Cover image for is Bogota worth visiting post.
Streets like this one in Bogota’s historical Candelaria neighborhood were not what I was expecting.

From “Do I have to go?” to “When can I go back?”

For me, the answer to, “Is Bogota worth visiting?” was a big fat NO.

When I lived in Panama, even my Colombian friends and colleagues said so. And here in Medellin, where Kim and I are living, we’ve only met one person who raved (positively) about Bogota. With so much else to see in Colombia, visiting Bogota was on the bottom of my priority list.

I only ended up going because I was forced to.

Kim had to write an exam there and didn’t want to go alone, so, being a chivalrous boyfriend, I accompanied her. My plan was to set up in a cafe and spend my time in Bogota blogging about better places to see and things to do in Colombia.

But my computer never came out of my bag.

Bogota was not at all what I’d expected. For me, it was definitely worth visiting.

For you, that may or may not be the case. Use the questions below to answer the question, “Is Bogota worth visiting?” for yourself.

Chris in front of a pretty building in Bogota's historic Candelaria
Bogota far exceeded my low expectations and I really enjoyed my couple of days there.

Are you visiting Colombia to escape the winter?

If so, don’t visit.

Bogota’s weather is schizophrenic, so don’t leave home without a jacket. It goes from bright and sunny (where you’ll likely get a burn) to rainy and windy in the time it takes to swallow a nasty shot of aguardiente. We wore our packable down jackets off an on during the day, and kept them on all night.

On the plus side, the cold weather’s great for sleeping. But getting a good sleep isn’t why most of us travel and getting away from the cold often is.

So if you’re traveling to thaw out stop reading now because the answer to, “Is Bogota worth visiting” is a clear NO.

(…there go three quarters of you readers.)

Cafe by a park in Bogota
Sometimes it’s so nice out in Bogota you can sit outside in Paris-style cafes
People sitting around a table and fireplace in Origen Brewery in Bogota.
It gets so cold in the evening that places like Origen Brewery in Bogota have cozy fireplaces.

Are you worried about safety?

If so, don’t let that stop you.

Pardon the double negative, but if you’re worried about safety don’t not go to Bogota.

Frankly, both Kim and I felt safer roaming Bogota than we do in Medellin.

My theory is that it’s partly because Bogota has way less naive, often drunk or high, non-Spanish-speaking, and obnoxiously-loud-foreign-language-blabbing tourists than Medellin. Those people are easy prey, so high concentrations of them create a perfect ecosystem for predators to thrive on.

Whether or not my theory is valid, the truth is my spidey-senses never tingled anywhere north of Calle 69 and east of Carrera 15.

One night around 10 p.m. we even saw a trio of 80+ year old ladies—one with a walker—making their way, very slowly, back home on a dark, quiet street. If they feel safe enough to do so, you can too.

That said, if you’re a big scaredy cat you might be better off skipping Colombia altogether and going somewhere like Asia instead.

A less safe-looking street in Bogota
While Kim and I felt safer wandering Bogota than in Medellin, there were obviously neighborhoods like this one, well west of Carrera 15, that we wouldn’t risk wandering at night.

Do you have a long layover in Bogota?

If so, do visit.

If you have a long layover at Bogota’s airport, the choice has been made for you already. It is cheap (about $10 USD taxi) and close (25 minutes) enough from the airport to the city that you have no excuse not to go.

The same goes if the cheapest flights you can find into or out of Colombia are through Bogota. Instead of planning to not leave the airport, add a day or two in the city to your itinerary.

Do you enjoy roaming funky neighborhoods?

If so, do visit.

When traveling, I prefer to aimlessly wander neighborhoods over spending time in museums. My rationale is that the things I see on the streets will be in museums hundreds of years from now, so I’m just getting ahead of the game and saving on admission fees.

My favorite neighborhoods to wander are those that are full of character, have quirky architecture, are up-and-coming (or haven’t come anywhere in decades), and aren’t full of Zaras and McDonalds.

If you’re into the same, Bogota is definitely worth visiting.

La Quinta Camacho (see on Google Maps) was my absolute favorite Bogota neighborhood. It felt like a mid-sized English town, and not a mega Latin American metropolis. The difference is the brick Victorian homes are occupied by cool cafes, boutiques, microbreweries, and restaurants.

Houses in Quinto Camacho neighborhood of Bogota
Quinta Camacho was our favorite neighborhood to wander in. It’s in the heart of Bogota, but looks and feels like a British village.
Courtyard in Quinto Camacho
This isn’t what you’d expect to see in downtown Bogota, right?

