Don’t be intimidated by the sprawling, bustling city of Bogotá. Colombia’s capital is truly historic and packed with touristy things to do, but it’s also got a cool, hip, and even chic side to it as well. From its weekly Ciclovía bike route through the streets to its upscale neighborhoods filled with great restaurants, parks, and excellent nightlife, Bogotá is a real cosmopolitan city.
At the same time though, you’ll love all of the authentic culture, markets, and street art that you’re surrounded by on a daily basis. And after you’ve explored La Candelaria all the way up through Zona Rosa, you can head out of town for some day trips to colonial villages, beautiful lakes, and dramatic waterfalls.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Bogotá:
1. Stroll Through La Candelaria
This is probably the first thing tourists do in Bogotá because La Candelaria the historic center of the city.
These colorful, bohemian streets are convenient to several tourist attractions, but the area can but a little sketchy, especially at night, so be aware of pickpockets.
Follow the cobblestone streets past colorful Spanish colonial buildings and university halls, check out the street art, and pop into a few cathedrals.
Have a drink at one of the many bars, cafes, and restaurants, and people watch – there are many artists and musicians around the area.
Available tour: Bogotá: private historical tour of La Candelaria
2. The Gold Museum
Bogotá’s Museo del Oro is the most popular (and possibly the most interesting) museum in the city, and it’s home to more than 30,000 pieces of gold.
There are three floors filled with artifacts collected from Colombia’s pre-Hispanic cultures, each focusing on a different theme.
Learn how these people discovered, mined, and then worked the metals, making jewelry, masks, bowls, offerings, and armor.
Discover the symbolism and spiritual aspects of gold’s everyday uses.
The whole museum is very well done and absolutely stunning, plus the entrance fee is small for this dramatic and detailed look into the past.
Guided tour: Bogotá Gold Museum: 3-Hour Guided Tour
3. Climb Monserrate
Walk the steep steps up the hill (or take the funicular) to this incredible viewpoint of sprawling Bogotá.
There’s a little white church at the top, but the act of climbing Cerro Monserrate and seeing the city from above is the real attraction here – be sure to stay hydrated and aware of the altitude though. There are a couple of overpriced fancy restaurants up top, but there’s also a snack bar where you can grab drinks and food while you take in the views (they have coca tea if you’re hurting from the climb). Be careful who you go with though, the Colombian superstition surrounding the hill says that couples who visit Monserrate together will never get married.
Suggested tour: Private Tour of Monserrate
4. Plaza Bolívar
Head to the center of this capital city to see where government business gets done.
This sprawling, pigeon-filled plaza is home to Colombia’s Palace of Justice, the Capitol Building, the Cathedral of Bogotá, and the city mayor’s office.
You’ll see lots of police around, but they’re just for security as the Presidential Palace – the Palacio de Narino – is just around the square too.
Learn a little about Colombia’s history, from its fight for independence to the days of Pablo Escobar’s siege of the Palace of Justice, to really get the most out of your visit here.
5. The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá
One of the most popular day trips from Bogotá, the Salt Cathedral is located in the town of Zipaquirá about an hour outside the city.
This whole cathedral was carved deep underground in a salt mine, and it contains alcoves for worshipping and beautifully lit crosses.
It’s huge too, like a small town set 590 feet (180 meters) beneath the earth with places to eat and buy trinkets as well.
Get here early to beat the crowds, sign up for one of the frequent tours, and take some time to explore the colonial town nearby once you’re done.
Recommended tour: From Bogotá: Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral Guided Tour
6. Andrés Carne de Res
It’s not just a restaurant, it’s an experience.
The original Andrés Carne de Res is in Chia, a little town outside of Bogotá, but now there’s a location in Zona Rosa as well.
When you’re ready for a wild night out, go with a big group or sign up for a trip with a hotel or hostel that’ll provide transportation (and instant friends). This is a restaurant turned nightclub turned carnaval where you can get your fill of Colombian food and all the merengue and salsa dancing you can handle.
With different themed rooms, the atmosphere is like a festival or circus with tons of vibrant decor, cocktails, confetti, and even parades.
Book online (with transfer): The Best of the Night: Andres Carne de Res
7. The Botero Museum
Colombia’s (probably) most famous artist, Fernando Botero, was from Medellín and he painted portraits, famous people, animals, and fruits… all chubby.
The artist is known for his paintings of overweight folks, and many of his works now hang in the Botero Museum in Bogotá.
Located in a lovely, renovated colonial house with an internal courtyard, admission to this internationally important collection of art is free.
The museum is also home to several pieces of art by other famous painters like Picasso, Monet, and Renoir.
Guided tour: Guided Visit to Botero Museum
8. Street Art Tour
You could just stroll aimlessly through Bogotá and stumble upon a ton of great street art, but why not get the pros to show you around? Graffiti tours are another super popular activity here, and they’re a great way to see the best of the best.
Local guides will tell you a little something about the artist and the social movements that the paintings represent or the politics they’re speaking out against.
It’s an eye-opening look into both Bogotá and Colombia’s tumultuous past and hopeful future.
