la Candelaria neighbourhood, colourful graffiti everywhere, tropical savours, a fascinating history, the incredible view from Monserrate and the warming welcoming of Colombians. Welcome to Bogotà, the vibrant capital of an amazing country.
First of all, one of the keys to really enjoy Colombia is to keep in mind this: ''No dar papaya'' which means always be careful and aware that we don't have the same freedom as in Europe. It's also true for Colombians themselves that considering their story linked to the violence of the armed conflicts, corruptions and criminality can't totally feel safe in their own country.
Where to stay in Bogotà
To me, the best neighbourhoods where to stay in Bogotà are:
Chapinero: a vibrant neighbourhood full of restaurants, bars and clubs. Suggestions: Republica Hostel Chapinero. If you decide to stay in Chapinero, you'll have to take a taxi or the Transmileno to reach the centre, I'll explain you how later!
In Bogotà always pay attention to pickpockets in the most crowded streets and avoid wearing valuable objects.
Transports in Bogotà
First of all, you have to know that Bogotà is a city with traffic all the time, at every hour of the day!
Taxis here are really cheap. You can use various apps to have the guarantee of having a licensed driver and of paying the right price: Uber, Cabify, InDriver, Didi.
Public transports are also a good option to visit the city. You just have to keep in mind that they're not so trustful, so don't worry if they're late or if a bus doesn't stop even if you've shaken your hand! There are two types of buses in Bogotà:
Transmileno: the network of red buses that rapidly connects the main areas of the city. It basically works as a subway with a proper lane and there are many principal stations. The destination of the bus and the number are written on their front screens.
Sitp blue bus: the network of blue buses which are smaller and complement the service of the Transmileno. The main difference is that they are in the same lane as cars, so a bit slower.
Alimentadores: small green buses that from the Transmileno stations take you into the surrounding neighbourhoods.
The App TransmiSitp is useful to see the best option according to your departing point and the direction. Otherwise Google Maps is also very efficient and tells you where to wait for the bus, the exact number and the possible connections.
You need to buy a card right at the counter of the bus station or in tabacco shops. It costs about 6000 COP (2euro) and it can be charged anytime. Every ride is about 2500 COP, but the card is only valid in Bogotà and not in the other cities. Every station has a detailed board that shows all the lines and the exact area where the bus will stop in the station.
If you're visiting Colombia by bus, those to reach the areas outside Bogotà leave from Salitre Terminal. There are many national bus companies focused on specific areas and I was recommended by locals to prefer Coomotor, Constranshuilq and Expresso Bolivariano.
Tickets can be bought directly at the terminal and you can check the schedule on the site Redbus. They're usually efficient and perfect for backpackers! Just remember to bring water, snacks and warm cloths because they've usually strong air conditioning systems.
Highlights of Bogotà
Here's some highlights of Bogotà that you can't miss while visiting the city:
Plaza Bolivar with the Capitolio and the Iglesia Primada
Museo del Oro in Plaza Santander
Chorro de Quevedo: the historical and cultural heart of the city
The amazing graffiti of the city
The local dishes as ajiaco santafereno as well as the street food
Iglesia San Francisco which is the most ancient curch of the city
The independence Museum
Some of the greatest clubs for party livres: Kaputt And Theatron
3-day itinerary in Bogotà
Day 1: getting to know the vibe of the capital
You can start exploring Bogotà with a free walking tour organised by the agency Beyond Colombia (in Spanish or in English). The tours don't have a fixed price so at the end everybody leaves tips to the guide according to the appreciation of the experience. Usually the recommended tips is around 30 000COP/person (around 10euro), so quite cheap for a 3-hour tour! If you’d like to know more about Bogotà’s graffiti, the agency also organises interesting tours in less touristic areas of the city.
The Bogotà free walking tour is perfect to know the highlights of the city and to understand the safer areas for visitors. You'll start with an interesting explanation of the highlights in El Museo del Oro as the gold object representing the Muisca (indigenous civilisation before the Spanish conquest) ritual that became the origin of El Dorado legend. Another main stops are Teatro Colon, where the treaty of peace between the government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) was signed in 2016 as well as the fascinating monuments in Plaza Bolivar, the most fascinating of the city.
