Historical streets, mountain trails, trendy markets and one-of-a-kind museums coexist in Colombia’s capital city, located 2600 meters (8530ft) above the sea.

In Bogotá, you can start your day with a walk in the local cloud forest, spend your afternoon meandering through the 18th-century streets of La Candelaria, and enjoy dinner at a restaurant that turns into a raucous dance club.

It’s a busy city of 8 million people but the main sites are located just a short taxi ride from each other. Make the most of your visit with our round up of the best things to do in Bogotá.

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1. Get a bird’s eye view of Bogotá at Cerro de Monserrate

Visit this green mountain that towers above the city center and get a sense of Bogotá’s colossal size – all while you breathe fresh air from the cloud forest and nibble on some local treats.

Most people take a cable car to the top of Monserrate but if you're up for the challenge, there’s a well-marked trail with hundreds of steps that takes about an hour to complete. Once you’re at the top you can stroll through the market stalls selling souvenirs, coca tea, arepas and fruit juices, as well as hearty lunch and breakfast platters.

There are also a couple of gourmet restaurants with panoramic views of the city and a church that is visited by thousands of pilgrims on Sundays – skip the crowds by visiting on a weekday.

Local tip: Arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds at the cable car stop. The best times for photos are before 8am when the sun rises over the mountains and will be behind your back as you face the city, or after 5pm when the sun begins to set over Bogotá.

2. Gawk at centuries-old jewelry at the Museo del Oro

Colombia’s aboriginal people didn’t construct massive pyramids like their peers in Mexico or Peru. But they were experts at working with gold and bronze and produced carefully crafted jewelry that has survived for centuries.

At the Museo del Oro, hundreds of earrings, nose plates, necklaces, breastplates and small sculptures depicting birds and mammals provide a window into life in Colombia before the arrival of European colonizers.

The museum is run by Colombia’s Central Bank, which started the collection in 1938 and has now gathered more than 34,000 gold items from the Pre-Columbian era, making this one of the world’s largest collections of bling.

The first item ever purchased by the museum can be found on the fourth floor. It is a golden gourd topped by four spheres known as a poporo. Indigenous people would store lime in these gourds, and then mix it with coca leaves while chewing on the sacred plant.

3. Take a stroll through La Candelaria, Bogotá’s historic neighborhood

Walk along narrow streets lined by colorful homes with clay roof tiles in La Candelaria, one of Colombia’s best-preserved colonial-era neighborhoods. Start out at Plaza de Bolívar, where you can see the neoclassical congress building, the Baroque era cathedral and the modern supreme court building. Then walk towards the mountains along steep Calle 11, where you will find local art shops, restaurants selling tamales and hot chocolate, and the circle-shaped Gabriel Garcia Marquez cultural center whose terrace provides a good view of the neighborhood.

La Candelaria is also home to the Museo Botero, and El Chorro de Quevedo, Bogotá’s original public square. Many houses in the neighborhood have been converted into coffee shops and bars frequented by students, and on weekends buskers play live music in the streets.

Detour: For a unique culinary experience try Prudencia, on Carrera 2. The restaurant is located in a former 19th-century home and offers an elaborate tasting menu featuring meats that are carefully cooked in a firewood oven. But make sure you get there on time – Prudencia only opens from midday to 5pm.

An overview of friends playing Tejo in Bogotá, Colombia
A game of Tejo gives a whole new meaning to getting bang for your buck © Manuel Rueda

4. Try a game of tejo at Barrio San Felipe

Throw back a couple of beers and test your aim as you play tejo, a sport that was born in rural Colombia and has become increasingly popular in Bogotá.

The sport consists of throwing an iron disk at a board that is covered with clay and topped off with small paper triangles packed with gunpowder. Hit one of the triangles in the center of the board and boom! You get extra points.

While tejo competitions exist, most people do it just for fun. The San Felipe neighborhood has a couple of tejo venues that are easy to get to and popular with locals and visitors, including Tejo La Embajada, which sells craft beers and finger food and turns into a dance party later in the night. You can reserve a tejo lane on their site.

