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Backpacking Bogota: Things to do in Bogota Colombia

Street Art in Bogota Colombia - Backpacking South America Backpackers Guide to South America on a Budget

Bogota certainly wasn’t my favourite stop in Colombia.  Compared to the rest of this beautiful country, Bogota is busy, dirty, and the traffic is always horrendous,  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find there were more than enough things to do in Bogota keep me occupied for a few days before I took my flight back to Mexico.  For me, to really understand a country, you have to visit its capital.  Backpacking Bogota does have its rewards, so give Bogota a chance, before you explore the rest of Colombia, and you will uncover a rich history (turbulent at times), and realise that the people of Bogota are friendly and kind, and the food is some of the best in the country.  Here is my pick for the best things to do in Bogota Colombia for backpackers on a budget:

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Last updated: May 16, 2020


Free Things to Do in Bogota Colombia for Backpackers

The Cathedral in Bogota - Awesome budget Bogota things to do in Bogota Colombia - what to do in Bogota for Backpackers
Bogota things to do: The Cathedral in Bogota Colombia

Backpacking Bogota: Explore the Candelaria

The oldest part of Bogota is filled with colonial buildings, fascinating stories (a lot of gruesome ones) and fabulous street food.  The main square Plaza de Bolivar is home to the Cathedral, Lievano Palace and National Capitol Building, as well as the Palace of Justice. 

To learn about the history of Bogota, and lots fascinating stories about the city, take a free Bogota walking tour (remember to tip your guide) like the one I did with Beyond Colombia.  We explored the streets of Bogota, sampling chicha (a once illegal liquor made from fermented corn), popped into the Botero museum and learned about Bogota’s history and the city’s fascination with gold and emeralds. 

Our guide Santiago was brilliant, and spoke English better than I do!  The tours leave every day at 10am and 2pm from outside the Gold Museum.  Sign up in advance here.

Book your hostel in Bogota on Hostelworld

Bogota Things to Do: Take your Pick of Free Museums

The Botero Museum in Bogota is second only to the artist’s museum in his home town of Medellin.  The painter & sculpture donated a large collection of his work to the city, some say so that everyone could enjoy culture for free, others say it was a payoff to avoid a hefty prison sentence for his son/nephew who was enjoying dodgy dealings in his position of Defence Minister.

Either way, it is an excellent introduction to his work, Botero is famous for painting ‘fat’ women, but really, they are just disproportionate.  In the same area, there are several other free museums too, collectively known as the ‘Museos del Banco de la Republica’ which include the money museum and more art collections, so it is a great cheap way to spend an afternoon.

Botero's Fat Cat - Awesome budget Bogota things to do in Bogota Colombia - what to do in Bogota for Backpackers
Botero also sculpted “fat” animals, like this cat whose full-size sculpture is in Barcelona in Spain!

Admire the Grafitti and Street Art in Bogota

Bogota is full of street art and graffiti.  Even on the drive to my backpacker hostel from the airport, I couldn’t miss the colourful murals that adorn the walls of the main road.  Birds, sea turtles, the faces of beautiful women, and of course, the less attractive tags and signatures stared back at me as we drove by. 

In the funky Candelaria neighbourhood where my hostel was, there was barely a wall which didn’t have some sort of graffiti on.  I took a graffiti tour with Bogota Graffiti, and our guide explained the history of street art in the city and showed us how to recognise the styles and tags of different artists. 

As well as appreciating the art, she also taught us how to appreciate the graffiti and the political statements behind the works.  The tour takes place each day at 10am and 2pm, register online in advance here.

My favourte colourful street art in Bogota
My favourte colourful street art in Bogota

Backpacking Bogota: Scale Montserrate

Montserrate watches over downtown Bogota, the mountain is 3152 metres about sea level and is a pilgrimage site for many Catholics who come to pay their respects to the shrine El Señor Caído, Jesus when he was taken down from the cross. 

The views (on a clear day) are spectacular, but sadly when I went it was raining.  You can choose to hike up for free or take the more leisurely cable car or funicular.  The transport is much cheaper on Sundays (almost half price), but it is a lot busier on Sundays as it is a religious place.

