Table of Contents
Things to do Bogota – Understand
Bogota, like Medellin, has a bad reputation for its history in the drug wars. However, Bogota has always been the city of public servants and high finance. Neither the Cali nor Medellin cartel could really control this city.
Bogota is located at almost 9,000 feet making physical excersion difficult for a few days (I usually get headaches as well – but some people can handle high altitude much better).
Bogota has some seriously good food at moderate prices. It’s not necessarily local cuisine, but you can eat very well here.
With a COP 3,000: 1 USD exchange rate, most things in Bogota are good value.
Colombians are usually a friendly bunch, though the locals in Bogota have caught the depression that we can cutely feel in many American cities too. People are noticeably more rude than anywhere else in Colombia. Make sure you take your Spanish phrase book with you, as English seems like a language from another planet, even in the capital.
Things to do Bogota – Safety
Bogota has come a long way and with every visit here I feel the city is has gotten much safer. As with many cities, it’s all about the neighborhood and in this city it is often the specific city block. In general most areas are fine if you come prepared for elevated crime city during the day and a car is a good idea in most areas at night. For the experienced traveler Bogota isn’t a security challenge but for the novices it is better to go safe.
Certain areas of Bogota including the Old Town don’t feel safe at all at night. They seem OK enough during the day, but require you to be aware, prepare for pick-pocketing and move faster than you would usually.
There is a considerable amount of ‘opportunity crime’ in the city and the locals all have stories to share. The good news is that it’s usually not violent and foreigners are not specifically targeted.
Things to do Bogota – Get Around
Uber is in town and a great way to avoid the communication issues. Drivers usually go about their business an won; car much about you but most are safe drivers. Most Uber rides are under $5 anywhere in the city (even longer rides).
Things to do Bogota – Connectivity
Colombia in general has fast Internet connections and Bogota has likely the bets in Colombia. You won;t have to worry about fast Internet at your hotel or most coffee shops have 10 Mbit+ connections available.
Things to do Bogota – Pollution
Sadly, many Bogota streets are badly polluted by diesel exhaust from buses and other heavy vehicles. Air pollution is a major issue, despite the moderate size of the valley floor. It feels (much) worse than Mexico City, for instance.
Bogota gets a lot of rain in ‘winter’ which occurs twice a year and this washes out pollution literally. Without it can get bad.
Things to do Bogota – Things to See
Going up Monserrate Hill either by cable car or train will get you to more than 12,000 feet of elevation. If you come from sea level, don’t do this on the first day! It is COP ~18,000 for the round-trip cable car journey and the train only operates in the mornings now.
The views from up top are fantastic and absolutely worth the prices and (short) lines for the train. The biggest concern is the weather, as clouds and rain often shroud the hills during the late morning or early afternoon hours.
Bogota Old Town
Bogota’s Old Town has a number of historic buildings around Iglesia de San Francisco. It’s in decent shape and interesting to see, although it’s too bad that the area is not the safest and it’s hard ogling buildings with people watching you constantly.
A great upside to this neighborhood (as you go up the hill) is the many artsy murals dotted around the place.
Bogota has a huge number of museums, but the Museo del Oro del Banco de la República is likely the best. The museum is well-organized and when you leave you will have been blinded by all that gold you just saw.
These two museums are combined into one and are free to visit. The exhibits pale in comparison with the combination of old and new architecture here, so it’s a great place to stroll through.
OK, so maybe it’s not the greatest botanical garden you will ever come across, but on a sunny day it’s a fantastic oasis. It’s also right next to the airport and you can spot the planes just after take-off or as they approach.
This enormous city oasis is close to the botanical gardens and comes with an artificial lake and several playgrounds. There is not much else to do here, but if you are sick and tired of the truck noise and pollution then this place will surely cheer you up.
Things to do Bogota – Eat & Drink
Bogota is surprisingly serious about food and a good number of restaurant entrepreneurs have started to take advantage of the low labor cost and increasing number of confident consumers. There are three areas for you to hunt around (and they are also the safest and most pleasant areas in the city).
Zone G (for Gourmet!) is the grand-daddy of good food in Bogota (and it’s also where the Embassy Suites and Four Seasons are located). Food outlets are a bit more pricey and a bit less hipster in the center of it.