Detour: If you visit one of the tejo spots in San Felipe, check out the neighborhood park which is lined with trendy cafés and restaurants and several art galleries. It’s a five-minute walk from Tejo La Embajada, on Calle 75 and Carrera 22.

5. Trek through the cloud forest that carpets Bogotá’s Cerros Orientales

If you’re tired of Bogotá’s hustle and bustle, head to the mountains on the eastern edge of the city where you can walk along several trails that cross the quiet cloud forest.

There are currently five trails that are open to the public and are free of charge, including Quebrada La Vieja, which starts just a 15-minute walk from the financial district on 72nd street and will lead you to a viewpoint where you can appreciate the northern half of the city.

The cloud forest itself is teeming with eucalyptus trees, pines, ferns and local bird species. It is a favorite spot for locals who are trying to get some exercise in the mornings or just seeking a respite from the noise of the city.

Local tip: The trails open only in the mornings and they’re run by Bogotá’s water company, EAAB. You must visit EAAB’s website to book a spot. Try to visit on a weekday – the weekends can get a little crowded.

6. Visit Museo Botero for a unique take on modern art

Fernando Botero is not your typical 20th-century artist. While his peers experimented with cubism or more abstract forms, his work celebrates life with its lively tones and round, voluminous characters with tiny eyes and delicate hands.

You can check out some of Botero’s most famous paintings and sculptures at Museo Botero, which is located inside a stately historical building in La Candelaria. As you wander through the different exhibits, notice how Botero even manages to make fruits, trees, birds and musical instruments look large, round, lively and fat.

Botero donated more than 120 sculptures and paintings to the Colombian government so that the museum could be built. He also threw in dozens of paintings that he had acquired for his private collection, which includes works by Picasso, Degas, Renoir and Monet.

Detour: Adjacent to the Botero museum, you will find a building that contains the Banco de la Republica’s art collection. It includes works by 20th-century Colombian artists like Enrique Grau and Alejandro Obregon. Room 5 has an interesting exhibit on Colombia’s armed conflict produced by photographer Jesús Abad Colorado.

7. Join the late-night crowd at Theatron, Colombia’s most raucous nightclub

Dance to Cher and Abba under a giant disco ball in this former movie theater that's now a club, and spend the night wandering between its 17 rooms as DJs also spin reggaeton, latin music, electronica and gothic trance.

The massive five-story club has long been the prime party spot for Bogotá’s LGBTIQ+ community and it describes itself on Instagram as “the largest gay-themed night club in Latin America.” But Theatron is also becoming increasingly popular with straight folks who don’t want to miss out on the fun.

There are drag queen shows on weekends – usually in the room modeled after a Mexican cantina. Theatron can fit up to 6000 people and runs later than most dance clubs in Bogotá, closing at 5am on weekends. Check out the website for directions.

Friends dancing in the street in Bogotá, Colombia
The rhythm of salsa is everywhere in Bogotá © Getty Images

8. Hit the dance floor at one of Bogotá’s Salsa Clubs

Bogotá might be chilly but that doesn’t mean its residents are strangers to tropical rhythms. You can see locals busting their best moves at one of the city’s salsa clubs, where people of all ages and expertise levels dance to tunes by Grupo Niche, Celia Cruz and Hector Lavoe.

In the center of the city, check out El Goce Pagano, where DJs have been spinning old salsa tunes from Cuba, Colombia and beyond for the past three decades. For live acts make sure to stop by Quiebra Canto, a Bogotá musical institution that has hosted local salsa, champeta and tropical pop bands before they became famous.

In the north of the city, near Parque 93, Galeria Café Libro also hosts live bands. For a smaller, more intimate feel, try Sandunguera near Plaza Lourdes, which also does lessons early in the evenings.

9. Try Colombian comfort food and dance off the calories at Andres Carnes de Res

With its lively music, over-the-top décor, and hearty plates Andres Carne de Res has become the place to go for Bogotanos celebrating their birthdays, having a loud night out, and showing off Colombian culture to visitors from abroad.