El Calendario, Bogota’s old town, is also an obvious must-wander. It’s where the museums, cobblestone streets, and government buildings are. Like Quinta Camahco, you don’t feel like you’re in a big city when you’re exploring it.

For a grittier wander, and a crapload of fried meat, conceal your valuables and head to the area around Doña Segunda Piqueteadero. It’s a flat, grey industrial area full of electrical wires, car shops, zero tourists, and Bogotanos stuffing their faces with fried meat.

On the Saturday we went, the line-up for Doña Segunda wrapped around the block. Tip: don’t go on the weekend.

Dona Sgunda restaurant building with people lined up outside
Ravenous Bogotanos lined up around the block to eat Doña Segunda’s fried meats.
Close-up of meats from Dona Segunda restaurant
This is what all the fuss is about at Doña Segunda

Are you a museum lover?

If so, do visit.

If museum admission bracelets are your most prized souvenirs when traveling, Bogota is worth visiting.

As Colombia’s capital, Bogota naturally has the most museums, just like Ottawa, Canada and Washington, D.C.

[Quick sidebar: Many people compare Bogota to New York City, but the city Bogota most closely compares to is Washington D.C. It’s “official,” low-lying, international-feeling, bike-friendly, and under-appreciated by tourists. And, in case you were wondering, Medellin is L.A. and the Pacific Coast is Alaska.]

Unfortunately I can’t help you much with museum recommendations. From what others told me, museums like the Museo del Oro, Botero Museum, National Museum, and Casa de Moneda make Bogota worth visiting for at least a couple days.

Artwork of a couple in the Botero Museum in Bogota
Botero’s subjects aren’t fat. They have character.

Are you living in Medellin?

If so, do visit.

If you’re an expat or digital nomad living in Medellin, you might think—like I did—that Bogota is just a colder, bigger, more dangerous, and less fun version of the same.

Only the “colder” part is true.

Bogota is less polluted, more cosmopolitan, and feels smaller than Medellin.

Dig your jacket out of your suitcase, dust it off, and visit. With flights between Medellin and Bogota costing as little as $30 USD, you have no excuse not to.

Worst case scenario, you’ll come back with a renewed appreciation for Medellin’s perfect climate.

People at the bar and bartender at Dos Carreras microbrewery in Bogota
Bogota has a lot more microbreweries than Medellin, including Dos Carreras pictured here.

Do you hate big busy cities?

If so, do visit.

I assumed Bogota would have hoards of people everywhere and big buildings blocking out the sun like in New York, Tokyo, Manila, or Bangkok.

Well, as my favorite saying goes:

“To assume makes an ‘ass‘ out of ‘u‘ and ‘me.'”

If someone had blindfolded and parachuted me into Bogota, I’d have never guessed I was in a huge metropolis of eight million people. Especially in the neighborhoods I mentioned above, I felt I was in a mid-sized city. There was plenty of sidewalk space and few high-rises, and most of the crazy horrible traffic was on highways I rarely saw. Bogota is more of a sprawl than a crush.

If you hate big, busy cities, don’t let that be a deterrent for visiting Bogota.

People walking along along Bogota's Carrera 7
One of the few streets that makes Bogota feel like a huge metropolis is pedestrian-only Carrera 7.
facade of a shop in La Candelaria
Shops like this one in La Candelaria make you feel like you’re in Jerico or Jardin, and not a big capital city.

Are you only interested in cheap, local Colombian food?

If so, don’t visit.

If your primary source of happiness from traveling is devouring copious amounts of cheap local delicacies, Bogota is not worth visiting.

Bogota is DEFINITELY nothing like Mexico City, Tokyo, or Bangkok. And glorious, gluttonous, gastronomic orgies like that of La Gloria de Gloria in Medellin are nowhere to be found.

Aside from a few touristy spots like La Puerta Falsa and Pasteleria Florida, Kim and I had a near impossible time finding appealing comida tipica. We ended up eating French pastries at Les Amis Bizcocheria, deep dish pizza from Stomboli, and Asian food from Wok instead. They were all tasty, but not at all Colombian.

If you’re looking to gorge on traditional and cheap Colombian food, Bogota is not worth visiting.

Chris serving a slice of deep dish pizza from Stromboli Restaurant
Since we couldn’t find much cheap typical Colombian food in Bogota, we had deep dish pizza.
Display of treats with people working in the kitchen in the background
The French treats at Les Amis Bizcocheria were better than any Colombian food anyways.

