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Set in a spectacular cradle high in the Andes mountains, Bogota is a gorgeous capital city. From the colonial architecture of La Candelaria to the chic bars of Zona Rosa, every neighborhood in Bogota is alive with a very special kind of energy.
Take a food tour of the city to the vast farmers market at Paloquemao, pep yourself up with locally grown coffee, and fill up on empanadas at street vendors in Usaquen. Or tour the city's burgeoning range of museums. From exhibitions of sublime gold ornaments to spooky ancient mummies at the National Museum and the superb art collection at the Botero Museum, Bogota is as sophisticated as they come, with something for everyone's interests.
In the evening, you can hop between sedate bars or hit raucous clubs and party all night long to Cumbia, rock, or techno. It's that kind of place: relaxed, friendly but frantic and energetic. Visiting Bogota is an incredible experience.
Few capital cities are as fundamentally beautiful as Bogota. The Andes soar around the city (and you can take the cable car to the summit of Monserrate for the very best views). Down below, sumptuous colonial architecture rounds off a visual feast that will make anyone's vacation snaps look fantastic.
Bogota has a range of museums to challenge any capital in the Americas. From the captivating Gold Museum and the labyrinthine National Museum to the scientific exhibits at the Maloka Museum and the Planetarium in Independence Park, it's hard to exhaust all of the attractions available.
The center of Bogota (La Candelaria) is a sight to behold, with beautiful architecture ranging across the city's 450-year history. Marvel at the cavernous Primatial Cathedral of Bogota, see the frescoes in the elegant Colon Theater, and round off a walking tour with a meal at La Puerta Falsa, which has been serving up empanadas and hot chocolate since 1816.
Colombia's creative community is vast, and Bogota is its spiritual home. Art lovers can spend days in the Botero Museum, skip between popular smaller galleries like Galeria Casas Riegner, or time their visits to attend ArtBo, Bogota's annual artistic festival (held in October). And, in the back streets of Candelaria, all sorts of street art delights await.
Bogota is a party town, and a town with an appetite too. Flagged by those in the know as one of the world's rising foodie destinations, Bogota is the epicenter for the Nuevo Colombiano movement, which makes fabulous use of local fruit, coffee, and chocolate. After satisfying your taste buds, the nightlife is just as enticing, with salsa, reggaeton, cumbia, and many more genres represented every night of the week.
Bogota's elevation means that it has a comparatively mild climate, but it also brings regular rains. However, downpours are rare between December and March, and the sightseeing conditions are ideal. July and August see larger visitor numbers, partly due to the effervescent Bogota Carnival, but you're more likely to need an umbrella if you travel then.
El Dorado International Airport (BOG) is around five miles west of the city center, and it shouldn't take more than half an hour to get into town. You can take a taxi for around COL$30,000, or take the K86 bus for just COL$2,000, which runs straight into the center of town.
If you are driving into town from the airport, you'll be fed onto a main road that runs directly into La Candelaria (and should take around 20 minutes, traffic permitting). If you are driving from Medellin, take Highway 60, then Highway 45A. From Cali, you'll need to take Highway 23, then Highway 40.
Buses are the most popular way for Colombians to get around the country, and are easily the cheapest transportation option. Plenty of companies run into Bogota, including Expreso Bolivariano, Coomotor, and Copetran, all of which run services to the city's main transport terminal. The terminal is in the northwestern Sauzalito neighborhood, around 20 minutes by bus from Candelaria.
The city center in Bogota is jammed with luxury accommodation options, and is definitely the best area to look at. The Hotel de la Opera is a fine, centrally located option with an on-site spa, while the Ibis Bogota Museo is a reliable, no-frills alternative. Looking further afield, Chapinero has some upscale options, including the Artisan D.C. Hotel and the Four Seasons Casa Medina, while Hotel Casa Deco in the southern part of town has an elegant 1930s building and excellent service.
La Candelaria - Bogota's historic heart, La Candelaria offers a beautiful mixture of Art Deco, Baroque, old colonial, and modern architecture, some of the finest restaurants in town and attractions like the Gold Museum, Primatial Cathedral of Bogota, and the sublime Botero Museum.
Chapinero - located north of the city center, Chapinero is a plush, attractive neighborhood with some seriously rich locals. It's a great place to start the day with an authentic Colombian coffee, and an equally good place to end it, with Zona Rosa hosting the capital's best nightclubs and bars.
Usaquen - situated in the far north of the city, Usaquen is a wonderful complement to La Candelaria. Vibrant flea markets, great restaurants like Cadaqués, spas and a dizzying range of second-hand stores make Usaquen a fine place to stay or visit.
Bogota's TransMilenio bus system is quick, orderly and cheap to use. Single fares are just COL$2,000 and the network covers pretty much the whole city. Along with faster TransMilenio buses, there are slower locals, which cost COL$1,700 per trip. You can tell the difference by checking the code on the front of the bus. If it starts with a letter, you've got an "exclusive" TransMilenio bus, so find a little extra change.
Bogota's taxis are handy (but can be risky, so always use reputable companies, preferably booked by your hotel concierge). If you do book a taxi, expect a meter drop of COL$4,000, then COL$6,000 per mile after that, making taxis an affordable way to get around.
Renting a car is a good option if you intend to explore the mountains and rural towns around Bogota, and you'll find branches of international companies like Avis and Budget near the city center. Be wary of traffic in the suburbs, and expect delays if you choose to drive into town, but driving elsewhere in central Colombia shouldn't pose too many problems. With rates as low as COL$15,000 per day, driving is also very affordable.
Bogota has its share of upscale boutiques. If you're seeking big names like Louis Vuitton, Versace, or Cartier, you'll feel completely at home at luxury malls like Zona T or Hacienda Santa Barbara (which specializes in craft souvenirs and jewelry). However, flea markets and second-hand stores in areas like Usaquen offer a completely different shopping experience, as does Paloquemao - a massive food and flowers market that brims with vivid colors and seductive aromas.
Supermarkets aren't hard to come by in Bogota, including popular brands like Mercampo, Exito, and Carulla, all of which stock American and European foods as well as local products. Prices won't be high by US standards, with a gallon of milk coming to around COL$10,000 and 12 eggs around COL$4,500.
Where to start? Bogota is Colombia's culinary capital along with its cultural and political hub, so the choice is huge. Rafael is a firm local favorite, thanks to stellar chef Rafael Osterling. If seafood (and ceviche in particular) is to your taste, don't miss the Central Cevicheria, while you can also find superb Mexican food at Agave Azul. Street food is another highlight, with filling arepas (toasted sandwiches) and empanadas available everywhere. Expect a sit-down meal at a high-quality restaurant to cost no more than COL$30,000.