Bogotá might not be the first destination that comes to mind when planning a trip to South America. Yet it is a city that has quietly been transforming itself into an exciting and vibrant tourist destination that’s rich in culture, history, art and gastronomy.
In order to find out what makes Bogotá a great place to visit, let’s delve deeper into the reasons why Bogota deserves a place on your travel bucket list. Having begun the process of moving to Bogotá and making it my home, I’m sure by the end of this article you’ll have decided to at least visit Bogotá while in Colombia.
What makes Bogota Colombia a Great Place to Visit?
A Vibrant Kaleidoscope of Art
Street Art That Speaks Volumes
Bogota’s streets serve as an open-air museum that allows for artistic expression on every corner. Since the decriminalization of graffiti nearly a decade ago, both Colombian and international artists have used the city’s walls as their canvas, creating a dynamic and vibrant street art scene. Even Justin Bieber has created street art in Bogotá.
The La Candelaria neighborhood, Bogota’s oldest, has long been known for its art-strewn streets. Yet more recently it’s becoming world renowned for its street art and graffiti murals. Here, the winding lanes are adorned with a myriad of colorful murals, from lifelike portraits to whimsical flying potatoes.
Museums And Galleries Abound In Bogotá
For those who prefer their art indoors, Bogota boasts an impressive array of museums and galleries. The Gold Museum, home to over 34,000 pre-Columbian gold artifacts, offers a dazzling glimpse into Colombia’s indigenous peoples’ intricate artistry.
The Gold Museum contains the largest collection of pre-hispanic gold artefacts in the world. And right next door to the Gold Museum you’ll find the International Emerald Museum, educating visitors about the origins of the worlds best emeralds which also come from Colombia.
The Botero Museum showcases the works of Fernando Botero, one of Latin America’s most significant artists, known for his comically bulbous characters. It’s also home to works from a range of masters including Matisse, Monet, Dali, Picasso, Renoir and many others.
The Botero Museum is linked internally with the Colección de Arte del Banco de la República (Banco Republica art collection) and the Museo de Arte Miguel Urrutia (MAMU). Creating a huge complex that takes most of a day to see in full.
The Gold Museum has an entry fee of 5000 Colombian peso and the audio tour is an additional 8000 peso. The Botero Museum and the linked Colección de Arte del Banco de la República (Banco Republica art collection) and the Museo de Arte Miguel Urrutia (MAMU) are free to enter.
The Heartbeat of Colombian Culture
A Taste of the Local Cuisine
Bogota is a foodies paradise, offering a wide range of culinary experiences. From high-end restaurants to traditional markets and street food stalls, Bogotá has it all. Bogotá even counts over 20 Michelin Star restaurants within its city limits.
The city’s restaurant scene is renowned for its cheap and delicious lunch menus (menu del dia), which often include fresh-squeezed juice, soup, starter, main, desert and amazing Colombian coffee for just a few dollars. A ‘menu del dia’ will cost anywhere from 8000 Colombian pesos to 20000 pesos ($2-$5USD)
I’ve seen everything from pechuga (chicken breast) and pescado (fish) through to Capybara meat (chigüiro). Personally I avoid the chigüiro as I can’t get over the thought that I’m eating a giant rodent. Though Capybara or chigüiro doesn’t taste bad.
For the beer drinkers among my readers or foodies who might want vegetarian and vegan options, Bogotá’s craft beer revolution has put the Calle 45/Parkway area on the map.
In the epicentre of Bogotá’s craft beer revolution, there has been an upswelling of vegan and vegetarian restaurants. And you can get any type of vegan or vegetarian food you could possibly want to try. So you can have your craft beer while enjoying some of Colombia’s best plant based cuisine if giant rodent meat isn’t for you!
If you’re a foodie visiting Bogotá for the first time and you want to find the best restaurants and the hidden gems, I’d recommend following The Bogotá Foodie on Instagram.
Colombian Coffee Culture
Colombia is globally renowned for its coffee and Bogota is no exception. The city is dotted with unique cafes where you can sample some of the world’s best coffee while gaining insights into the local coffee culture.
A prime example is Azahar in Chapinero, a cafe that uses the very shipping containers often associated with exporting the country’s best beans to serve high-quality Colombian coffee to locals and visitors alike. Another example is Cafe Matuca, located just behind the Gold Museum.
Bogota’s Hipster Soul
Bogota is the hipster capital of Colombia, known for its diverse population and artistic vibes. Neighborhoods like Chapinero, Zona G and La Candelaria are brimming with one-of-a-kind cafes, live music bars and people just chilling out.
