At first glance, the cobblestone streets in the sprawling capital of Colombia seem sleepy and strangely quiet, but under the surface, Bogotá is a bustling city with various districts and lots of things to do and enjoy if you know where to look. For solo travelers, the nightlife is a revelation, accommodation is diverse, and meeting people is a breeze.
Sometimes overlooked in favor of sister city Medellín – the second-largest city in Colombia – Bogotá is a must on your itinerary. The hip capital is celebrated for its coffee-shop scene, innovative cuisine and diverse, vibrant neighborhoods, all set against an epic Andes backdrop.
In northern Bogotá, the five-star Bogotá Plaza Hotel has luxury amenities at an affordable rate. The rooms are clean and contemporary, but the real star of the show here is the lavish spa on the fifth floor, overlooking the skyline. Before you head out on the town, pamper yourself – this tranquil space has a Turkish bath, a hot tub, a sauna and many massage and spa services.
Wake up to views of the Andes at the sociable Selina La Candelaria, housed in a neo-colonial building. The sociable hostel has a cozy cafe with locally sourced coffee, a shared kitchen, a library lounge, an on-site restaurant and a movie room. It’s easy to meet dorm-mates – events take place at the bar, and you can sign up for salsa classes, cocktail-making lessons and lettering workshops.
In the heart of Bogotá, the historic La Candelaria neighborhood is a mix of pastel-painted houses and head-turning graffiti. Get lost in the cobblestone streets to find plazas, the Botero Museum – among other popular sights – and a lively craft-beer scene at night. Take a walking tour to learn about the history.
See street art when you take part in Culture Trip’s Discover Colombian Andes adventure. The eight-day trip, led by a Local Insider, takes you through the vibrant cities, coffee culture and spectacular Colombian Andes.
Named after its chef, Leonor Espinosa, the upscale Leo Restaurant is like a gastronomic journey through the regions of Colombia. Choose an eight- or 13-course tasting menu with contemporary dishes that reflect lesser-known ingredients, such as plants and seeds from the Amazon. Even the cocktail menu is based on the country’s diversity, so you can taste national specialties without leaving the city.
The whimsical Bogotá branch of Andrés Carne de Res specializes in grilled meat, with a biblical-length cocktail menu. The iconic steakhouse is loved for its fiesta-lively atmosphere – expect dancing and live music. It’s a great alternative to the original restaurant in Chía, a 45-minute drive away, especially on the weekends when tables are at a premium.
You’ll find yourself at ease and welcome in this vibrant capital. However, like any major city, Bogotá has its fair share of crime, so exercise the usual precautions. For example, don’t wear flashy jewelry, keep expensive phones and cameras concealed, and avoid carrying large amounts of cash. To be super safe, instead of hailing taxis on the street, use one that’s been vetted by your accommodation, or opt for ride-sharing apps that track your whereabouts.
The least-confusing options are taxis, especially if your Spanish is limited. Like cycling? Every Sunday, the city bans motorized transport between 7am and 2pm. Ask your accommodation if there are bikes available for the Ciclovía program. There are also bike-sharing stations around the city; check major parks, such as Virrey Park and Santander Park, and Plaza de Bolívar, where you can borrow bikes if you register online.
Link up with a small group of like-minded travelers and a Local Insider on Culture Trip’s eight-day adventure From Bogota to Medellín: Traverse the Colombian Andes, which includes river rafting down the Río Negro, a hike in the Cocora Valley and a stroll through a Medellín neighborhood once influenced by Pablo Escobar.