Climb Montserrate in Bogota Awesome budget things to do in Bogota Colombia - what to do in Bogota for Backpackers
What to do in Bogota Colombia: Climb Montserrate

Unique Things to Do in Bogota

Get Your Gold On

When the Spanish arrived in what is now known as Colombia, they were excited to hear about the ceremonies the indigenous people conducted with gold.  The precious metal was abundant here, and the indigenous people would use it to make jewellery and statues to offer to their gods. 

The Bogota Gold Museum is one of the best museums of its kind in the world and is well worth the 4000 COP entry fee.  If you are backpacking Bogota on a budget, you’ll be glad to know the entry is free on Sundays!

Visit the Bogota Gold Museum in Bogota Awesome budget things to do in Bogota Colombia - what to do in Bogota for Backpackers

Buying Emeralds in Bogota

OK so perhaps not a budget activity, but as Colombia is the world’s top producer of emeralds, if you’re going to buy an emerald it might as well be here in Bogota!  At the Emerald Museum, you learn about the different types of emeralds, how to tell if an emerald is real or fake, and which factors determine the value of the stone, including clarity, colour, and size. 

Bear in mind if you do decide to buy an emerald or jewellery to take home, at customs you may be asked to produce the certificate of authenticity, or risk having your new bling confiscated – so be sure to buy it from a reputable store, like the museum, or simply watch as the black market emerald sellers in Plazoleta del Rosario sell their (possibly fake) emeralds – but don’t buy from them!

Looking for a tour in Bogota?  Try these options from GetYourGuide:

Best Things to Do in Bogota: Food & Drink

Eat, eat, and eat some more

Take a trip to the local market to see fruits that look alien to us.  Paloquemao is the most famous market here, but remember to buy something, and ask before you take pictures – the stallholders are trying to earn a living by selling their products so do your bit & contribute. 

I took a market food tour and cooking class with 5Bogota and loved it!  The Colombian food we made was simple but delicious, and it was a great way to meet a local Bogotana and cook in her home.

READ MORE: A Market Food Tour & Cooking Class with 5Bogota

Bogota also has plenty of street food for hungry backpackers and travellers on a budget, so take your pick and try traditional foods like baleadas, ajiaco, and empanadas. 

Beyond Colombia also offer a free guided food tour, where they take you to some of the best spots in the city to try traditional Colombian snacks and street food – you pay for the food you eat and tip the guide for their services at the end.  I didn’t try this as I was so full after my cooking class I couldn’t even move, but I’ll give it a go next time I’m back in Bogota!

Tasting fruits in the market in Bogota Awesome budget things to do in Bogota Colombia - what to do in Bogota for Backpackers
Tasting fruits in the market on a food tour in Bogota

Bogota Nightlife

Colombians love a party, and Bogotanos are no exception.  The Candelaria is a great place to party, with several Universities in the area bringing a young student crowd.  Hang out in Plazoleta Chorro de Quevado square for live music and people watching or take a bar crawl around the area. 

Andres Carne de Res is an institution in Bogota.  Come here on the weekends to eat great steak and dance the night away. It is out of town though, and you can either take an expensive taxi or join a company like Sue Candelaria who arrange transport and entry for you.  I still haven’t been here but I will go one day!

General Things to Remember About Backpacking Bogota

Is Bogota Safe Awesome budget things to do in Bogota Colombia - what to do in Bogota for Backpackers

Is Bogota Safe?

Like any large city, Bogota has its fair share of crime.  Around the Candelaria, the Universities clubbed together to hire private security to patrol the area, and in the previously dodgy Parque de los Periodistas there is also a security guard on watch.  Don’t walk around alone at night, and take official taxis or Uber to move around the city. 

During the day, it is fine to explore, just take the same precautions you would anywhere; don’t flash the cash and leave expensive/important items like laptops and passports locked away in your hotel/hostel.  You can read more safety advice for Bogota in this article.

READ MORE: Backpacking Colombia Travel Guide

Colombia still suffers from its previous bad reputation, but I found backpacking in Bogota, and in Colombia as a whole to be friendly, welcoming, and my favourite country in South America.  I was shocked to meet backpackers who still chose to miss out Colombia due to safety concerns – please don’t worry, just come and see for yourself why now is the time to visit Colombia!