Try pizza made from fried plantain at the chain’s Bogotá branch and down it with a tangerine vodka cocktail known as the Mandarino. Or go for a locally brewed beer accompanied by portions of pork rinds, sweet corn arepas and chorizos with lime. The three-story restaurant turns into a dance club at night, with DJs belting out Latin pop favorites and rock – en español.

10. Explore trendy Usaquén and go shopping at its crafts market

The quaint neighborhood of Usaquén is buzzing with activity on weekends as dozens of artisans set up small stalls on its narrow streets and sell all manner of goods.

At Usaquén’s craft market, you can get gold-plated earrings in the shape of toucans, colorful hand-painted mugs, wooden carvings of Colombian hummingbirds and skin care products made from Amazonian fruits.

There are dozens of trendy restaurants in the neighborhood when you're ready to take a break from shopping, as well as a rum bar and a coffee shop that roasts its own grains.

Detour: To see the work of local designers check out the Ambardae market, which is located inside one of the neighborhood's colonial-era homes. You might leave with a hand-stitched sweater, or with matching pajamas for you and your pets.

11. Go on a tropical fruit safari at Mercado Paloquemao

This massive market to the west of the city center receives fresh produce from around the country each day. Take a walk through its busy corridors and spend a few pesos tasting brightly colored tropical fruits with names like lulo, guanabana and pitahaya. Try the crunchy yet refreshing seeds of the granadilla or go for the sweet pulp of the mangostino, a fruit that is purple on the outside and white inside.

Thirsty? Hit the juice stands and get a smoothie made with curuba, an acid fruit from Colombia’s highlands, or try zapote juice from the Caribbean coast.

The market gets busy on weekends when families do their grocery shopping and haggle with the stall owners to lower prices. For a quieter experience, visit on weekdays.

Local tip: Breakfast stands at the market also sell local favorites like the changua egg soup, and pork and chicken tamales.

Cyclists and pedestrians fill the streets in Bogota for the Sunday ciclovia
Rent a bike and take to the streets during Sunday's ciclovia © Gabriel Leonardo Guerrero / Shutterstock

12. Rent a bike and explore the city during the Sunday ciclovia

On Sunday mornings cars are banned from many of Bogotá’s main roads so that they can be enjoyed exclusively by pedestrians and cyclists.

This weekly ritual is known as the ciclovia and it gives residents a good excuse to exercise, enjoy the fresh air, and experience the city in a family-friendly atmosphere. It also makes it easier to explore Bogotá on two wheels, without the usual congestion.

So rent a bike, strap on a helmet and join the crowd to see some of the city’s sights or stop at fruit juice stands along the way. Cars are banned from more than 100km (62 miles) of roads while the ciclovia lasts, including Carrera Septima, which connects the historical center with Usaquén and passes through the trendy neighborhoods of Chapinero and Rosales.

Detour: If you want a physical challenge, head towards the municipality of La Calera and join dozens of amateur riders along a windy mountain road that provides sweeping views of the city. The steep climb to La Calera starts on Carrera Septima with Calle 85. Most cyclists stop at the Los Patios toll booth at km 7, where there are restaurants and food stands that provide a rewarding meal.

13. Take a graffiti tour and see the modern side of Bogotá’s historical center

Back in 2011, a policeman shot a sixteen-year-old dead as he sprayed his tag under a bridge. The tragedy unleashed large protests that forced the local government to rethink its approach to urban art.

Bogotá decriminalized street art and now has a permissive attitude towards graffiti that has made it easier for artists to decorate – or scribble on – the city’s walls. One of the best places to see this eclectic mix of urban art is the historic neighborhood of La Candelaria, where artists offer walking tours of the murals.

Check out Guache’s colorful pieces depicting indigenous motifs, the anti-capitalist stencils of the Toxicomano collective, or Pez’s ubiquitous smiling fish. Some of these colorful murals cover the walls of 18th-century homes that have large windows and clay roof tiles, making for an interesting mix of old and new.

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