Bogotá is the largest city in Colombia, and one of the biggest in Latin America. It figures in among the 25 largest cities of the world and is the third-highest capital city in South America. It’s a biggie.
I have to admit, I wasn’t entirely sold on the place before arriving–especially after travelling around the rest of Colombia. Every other Colombian gave me the same reaction each time I said that I was going to Bogotá, and asked the same question. Why? They warned me of pick-pockets and thieves, violence and danger, and said that they wouldn’t recommend going. But, but my questions was ‘why not?’
I kept my wits about me when walking around at night, played caution to getting around, and I never felt unsafe during my time in the city. Bogotá can be as safe as you make it, and once you get past that, it is a great city for exploring.
From bike tours to cooking classes and mountaintops to markets, here is my guide of how to spend 48 hours in Bogotá.
When to Go
While Medellin is situated quite near the equator, its altitude of 2,640 metres (8,660 ft) above sea level makes it much cooler than other cities at its same proximity. Because of this, is can get unexpectedly chilly during winter months and rainy season. In fact it can be downright cold, and even more shocking if you’re travelling down from hot & humid Cartagena.
With only sweaters and leggings, I did not pack warmly enough for November in Bogota. I would recommend a jacket and pants.
The dry season runs approximately from December to February, and this is the best time of the year to visit. The time of year that may give the best value for your money is November. The weather can be unpredictable at the end of the rainy season, but there are far less tourists in the city at the time and travel prices plummet.
What to Do
When I first arrived in Bogotá, I couldn’t get over the size of the city. It was huge, sprawling, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine how I was going to see it all in only two days. That’s when I found Bogotá Bike Tours.
Bogotá Bike Tours offers several different types of tours, from night, food or graffiti tours to tours just for children, but their most popular is the full city tour, spanning from the Plaza del Chorro, the Botero Museum and the National Museum, Parque del Renacimiento, a coffee factory and many others over a span of about four hours.
Bogotá is one of the world’s best cycling cities, as it is home to many bicycle paths and even shuts down main roads in the downtown core for pedestrian Sunday’s. Along with all of its parks and quiet side streets, it is one easy city to ride around.
Not only did we cover a lot of ground, but the tour guides were super informative and helpful. They kept our large group in line and made sure everyone was safe at crossings and comfortable at their own pace. We learned so much about the history of Bogota and Colombia as a whole, including National events and local facts.
Discover the colourful history and culture of La Candelaria, with its theatres and nightlife, taste tropical fruits, cruise through Bogotá’s many parks, witness its surprising urban renewal and get to know some of the people and colourful neighbourhoods of Colombia’s capital. Or learn how the nation’s drug-fueled civil war has impacted Bogotá and the Colombian people.
The Bogotá bike tour was my favourite activity in the city, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to see as much of the city without it.
Take a Cooking Class
Arranged through Bogotá Bike Tours, Colombian cooking classes are available just around the corner from the shop. You have the choice of visiting the home of a local and cooking alongside them in their kitchen, or teaming up with a professional chef at a nearby restaurant.
At the home of Doña Elsa, we learned to cook sancocho, a traditional soup consisting of meat, vegetables and broth.
- large pieces of chicken
- boiled potato (15 minutes)
- yuca/cassava with centres removed
- corn from cob
- cilantro on top
- side of avocado
Doña Elsa supplied our ingredients, showed us how to prepare them, give instructions on how to cook, and walked us through every step of the way. It was quiet, personal, educational and delicious.
It was a truly authentic Bogotá experience and something we most definitely wouldn’t have been able to experience on our own.
We were able to combine the cooking class with our city bike tour.
Going up to the top of Monserrate was one of the things that I wanted to do most when visiting the city. I had seen photos of the view and just had to see it with my own eyes. Turns out it was kind of overrated. I would still recommend the climb, but I wouldn’t call it a must-do.
Monserrate is a mountain that dominates the city centre, rising 3,152 m (10,341 ft) above Bogotá. You can climb it by foot, ride the cable car, or hop on the funicular. I took the funicular, and it gave awesome views coming up and down the side of the mountain. That was the first time that I really saw just how big Bogotá was.
The panoramic view from the top was pretty impressive, and the Church is worth a look inside. The summit also features a market area, cafeteria and food stalls, restaurants and souvenir shops. It’s a fun way to spend a morning, but you won’t need more than an hour or so to get the full experience.
Funicular tickets are $16,400 COP for a return ticket.
