Bogota is often overlooked by backpackers visiting Colombia. It has a reputation as just another huge South American city with security issues. And with gems like Cartagena and Medellin nearby, it’s easy to see why people skip the capital. But the truth is, Bogota is one of the highlights of visiting Colombia. It has amazing museums, bohemian cafe culture, gorgeous street art, and a friendly vibe that you don’t usually find in the world’s biggest cities. In this post, I’ll cover the perfect itinerary for spending 2 days in Bogota.
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Day One: Monserrate and La Candelaria: Highlights of Bogota Travel
This Bogota itinerary starts with the city’s two biggest highlights: the hilltop church of Monserrate and the colonial district of La Candelaria. It’s a packed day, so you’ll need to get an early start.
Today’s portion of the itinerary takes you to parts of Bogota that are generally safe if you follow basic precautions. Still, I recommend leaving your passport locked up at your hostel. Only carry the cash you need for the day, and keep your camera inside your day pack when you’re walking around. (More details on security below.)
Before you start exploring, have breakfast at your hostel to save time.
Morning: Climbing Monserrate
Bogota’s biggest landmark and most beloved icon is the church at the top of Monserrate Hill. It’s visible from nearly everywhere in the enormous city.
Monserrate’s story began in the pre-Colombian era, when the Indigenous Muisca people constructed a temple at the top of the hill. During the colonial era the temple was replaced with a church. It became an important pilgrimage site in the 1600’s, and it still is to this day.
A climb up Monserrate is one of the must-do activities during your 2 days in Bogota. From the top, you can see the entire 11-million-person metro area and the surrounding mountains. If you’re really lucky and it’s a clear day, you may even be able to see the peaks in PNN Los Nevados, hundreds of kilometers away. (Don’t get your hopes up; it’s usually cloudy.)
How to get to Monserrate
You can reach the top of Monserrate three ways: By cable car, by funicular railway, or on foot.
The cable car is easily the most scenic option of the three. It costs 12,000 COP on Sundays or 20,000 COP during the week for a round-trip ride. But it generally only leaves in the afternoons, and the lines can be ridiculously long.
The funicular is less scenic, as it goes through a tunnel in the mountain. But it leaves throughout the morning and, since more people fit inside, it has a shorter line. The price is the same as the cable car.
However, the most fun way to visit Monserrate is by walking up the hill. The hike takes about 90 minutes up and 45 minutes down. I’m not going to lie — it’s tough. Unless you’re acclimatized to the altitude (the top is at 3,100 meters), you’ll be huffing and puffing as Colombians all around you breeze past. Almost the entire hike is on stairs, and they’re fairly steep. But it’s totally worth it — the views along the way are spectacular. The hiking trail is also completely free.
What to do at Monserrate
Once you reach the top of Monserrate, the first thing you’ll want to do is take a million photos. The views over the city are incredible. The best photo spots are on the church balcony and down by the hiking path, a three-minute walk away from the top.
You can also poke your nose into the church at the top. The architecture is simple, but it’s an interesting cultural experience, with pilgrims coming and going.
If all the hiking made you hungry or sleepy, you can also stop at one of the restaurants at the top of Monserrate for a coffee break or a meal. Vendors peddle arepas, waffles, fruit, and other street snacks as well.
Security issues at Monserrate
Summiting Monserrate may be one of the top things to do in Bogota. But the mountain is also infamous for security issues — specifically knife-point muggings. The good news is, it’s far safer than it used to be, and if you follow these tips you’re unlikely to have any problems.
You may be wondering why Monserrate is at the very beginning of this itinerary for 2 days in Bogota. This is because mornings are easily the safest time to visit. You want to be off the mountain by 1 pm, when the crowds clear out and you don’t have the safety in numbers to walk on either the trails or the road leading up to the cable car.
If you plan to walk up, do it on a Sunday morning. You’ll do the hike with thousands of locals (including pilgrims crawling up on their stomachs). The crowds are a bit overwhelming, but it’s worth it for the added safety. If you must hike up during the week, start by 9 am and bring a buddy or three.
If you want to take the cable car or funicular to the top, you have a bit more flexibility. You can even visit for sunset — the top of the mountain is safe at all times. But the road leading up to the cable car/hiking trail from the university has a horrible reputation. Muggers wait at the bottom to pick off tourists coming down after sunset with their cameras. Always, always take a taxi (hailed using a secure taxi app like Tappsi or Uber, NOT on the street) or visit on a tour if you want to go after 1 pm.
