Why To Visit Bogota

View of Bogota from Monserrate

As Colombia’s capital city, many people fly in and fly out of Bogota to more glamorous Colombian destinations but I recommend staying for a few days. We liked Bogota so much we returned for a second visit this summer and loved it even more. Now, with two multi-day visits almost exactly five years apart, here’s what we loved and why to visit Bogota.


Many people hike up this hill with great views of the city, but we chose to ride up on our first day due to the altitude. And even then, after years living at sea level, I got dizzy and light-headed up there. Monserrate is over 3,000 meters above sea level, with great views of Bogota. It is the site of a 17th century church, and is a big tourist attraction which can be reached by cable car, funicular, or hiking. We did the cable car up and funicular down, but I’m sure the hike is good once you’re acclimated to the altitude.

View from Monserrate
View from Monserrate
Church at Monserrate Bogota
The church at Monserrate

The views are stunning, the church is pretty, and Monserrate has a whole section of restaurants serving Colombian food and drink. If we’d known, we would have waited to eat lunch! Even with the dizziness and general discomfort from altitude adjustment, Monserrate was a pleasure to visit and the intermittent showers made for some moody photographs.

Cable car Monserrate Bogota
We took the cable car to Monserrate
funicular Monserrate Bogota
The view from the funicular going down Monserrate

Bogota’s Gold Museum

Bogota is a city of great museums but if you only have time for one, it’s the gold museum/Museo de Oro. We visited on our first trip. The gold excavated around Bogota influenced much of its history, so you should really see it for yourself. Other cities in Colombia have their own gold museums, but this is the biggest and best and another reason to visit Bogota.


Another fantastic museum in Bogota is the one devoted to the hugely successful local artist, Fernando Botero. One of Colombia’s most celebrated artists, a painter and sculptor, Botero donated many works to create this museum. He’s also given sculptures to Cartagena and Medellin which are placed in public spaces in both cities.

Botero's Mona Lisa
Botero’s version of the Mona Lisa.

Botero has a distinct and easily recognizable style. His art makes me smile, and hopefully you will too when you visit Bogota.

Cycling the City

Do a bike tour with Bogota Bike Tours or rent a bike and explore, especially on a Sunday for Ciclovia. Bogota’s great climate and extensive bike trails are a joy in such a big city! The benefit of a bike tour is you’ll get to see lots of what we loved in Bogota, including the market, street art, and parks!

Bogota Botanical gardens
We visited lovely gardens while cycling around Bogota

Visit Bogota for The Street Art

I love exploring street art wherever I go, and we learned a lot about Bogota through the street art tour. Graffiti became legal in Bogota less than ten years ago, which is amazing when you see the quantity of beautiful murals spread around the city.

Bogota street art
Bogota street art

Much of Bogota’s street art is political, detailing the struggles of the city and the country, from corruption, drug wars, disappearing innocents, Covid, taxation and more.

Bogota street art
The street art in Bogota is stunning

When we visited in June, a protest group was in the middle of painting outlines representing the thousands killed by paramilitaries at the height of Colombia’s civil conflict. Each had a number, and you could follow them through the downtown streets of Bogota. It was a moving testament and we wouldn’t have known what they were, nor maybe even noticed them, without our tour guide.

chalk outlines Bogota street art
Graffiti “chalk” outlines in the streets of Bogota

Street art tours are big in Bogota, for good reason, but if you don’t have time, your best bet is to visit the the downtown Candelaria district. But, in a sprawling city of 1,775 square kilometers, don’t expect to see it all.

Street art what we loved in Bogota
Some of Bogota’s beautiful and varied street art

The Salt Cathedral

This one comes with a caveat. The Zipaquira Salt Cathedral is super cool to visit but it and the town are overpriced.

Located about a 2 hour drive north of Bogota, the cathedral is unique, and a popular site for both tourists and pilgrims. It’s an underground Roman Catholic church built in the ruins of a salt mine.

Salt Cathedral
Entrance to the Salt Cathedral

We bought the basic package which includes a very interesting audio tour, about the history of the site, the building process, and current-day uses.

The salt cathedral is especially popular during Semana Santa/Holy Week, and much of the tour is through stations of the cross. Then it loops to big chambers, including a choir loft and different shrines and chapels. The interior is dark except for changing colored lights, making it fun to walk through and to photograph.

