Bogota has bolstered its reputation as a business and leisure destination in recent years. Theater, art, fashion and gastronomy all thrive in Colombia’s capital city, which is home to over 8 million people living at more than 2,400 meters (8,000 feet) above sea level.
The country’s stock market is housed in Bogota, as are most Colombian company headquarters and foreign company operations. Although Colombia is known for coffee, textiles, petroleum and mining are also big businesses. Emeralds mined a few hours’ drive from the city are traded in markets in downtown Bogota.
But there’s plenty of play mixed with work in this bustling city. For example, Bogotános call Thursday juernes, a blend of the Spanish word for Thursday and Friday. It describes getting an early start to the weekend.
Getting to and from the airport
El Dorado International Airport is about 15 kilometers (9 miles) west of the city center. Taxis are available outside the terminal. Go to the taxi kiosk, provide the address of your destination, and you’ll receive a computerized printout of exactly how much you’ll pay. An average fare is around 28,000 Colombian pesos, (US$9.56 using the exchange rate US$1 = Col$2,927.52).
Getting around Bogota
Thousands of buses serve the greater Bogota area. You’ll pay a flat fare of Col$1,500 (US$0.51) for each trip. You’ll usually have to flag down the bus you want, even if you’re at a bus stop. Bogota’s official yellow taxis are metered; cars display a display a sticker indicating fare supplements for holidays and nighttime journeys. Official taxis are generally plentiful, cheap, convenient and safe. Ask your hotel to call one for you.
Where to stay
For a luxury stay, try W Bogota (Avenida 9 # 115-06; Ph: 57-1-746-7111) or NH Collection Royal Bogota (Calle 113 No. 7-65; Ph: 57-1-657-8700). High-end options include Autograph Collection The Artisan D.C. Hotel (Av. Calle 72 No. 5-51; Ph: 57-1-482-4202) and Holiday Inn Express Bogota (Calle 94 No. 11a-12; Ph: 57-1-651-0000).
For a mid-scale hotel, try Best Western Plus 93 Park Hotel (Calle 93 No 13-71; Ph: 57-1-605-1414) or Hampton by Hilton Bogota Usaquen (Carrera 7 No. 118-30, Barrio Usaquen; Ph: 57-1-746-9555).
Things to see and do
To find out how our ancestors once offered gold to the gods, visit the Museo del Oro (the Gold Museum). More than 55,000 pieces of gold are displayed on three floors, so allow a couple of hours for your visit. You can join a free one-hour guided tour (available in English) at 11 a.m. or 4 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday. Entry costs Col$4,000 (US$1.37) apart from Sunday, when visits are free.
The Gold Museum is in the La Candelaria neighborhood, where you’ll find plenty of other museums, ancient churches and small shops. At its heart lies the Plaza Bolivar with a bronze statue of Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan politician and military leader who played a key role in Colombia’s fight for independence from Spain.
If you’re in town on a Sunday, stroll through the flea market just north of the main square in the Usaquén neighborhood (near the intersection of Calle 120 and Carrera 5). You’ll find stalls with handicrafts, jewelry and food for sale.
Enjoy a breath of fresh air in the city center by visiting the Jardin Botanico Jose Celestino Mutis, featuring greenhouses, gardens and a collection of 5,000 orchids. It’s open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and public holidays. Admission is Col$2,700 (US$0.92)
Get a view of Bogota from above with a five-minute trip up the funicular railway to the top of Cerro de Monserrate. The 3,150-meter (10,400-foot) mountain has drawn Christian pilgrims since 1640. A statue of the Señor Caído (Fallen Christ) attracts thousands of people a year. Round-trip ticket prices range from Col$9,000-20,000 (US$3.07-6.83), depending on when you go.
Where to eat
If you’re visiting Monserrate, enjoy the view a little longer and eat in one of the two restaurants on the summit at the Paseo Bolívar funicular station. Casa Santa Clara offers traditional fish and meat dishes for lunch and sweet treats for afternoon tea. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday; reservations are recommended, especially for Sunday lunch (Ph: 57-1-281-9309). Casa San Isidro is open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. The atmosphere is traditional and refined; diners are sometimes entertained by a pianist. Again, reservations are recommended (Ph: 57-1-281-9270).
For seafood and a view, head to La Fragata’s revolving restaurant on the 12th floor of the World Trade Center. It’s at Calle 100 No. 8A-55, Piso 12; Ph: 57-1-218-4456.
The Bogota Beer Company offers locally brewed beer in a fun and a lively atmosphere. Multiple locations serve lager, stout and limited edition beers, as well as typical fare: chicken, buffalo wings and burgers.
The menu at Andres Carne de Res runs for 64 pages. The restaurant is best suited for groups, and everyone should be prepared for late-night dancing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It’s about 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) outside of Bogota, so either arrange a return taxi beforehand or go with local companions. You’ll find it at Calle 82 No. 12-21, Zona Rosa; Ph: 57-1-863-7880.