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To be honest, spending a weekend in Bogota, a city of 8 million, was not at the top of my to-do list when I moved to Colombia. However, when I compared flight prices on Skyscanner and saw the VivaColombia flights were only $45 each for a round trip, Daniel and I decided we should see the capital city for a weekend.
I’m so glad we did!
Bogota is actually one of the best places to visit in Colombia because you can get out of the tourist bubble that seems to thoroughly envelop other parts of Colombia, like Cartagena or Poblado, and experience real, local life in the country. Bogota also has a lot to offer, like amazing nightlife, gorgeous parks, beautiful architecture, and a phenomenal food scene.
There are so many things to do in Bogota – plan your weekend in the city with this complete guide!
Our cozy room at Hobu Hostel
Where to Stay in Bogota
Our weekend in Bogota began on Friday evening as we settled into the Hobu Hostel in Chapinero. When we searched for the best neighborhood to stay in in Bogota, La Candelaria in the historical center was mentioned a lot. However, while beautiful during the day, the barrio isn’t safe to stay in at night – in fact, travel blogger Nomadic Matt was recently stabbed there!
That’s why we chose the Chapinero neighborhood, a hipster up and coming area to the north of Candelaria. Our hostel was situated in a perfect location, so we could walk to Candelaria to explore in the day, and walk to Zona Rosa to hit the bars and clubs at night.
Be warned: A weekend in Bogota is much more expensive than Medellin. It was normal to see beer prices doubled from what we usually pay, and most bars and clubs had $8 or even $10 covers to enter. Because of this, we limited our night out to Friday only, and met up with some locals to experience the craft beer scene and dance the night away in Bogota’s famous bars!
Above the clouds (literally) on Monserrate mountain
9 Things to do in Bogota
Not sure what to do in Bogota? This guide has ya covered. Keep reading to discover the top 9 things to do in Bogota during your stay!
1. Stop by Simon Bolivar’s House
Universidad de Los Andes, a pretty campus with a bustling student life, Simon Bolivar’s house turned museum, and the cable car up to the Monserrate viewpoint all are all ine same area so you can see them all at once.
Simon Bolivar’s old home is now a museum with a lush walled-in garden and for the 1 usd entrance fee, it was certainly worth the visit. Afterward, the weather was gray and cloudy (the usual in Bogota) so we decided to give the cable car a miss and wait for clearer skies.
The colorful streets of La Candelaria neighborhood
2. Walk Through La Candelaria Neighborhood
We walked from the museum down through Candelaria exploring the winding streets and colorful graffiti of the city. Visiting La Candelaria is one of the top things to do in Colombia, so if you’re a photographer get your camera ready! With its cobblestone streets, colorful houses, quaint storefronts, and cozy cafes, La Candelaria is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Bogota and one you can easily while a few hours away in.
On the hunt for English books at Libreria Merlin
3. Libreria Merlin
From La Candelaria, we made our way to Libreria Merlin, a must-see during your weekend in Bogota.
The book store is in a four-story house that’s full of winding rooms and mazes of books. It featured walls of books in English that we spent a good hour pouring over, as well as hundreds of choices for any language you may be searching for. It’s beautiful, and the perfect cozy respite from the cold, rainy weather outside.
Bogota sprawling below us from the Monserrate viewpoint
4. Ride the Cable Car to the top of Monserrate
That afternoon, we got lucky and the sun came out just in time to take the cable car up to Monserrate. The cost was $14 for two round trips, but if you have the whole weekend in Bogota, go on a Sunday and you can get tickets for half price (but will have to deal with the crowds).
The viewpoint sits atop the mountains that form the eastern boundary of Bogota and has a church, market, and a couple of restaurants and gardens. This is absolutely one of the best things to do in Bogota (especially if you have nice weather) and we spent hours up there enjoying the sun, the view, and finally, the sunset while all the lights slowly flickered on across the city. It was unforgettable, and my favorite part of our three-day trip.
5. Don’t Miss Out on Ciclovia Sundays
On Sunday we woke up refreshed, ready to join the masses at Ciclovia.
Whats that? Ciclovia is an amazing Colombian tradition, where every Sunday they shut down the main street in many cities (In Bogota, it’s Carrera 7, called Septima) from 7 am to 2 pm for bikers and joggers to enjoy.
We walked the entire stretch from Chapinero to Candelaria, enjoying the vendors, flea markets, and street performers that saturated the streets.
