This enormous city of more than eight million people is a world-class cultural destination, with some 60 museums, scores of gorgeous Spanish colonial churches, and dozens of pretty parks, plazas, and shopping districts to explore. And that’s not even touching on the dining and nightlife scenes.
Three days offers the opportunity to simply scratch this city’s surface.
Day 1: Culture in the Candelaria
Though this city sprawls, the vast majority of attractions are located in Bogota’s quaint, colonial historic district, known as the Candelaria. You’re here for the exquisite churches and fascinating museums, of which there are dozens; it’s worth planning ahead so you don’t miss favorites like the Gold and Botero Museums.
Allow some time to simply wander around the old adobes and appreciate the architecture, as well as the festive student vibe, accented with cool boutiques and tiny restaurants. If it’s not too cloudy, take a cable car into the mountains and watch the sun set from Monserrate, high above the city.
Day 2: Head to the Country
While Bogota proper has plenty to offer, consider a side trip into rural Colombia to better appreciate the country’s diversity. Popular daytrips take in the town of Zipaquira, with a fine little downtown dating from the 1700s, not to mention that world-famous Cathedral of Salt. Another option is Guatavita, an even more attractively whitewashed Spanish colonial town of cute souvenir stores and adorable eateries, which many visitors actually prefer to the nearby tourist attraction, famous Lake Guatavita.
If you have a couple of days, however, it’s well worth spending them in Villa de Leyva, a perfectly preserved Spanish pueblo, right down to the terracotta tejas roof tiles, that’s been on the national registry since the 1950s. The cobbled street are lined with picturesque old adobes, freshly painted and bathed in bougainvillea, where you’ll find boutique hotels, beautiful restaurants, and the best collection of craft shops in the country. The pleasantly arid environs, where you’ll find all sorts of outdoor activities such as canyoning, horseback riding, hiking and hot springs, is a classic Bogota escape.
Day 3: An Authentically Urban Experience
Though you’ve still got a dozen things left on your list to see, why not spend your last day really living in the capital? If it’s Sunday start off with the Ciclovia, Bogota’s innovative urban initiative that shuts down city streets to motor traffic to let joggers, dog-walkers and especially cyclists have the run of the city until early afternoon. Otherwise, grab a bite to eat in one of Bogota’s business districts and begin your final stroll.
You’re probably back in the Candelaria if you plan to visit a few more museums and churches. For a different experience, why not head over to the Emerald District and try your hand at negotiating for a fine stone? If your souvenir budget doesn’t quite cover precious gems, the handicrafts market on Parque Santander offers all sorts of outstanding crafts and further opportunity to haggle. Even budget travelers should change into their sharpest outfits and spend at least an evening in the Zona Rosa splashing out on a gourmet meal or night of clubbing if at all possible. This is the real Bogota.