Casa Legado: this boutique hotel is really a posh yet cozy guesthouse. Set in a mid-century family home in Quinta Camacho amongst the old English mansions, this 7-room property feels like you're visiting a family friend. Helena, the owner, is a natural hotelier - curating every chic detail from decor to the perfect restaurant suggestions. Her approach has bred a cult-like following amongst the creative set, drinks in the dining room may find you around fashion and media executives, diplomats, tech gurus, philanthropists or artists. As in a homestay, amenities are limited, but if you're looking to settle in like a local, this is the place to be.
Four Seasons: there are two FS properties in Bogota, another sign of the city's arrival on the luxury tourist map. Each is quite distinct so pay attention to your booking. The FS Bogota is a bit more centrally located in the buzzy area of Zona T. The design is modern and sophisticated, with a wonderful spa and excellent dining by the Harry Sasson group (top restaurants in Bogota) at NEMO. The FS Casa Medina is a set in a landmark mansion, all red brick, wooden beam ceilings, roaring fireplaces, and vintage furniture. It's charming and elegant, and in a slightly quieter part of town around Zona G/Quinta Camacho - though still just a 15-20 minute walk from the center of action in Zone T.
BOG Hotel: this a trendy, design-forward hotel. With interior inspiration taking note of Colombia's rich history in gems and precious metals, it's flashy and bold. There's a heated pool on the rooftop, that come evening becomes a hot-spot for sunset drinks. It's in North Bogota, just above Zona T.
Andres Carne del Res: an institution. You cannot come to Bogota without going to Andres Carne del Res. If you can't make it out to the mothership in Chia (town just outside Bogota about 40 minutes from Zona T) then at least have a night out in the D.C. location near El Retiro shopping center in Zona T. You come for the kitschy scene and music. This a party place, not gourmet dining.
Café Bar Universal: hipster central - entry here is like a speakeasy, you may walk past the door and not even realize it. There's a small window opening on the metal sheet door, make sure to make a reservation. This tiny place is always packed, with it's sexy candlelit jungalow vibes, electronic/jazz tunes, top notch cocktails, and inventive chef-led cuisine.
Casa: lovely, well-designed restaurant in Zona T with Latin American specialties. Mid-century vibes with antiques, contemporary art and old fireplaces. The ceviche and fideua are divine.
Central Cevicheria: Bogota has it's fair share of Peruvian restaurants. You could dine just on ceviche if you wanted to. Most places tend to be on the fancy side, but this Peruvian option is casual and fun. Great for lunch or a night out with friends.
Club Colombia: there is where you go to try finely prepared traditional Colombian home-style cooking in an elegant setting. You can also try the original Harry Sasson (part of the same group) built inside a landmark mansion yet renovated with a modern geometric-faceted skylight. It's a bit formal, but a Bogota classic.
El Chato: Another hip spot, yes filled with plants. The chef here trained at Noma, so expect creative dishes, leveraging unusual ingredients.
El Bandido Bistro: a little bistro at the end of Calle de los Anticuarios (see Shop section), for timeless French dishes, and a fun scene accompanied by live music on most nights.
Empanaditas de Pipian: here's my low-brow indulgence. These are street-style empanadas, served from a small kiosk shop - there's a few locations around town. There's nothing better. Not fancy, just damn good. Try the Bogota classic version with potatoes and minced beef, a squeeze of lime, and some aji (like an herbed hot sauce).
Juana La Loca: interesting cocktails and beautiful design, with live music on the weekends - great for drinks at the bar.
Masa or Brot: just in case you're hotel doesn't serve breakfast, or you're actually looking for more carbs (Colombians love carbs, sorry) these local bakery/cafes will take care of you. They're a nice alternative to the Juan Valdez chain, which is perfectly fine and convenient, but these are a bit less commercialized.
Mini-Mal: cool and eclectic, this place serves a creative take on Colombian farm-to-table cooking. Humble decor - the focus is on the food.
Prudencia: this is place is a must when visiting La Candelaria. Set inside a refurbished row house in the historic district downtown, this restaurant creates a fabulous experience. The design is super chic, a mix of French paneled walls in butter yellow, open kitchen, green-house style skylight, wood tables mixed with Kartell ghost chairs, mountain flowers in bud vases, and a set menu of creative home-style cuisine. Don't miss, and reserve in advance!