In the mornings, you can safely walk to and from the cable car entrance. But again, 1 pm is the latest I’d attempt this. Just to give you an idea of how much the time matters — I walked up on a Sunday morning around 9 am, and felt 100% safe. The street had a bustling market and tons of local visitors. But when I walked back down at noon, most of the vendors had already packed up, only a handful of locals hung around and it was eerily quiet.
I don’t want to scare you too much. The security issues here are serious but easily avoidable with timing. Go in the morning and you are highly unlikely to have any problems visiting Monserrate.
Lunch: La Hamburgueseria
All the hiking on Monserrate has probably made you hungry, so at this point during your 2 days in Bogota, take a break for lunch.
This city’s food scene is fantastic (even if it’s not quite as good as Medellin’s). You can find quality restaurants serving food from around the globe when you visit Bogota. La Hamburgueseria is a great and convenient option for breaking up the South American food routine affordably and deliciously.
I love a good veggie burger — but it’s gotta be homemade and it has to come with all the toppings meat eaters get. Luckily this Bogota burger joint has not just one veggie option, but an entire page of them! I tried a red lentil burger with Mexican-themed toppings. It came with six different sauces to try — from spicy to mild to, of course, ketchup.
A burger and fries or homemade chips at La Hamburgueseria will run you about 18,000 COP. They have other dishes as well, including traditional Colombian meals. The walls are adorned with homages to jazz music legends, and they sometimes have live music.
Early afternoon: Explore the artwork of Fernando Botero
Fernando Botero is Colombia’s most-loved artist. He hails from Medellin, but you’ll find his works in every big city in the country.
Botero is known for his depictions of very round — often perceived as fat, although the artist himself disputes that characterization — subjects. He attributes these characteristics not only to humans, but to birds, horses, dogs, fruit, and anything else he can think of. One of the largest collections of his works is in Bogota’s Botero Museum.
The Botero Museum is completely free to enter. The first floor contains works by Botero himself alongside other, mostly European artists such as Monet and Dali. The second floor is almost entirely Botero’s work. It’s a mix of painting and sculpture. The sculpture room on the second floor is particularly worthwhile.
After you finish exploring the Botero Museum, if you still have time before the next activity in this Bogota travel guide, check out some of the other museums in the complex. All of them are free to enter. You can see artwork from all over Colombia, old money-printing machines, artifacts from Bogota’s early colonial days, and more.
Late afternoon: Free walking tour with The True Colombian Experience
Bogota’s historic district, La Candelaria, has beautiful architecture. But it also has extensive history and deep cultural roots that you’d never pick up on just by walking around on your own. So if you want to get under the city’s skin, spend the first afternoon of your 2 days in Bogota taking a free walking tour.
I did my walking tour with The True Colombian Experience, and I’d highly recommend it. In addition to covering the top attractions in La Candelaria, it included a couple of foodie stops and a game of tejo — a Colombian drinking game involving gunpowder and lead weights.
The tour departs every day from the Cranky Croc Hostel at 3 pm. It lasts just over three hours. Your guide will walk back to the hostel with you at the end to ensure your safety. You don’t have to be a guest at Cranky Croc to join.
The first stop on the tour was a cafe where we sampled chicha — a pre-Hispanic alcoholic beverage. Here, the guide told us about Bogota’s Indigenous history and colonization, and the Muisca traditions that survive today. The chicha was a bit strange for my tastes, but it was a fun cultural experience nonetheless.
Over the next two hours, we did a loop through La Candelaria. We covered some of the most beautiful architecture — including Chorro de Quevedo and the Church of Our Lady of Carmen — and talked about religion, gentrification, and the drug war. We walked by the Presidential Palace and discussed modern Colombian politics. Then, we circled around to Plaza de Bolivar, where we sampled arepas de huevo (corn patties filled with fried egg) and talked about the political violence that occurred here just a few decades ago.
The tour concluded at Magola Cafe, a Bohemian hangout just outside La Candelaria. We got to sample several varieties of local craft beer — try the “picante” (spicy) and dark ones. Then, we learned the rules of tejo and spent the last half hour drinking beer and throwing lead weights at gunpowder. After everyone had blown something up at least once, we walked back to Cranky Croc and the tour ended.