Cathedral in Plaza Simon Bolivar
6. Be Awed by Plaza Simon Bolivar
Our walk ended in Plaza Simon Bolivar, a massive square full of families (and so many pigeons… ew). One side features the dominating Cathedral of Bogota, but there is history on all sides in the surrounding capitol building and Palace of Justice. If you watch Narcos, you’ll definitely recognize this place.
7. Visit the Gold Museum
After lunch we visited the Gold Museum (also free on Sundays) to see the carvings from the indigenous tribes of the country. Not only is it full of priceless and beautifully carved gold pieces, but all of the exhibits are also in English, a rarity for the country. Definitely worth stopping in for an hour or two on your weekend in Bogota.
Simon Bolivar Park is larger than Central Park in NYC
8. Stroll Through Simon Bolivar Park
Our final day in Bogota began with a trip to Simon Bolivar park (yes, everything in the country, actually the whole continent, is named after this man). The park has a lake with kayaks for rent, walking trails, an amusement park, and so much more. It’s even bigger than Central Park in NYC! I mean, it’s not one of the best things to do in Bogota but it’s nice to see if you have some extra time in the city and want to stretch your legs.
9. Check out the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira
While I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to make it to the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira, this unique destination still deserves a shoutout. The Catholic church was carved into the rock 180 meters underground in a salt mine! Entrance is 18 usd per person and though it’s located a bit outside of the city you can get there by Uber, bus, or guided tour from Bogota.
More buildings at Monserrate
Where to Eat in Bogota
Right around the corner from Plaza Simon Bolivar is a classic Bogota establishment, La Puearta Falsa.
The tiny restaurant has been in business since 1816, and is officially known as the oldest restaurant in the country! We went for lunch and enjoyed Bogota’s famous dish: Ajiaco. The hearty soup was full of potatoes, chicken and even an ear of corn, and was the perfect filling comfort food for the weather.
I can also recommend grabbing a sandwich at the quaint Quatro Mesas restaurant and, if you’re missing home like me, eating at Taco Bell! Yes, you heard that right, expats, there are multiple Taco Bells in Bogota where our homesickness was satiated with a Frito burrito and crunch wrap supreme.
If sketchy meat isn’t your thing, go to Andres Carne de Res instead. This Bogota establishment was recommended by a local and serves traditional Colombian foods (aka meat) in a unique setting!
Ok, I promise this is my last picture from Monserrate!
More Thoughts on Our Weekend in Bogota
Unfortunately, when Daniel and I stepped out of the Gold Museum a massive storm hit the city. We jumped in a cab to head back to the hostel, and in all of the confusion trying to get my backpack together, keep my camera safe, and open my umbrella in the downpour, my phone fell out of my pocket and I left it in the taxi.
I realized almost immediately and was calling it and tracking it within five minutes, but the driver must be an old pro and had already snatched it and turned it off so it couldn’t be traced. It was such a shame that he chose to be dishonest, but luckily I only lost 24 hours worth of photos. Plus, my family can bring me a new one from the States when they come to visit next month, so I won’t need to deal with hunting down an iPhone in a foreign language here.
While we’re on the subject of taxis, though, good luck figuring out your fare while you’re here. In Bogota, the number on the meter is not what you pay. Instead, that number corresponds to a price on a chart. Once you have that price, you need to look at the “special occasions” list on the bottom, like if it’s late at night or early in the morning, if it’s raining, etc, and then add on to the price for those as well.
However, most taxi drivers either don’t have those charts or refuse to let you see them, and will instead just tell you a random number they think they can get you to pay. Only one actually gave us the chart, but then conveniently had no change for our bills… Maybe I’m biased because of my phone, but I found the taxi drivers and system I experienced during our weekend in Bogota to be more dishonest and less straightforward than those here in Medellin.
The storm we were caught in was so powerful it knocked out our hostel’s power for the night, but we built a fire in the old fireplace and gathered around to order pizzas and share a few beers with the other guests. That’s definitely one of the most beautiful things about traveling, a tough day can end with one of the most memorable nights!
The next day, our flight home was a short 50 minutes and before we knew it it was back to work for another week – minus one cell phone of course. Ah well, we’re off to San Andres Island next Tuesday, so it’s not too bad!
Ready to visit Bogota and put this itinerary to the test? Click here to book your stay in the city!