The Best Hostels in Bogota for Backpackers

I stayed in the Candelaria, right in the thick of the action.  There are a lot of hostels around this area, and although it was a little noisy at night, there were always plenty of people on the streets so I wasn’t worried about walking to nearby restaurants on my own. 

I highly recommend Casa Bellavista Hostel; the staff were friendly, their dog was the biggest softie ever, and it had a nice vibe with breakfast included.


Or check the options on Airbnb.   If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get $30 credit to use on your first trip!


Overall, Bogota is worth exploring for a couple of days at least, then you will be ready to get out there and see more of fabulous Colombia!

Have you been backpacking in Bogota?  What did you think?  Have I missed any other cool things to do in Bogota? Please share your experience in the comments below.

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11 thoughts on “Backpacking Bogota: Things to do in Bogota Colombia

  1. Freewalkingtourbogota says:

    Great post, Claire!!
    It’s really comprehensive, with useful advices and recommendation. I’d like to add just one more, among top budget things to do: As Bogota is the capital, there’s no better city in Colombia to understand all the recent history of the country. There are great walking tour (disclaimer: I created it), but it has a great reputation among those who did it : Heroes Tour, an alternative walking tour which challenge mind, explaining with facts, and in a connected way, all the major events, and history of the country (how was it before, how did it change, with the impact of Escobar & the conflict with FARC, how it’s been changing with the peace process), always portraying Heroes who deserve been more famous than villains. This tour is Heroes Tour,,

  2. Megan Jerrard says:

    I like that even though you were’nt overly taken by Bogota, you were willing to give it a chance. Sounds like there are some pretty cool things to do in a 3 day window. I would love to explore the Candelaria – I’m really fascinated by old towns and love exploring for the architecture and historic insights. Very cool too that there’s a vibrant street art scene – always a great way to gain insight into the culture and recent history of a place.

    Thanks too for highlighting that Colombia is quite safe – I don’t know how long it will take for it to recover from it’s bad reputation, but I agree that it’s a shame so many are missing out because they believe media hype and fear.

  3. Hannah says:

    Damn, I wish I’d had this guide when I was in Bogota. I just passed through on the way to the coast and had no idea there was so much fun to be had! Also, I love Botero’s work. I recently found a painting of some of his work in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, of all places.

  4. Vicki Louise says:

    I’d heard of Bogota – primarily for its incredible street art – but it was nice to read there was more to the city than the traffic and dirtiness that is so often mentioned. I could spend all day wandering around the free museums, and then exploring the city-turned-open-air-museum with all the street art.

  5. Jessica C says:

    I haven’t even been to South America yet, but it is so great to see such an overview of one of the major cities in a country I’ve heard so much about! Although it wasn’t your favorite, I’m glad you were able to find the good things about it to share. I will definitely be checking out the other spots in Colombia that you mentioned, too!

  6. Adventographer says:

    Bogota and Colombia as a whole have been on my list for a long time now. I once rode my motorcycle from canada to Panama and back. I always kick myself for not continuing into Colombia and South America! Great ideas for Budget Activities in Bogota!

  7. Candy says:

    That’s so cool that there was actually a tour of the street art. I often wonder when I see street art in cities who the artists are and what the meaning of their art stands for.

  8. Tamara says:

    I don’t know Bogota really well, but with these tips you can easily spend some time in this city! I’m a huge fan of street art (and especially of photographing it), so that would be a perfect activity for me, haha! I would also love to climb Montserrate and enjoy the breathtaking views!

  9. Ryan Biddulph says:

    Hi Claire,
    Looks like all types of fun down there in Bogota.
    I’d love those alien fruits. One of my fave things to do in any place is to visit the local market to see all the different fruits and veggies. I am far from a foodie but goodness this practice is enjoyable.
    Thanks for the fun share Claire.
    PS….I dig the fat cat sculpture too 😉

  10. Sandy N Vyjay says:

    There is definitely a lot of things to do in Bogota. For me visiting the museums would be something that I would look forward to. Also, the street art seems to be fascinating. Love to look at street art as they are a mirror of the times and the people of the land.

  11. Laura says:

    Love this post! I’ve actually thought about moving to Bogota in the future as I’ve heard there’s a great expat community. The street art is to die for – are there any specific areas where it’s more prominent or is it basically everywhere?

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