Like another famous Latin American capital (Mexico City), Bogota might not be the first place you think of to spend a weekend eating incredible food and touring museums. While Colombia’s image in the media might conjure images of drug-fueled violence, the city, in reality, is a mecca for culture, gastronomy, and history. Daily flights now operate from New York to Bogota, as well as from many other North American hubs like Toronto and Los Angeles, so visiting Bogota is more accessible than ever. And don’t wait to experience it for yourself – you’ll want to spend a few days in the Colombian capital while it’s still flying under the radar, authentic, and inexpensive. We went on a 3-day trip to Bogota for my birthday and had so much fun exploring this bustling South American city.
Colombia Fast Facts
Time Zone: COT (Colombian Time), which is UTC-5:00. Colombia does not observe Daylight Savings Time, so the time matches the Eastern or Central US depending on the time of year.
Currency: Colombian peso ($). $1USD equals roughly 3,000 pesos, so it’s kind of entertaining to pay for a $10,000 item on a menu, but only fork over 3 US dollars.
Weather: Bogota has a cool, consistent climate, with highs in the 60’s Fahrenheit (around 19 C) and lows in the 40’s (around 7 C) all year. Before our trip, we checked the weather periodically, and it looked like there were thunderstorms all day, every day. However, we didn’t see any rain while we were there, and we enjoyed sunny, blue skies. Bogota sits at about 8,700 feet above sea level (2,600 meters), making it one of the world’s highest altitude capitals.
Language: Spanish, but some locals speak English. We thought there was less English spoken here than in Mexico City.
Where to stay for a weekend in Bogota
When going somewhere for short period of time, I always pick a place to stay that’s centrally located so we don’t spend all of our time on public transit or sitting in traffic. For our weekend trip to Bogota, we stayed in the central Chapinero district, on the border of the Zona G (for gastronomy) neighborhood. Chapinero is home to many hotels and Airbnb’s that range from luxury to budget.
We lucked out and were able to redeem some of Sven’s comp nights from working at Four Seasons, so we had unusually luxurious lodging on this trip at the Four Seasons Casa Medina. If we were to go back to Bogota, we would choose to stay in this same neighborhood, but in an Airbnb or basic hotel.
Usaquén is another centrally-located neighborhood, which is a great one for tourists too. Many museums and historic sights are in La Candalaria, but that’s not the safest bet to spend the night. Bogota is made up for many diverse neighborhoods, so I recommend staying closest to the attractions or restaurants you want to visit.
Getting around Bogota
While Bogota is very safe for tourists, we did get advice regarding safety and transportation. We were told that tourists can sometimes get taken advantage of when riding in taxis, so we opted to take a private car that our hotel arranged for us. It wasn’t too expensive, and we felt good spending a bit more money to guarantee our safety. Our driver even gave us a tiny cell phone to use for the day so we could call him when we were ready to go to the next place.
What to Do in Bogota
In just a weekend, you can see a lot of awe-inspiring sites and eat some incredible food in Bogota. Here’s how we spent our three days.
We flew from Miami to Bogota in the morning, landing right before lunch. We ate lunch at the restaurant at the Four Seasons, Castanyoles, which was absolutely delicious! All of the food we ate in Bogota was so fresh and flavorful since much of it is grown nearby.
After lunch, we set out to explore our Chapinero neighborhood. It’s very walkable, with sidewalks on all streets and a few small but steep hills that might make your calves sore the next day! We meandered over to the Centro Commercial Andino, which is a big entertainment center in addition to a shopping mall. There are restaurants and bars and nightclubs surrounding the mall. Bogota has a pretty dry climate, so a beer from Bogota Beer Company was just what we needed!
For dinner, we tried one of the plethora of restaurants in Zona G, Mordida Bistro. It’s unfortunately out of business now. But, with so many places to eat in Zona G, you won’t go hungry! If you are prone to altitude sickness, I recommend eating a light dinner and going easy on the drinks on your first night in Bogota.
On our second day, we hired a private driver to take us sightseeing. As I mentioned before, this option is not that much more expensive than taking taxis everywhere, and we felt very safe. Our driver picked us up at our hotel and took us to our first stop, Montserrate. Montserrate is a mountain that towers over the city and has an old monastery, cafe, garden, and lookout point at the top.
To get to the top, you need to put on a brave face and ride a funicular up the side of the mountain. It’s like a giant glass elevator. If you’re afraid of heights, just close your eyes and it will be over soon. Otherwise, enjoy the view!
From the top, you can see the entire city of Bogota and the surrounding mountains. The views are stunning from the 10,000 foot (3150m) elevation.
Montserrate is a touristic destination, so be prepared to wait in line to board the funicular. But, once you’re at the peak, there’s plenty of space to explore. Or sip on a coca tea if the altitude gets to you.
After making our descent from Montserrate, we met up with our driver and went into the historic city center. Here, there is a museum for every interest, from the maritime-themed Museo del Mar to the Casa de Moneda (Coin and Bill Museum). We had read great things about the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum), so we opted for that one. Admission to the museum cost $4,000 COL, or just over $1USD. The museum is well-equipped for English-speaking tourists, with descriptions and signs in English and Spanish that tell you about the over 50,000 golden artifacts. It was a fascinating way to spend an afternoon!
After a quick rest in our room, we were ready for dinner at one of Bogota’s best restaurants, Criterion. This Zona G gem serves cuisine that’s on par with a Michelin-starred restaurant, but for a fraction of the price. We opted for their tasting menu, which cost about $200,000 COL each, or $66 USD. And that included a wine pairing!
Before the end of dinner, Sven sneakily told the wait staff that it was my birthday. He thought they might do something small like put a candle in our dessert. Well, they thoroughly exceeded our expectations by making a special birthday dessert on the table. Literally, on the table. With a silicone tablecloth in place, the pastry chefs created this birthday masterpiece for us! And we got to eat it with a spatula. Haha. If you’re visiting Bogota for a special occasion (or just celebrating a great trip), Criterion is your place.
You know that sinking feeling when you wake up on the last day of a trip and remember you have to go home? I do, and I hate it, so I maximize whatever time I have before heading back to the airport. Since our flight was mid-afternoon, we took a long walk to Usaquén, a neighborhood with cute alleyways and restaurants.
Overall, our trip to Bogota was incredible, and I highly recommend visiting Bogota to get a taste of city life in Colombia. I’m excited to explore more of Colombia in the future!
Is Bogota on your list of places to visit? Or, if you’re a history buff, a foodie, or an urban explorer, add it to your list ASAP. Visitng Bogota in the future? Don’t forget to pin this post for later!