City-Hopping Around Colombia: Bogotá, Medellín and Cali, Done Differently

Ling Tang / © Culture Trip
Ling Tang / © Culture Trip
Photo of Josephine Platt
Commissioning Editor23 December 2019

Culture Trip brings you City Loops, Done Differently – the trending multi-destination routes for 2020 with a twist. Deep-dive into the culture of a destination and discover how to get the most out of your itinerary, from what to see and do to what to eat and where to stay.

The cities of Bogotá, Medellín and Cali all bring something new to the table when it comes to Colombian culture – be it salsa dancing well into the night, tucking into the nation’s favorite dishes or soaking up ancient art.

A ‘biodiversity hotspot’ – meaning it’s home to a number of endemic species that can’t be found anywhere else – Colombia’s natural world and climate are on par with its culture. Embrace it all, traveling by either plane or train between its cities.

Colombia is home to a unique climate | © Constantinos Moutsopoulos / Alamy Stock Photo


Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá, is a vibrant place, diverse in its art, cuisine, nature and lifestyle. Catch a glimpse of it all by spending time in both its historic and up-and-coming neighborhoods.

At 8,660 feet (2,640 meters) above sea level, Bogotá is one of the highest capital cities in the world | © Daniel Garzón Herazo / EyeEm / Getty Images

Museum-hop around the city

The arts scene in Bogotá is vast: museums housing gold (some 55,000 pieces in Museo del Oro), history and science sit alongside independent contemporary galleries. To get a feel for both artistic offerings, first pay a visit to the Botero Museum, situated in a colonial mansion in the historic neighborhood of La Candelaria. Works here range from Picasso to Monet, with the oldest piece of art stretching back pre-1862. A 20-minute walk across town will take you to the Bogotá Museum of Modern Art (MAMBO). The clue is in the name at this museum designed by architect Rogelio Salmona; visual art spans from the early 20th century to today, with key works from Dalí and Warhol.

The Botero Museum is a must-see | © Karol Kozlowski Premium RM Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

Stay in Usaquén

Boutique Hotel, Hotel
Map View
Suite at W Bogota
A suite at the W Bogota places you in the heart of a happening neighborhood | Courtesy of W Bogota/
Slap bang in the middle of happening Usaquén, the stylish W Hotel is in a prime location. Numerous fashion stores and restaurants surround the hotel in the buzzing neighborhood, which is only a 40-minute journey from the airport.

Get a flavor for Colombian cuisine at Restaurante Club Colombia

Restaurant, South American, $$$
Map View
With its name, Club Colombia, being an ode to the nation’s second-favorite beer (the first being Heineken), Restaurante Club Colombia promises the best in Colombia’s food and drink. Alongside its great beer, an assortment of Colombian and Latin American foods like ajiaco (chicken with three varieties of potato) and frijoles (Colombian-style beans) need to be tried at this restaurant that offers both casual and fine dining.


Dubbed the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ for its year-round mild climate, Medellin is best explored on foot. When not out and about exploring, eat your way around the city.

Make sure you’re in shape for your Medellín walking tour! | © Karol Kozlowski/robertharding/Getty Images

Ride the Medellín Metrocable for bird’s-eye views

Natural Feature
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Cable car in Medellin
For views of Medellín, you could do worse than a seat in a cable car | © Anton Blanke / Alamy Stock Photo
Taking the Medellín Metrocable up to Parque Arví yields bird’s-eye views of the city. You’ll bank some of the best shots in your camera roll and be able to explore Medellín’s famous ecological nature reserve once at the top.

Make space for bandeja paisa

Colombia’s national dish, bandeja paisa, is native to Medellín, meaning the most authentic version of this meat-intensive meal of chorizo, carne molida (ground meat), fried egg, black pudding and avocado is found here. Restaurante Hatoviejo are masters at mustering up this beloved dish.

Bandeja paisa will fortify you for your urban adventures | © Stephen Ackerman/Getty Images

Party in El Poblado, but stay in Envigado

Bars and nightclubs abound in El Poblado, but to its south is an area with a very different feel. Envigado and its green spaces offer more of a suburban vibe, conducive to a good night’s sleep. The Hotel Poblado Alejandria is a contemporary option that sits in the middle of hotel prices for the area. Much like accommodation in Bogotá, it’s close to both local airports.

El Poblado is known as a party spot | © Mehdi33300 / Alamy Stock Photo


The salsa capital of the world, Cali is all about the party. Dancing aside, its historic center and art attractions like Gato de Tejada will fill days of exploring.

Sample local sweets at Zahavi Gourmet

Bakery, Pastries, Dessert, Street Food
Map View

After a long night of dancing, enjoy coffee and Colombian treats at the bakery known as the best in the city. A local favorite, pandebono is a cheesy bread snack that you have to try here – consider it your fuel for a morning of exploration.

Stay close to important sights

A short distance from landmarks like Cristo Rey, the Church of San Antonio and Colombia’s third-tallest building, the Torre de Cali skyscraper, Cali Marriott Hotel is a great base when you’re looking to get a feel for Cali. As it’s one of the more expensive hotels in the area, expect luxury.

Visit the 18th-century San Antonio chapel | © James Wagstaff / Alamy Stock Photo
These recommendations were updated on December 23, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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