Be sure to tip your free walking tour guide — 30,000 pesos is a fair tip. The chicha and arepa are free, but the beer at Magola Cafe costs 8,000 COP for a pint. You can order juices or coffee instead if you want to keep costs down, but your beverage is the price of admission to the tejo court so you have to order something.
Evening: Chapinero for dinner and drinks
Finish the first of your 2 days in Bogota with a sample of the city’s nightlife. The best neighborhood for a low-key evening out is Chapinero, a couple kilometers north of La Candelaria.
No matter where you go in Chapinero, you’ll find great restaurants and bars to suit your travel style. Some of the best areas to head to are Chapinero Alto — famous for its thriving LGBTQ nightlife scene and hippie culture — and Quinta Camacho, which has some of the area’s best restaurants. I loved the tacos, the friendly staff and the community atmosphere at El Pantera in Quinta Camacho.
The biggest bonus of visiting Chapinero in the evening is it’s 100% safe to walk around at night. I still wouldn’t flash valuables or carry a ton of cash, but you generally don’t have to worry about wandering around to find a place to eat or drink.
Chapinero is a 10,000 COP taxi ride away from La Candelaria. Alternatively, brave the city’s public transit system, the Transmilenio. While it’s confusing at first, once you get the hang of it it’s super easy — and it costs only 2,000 COP a ride. Simply walk from La Candelaria to the Av. Jimenez stop, get on Bus M86, and hop off at Calle 66, from where you can walk anywhere else in the neighborhood. If you’re staying in La Candelaria, take a taxi back — the walk from Av. Jimenez at night is not safe.
Day Two: Museo del Oro and Street Art: The Top Bogota Attractions
Now that you have the lay of the land, spend the last of your 2 days in Bogota seeing the city’s biggest attractions. Start with the Museo del Oro — possibly South America’s best museum. Then, explore the thriving street art scene in La Candelaria and the downtown area.
Security isn’t much of an issue for this part of your Bogota itinerary. Keep an eye on your belongings, but you don’t need to be paranoid or take any special precautions.
Breakfast: Hibiscus Cafe
If you’re tired of the same old bread, toast and sugary cereal hostel breakfasts, this is the morning to venture out. Hibiscus Cafe, on the edge of La Candelaria, has outstanding food for very reasonable prices.
I ordered scrambled eggs with toast, orange juice, and coffee with milk. The meal was huge and cost me just 8,000 COP. It was quick and the service was excellent. I wasn’t the only backpacker when I visited, but most of the customers were Colombian students.
Morning: Museo del Oro
The Museo del Oro — or Gold Museum — is one of the best attractions in Colombia and a must-see during your 2 days in Bogota. This enormous museum contains more than 55,000 pieces of bling from nearly every Indigenous culture in the country.
First, you’ll learn how ancient cultures discovered gold and developed metalworking techniques. You’ll see some early pieces that were more functional than decorative. As you continue, you’ll notice the pieces incorporate more detail and fine artistry.
The next floor splits up the displays by culture and geography, with good explanations in English and Spanish. Look out for the animal and animal-human figurines. Each artifact tells a story about the rituals and culture of the people who made it. The Zenu collection (from the Caribbean coast) is particularly impressive for its feminist icons.
Once you have a background in the different cultures, continue to the Offering Room. This display shows the different uses of gold in rituals. At the end, it contains a multimedia display of artifacts found in the Laguna de Guatavita — the origin of the legend of El Dorado.
You’ll need two hours to fully explore the museum. If you need a coffee break, the ground floor has an excellent cafe serving real espresso.
The Museo del Oro is free (and crowded!) on Sundays. Otherwise it costs 4,000 COP. It’s closed Mondays. You can easily and safely walk here from anywhere in La Candelaria.
Coffee Break: Arte y Pasion Cafe
While Colombia’s capital has tons of great third-wave coffee shops, most of them aren’t particularly convenient to the main places to visit in Bogota. You might think you have to trek out to Chapinero or Usaquen to have your choice of brewing methods and hand-pours.
Luckily, this little spot off the tourist trail in La Candelaria is the real deal. Their coffee menu alone is bigger than most restaurant menus. Pair any brewing method you can imagine with a huge variety of Colombian beans, or order a fancy espresso beverage. It’s all great and surprisingly affordable. I paid 5,000 COP for a two-cup French press.
The best part of Arte y Pasion Cafe is the baristas are extremely knowledgeable about Colombian coffee. Whether you’re looking for a recommendation of what to order (they’ll ask you a bunch of questions to understand your preferences) or you want the complete history of whatever you choose, they’ve got you covered. You’ll get the most out of your experience if you understand at least some Spanish.