Check out the Graffiti
The graffiti of Bogota was the thing that I was most looking forward to before arriving in the city. Before I learned of the bike tour, I told my friends that I wanted to find a graffiti tour. Luckily, it turned out that the two were combined and I could get my fill of street art from the seat of a bike.
On my Bogota bike tour, I was able to check out different colourful works of art from dozens of artists all over the city. I wouldn’t have even known where to start looking on my own, and definitely wouldn’t have known a thing about any pieces. My guide was able to give info about each one and gave me a better understanding of Bogotá’s vibrant mural scene.
In my opinion, Bogotá probably has the best street art of anywhere I’ve seen in the world.
Tejo is Colombia’s sport.
It’s a game that consists of throwing a metal puck across an alley at a distance of approximately twenty metres, to a one metre by one metre board covered with clay and set at a forty-five degree angle. This metal puck is the “tejo” itself.
It seems to be somewhat of a ‘boys club’ sport, but we managed to fit right in when we gave it a try during our Bogota bike tour. Grab a couple beers and spend the afternoon tossing pucks at the local Tejo arena.
Explore Paloquemao Market
Another local discovery on the Bogota Bike Tour, the Paloquemao Market is a hub of fresh fruit & veg, along with plenty of edible items I had never seen before in my life.
If you’re looking for somewhere authentic and local, you’ve come to the right place. You won’t find tourists here, but you will get caught up in the hustle and bustle of a working food market. Don’t forget to sample everything.
What to Eat & Drink
Hot Chocolate with Bread
I always love a good hot chocolate, but for some reason I had never thought about dipping bread in it before. The Colombians, however, are chocolatey geniuses. After one taste, there was no going back for me. I ordered about three of these over the course of a 48 hour period, and am now wishing it had been even more.
I’ve tried this a few times upon returning back home to Canada, but have received very strange looks for ordering a bun along with my hot chocolate at Tim Horton’s. This little concoction is a delicious must have in Bogota. The ultimate spot is the Rosita Restaurante in the Candelaria neighbourhood.
Almost accidentally, I found myself in the El Atico bar in the Candelaria neighbourhood, just around the corner from Rosita Restaurante. It was a hole in the wall with narrow set of stairs leading up to an actual attic, where chicha was pretty much the only thing on the menu, and every single other person in the bar was nursing one.
Chicha is a fermented corn/maize based beer that is commonly produced by physically chewing and spitting out the corn to speed up the fermentation process. In Colombia, regional chicha ingredients include maize, yuca, quinoa, pineapple, rice, and potatoes. Some recipes include cannabis, coca leaf, or other traditional entheogens, such as chichaja. During celebrations, people drink refreshing and nutritious preparations of chicha.
It’s difficult not to think about that while supping on the sweet frothy liquid served in a hallowed bowl, it is actually pretty tasty.
While primarily consumed in rural areas, some bars and restaurants in Bogotá and other Andean cities serve chicha.
On the last night of our trip, we decided to spend the night in at our FlipKey apartment and order a pizza. We simply called up the local pizza delivery (which happened to be Domino’s) and ordered something to celebrate our last two weeks travelling around Colombia and satisfy our hangry selves.
Solution: the Colombiana pizza.
None of us had even heard of it before, but it turned out to be the third best pizza I’ve ever had. And, I consider myself a pizza expert.
The Colombiana pizza consisted of cheese, onion, sweet corn, bacon and sausage, covered in crispy baked plantains. It was incredible.
Where to Stay
While there are plenty of great hostel and hotel options around the different neighbourhoods of Medellin, the safest and most comfortable option that will give you the best value for your money is a FlipKey vacation rental. The apartment and condo choices seem endless as you narrow down your accommodation needs (location, wifi, extra bedrooms, laundry, etc.), and the hardest part will be actually choosing one.
I stayed in a detached 3 bedroom apartment in the Modelia neighbourhood, which was conveniently located very close to the airport. It was three floors, the first being a living area and kitchen, the second held two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and the top was a loft style bedroom and office. It was large enough for myself and the three others that I was travelling with, yet private enough that I had my own space.
We didn’t spend too much time in the apartment, but it was a nice spot for hanging out on the last night of our two week travels through Colombia. We ordered a pizza, got our social media fix on the wifi, and reminisced about our amazing trip.
What to Pack
- Rain coat
- Warm jacket
- Small day pack
- Lace up shoes
- Camera with strap
- Pick-pocket-proof clothing
- Water bottle with filter
More Bogotá Photos
What would you do with 48 hours in Bogota?