An Express Guide to Bogotá for Half a Day, One Day or a Weekend

things-to-do-in-bogota

Photo: Colombia Country Brand

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While in town for business or a stopover, take advantage of your free time in Bogotá to check out some of the city’s must-sees.

Bogotá’s a huge city with a lot to offer. Whether you have a half a day, one day or the whole weekend, there’s something here for everyone.

things-to-do-in-bogota

If you have a half day in Bogotá:

Take in Bogotá’s eclectic architecture with a tour around La Candelaria, the city’s historic and cultural center. Walk the cobblestone streets, wandering amid preserved colonial buildings, museums and plazas before stopping for lunch or dinner.

Recommended Route:

1. Some of the most important cultural centers and museums in Bogotá are located in La Candelaria district downtown. Within a few blocks you may visit or choose between 5 must-sees:

Gold Museum: Bogotá’s Museo del Oro is a dazzler, home to one of the biggest collections of pre-Hispanic gold in the world. Reopened in 2008 after a decade spent in renovation, more than 55,000 pieces of gold and other materials are on display from all the major pre-Hispanic cultures in Colombia.

Schedule: Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A free one-hour tour is offered Tuesday through Saturday (in Spanish and English; at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.).

Location: Carrera 6 # 15 – 88

Botero Museum: Fernando Botero is Colombia’s most famous artist, renowned for his bloated, oversized figures. In this colonial-era house, over 100 of his drawings, watercolors, oil paintings, pastels and sculptures lie alongside works by Picasso, Renoir, Dalí and Matisse. Adjoining the Botero Museum, the Casa de la Moneda currency museum explores the history of Colombia’s Mint.

Schedule: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Closed Tuesdays; Sundays and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Location: Calle 11 # 4 – 41

Gabriel Garcia Marquez Cultural Center: Named in honor of the country’s beloved Gabo, this is mainstay of contemporary Colombian architecture. Here you’ll find a library with more than 80,000 books, plus an art gallery, a record store and a bookstore. For a locally brewed pick-me-up, don’t forget to stop at Juan Valdez, Colombia’s national coffee house, on the ground floor.

Schedule: Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Location: Calle 11 # 5 – 60

Luis Angel Arango Library: Visit the architectural masterpiece that holds Latin America’s largest collection of books. Beyond just a library, it’s a lively center of culture and the arts for the community.

Schedule: Monday to Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Location: Calle 11 # 4 – 14

Art Museum of the Bank of the Republic: Established in 1957 to protect and spread the history of Colombian art, the museum houses more than 5,000 works by Colombian, Latin American and European artists.

Schedule: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; closed Tuesday; Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: Calle 11 # 4 – 21

2.  Plaza Bolivar: After your cultural tour, take a stroll through Plaza de Bolivar— the center of government in Colombia and the heart of the original town of Bogotá. Lively, pigeon-filled, and perfect for people watching, the Plaza features the National Capitol building, Palace of Justice, Cathedral of Bogota and Mayor’s Office.

Location: Plaza de Bolívar, between Calle 10 & 11

3. Puerta Falsa: Did you work up an appetite yet? Cozy up in this heralded, hole-in-the-wall lunch spot for a warm bowl of Ajiaco, the region’s most famous dish. The thick and hearty soup consists of shredded chicken, potatoes, and a chunk of corn on the cob. Also try the tamales and chocolate completo (hot chocolate with cheese, buttered bread and a biscuit).

Schedule: Sunday to Sunday from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Location Calle 11 # 6 – 50.

Time for the route: 6 hours

Budget: 30-50 USD per person

If you have a full day in Bogota:

After exploring La Candelaria, consider one of these options to fill the rest of the day:

Cerro de Monserrate: At 3,152 meters (10,000 feet) high, the Cerro de Monserrate offers sweeping views of the capital. Up top, the white Santuario de Monserrate church features a 17th century figure of a fallen Christ, which attracts pilgrims throughout the year. You’ll also find souvenir and snack shops. Take the small tram (called the funicular), or the cable car (teleférico), each for 16,400 Colombian pesos (USD 7.60) for a round-trip ticket. You can also hike up the mountain, but beware: This is a challenging, advanced hike (~1.5 hours).

Schedule: The funicular runs from Monday to Friday, from 7 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sundays from 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and holidays from 6:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. The cable car runs from Monday to Saturday from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Location: Carrera 2 este # 21 – 48. From the front entrance of the University de los Andes, it’s a short 10-minute walk up the hill to the base of the mountain, where you will see a ticket window.

Colón Theater: Take a visit to Colombia’s national theatre, Teatro Colón, the oldest standing opera house in South America and the current home to the city’s symphony orchestra. The gilded five-story theatre opened its doors in 1892. After six years spent undergoing extensive renovations, it reopened its [huge] doors in July 2014.

Schedule: Monday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 9:00 a.m. to start of programmed show.

Location: Calle 10 # 5 – 32

National Museum: The nearby Museo Nacional was once the site of the Panóptico prison and now displays Colombian artifacts in converted jail cells. You’ll find thousands of Colombian historical and archeological artifacts, plus temporary exhibits and a café.

Schedule: Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5pm.

Location: Carrera 7 # 28 – 66

Bogotá Beer Company: Sip on a cold artisanal brew at one of the city’s many “BBC” bars. Bogota’s “biggest small brewery” has over 20 pubs scattered throughout the city, serving up a dozen different types of beer, from Munich-style white beers to British-inspired dark ones.