Is Bogota Worth Visiting for You?

Hopefully the above helped you get closer to answering the question of, “Is Bogota worth visiting?” for yourself. Bogota won’t appeal to everybody, but the chances you’ll like it as much as I did are higher than you might expect.

If you’re still in doubt, please send us a message in the comments or on Facebook or Instagram and we’d be happy to advise.

And, whether or not you decide to go to Bogota, if you’re for sure going to Colombia check out our extensive guides to hikes, pueblos, and food in our Colombia adventure travel page.

Don’t be bored.

Follow @theunconventionalroute on Instagram for inspiration.

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5 comments

  1. I was in Bogota for 10 days and totally enjoyed my visit, I thought it would be dangerous and lots of people crowded on the street, but I found the opposite, The local food there are expensive than other places in Colombia and really not impressive, except the avocados!

    1. The avocados, of course! How could we have not mentioned the avocados in our post? I’m not sure if there are cheaper avocados anywhere in the world. We were just in Mexico and even there they were 50% more expensive.

      If you love avocados, do go to Bogota.

  2. Hello, colombian here!

    You can actually enjoy local colombian food in Bogota but you have to know where to look for it. It’s easy to find typical food in the middle-lower class parts of the city whereas the northern fancy neighborhoods are filled with expensive restaurants and bakeries aimed at tourists. I think the best a foreigner can do to enjoy local food is manage to be hosted in a family house and get to enjoy a meal with a familia bogotana.

    I also wanted to say I’m not really surprised that foreigners have a bad image about Bogota, most colombians don’t like it either and are always pointing out everything wrong about it. To be honest, I think it’s unfair how much hate Bogota gets.

    I’m from a small city a few hours from Bogota and I moved there for 2 years due to work and at first I was so anxious!
    Before leaving, everyone at home were always reminding me how dangerous Bogota was and that I was making a big mistake moving there. And when I arrived in Bogota, my relatives and co-workers also made sure that I never forgot that I could get robbed anywhere I went. They also loved to complain about how unfriendly and rude people in Bogota are, and they filled my head with horrible tales about women being groped in Transmilenio, buses being hijacked, hobos assaulting people on the streets, etc, etc.

    I remember I was so scared of going out alone at first. I was extremely paranoid, being suspicious of people around me and looking back like every 10 seconds to check if someone was following me when I was walking down the street but nothing ever happened. Once I realized things weren’t as bad as everyone said my adventurous spirit took over and I started wandering the city, learning the names of the streets and neighborhoods, memorizing the transmilenio and buses routes, asking people for directions. I discovered that contrary to what everyone says, “rolos” can be really kind and helpful. I discovered a wonderful city and couldn’t help falling in love with Bogota. I have very fond memories of the time I spent there. I had to go back to my hometown for personal reasons but now I’m seriously considering moving to Bogota for good. The only thing that I find really annoying and unbearable about Bogota is the traffic. You can waste a good portion of the day stuck in traffic jams and the rush hour is hell! I also hate the graffitti with a passion, it completely ruins the city’s image and makes it look cheap.
    Now, I’m not trying to say Bogota is a perfect haven of peace and security. The city can be dangerous, for sure, and as we colombians say: “No hay que dar papaya” or you’ll regret it.

    I just wanted to share my story to point out that wether we love or hate a place really depends on our personal experience and we shouldn’t rely on hearsay or stereotypes to decide if a place is worth a visit or not. Of course, when traveling there’s the money factor and nobody wants to waste time and money on a place that doesn’t live up to their expectations but you’ll never know if you love or hate Bogota unless you give it a chance.

    1. Wow, what a fantastic comment! Honestly, most would say it’s even better than our blog post! I really appreciate your even-handed perspective, and find it especially helpful coming from somebody who grew up outside Bogota, spent a lot of time there, and now might be going back.

      Really though, this should be a blog post in itself. If you’re interested in publishing on The Unconventional Route and sharing your story, let me know at [email protected].

      Thanks again for the fantastic comment.

  3. The old section in Bogota described in your blog as “El Calendario”should be mentioned as “LA CANDELARIA”. It has a church of the same name because the Virgin of La Candelaria. Many colonial homes, traditional schools and some government buildings are found in this part of town.
    Please take note that calendario is nothing but a calendar !
    Congratulations for your blog: I certainly enjoyed your descriptions and wonderful experiences in Colombia
    Frank,
    Boynton Beach, FL USA

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