Book online: Bogotá: Capital Street Art
9. Mercado de las Pulgas de Usaquén
This street market takes place on Sundays in Usaquén, a neighborhood in the north of Bogotá.
Vendors set up stalls and tents in the park and down the streets to sell handicrafts, trinkets, and lots of stuff that’s different from the typical souvenirs you’ll find in Colombia.
You can buy high quality, handmade goods like bags, shoes, and jewelry here.
This area is filled with upscale restaurants and cafes, but during market days you’ll find tons of cheap foods options on the street – like cupcakes, sausages, fresh juices, and cheesecakes – plus Bogotá Beer Company has a location here for when you’re done shopping.
10. Take a Bicycle Tour of the City
While it wouldn’t seem like the best thing to do in a big, bustling city, bike tours of Bogotá are really popular.
They’re also an excellent way to see a few neighborhoods that are rather spread out and some you wouldn’t stop by on your own.
From fruit markets to tejo games to the Plaza de Toros and a stop for coffee, you’ll get to taste (literally in some cases) many different parts of the city.
The guides are great at storytelling and keeping you safe, and it’s way easier to make it through that heavy traffic on a bike than you might think.
Bogotá Bike Tours has two tours leaving daily from La Candelaria.
Suggested tour: Bogotá Bicycle Tours, 4-5 Hours
11. Take a Day Trip to Villa de Leyva
Get out of the city and experience one of the most lovely little colonial towns in Colombia.
This village has an impressive central square, cobblestone streets, and very well-preserved Spanish architecture.
While you’re here, check out some unique attractions like Casa Terracotta, a whole functioning house made out of clay – many say it’s the largest piece of pottery in the world.
There’s also a museum of fossils and even a vineyard.
There are now plenty of boutique hotels if you want to spend the night, but avoid the weekends as that’s when the tourists from Bogotá flock here to visit and it gets crowded.
12. Zona Rosa
This Bogotá neighborhood is upscale, trendy, and known for its nightlife.
It’s also a good place to base yourself if you’re not too fussed about being located next to all the touristy stuff in town.
It’s home to tons of restaurants, boutiques, malls, bars, and the very nice Parque 93 which is surrounded by shops and even more places to eat.
You’ll find whatever evening activities your heart desires here, from laid back pubs serving craft beer to raging nightclubs and the party restaurant Andres D.C. “Zona T” is a great pedestrian area with outdoor seating and plenty of places for dancing when nighttime rolls around.
And El Chapinero is the gay friendly area within Zona Rosa with lots of gay and lesbian bars.
13. Laguna de Guatavita
Wanna take a break from the city and get a dose of nature? North of Bogotá and surrounded by green rolling hills, you’ll find Lake Guatavita, the place where the story of El Dorado originated and a spiritually significant area for local indigenous groups.
Trek through the biodiverse, jungle-like Paramo to get to the rim of this crater lake for views of the water below.
Arrange for a guide if you’d like transportation and to hear more about the Muisca people, the myth of the golden kingdom, and the flora and fauna of the area.
Suggested tour: Golden Guatavita
14. Parque Central Simón Bolívar
For a big capital city, Bogotá is full of green open spaces where people congregate, exercise, eat, and spend time with their families.
Simón Bolívar is the Central Park of the city, and it’s an enormous free park that gets super busy on the weekends.
There’s a lake with ducks where you can rent small boats and lots of trails where you can walk, jog, or ride bikes.
In the summer, bands and performers take the stage, and a popular event called Rock in the Park attracts famous performers and tons of fans.
Pack a picnic or grab a bite at the cheap cafeterías nearby for lunch on a bench, in the grass, or on the sand by the lake.
15. Play Tejo
The national sport of Colombia is tejo, a game that involves gunpowder, targets, and loud explosions.
It’s usually accompanied by a few beers, so you should definitely play a couple of rounds while you’re in Bogotá.
Players throw heavy metal disks across the room (about 20 meters) at small gunpowder-filled targets stuck into clay.
Hitting one results in a loud bang, cheers, and points for your team if you’re actually keeping score.
Try Club de Tejo La 76 if you want to play, and maybe head upstairs for “mini tejo” where it’ll be easier for beginners to hit the targets.
Some bicycle tours of Bogotá might also take you to a tejo joint.
16. Try Ajiaco and Chocolate Completo at La Puerta Falsa
Try some classic local cuisine while you’re in Bogotá, starting with ajiaco – a chicken stew with potatoes and corn, accompanied by toppings of capers, avocado, and cream – at La Puerta Falsa.
Established in 1816, La Puerta Falsa is a famous old restaurant near Plaza Bolívar that serves up traditional dishes.
Also order the the chocolate completo – hot chocolate, cheese, and fresh bread – a typical mid-morning snack in Colombia.
While it sounds like a weird combination, dipping your cheese into hot chocolate until it melts is delicious.
There are several restaurants alongside La Puerta Falsa serving the same things if it happens to be super busy.
17. Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao
Visit an authentic market while you’re in Bogotá to browse the fresh selection of foods and see how the locals shop for groceries.