The space is also perfect for taking a break from sightseeing. Huge couches and comfy chairs throughout. And even though it’s right near Plaza de Bolivar, you probably won’t encounter other travelers here.
Lunch: Quinua y Amaranto
Finding good, authentic, local vegetarian food in South America is a constant challenge. But this teeny tiny restaurant in the heart of La Candelaria will please even die-hard carnivores with their veggie menu del dia. A meal here is one of the best things to do in Bogota for vegetarians.
When you walk into Quinua y Amaranto, you’ll see the owners cooking whatever’s on the menu that day in the open kitchen. You can also pick up to-go empenadas and sweets. If you’re eating in, walk through the kitchen to the dining room. It only has about six tables, so go early and expect to share.
The only thing on offer is the menu del dia. For 18,000 COP, you’ll get soup, fruit juice, and a large plate of various vegetarian dishes. When I visited it included lentil patties, yucca with hogao — a warm tomato chutney, and a vegetable-and-herb slaw with a light citrus-y, cilantro-y dressing. Dessert was a mix of tropical fruit and berries. Delicious, filling, healthy, and affordable!
Afternoon: Bogota Graffiti Tour
Bogota’s street art scene is legendary. Artists from around the world come to put their marks on the downtown area. Some are professionals, but most are locals — college professors, father-son teams, businesspeople, designers — for whom graffiti is a (usually secret) hobby.
You’ll see elaborate murals all over the place while walking around La Candelaria. In fact, they’re some of the best things to see in Bogota. But you won’t have much context for what you’re looking at. Additionally, some of the best murals are in parts of the city center that are pretty dodgy to visit on your own. So the best way to understand the local art culture is with the Bogota Graffiti Tour.
This free walking tour departs every day at 10 am and 2 pm from Parque de los Periodistas. The afternoon tour is far less crowded. It’s free — just tip your guide 20-30,000 pesos.
Why is Bogota such a mecca for artists?
In 2011, a 16-year-old boy named Diego Felipe Becerra was painting street art in the city center when the police tried to apprehend him. He ran, and the cops shot him in the back. They claimed they’d seen him with a gun — but all he had was a can of spray paint.
The murder sparked protests throughout Bogota demanding the decriminalization of street art. The family fought for justice. Graffiti was decriminalized, but artists still had to work in the shadows and risk massive fines.
Two years later, Justin Bieber was performing a concert in Bogota when he decided to take a detour to paint a marijuana leaf on a wall — with a police escort. For Colombian street artists, this was the last straw. They initiated a two-day “protest” involving a massive painting campaign all over the city.
Since then, Bogota’s street art scene has exploded, with little pushback from law enforcement. Today you’ll see murals all over the interiors and exteriors of buildings throughout the city center — many of them commissioned by the businesses that occupy them. The city even hosts street art competitions regularly. Technically artists can still be fined, but they’re protected with an increasing number of legal loopholes.
What to expect on the Bogota Graffiti Tour
The Graffiti Tour is one of the best things to do in Bogota, whether you’re a fan of street art or not. It starts with an explanation of the history of street art globally and in Colombia. You’ll see how tags evolved into stylized text, which transformed into cartoonish characters, which eventually developed into the gorgeous, elaborate, and often highly political murals you see today.
The tour starts in downtown Bogota — a rough-and-tumble neighborhood full of junkies and construction sites. This is definitely not an area you’d want to walk around in alone, but you’re safe with your guide. You’ll see murals painted by local artists as well as street art legends like Barcelona’s Pez.
Eventually you’ll head into La Candelaria — up a hill and into a park far from the main tourist streets. You’ll wind down through Chorro de Quevedo and end at the magnificent Mural of a Wayuu.
Each guide has some discretion over which murals to show you. My tour was with Jeff, who highlighted female artists — still an extreme minority on the local graffiti scene.
The best part of seeing the street art with Bogota Graffiti Tours is that they have deep relationships in the graffiti community. Some of the guides are artists themselves. They use their profits to support community organizations and street artists, and they have studio space in La Candelaria where artists can paint and sketch. There is no better use of your last afternoon of your 2 days in Bogota.
Afternoon Snack/Dinner: La Puerta Falsa
You simply cannot spend 2 days in Bogota without visiting the city’s most famous restaurant. La Puerta Falsa is just a few steps from Plaza de Bolivar, and is the perfect place to unwind after a long day of sightseeing.