San Jeronimo: if you're heading out to the countryside (Chia, Zipaquira) make sure to stop for snacks (more carbs!) at this roadside spot in Cajica. You'll find giant pandeyucas (oddly shaped yuca-flour bread with cheese - like the Brazilian pao do queijo), and almojabanas (round corn-flour bread with cheese), and the iconic cup of fresh strawberries with rich whipped cream.
Segundo: minimalist wooden walls, high ceilings and full height windows, a chic and sparkling bar, this place makes your jaw drop. Excellent for cocktails!
El Retiro: while this shopping center may not look that fancy from the exterior, it has the best selection of luxury Colombian designers. You'll find Johanna Ortiz's boutique here, alongside Mercedes Salazar's shop for fabulous statement earrings, and Ballen Pelletterie for millennial chic handbags. If you're into sweets, there's a Pasteleria Santa Elena on the ground floor, a local pastry cafe for classic Colombian pie tarts filled with arequipe (our version of dulce de leche).
Centro Andino: looks a bit nicer than El Retiro from the outside, but inside it's quite dated. I call this place out because across the street you'll find excellent designer boutiques - Rose, a multi-brand store selling several local high-end designers, and Silvia Tcherassi the grande dame of Colombian fashion.
Calle de los Anticuarios: this street is lined with great shopping. Make sure to stop at St. Dom - the top concept store in the city, with the best selection of Colombian designers for women, men, home, baby, and accessories. Pepa Pombo, just a few doors down is another local brand, known for its colorful knit pieces. Dessvan is a fun store filled with mid-century modern furniture, don't be fooled by it's appearance - the store is actually an old vine-covered mansion!
Artesanias de Colombia: a good place for souvenirs, you'll find Panama hats and mochilas, straw baskets of all shapes and sizes, hammocks, textiles, ceramics, and jewelry. These are quality souvenirs, the company has outposts all over the country and supports local artisans, keeping their craft alive and ensuring their economic sustainability.
La Candelaria: this historic neighborhood features colonial homes in brightly colored shades, along cobblestone streets. It's filled with restaurants, shops, and museums. You may read about questionable safety here. It's pretty safe during the daytime, but do avoid it at night.
Monserrate: take the funicular or cable car up to the top of this hill high above the Bogota skyline, for breathtaking views of the city. You'll be going up to over 10,000 feet about sea level so don't exert yourself too much if you're prone to altitude sickness.
Museo Botero: such a beautiful place, and such a good deal. It's free. Surprisingly quiet too. Set in a gorgeous villa in La Candelaria, with a porticoed courtyard. There are two floors of artwork, all of Botero's own pieces as well as items from his personal collection.
Museo de Oro: this part of downtown just a few minutes walk from La Candelaria is bit more seedy, so just be extra cautious on your way in and out of this must-visit tourist spot. The museum is well laid out explaining the history of gold in the country, dating back thousands of years. The collection of gold is remarkable, and the museum shop has a great selection of plated pieces in traditional designs to take home.
Plaza Bolivar: a majestic square with grand buildings: the Palace of Justice, the Casa de Narino (President's residence), the Palacio Lievano (City Hall), the National Capitol, and the Primary Cathedral are all here. It's located just next to La Candelaria, so combine these trips into one stop downtown (also with Museo Botero and Museo de Oro).
Safety: be vigilant and street-smart, as you would in any tourist center of a major metropolitan city. In Bogota we say "don't give papaya" which means don't "ask for it" - avoid wearing flashy watches and jewelry, zip/close your bag (ideally cross-body), don't hold cash out on the street, don't take cash out from street ATMs (in malls, in banks - inside is the keyword), don't walk around with your phone too visible. You can take Ubers but don't take taxis off the street. Cachacos (slang for Bogotans) are super friendly and proud of their city, make some friends with the locals and have them show you around!
Parks: there are two just north of the Zona T that are lovely to walk around if you're into the local park scene. I like them because they remind me of my childhood - Parque 93 where my grandmother would take me on walks, and Parque del Chico where my parents were married. Parque 93 is lined with restaurants, cafes, and shops; Parque del Chico is a gated park with lovely colonial hacienda.
Walks: stroll around the neighborhoods of Los Rosales and Quinta Camacho - they are a nice way to see elegant residential homes. Los Rosales up on the hills along the mountainside is lined with chic high rises in the typical red brick of the city. Quinta Camacho has small lanes dotted with quaint English style cottages and mansions, many covered in ivy, and with a weathered patina.