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Introduction to Bogotá

Bogotá is the capital and main center of government and business for Colombia. A vibrant city of over seven million people, it offers visitors diverse attractions such as museums, historical monuments, theme parks and amusement parks, restaurants with national and international cuisine, and upscale shopping centers. A city of great contrasts, Bogotá boasts new high rise office buildings, trendy restaurants and shops, as well as beautiful Spanish colonial architecture in the historic Candelaria district.

MUSEUMS: There are a great many things to do in Bogotá depending upon your personal interests. Above all, we recommend a visit to the Gold Museum (Museo del Oro), an astonishing collection of gold items from Colombia, many from the various indigenous Colombian peoples.

The Museo Nacional de Colombia (National Museum) houses an extensive collection of Colombian art and historic objects. The Donacion Botero is a permanent exhibition of works of art donated by Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most famous artist. See the section on Colombian Art, Music, and Literature for more information.

VIEWS: The best view of the city is from the Santuario de Monserrate, a chapel and old monastery situated high on a hill overlooking the city. While the locals walk up the hill as a matter of devotion, tourists are advised to use the funicular or tram for a safer journey to the top.

To see the heart of the town, visit the Plaza de Bolivar, a square with statue of Simon Bolivar. The square is now surrounded by the Palace of Justice, the Mayor’s office, the National Capitol or the seat of Congress, and the Casa de Nariño, the official home of the President of Colombia.

SPORTS: If your interests run to sports, soccer matches in the Estadio El Campin in Bogotá are highly competitive events and worth a Sunday afternoon. Bull fights still take place in the arena at the Plaza de Toros de Santamaria on Sundays in January and February. For any of these events, check with your guide/translator/hotel to make sure that you are safe.

CHURCHES: Bogotá also is home to many beautiful Spanish Colonial churches from the 17th and 18th centuries. Some continue as churches while others are museums. The Iglesia Museo de Santa Clara dates from the 1600s and has numerous antique paintings, statues, and altarpieces.

The Catedral Primada on the Plaza Bolivar is newer (1800s) and is the largest church in Bogotá. Other magnificent churches include the Iglesia de San Ignacio, Iglesia de San Francisco, and the Iglesia de San Diego.

FAMILY EXCURSIONS: There are several great family excursions while in Bogotá. The Bogotá Botanical Garden, the Jardin Botánico José Celestino Mutis, has thousands of orchid plants and fabulous rose gardens. It also offers an extensive collection of native species which help you identify plants as you tour Bogotá.  
On Sundays, the city of Bogotá closes miles of roadways to vehicles. People ride bikes through the streets or simply enjoy a Sunday stroll. There also are flea and craft markets in locations throughout the city on Sundays.

WHERE TO STAY: There are a wide range of places to stay in Bogotá, from major international hotels to smaller residencias and pensions. There are many hotels concentrated in the tourist and business district in downtown Bogotá. Check the tourism websites for more information. 

For families traveling to Bogotá in order to visit FANA or wishing quieter location, the hotels in the northern suburbs are a better option offering proximity to great shopping, walking, parks, and other diversions. See the section on Traveling to Adopt for more information.

WHERE TO EAT: Numerous restaurants throughout Bogotá offer both traditional Colombian cuisine as well as that of other cultures. For many of us, no trip to Bogotá is complete without an evening at Carbon de Palo in the northern residential area of Bogotá. The cuisine is typical Colombian fare (grilled meats, salads, potatoes) and the waiters put on a lively show dancing and singing songs from around Colombia accompanied by traditional musicians. Check with your hotel or guide for other local recommendations.

WEATHER: Bogotá tends to be very mild year-round due to its altitude (8,600 feet) and proximity to the equator. Afternoon rain showers are frequent. The summer dry season is from December to March, with slightly more rain in April and October. Temperatures rarely dip below 50 degrees F or warm up above 80 degrees F.

HEALTH: On a medical note, travelers to Bogotá may require some time to adjust to the altitude (8,600 feet), which can affect blood pressure, digestion, and energy level. Persons with medical conditions related to the circulatory or respiratory system should ask their physician if travel to Bogotá or other high-altitude locations is advisable.

For more information visit:

  • Bogotá Turismo website includes travel information, a detailed history of Bogotá, discussion of customs, and of shopping.
  • The New York Times article on Bogotá by Seth Kugel, “Bogotá is Not Just for the Brave Anymore,” (The New York Times, February 12, 2006) may require registration/payment for access)
  • City of Bogotá website in English is helpful.

Day Trips from Bogotá

The outskirts of the city offer many interesting restaurants, antique stores, and other interesting places to visit such as, the Catedral de sal de Zipaquirá (a cathedral in an old salt mine) in Zipaquirá, the Laguna of Guatavita, among others. An additional day trip may be taken, with the advice of guides or locals, to a nearby coffee plantation.

Also not to be missed is a stop at Andres Carne de Res in Chia, a restaurant with a wildly funky décor and lively music. The menu is heavy on the beef but offers everything from ajiaco (a specialty of Bogotá with chicken, potatoes, avocado, and guascas leaves) to banana splits. There are other wonderful restaurants in the countryside outside Bogotá where many locals go on Sunday afternoons. Check with your guide or hotel to make sure that travel is safe.