Plaza Paloquemao is home to a brilliant selection of vendors who sell fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, eggs, seafood, and recently-butchered meats.
There are also stalls selling cooked foods like ajiaco, tamales, fried fish, and soups along the outside of the market.
Go early, don’t expect any English, and be prepared for an amazing sensory overload.
You can have breakfast at the market before roaming around to take photos and try a few exotic fruits.
18. Teatro Colón
Built in the late 1800s and designed by an Italian architect, the Teatro Colón was named after Christopher Columbus and it’s the national theater of Colombia.
This majestic building was constructed in the neoclassical style and it has beautiful interiors decorated by frescoes.
The seats are set in a horseshoe shape modeled around the Palais Garnier in Paris, though it’s only half the size.
Check online to see what shows are on and head to the theater to purchase tickets or take a guided tour to have a look around.
There are operas, concerts, and modern plays to choose from, and the whole experience has a magical, romantic vibe to it.
19. Zona G
Just a little south of Zona Rosa is another high-end neighborhood that’s filled with hip restaurants, cafes, bars, elegant hotels, and beautiful tree-lined streets.
Zona G (the “G” stands for “gourmet,” of course) has a range of different cuisines, and though it isn’t that cheap, it’s a fun place to spend an evening eating and bar-hopping.
You’ll have your pick of steak, Mexican, Peruvian, Lebanese, and Colombian, plus a few coffee shops and breweries.
Aside from drinks and fancy, romantic dinners, you can wander your way over to the Plaza de Lourdes for its impressive church and cheap eats like churros and fried arepas.
20. Museo Nacional de Colombia
Built in 1823, the biggest and oldest museum in Colombia was originally a prison constructed in the style of a fortress.
It’s truly massive and contains over 20,000 pieces of Colombian history that are on display in over 17 permanent galleries which used to be cells.
There are pre-Colombian artifacts as well as exhibits about the colonial times under Spanish rule.
Browse the artwork, furniture, and their Afro-Caribbean collections, and be sure to check which traveling exhibits are there when you visit.
The museum hosts lots of special exhibits, seminars, and musical performances which are quite popular.
21. Biblioteca Público Virgilio Barco
Book nerds and fans of architecture will love this enormous library in Bogotá.
Located just next to Parque Simón Bolívar with plenty of gardens and spaces for reading, it was designed by one of the most important architects in Colombia, Rogelio Salmona.
The round building is encircled by mirror-like waters to create a serene environment.
They have free wifi and art exhibits on display frequently – you know, in addition to all the books.
There’s a cafe offering snacks and drinks, as well as an open air theater on the roof where views of the city are great when it’s sunny.
22. Jardín Botánico de Bogotá
This peaceful place is never too crowded and it’s always super peaceful and lush.
Entry to the botanical gardens is cheap (less than 1 USD), and you’ll have free reign over the 19.5 hectares of gardens for a perfect day of being surrounded by nature.
There’s plenty of room to do some walking, or you can head out in search of lizards, turtles, ducks, peacocks, and other animals.
Because Colombia gets nearly 12 hours of sunlight a day, the range of flora here is superb, and you’ll find exotic flowers as well as a rose garden.
Have a snack from one of the food stalls nearby or take a guided tour to learn more about the plants here.
23. Eat More Colombian Food
There’s a lot to eat here in Colombia.
You’ll need to try sancocho, a thick, meat-filled stew with potatoes and corn, and then some of the succulent, slow roasted pork known as lechona.
You’ve also gotta grab an Aguila or Club Colombia beer and some cheese-filled arepas.
Be sure to taste their amazing Colombian coffee, fruit juices, and the anise-flavored liquor aguardiente.
Or better yet, enlist the help of a seasoned guide and take a Food Safari with the Bogotá Foodie.
You’ll get to hit traditional markets to try exotic fruits and sample foods like fish stew, lechona, pastries, cheesy breads, coffee, and empanadas.
24. Hike to La Chorrera and El Chiflón Waterfalls
These two waterfalls are located outside of Bogotá, and they’re about a 3-hour round-trip trek through lush and bright green vegetation.
The drive there will take you through the edge of the Andes with beautiful views of picturesque colonial villages, cliffs, and forests along the way.
Take the bus there yourself and pay the entrance fee, or opt for an organized trip with a hostel or tour company so that you’ll have transport, guides, and meals all arranged.
The routes can be a bit strenuous and muddy, but the trails are well-marked and the pounding waterfalls are incredible (and great for a swim after all that walking).
25. Ciclovía Sundays
If you’re here on a Sunday, you’ll get to see how awesome Bogotá is when it closes down over 100 kilometers of roads to cars for the weekly Ciclovía.
Families and friends come out with their bikes, skateboards, rollerblades, and dogs to get moving around the city.
Rent a bike and join in on the fun like a local – it’s a great way to experience regular life in Bogotá while getting some exercise yourself.
Roadside food stalls pop up on Sundays so you can grab a fresh juice or arepa as you explore.
And if you feel like joining in on an exercise or dance class, you can pop over to one of the parks along the cycling route for what’s called Recreovía – they’re free!