You'll learn the story of important events in the history of Bogotà such as the Bogotazo or personalities as Simon Bolivar who was a key figure in the independence process of the country or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the most famous activist and writer in Colombia.
For lunch, you can go to la Concordia Mercado, a place frequented by locals with different choices in terms of food and a lot of typical products to try or to buy as souvenirs!
Otherwise, you can opt for Galenia panaderia: a true Colombian panaderia with delicious empanadas, arepas, bañuelos... Don't miss this delicious typical Aromatica de fruta: hot water with tropical fruits and mint.
Later in the afternoon, I suggest you to have a look at La casa de la Paz in Chapinero, which is a cultural space created by ancient soldiers of the armed conflicts in Colombia to spread peace and reconciliation. They even have their own beer, la Troncha, and the variety with passion fruit is delicious!
Chapinero is also the best area if you want to discover the best clubs in the city.
Day 2: Bogotà and its typical tastes
Start the day with a fruit juice to gain plenty of energies for the day! Fruit juices are really delicious in Colombia, a country that, thanks to its climate, can have fruits all over the year.
You'll have the chance to try many typical savours that we don't know in Europe: passion fruit, lulo, guanabana, gulupa and many more!
Get the chance to visit one of the museums of the city. I personally loved the Museo del oro with the biggest collection of gold objects from the pre-Colombian period in the world contiene, really interesting! (Entrance: 4 000 COP, a bit more than 1euro).
In the afternoon, join the team of Beyond Colombia for a special Food tour that will teach you a lot about Colombian gastronomy and traditions, you'll also discover some interesting hidden places! At each stop you can decide to try the dishes or not, if you try them all the cost of the food will be around 30 000 COP (about 9€), make sure to have money with you because credit cards are not accepted everywhere!
Soups are actually an important element of traditional gastronomy in Bogotà, in fact the weather in the capital is colder compared to many other regions in Colombia: you have to think that the city is 2640m!
Be ready to try Empanadas (also known in other South America countries such as Argentina), grilled corn, Ajiaco santafereno (soup with potatoes, corn, chicken and a local herb called guasca, all accompanied by avocado, white cream and rice) obleas (round shape wafers filled with caramel, cheese, jam or white cream...), Chocolate con questo (hot chocolate with cheese). You'll have the chance to try aguardiente (local spirit) and to learn the different techniques to make a real Colombian coffee at Arte y Pasion café.
Day 3: Bogotà from the top
There's not another better way to end your discovery of Bogotà that the view to Monserrate, the highest point of the city.
You can decide to take the cable car or to hike up to the sanctuary, the walking path starts next to the entrance of the funicular.
If you're an active person, I really recommend you to do the hike, because despite the difficulties linked to the altitude, it's really worth it!
It'll take you from 50 minutes to 1h15 to go from 350m to 2350m. Take your time and enjoy the view during the hike!
Once from the top, you'll able to enjoy a 360 panoramic view on Bogotà. Here you can really realise how big it is, can you imagine that the city counts 8 million inhabitants?!
Hiking to Monserrate is also a popular weekend activity for Colombians, so make sure you start it early in the morning (around 6AM or 7AM) before it gets too crowded. The only day when the path is closed is on Tuesday! Along they way, you'll find many stands with snacks and drinks.
To regain the energies, there are many restaurants behind the church where you can have a typical breakfast with an amazing view on the surrounding area.
Back in the city, for a typical lunch, I really recommend you Las casuelas de abuela and if it you visit Bogotà in the weekend, don't miss the artisanal flea market in Usaquen's main square called Mercado de las pulgas!
If you have an additional day, here some ideas of daily excursions from
Bogotà: Zipaquira and La cathedral del Sal, Suesca for climbing lovers, Guatavita lake linked to the legend of El Dorado and Chicaque national park.
Now you have many tips to enjoy this vibrant city and to discover its most authentic side. Of course, don't forget to try to interact and spend time with locals when possible, you'll immediately notice that they're super friendly and kind! I left the capital with my heart fulfilled by the love of these amazing people.