The Colombian capital has come a long way from its former identity as a less-than-safe destination for visitors. Today, this mega metropolis is one of the largest in South America, and the urban city known as Bogota should top travel lists for those planning on visiting South America. World-class museums, modern shopping malls and fine dining restaurants sit alongside the colonial churches and traditional markets of Bogota’s past, inviting visitors to experience both past and present in this urban jungle.
Expect to spend most of a trip to Bogota wandering through La Candelaria, Bogota’s first neighborhood. The city’s past is on full display in this colonial corner, where old public squares and cobblestone streets paint a picture of Colombia’s past. Filled with colonial churches, museums and slow-paced cafes pouring fresh cups of authentic Colombian coffee, La Candelaria is a welcoming introduction to the city of Bogota. Don’t miss the Museo del Oro, or Gold Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of pre-Colombian gold pieces. Speaking of museums, the nearby International Emerald Museum is also an eye-catcher, thanks to its collection of brilliant green gems from around the world.
For a more traditional experience, the neighborhood of Usaquen and its traditional Sunday market are a must for souvenirs and shopping. It is a stark contrast from the shopping experience at Bogota’s Santa Fe Shopping Center, the largest mall in the country.
When it comes time to dine, Bogota pleases palates with both the traditional and the modern. Areas like Usaquen are treasure troves for local flavors, while Zona G boasts some of Bogota’s most upscale affairs. After dinner, dance or drink the night away in the popular nightlife district of La Zona Rosa.
The most popular months to travel to Bogota are July, August and December. These months are the driest and also see some of Bogota’s most popular festivals. August in particular tends to see the most crowds for the annual Carnival of Bogota celebration. December also sees a flurry of parades and decorations in celebration of Christmas. Bogota’s wettest months of April, May, June, September, October and November are considered the off-season, but traveling during these months can also allow for the cheapest flights to Bogota. Good deals may also be found during the shoulder season of January, February and March.
The rapid transit bus is one of the most convenient ways to get around the city, thanks to clearly marked bus stops and separate lanes. Private buses also run throughout the city, though they do not have designated stops and must be flagged down like a taxi. Speaking of taxis, cabs are available throughout the city and meters should be used at all times.