The best things to do in Bogotá, Colombia’s vibrant capital

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Bogotá, the high-altitude capital of Colombia, offers travelers a cultural smorgasbord of activities and experiences. This vibrant metropolis blends history with modern art, allowing visitors to discover the best things to do in Bogota through high-class museums and painted back alleys. From the cobbled streets of La Candelaria to the panoramic views at Mount Monserrate, Bogotá invites exploration and discovery.

A wide-angle shot of a bustling square in front of an ornate, twin-towered cathedral under a cloudy sky.
Bolivar Square in Bogota. Photo credit: At the Immigrant’s Table.

Culture lovers can immerse themselves in the city’s history and art at renowned museums such as the Gold Museum or Museo del Oro, which houses one of the most important collections of pre-Hispanic goldwork in the world. Meanwhile, nature lovers might find solace trekking the scenic pathways leading to the serene Guatavita lagune, a sacred lagoon surrounded by lush vegetation and local mythology.

If you’re feeling hungry, the gastronomic scene in Bogotá is one of the top in Latin America. The city’s street food offers an authentic taste of Colombian flavors, like tamales. Meanwhile, Bogotá’s top restaurants offer inventive menus with exotic ingredients. Whether seeking adventure, culture or unique dishes, Bogotá has plenty of memorable experiences for visitors.

Historic sites

A colorful street with vibrantly painted houses in a traditional latin american town, under a cloudy sky with mountains in the background.
La Candelaria in Bogota. Photo credit: At the Immigrant’s Table.

Bogotá boasts a wealth of historic sites, offering visitors a glimpse into Colombia’s rich cultural heritage. Each site tells a unique story, serving as a tangible link to the city’s storied past.

Explore la Candelaria

La Candelaria is the historical heart of Bogotá. Visitors can wander through cobblestone streets and admire colonial buildings, many of which are now museums, restaurants and cultural hubs. Among them, colorful buildings stand against the stunning backdrop of the Andean mountains, a sight highly regarded by travelers.

Monserrate Sanctuary

The Monserrate Sanctuary, perched atop the mountain of the same name, provides both spiritual solace and panoramic views of Bogotá. The monastery is a critical religious site and a destination for pilgrims across Colombia. Its elevation offers a unique perspective of the cityscape below, and the cable car leading there is its own unique experience. It’s no wonder visiting this sanctuary is considered one of the best things to do in Bogotá.

Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira

Just outside of Bogotá, the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira is a marvel of architecture carved from the halite rock of a former salt mine. This underground cathedral is not only a place of worship but also an artistic masterpiece, presenting an exploration of subterranean beauty and religious devotion.

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Cultural experiences

Bogotá offers a variety of cultural experiences, from the flavors of its cuisine to the vibrancy of its street art. Visitors can immerse in a collection of activities that reflect the city’s historical roots and contemporary creativity.

Local cuisine and markets

A bustling market offering an array of fresh and vibrant fruits and vegetables.
Fruit piles in a Bogota market. Photo credit: At the Immigrant’s Table.

Bogotá’s culinary scene reflects Colombia’s diversity. Tourists can savor traditional dishes at iconic establishments like Andrés Carne de Res, renowned for their festive atmosphere and grilled meats. Furthermore, the city boasts vibrant markets such as Paloquemao, where visitors can taste exotic fruits and local specialties.

Try traditional dishes such as “ajiaco” or a hearty chicken and potato soup, “bandeja paisa,” which is a meat platter and arepas. If you’re looking to indulge in food, one of the best things to do in Bogotá is to visit the Paloquemao Market to sample a variety of fresh fruits and local food.

“I love so many things about Bogotá, like its cultural depth, historical richness and unbeatable food scene. One of my absolute favorites has to be hiking up to Monserrate for those stunning views of the city. But the highlight? Definitely grabbing arepas from La Puerta Falsa. They’ve been at it since 1816, and their arepas with cheese? Simply unbeatable.”

— Shruthi Baskaran-Makanju, Urban Farmie

Simón Bolívar Park

Simón Bolívar Park offers a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle while serving as the locale for numerous cultural events. With a lake, sports facilities and regular concerts, the park is a lush rendezvous spot for cultural exchange and community gatherings.

Street art and museums

Murals and graffiti decorate the walls of Bogotá, turning streets into open-air galleries. The Candelaria is particularly noted for its street art, but going with a tour company can help uncover lesser-known locales. On the other end of the spectrum, the Gold Museum preserves the country’s most significant collection of pre-Columbian gold artifacts, narrating the stories of ancient civilizations through exquisitely crafted pieces.

Theater and performances

The Bogotá theater scene is dynamic, hosting performances that range from traditional to experimental. Venues like Teatro Colón and Teatro Mayor showcase a plethora of theatrical productions, dances and concerts that capture the city’s artistic spirit and heritage.

Shopping and nightlife

Two men in white hats and shirts playing percussion instruments and smiling.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Bogotá offers a dynamic shopping scene and a vibrant nightlife. From intimate salsa venues to loud discotheques with pulsating reggaeton music, those looking to get down can find a variety of options in Colombia’s capital.

Markets and Boutiques

Visitors to the city can explore a variety of local markets and boutiques scattered across Bogotá. Consider shopping at Paloquemao Market for a vast selection of fresh produce and flowers. Head to the Usaquén Flea Market on Sundays for unique artisanal crafts and Colombian souvenirs. Upscale boutiques offering contemporary fashion are plentiful in Chicó, especially around Parque 93.

Nightlife in Zona T

The heart of Bogotá’s nightlife pulses the strongest in Zona T or Zona Rosa. This district boasts a plethora of bars, clubs and upscale restaurants. Party enthusiasts revel in the Colombian rumba at places like Salto del Ángel, while drink lovers can enjoy sophisticated cocktails at the Red Room. For a local experience with vibrant music and dancing, the Zona T area is unmatched, drawing both locals and tourists into the spirited night.

Wrapping up

The capital of Colombia is as multifaceted as the country, offering gems for explorers of all ages and preferences. If you want a quiet vacation filled with strolls through museums and dinners in South America’s best restaurants, Bogotá has plenty of higher-end offers. If you’re looking for outdoor scenery, the Andes are unparalleled, and the day trip offers are plentiful. And if you’re on the hunt for street food, street art and dancing too close for comfort, then Bogotá is definitely the place to go. Any way you turn, this vibrant city is calling your name.

Ksenia Prints is a food writer, blogger, photographer and recipe developer from Montreal, Canada. She blogs over At the Immigrant’s Table, a food blog showcasing healthy, beautiful international recipes for adventurous home cooks. She loves to highlight ethnic cuisines and immigrant cultures by working with chefs from relevant countries and adapting those recipes to gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, sugar-free and other dietary restrictions.

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