Fratelli is a rotisserie that doubles as a coffee shop and cupcake place. This can’t be good – right? Nothing could be further from the truth, as all of it is excellent. It’s very comfy and the service is super-friendly.
Julia is an upscale pizza chain that has a few outlets in the city. This likely has the best atmosphere of all the restaurants around here. On a cold evening, you can sit down next to the powerful pizza oven and enjoy a thin dough pizza. It’s not cheap, but the atmosphere is clearly a plus, as is the excellent food.
Zatar is serious about Lebanese food. The barbecue chicken wrap and the hummus we had were really good and it’s moderately cheap too.! It’s just footsteps from Fratelli and Julia and doesn’t offer much atmosphere to speak of, but you will walk out happy!
Cafe Cultor makes the best coffee in Bogota hands down. It’s part of the co-working space Impact Bogota and has a beautiful outdoor seating (though just a few spots when it rains).
Juan Valdez must have hundreds of outlets around Bogota, but this flagship store is pretty cool and will eerily reminisce of the Peets Flagship Store on Chestnut St in the Marina in San Francisco. The drinks and service are also a tad better than at any other Juan Valdez (i generally don’t like their coffee much).
Brot Cafe isn’t so much known for its bread but is a cozy bakery in an old building with plenty of trees around. I really liked the avocado toast for just $2 and the cinnamon roles.
I’m not a fan of the coffee that is being brewed here.
Masa 70 comes with a lot of healthy and yummy creation of sandwiches and salads and desserts. Unfortunately the joy is spoiled a bit the weird attitude of many patron and the staff.
This little bakery is hard ti din on top of a restaurant with a similar name (but a much different menu and vibe). The Les amis Bizcochería looks more like your grandma’s living room (and kitchen) than a coffee shop. The empanadas and cakes are fresh and delicious and also quite cheap. A great reminder of old days bygone…
Cantina Y Punto is really hidden in a small alley, but it serves great Mexican food. The inside of the restaurant is stylish and the food can’t get any better. It also has surprisingly fast service. Amazing!
Orso Heladeria serves very creative ice cream concoctions (think tomato or ginger flavors) in a hipster setting.
Stromboli Pizza is quite a find. It’s not the ‘deepest’ deep dish I have ever had (as that title goes to Chicago). However, the inside courtyard (yes, they have heaters!) is gorgeous and the pizza is served super-fast (for deep dish anyways). It’s not cheap, but you will be so happy you ate here!
Parque 93 is another leafy and secure two-block area, with two great spots if you are hungry.
Al Agua Patos specializes in various kinds of toasts – both savory and sweet. The vibe is relaxed and the food is crazy-cheap. I also loved the delicious juices on offer.
Azahar was just a tiny little container coffee shop just two years ago but it now a huge, bustling coffee shop with good coffee and eclectic food menu.
Now it looks like this:
The old home is still available for rent!
The new space is supsringly crowded (thugh you should be abale to fin seats) and comes with fast Wifi. It is tencially all outdoor so it;s a bit chilly whn Bogota cools down.
The food offered is fantastic and teh avocado toast does taste even better than it looks (it is just $5).
I also tried the desserts and pancakes which were equally good.
The coffee here is just ok though – everything is drowned in too much milk and surprisingly for South America a Cortado isn’t a typical drink.
If you have time and money to spend you may want to go for a ‘special occasion’ dinner for Cielo which offers huge set dinners for $50 per person. It’s also a good way to discover more Colombian dishes.
Expect some serious attitude (yes we know this from most American restaurants) but quality food.
Things to do Bogota – Where to stay
Many hotels around Chapinero suffer from old hardware. The airport hotels are usually brand new and are built much above what you would expect from an airport hotel. I liked the Holiday Inn Bogota Airport for its modern hardware and friendly staff. I also liked the Courtyard by Marriott Bogota (LINK) and the Marriott Bogota (LINK) (also closer to the airport)
I wasn’t a fan of the Hilton Bogota (LINK) or the Embassy Suites (LINK) (despite it’s great location).
The Maybe it is time to try the W Hotel instead?