The city’s authenticity and diversity, combined with its openness and inclusivity, make it a city that simply can’t be missed. If you’re someone who is into cafes, craft beer, street art, tattoos and fashion, you’ll feel right at home in Bogotá.
A City on Two Wheels
Bogota has made a significant push towards promoting urban cycling with its innovative Ciclovia program. Every Sunday, the city closes off more than 120km of roads to traffic, allowing residents and tourists to cycle, jog, rollerblade or simply stroll through the city streets.
This Ciclovia initiative has transformed Bogota into a bicycle-friendly city, offering a unique perspective on urban exploration. Yet even on a weekday, Bogotá has over 300km of bike paths to explore on two wheels.
Spectacular Views and Outdoor Adventures
Bogota’s location at over 2,600 meters above sea level in the Andean mountain range nestled between the Guadalupe and Monserrate mountains, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. And you can find many vantage points overlooking the city, including the famous Monserrate.
The city’s Eastern Hills provide a green backdrop, offering a natural oasis in the midst of the urban sprawl. These hills are not only a sight to behold. But also a hub for outdoor activities and adventure sports including hiking, mountain biking, climbing and paragliding.
A Gateway to Colombia
With its international airport and central location, Bogota serves as a convenient starting point for exploring the rest of Colombia. Whether you’re dreaming of Caribbean beaches, Andean mountain ranges or colonial towns, Bogota’s accessibility and connectivity make it an ideal base for your Colombian adventure.
Yet moreover, Bogotá’s location and major international airport in my view make it the perfect location for a home base from which to work, while exploring not only the rest of Colombia, but neighbouring countries and Central America and the Caribbean. That’s why I’m buying property here.
Embracing the Past, Present and Future
Bogota seamlessly blends its cultural heritage and historical roots with modern innovation. The city’s architectural style is a testament to this blend, combining colonial charm with modernist design. And often you will find colonial houses on cobblestone streets sitting right next-door to glittering modern skyscrapers.
The old brown commercial buildings in the city center give way to the vibrant street art of La Candelaria, and the red brick buildings designed by modernist architects add a unique aesthetic to the cityscape. Bogotá is certainly a city of contrast.
A Safe and Welcoming City
Bogota has made remarkable strides in transforming itself into a safe and welcoming city for tourists. The city’s neighborhoods offer secure accommodations and transportation options. And the local Bogatanos are known for their warm hospitality.
While travelers should always exercise caution, Bogota’s safety improvements make it a city where tourists can feel at ease. Depending on what you’re looking for, there are safe accommodation options in a neighbourhood that will have a vibe to match your own.
A Hub for Learning Spanish
Colombia’s clear and neutral Spanish accent makes it one of the best places to learn the language. Bogota, being the country’s capital, offers numerous opportunities for language immersion, whether through formal Spanish classes or casual conversations with friendly locals.
I should however mention though that Colombian Spanish is quite colloquial. And there are a lot of terms that are used in everyday conversations with Colombians or Bogatanos that will sound very strange to someone who has learnt Spanish in a different country.
One example of a Colombian colloquialism is ‘perico‘. Perico could mean a fried vegetable breakfast, a budgie (parrot) or cocaine. It all depends on the context in which the word is used. And you’ll definitely want to understand the context before saying yes.
A Resilient City Amidst the Pandemic
Despite the challenges that were posed by the global pandemic, Bogota demonstrated its resilience and adaptability. The city implemented stringent biosecurity protocols to safeguard public health. And Bogotá has now opened itself to travel and has efficient and clear policies for travelers.
If you’re vaccinated you just need to show your vaccination card to enter Colombia at the El Dorado international airport. Or if you haven’t been vaccinated you just need to take a quick and easy test on arrival.
Bogota is a city that certainly deserves to be explored. Its rich culture, vibrant art scene, world-class cuisine and friendly locals make it a gem waiting to be discovered. Bogotá has a lot more options of things to do and see than Medellin. It’s much more of an international city than Medellin or Cartagena where foreigners and expats often choose to stay.
So why not seize the opportunity to experience all that Bogota has to offer? After all, as we’ve all learned from the past few years, there’s no time like the present to embark on new adventures. And get oneself out of isolation and live a little.
Where Can I Get More Information On Bogotá?
I’ve made my Bogotá Colombia City Guide available on this website. And I would strongly recommend you read it before traveling to Colombia. It will help you navigate Bogotá and Colombian society.
My Bogotá Colombia City Guide will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Colombia. Colombia is not the sort of destination in which you can just arrive unprepared.
Read the Bogotá Colombia City Guide here.