Zipaquira Salt Cathedral
Inside the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira

you should know before you go:

  • Prices are not as advertised. My guidebooks and online searches led us to believe it would be about $5 entrance fee. Prices have gone up. If you want to do the coolest thing, the Ruta de Minero/Miner’s Route (ride in the miner caves on a cart/tram), you have to buy the premium package including a full city tour. We would have loved to do that tour but couldn’t justify it. I guess they’re making money with these overpriced packages, but now you’re warned.
  • The restaurants in town will overcharge you. After the salt mine, at a sports bar showing the Colombia futbol team, the bartender tried to charge us double the listed price. We argued and he relented, but it soured us. Then we started googling local restaurants, and multiple reviews of restaurants in Zipaqueria mentioned “gringo prices,” so we decided to call it a night. We know it happens sometimes, but unfortunately, it seems common in Zipaqueria. Just a warning!
Salt Cathedral prices
A photo of the pricy packages at the Salt Cathedral

So, while the Salt Mine itself is very cool and part of what we loved about Bogota, visiting Zipaqueira itself was decidedly not. My recommendation is to book a day tour from Bogota or a round-trip bus, but don’t stay the night. If you rent a car, drive up and stop at Andres D’Res on the return trip. Which leads to another great reason to visit Bogota.

Bogota’s Food Scene

Just like Cartagena, Bogota is a food city, with better prices. We went back to Canada after our trip to Bogota and one dish in Toronto cost more than most of our meals out in Colombia. In Bogota, food and service is excellent.

Even if you don’t know any Spanish, you’ll be fine. Many menus are in English. The restaurant choices are phenomenal, with as much variety as most big cities. The best dining neighborhoods in Bogota’s residential neighborhoods of Chapinero, Zona G. and vicinity, conveniently close to most hotels.

Eat At an Andres Restaurant

Andres cow one of the best things to do in Bogota
Exterior decoration at Andres Bogota

We loved Andres DC in Bogota so much that this summer when we had a rental car we stopped at the original Andres Carne d’Res. And it was amazing. The food there is so good and the atmosphere and decor are lively and fun. As Andres has expanded across the country this could really be a general recommendation for any visit to Colombia, especially if you eat meat. And thanks to Anthony Bourdain for spreading the word.

Steak at Andres Carne de Res
Steak at Andres Carne de Res

Bogota’s Fruit Market

The sprawling Paloquemao fruit market is easy to find, but overwhelming once you are there! Colombia has such a huge variety of fruit, and they are all delicious I kid you not.

fruit at Paloquemao market in Bogota
Colorful fruit at the market in Bogota

We were fortunate enough to visit the market on our bike tour and spent an hour sampling exotic fruit served by smiling vendors. This is where I spied the biggest and maybe the best avocado of my life and countless fruit which I can’t name. Delicious and nutritious and a prime spot for photographers.

Avocados at Paloquemao
Avocados in Colombia are amazing

Final Thoughts on Why To Visit Bogota

We enjoyed exploring Bogota for a second time, and would happily return for a third. If you are flying in to the city on your way elsewhere, take a few days to explore Bogota. Getting around is fairly easy: besides cycling, we Uber-ed and took the Transmilenio, which is their bus rapid transit, inexpensive, and easy to use with Google maps.

Speaking of Google maps, here’s my map of all the places mentioned in this post, our recommendations for when you visit Bogota.

Map of Bogota Must Dos
Map of my recommendations for Bogota

I hope you enjoyed reading about what we loved and why to visit Bogota. If you have been there and have recommendations, please let me know in the comments.

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Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, blogging about the places we visit and the adventures we have. Love hiking, cycling, scuba, animals and adventure.

14 thoughts on “Why To Visit Bogota”

  1. Colombia has gotten a bad reputation in the past, but I love how travelers are bringing to light how amazing it is! I’d love to visit and see Bogota, and the salt cathedral!

  2. Wow, this looks right up our alley! Its been on our list and we’ve often talked about visiting…even if for a few days on the way to Medellin… it looks even better than I imagined.. the street art, the markets.. all looks wonderful. Thank you for sharing this! – Linzey @thefamilyfuntour

  3. Hi Mel! I love seeing street art! And I’ve never heard of Botero, but I like his art especially his version of the Mona Lisa. Thanks for sharing about Bogota!

    1. Hi Pafoua, If you like street art, you would love Bogota. And Botero is a household name in Colombia but I hadn’t heard of him before I got here.

  4. What a great time for me to see this post! I’m hoping to plan a trip to Bogota in March and am so excited about all the fun things to do. I really want to visit the salt cathedral!

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