The main reason to come here is to try one of Colombia’s strangest delights: “chocolate completo.” This consists of a mug of hot chocolate, several large pieces of cheese, bread with butter, and a sweet roll. You’re supposed to melt the cheese in the chocolate and then dip the bread and rolls in. It sounds disgusting, but it’s actually pretty tasty and it’s an essential cultural experience. It costs 8,000 COP.
If you’re ready for a more substantial meal, be sure to try the tamales or the ajiaco. The tamales in particular are among the best you’ll get in Colombia. Both cost 8,000 COP.
You’ll probably have to wait in line for a table, but it moves fast and it’s totally worth it. You definitely won’t be the only tourist — but this place is still more popular with locals than gringos. Service is friendly (and patient with limited Spanish). Be sure to pick up one of their freshly made traditional sweets at the door before you leave.
Dinner/Nightlife: Andres Carne de Res
If you still have energy after everything you’ve done during your 2 days in Bogota, there’s no better way to cap it off than with a trip to the city’s most famous restaurant/nightclub.
Andres Carne de Res is in a suburb of Bogota. It’s well-known for being the best party in the city. The food is legendary as well. The biggest night is Saturdays, but it’s meant to be worth the trip any night of the week.
Because it’s so far outside the city, the best way to visit is by taking a hostel-organized party bus. This will cost you around 80,000 COP, including admission and drinks on the bus. Most buses leave around 10 pm and bring you back around 4 am. Exhausting? Absolutely, but it’s one of the must-do’s when you visit Bogota.
Where to stay during your 2 days in Bogota
Choosing where to stay in this city can be difficult. In fact, I wrote an entire post about the best hostels to choose for your Bogota trip. But it really comes down to one simple question: Are you willing to take taxis at night in exchange for convenience during the day?
If you’re following this sightseeing-focused itinerary and have just 2 days in Bogota, that trade-off is worth it. So I recommend staying in La Candelaria. Aside from the nightlife trip to Chapinero, this will allow you to reach all the stops in this itinerary by walking.
The best hostel in La Candelaria is the Aussie-run Cranky Croc Hostel. It’s a short walk to the heart of La Candelaria and a shorter walk to the Museo del Oro, but it’s in a less-overwhelmingly-touristic area. The streets immediately surrounding it are generally safe until about 8 pm. (In other words, you can walk to dinner if you go early.) The facilities are modern and well-maintained, and the restaurant/bar has a pleasantly social — but not party-hostel — vibe. Choose from various dorms and private rooms with either shared or private bathrooms.
How to get to Bogota
As the capital of Colombia, Bogota is well-connected to the rest of the country by air and bus. It’s also the biggest international arrival point.
With domestic flights as cheap as they are, most people arrive to Bogota by air. At least one flight a day runs to nearly every other airport in the country. International connections include destinations all over the Americas and a few European and Asian cities (Thai Airways actually serves Bogota!).
The airport is about an hour outside the city. You can reach it by Transmilenio bus on the M86/K86 line — buy your rider card in the arrivals hall before you leave. Alternatively, take the K86 to Portal El Dorado, where you can change to the J6 to Universidades (a short walk to La Candelaria).
A taxi from the airport to La Candelaria will run you 30,000 COP, with surcharges at night and on Sundays. Only use the licensed yellow cabs, or the more-expensive pre-booked white cabs from the desks inside.
The bus station is on the way to the airport, a short walk from the Transmilenio station El Tiempo – Maloka. It’s big, clean and safe, with all the traveler amenities you could want. It’s divided into color-coded modules depending on whether you’re headed north, south, or west. Companies clearly display their routes, but not their fares. Ask around for the most convenient departure time and best price. Buses leave at least every 30 minutes for most major destinations. If you’re heading north, check out my guide to getting from Bogota to San Gil!
To reach La Candelaria from the bus station, take the J6 Transmilenio bus — the bus station is about a 6-block walk from the Transmilenio through a safe neighborhood. Alternatively, pick up a licensed cab from the taxi line for 20,000 COP. Don’t hail a cab on the street for safety reasons.
Spending 2 days in Bogota is undoubtedly worth it. The capital city of Colombia has something for everyone: Outdoor adventure, culture, history, food, nightlife and more. Follow this itinerary for Bogota and you’ll see why so many travelers send up being surprised with how much they love this city.
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