Unwrap the Many Layers of Bogotá: 3 Days of Markets, Museums and Mountain ViewsBy Mariana Zapata
Bogotá, Colombia, is a city for those who dare to dig a bit deeper. Go beyond the colorful streets of the historic center to find a place bursting with creativity and ever-changing ideas.
The historic houses splashed with modern murals and the constant rhythm of salsa alone are enough to make this your favorite Colombian city. But inquisitive travelers are rewarded with cutting-edge art galleries, artisanal beer made with indigenous fruits and a glimpse into the diverse cultures spanning the country, which converge in the capital like rivers flowing into the sea.
It’s easy to fill a long weekend with the bright sights and sounds of Bogotá, but you’ll find the best of the best ahead. As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.
Friday: Dig In to Colombia’s Historic Center
Your first day in Bogotá is all about tradition. Start the morning sipping a super-traditional morning beverage at the iconic Pasteleria Florida (open since 1936): hot chocolate with cubes of soft cheese mixed into it. This local favorite spans generations and is applauded for its touch of saltiness and thick consistency. And while it may not be for everyone, it’s worth a try.
Then ride 10,000 feet above sea level to the top of Monserrate Hill via funicular or cable car. Here, you can visit the Sanctuary of Monserrate, a church that can be seen from most points in the city. You can walk up a (free) pedestrian path, but splurge on the VIP pass if you’re short on time — this allows you to skip the often hourslong line for the cable car and funicular at the top and bottom of the mountain.
Monserrate Hill is a great spot for birding, hiking and shopping at the numerous market stalls that line the streets. For more shopping, there’s also the Monserrate Market, in the church’s backyard, where you’ll find dozens of stalls selling Colombian food and souvenirs.
Come back down for a walking tour of La Candelaria, Bogotá’s oldest neighborhood. Wander through La Concordia Market, a food hall with fantastic people-watching, and make your way to the Chorro de Quevedo fountain. Stop along the way to try chicha, a regional drink made from fermented corn, before taking a snack break at Chamánico, which focuses on indigenous dishes and ingredients. Dip in to the Church of La Candelaria or the Museo Botero (Botero Museum), and admire the façade of the Teatro Colón on your way to Bolívar Square, the city’s central plaza and beating heart.
Refuel with lunch at Testigo, an intimate eatery that serves up traditional fare in the Pasaje Rivas alleyway. Spend the rest of the afternoon taking in treasures like the Muisca raft (goldwork that depicts the discovery of El Dorado) and the Poporo Quimbaya (a ceremonial vessel) at the fascinating Museo del Oro (Gold Museum).
Then make your way to the Zona G (Gourmet Zone) for dinner at Salvo Patria for vegan options and fresh, sustainably sourced ingredients or Mini-Mal for modern takes on traditional Colombian food. Or if you’re looking to splurge on a meal, head to Leo or El Chato, both of which have been featured on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list; just be sure to make reservations.
End the night with a bang with a game of tejo at Tejo La Embajada. To win at this throwing game (Colombia’s national sport) you’ll have to hit gunpowder-filled paper squares with a steel disk to make them explode. Don’t worry! It’s perfectly safe and tons of fun.
Saturday: Taste Your Way Through Colombian Cuisine
As one of the most topographically diverse countries on the continent (and one of the most biodiverse in the world), Colombia is filled with microclimates that give way to a splendid variety of ingredients, flavors and culinary traditions — and you can experience much of this in a single place. Get an early start at the largest traditional food market in the city. An explosion of color greets you at the flower market as you move toward the food section for a breakfast composed of fruits you’ve likely never heard of, cheese breads and arepas (a snack of ground-corn dough stuffed with fillings like pork and cheese).
Once you’re full, go east to La Macarena, a trendy neighborhood where you can find the Museo Nacional de Colombia (National Museum of Colombia), the oldest in the country. After filling your head with knowledge at the national museum (a former stone prison turned cultural institution), indulge in gourmet Colombian fare inspired by the mountainous Andean region at on-site Niebla.
Ready to kick things into high gear after lunch? Go north to the Quinta Camacho neighborhood for a coffee at Café Cultor. The baristas are well informed on all the various roasts, so it’s a great place to try a number of different brews — consider it a mini tour of Colombian coffee. Alternatively, if you prefer a little more guide in your tour, book La Mesa’s Bogotá Coffee Crawl tour. Once fortified with a kick of caffeine, continue the gastronomical journey with a rum tasting at the nearby Bar Continental.
Before dinner, stop at Wilborada 1047, an enchanting bookstore with winding aisles of tomes in English, Spanish, French and more. Once you’re ready to sit down for a meal, make your way to Humo Negro, a shared-plate restaurant with a menu focused on Japanese dishes.
Cap off the night with dancing at Salsa Camará, a beloved salsa bar in operation since 1988. Beginners always feel welcome, and you’ll find that a couple of songs are enough to lose yourself in the rhythms of salsa — no experience necessary. (The rum doesn’t hurt, either.)
Sunday: Take In the City Sights on Two (Bicycle) Wheels
Get ready for a highly active day with a big breakfast at Masa, an artisanal bakery chain; you’ll be fueling up to participate in the Ciclovía, one of Bogotá’s most exciting traditions. Every Sunday and holiday Monday, the city shuts off 75 miles of roads to car traffic, opening them up to bikers and pedestrians.
Rent a bike from Bogotravel Tours and join the masses as you ride to Usaquén. Once a small town outside of Bogotá, this neighborhood is now one of the city’s most modern districts and hosts a large Sunday flea market filled with handmade crafts and goods.
Hop off your bike at Hacienda Santa Bárbara, a former estate that is now a beautiful shopping center, and walk through striking architecture toward Usaquén Park, stocking up on souvenirs and gifts along the way. Once you’re ready for lunch, head to El Mediterráneo by Andrei, which is focused on shared plates like patatas bravas, octopus and plenty of steak options.
Then head down to Zona T (named for its “T” shape), which is a part of a larger district called Zona Rosa. This posh nightlife and shopping area hosts boutiques by famed Colombian designers like Silvia Tcherassi and Pepa Pombo. For recognized international brands, go to Centro Andino and El Retiro malls. And when you need a break from shopping, sip cocktails as you watch the sunset from Astoria Rooftop bar before tucking in to dinner at Di Lucca, one of the city’s best Italian restaurants.
Not ready to call it a night? Get another drink at the artisanal Sánchez Cervecería or Huerta, once voted Bogotá’s best cocktail bar. You can also head out of the Zona T in favor of 93 Park, another area with bars, restaurants and shops. There, sit down for a beer at the ever-popular Bogotá Beer Company (BBC) and reflect on a weekend well spent.