Schedule: Until 3 a.m.

Location: Click here and scroll down to BBC PUBS.

Dining: To close the day, explore one of the many offerings of Bogotá’s vibrant gastronomy scene.

Harry Sasson: One of Colombia’s most important chefs opened this 1914 National Heritage Site mansion offering cuisine combining Colombian and international ingredients.

Tábula: A rustic space with a modern, refined take on traditional Colombian fare, like hearty lamb and beef, slow-cooked in a wood fire oven.

Club Colombia: Enjoy the best of fresh, local cuisine, “just like Grandma made,” with flavors from Cartagena to the Amazonas.

La Mar: The place for Peruvian ceviche and other seafood dishes, in a contemporary space in the North of Bogotá.

Salvo Patria: A small, trendy, bohemian vibe with a delicious, inventive menu (including vegetarian options) and high-quality coffee.

MiniMal: Out of a house in the Chapinero Alto neighborhood, this restaurant promotes local and seasonal ingredients, as well as rare Amazonian fruits and other delicacies. http://www.mini-mal.org/

If you have a weekend in Bogota:

These are some of the options you may consider adding to your plans for the weekend:

– Electric tram ride: Hop on the “Tranvia de Bogotá,” and be transported back in time. Though trams haven’t been used in Bogotá for 50 years, this service offers a way to tour the historic center and learn about its past. Open Friday to Sunday.

– The Jardín Botánico José Celestino Mutis is a 50-acre oasis of palm trees and lush tropical gardens. The quiet refuge features a sun clock, orchid gallery, butterfly tent, cactuses and a waterfall and lake. (Calle 63 No. 68-95; 57-1-437-7060)

Ciclovía: On Sundays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., more than 75 miles of streets in the city are open to runners, walkers and bicycles as part of the 40-year-old Ciclovía program (see map here), often credited as the first of its kind in the world. The car-free roads also feature aerobics and dance lessons, and fresh juices and snacks for sale. To rent a bicycle, Bogotá Bike Tours (Carrera 3 # 12 – 72; 57-312-502-0554) has beach cruisers and mountain bikes starting at 15,000 pesos for a half-day.

Usaquén Flea Market: Also on Sundays, find artisanal goods and a sprawling flea market in Usaquen, in Northern Bogotá. With its quaint, cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, the neighborhood has a small-town feel. Once a separate town, Usaquen was absorbed into Bogotá in the 1950s. While you’re there, try the creative brunch at Abasto, a rustic-trendy restaurant and gourmet food shop.

Zipaquira’s Salt Cathedral: Situated about 30 miles north of Bogotá, this underground church built within a salt mine of the Zipaquirá municipality attracts thousands of visitors each month. It is one of Colombia’s architectural jewels.

Nightlife: Colombians love to “rumbear,” or party and dance the night away. Though the options are plentiful, the Zona Rosa (literally “Pink Zone”) is Bogota’s major nightlife district, located between Calles 79-85 and Carreras 11-15. It’s packed with restaurants, bars and clubs. In Bogotá, bars close at 3 a.m. Here are some of our suggestions, from Zona Rosa and beyond:

Andrés Carne de Res: For a steak dinner, giant margaritas and a wild night of partying, head to this local mainstay, right on the outskirts of town in Chía. As the night goes on, don’t be surprised if costumed, professional dancers coax you onto the floor, where you might find yourself dancing next to a Colombian or foreign celebrity. If you can’t make it to Chía, Andres D.C. is a newer option, located in Bogotá proper. Don’t forget to make reservations. (57-1-863-7880)

Armando Records: This 4th-floor retro rooftop bar is the hip place to be in Bogotá. Sip a fruit mojito in the lowlit space, and dance to whatever the DJ decides to put on. (Calle 85 # 14 – 46, 4th floor)

Gaira Café Cumbia House: Owned by famous Colombian singer Carlos Vives and his family, this is a place to dance. You’ll also find a shrine of Colombian music history, filled with instruments and memorabilia of outstanding musicians. (Carrera 13 # 96 – 11)

– For a more relaxing night, wine lovers can take the tram up to the top of Monserrate and settle in for a glass of wine at Casa San Isidro, a mountaintop restaurant with a wide selection and an amazing view.

Tips for getting around in Bogota:

– Bogota is organized by carreras, or avenues, and calles, or streets, with the Andes Mountains demarcating the eastern boundary of the city. Carreras run parallel to the mountains from South to North, while Calles cross the Carreras and run from East to West.

– Taxi hailing apps abound in Bogotá, making it easy to find a cab in the capital. Take your pick from Uber, Easy Taxi or Tappsi.

– Residents of the capital, called Bogotanos, are known for being early risers. Rush hour begins at 6 a.m. here, and the streets will be packed at that hour! Plan accordingly.

– Bogotá is one of the highest cities in Latin America, at 2,640 meters (8,660 feet). If you’re unaccustomed to the high altitude, take time to acclimate. You may feel tired and fatigued. Click here for more information on altitude sickness.

– The subtropical highland climate means temperatures stay cool—an average 57°F during the day and 41°F at night. Rain is common, so be sure to pack an umbrella.

To prepare for your trip to Bogotá, you can also read:

The Bogotá: Travel Guide

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