Bogota has a rich and diversified dining scene, with options ranging from eateries offering typical local dishes to high-end restaurants with Colombian or international cuisine. Most trendy restaurants are clustered in areas such as Zona G, Quinta Camacho, parts of Zona T, Parque de la 93, Usaquén, or in neighboring Chía.
Days for dining out are generally Monday through Saturday, as Sunday most places will be closed. It is advisable to reserve in advance, especially on weekend evenings. The dining hours are rather early compared to other countries, as kitchens generally close at 9:30 p.m.
Breakfast is usually offered in bakeries and for lunch most restaurants also have the option of fixed menus for a lower price.
Colombian cuisine is not among the best known on the continent for its variety. Traditional dishes generally consist of meat, with significant portions of carbs on the side, in the form of potatoes, rice, manioc, pasta, plantains or a combination of these.
However, a new generation of Colombian chefs are taking advantage of the richness of available ingredients, from local produce to Amazonian fruit, and reinventing their country's traditional diet. Typical fish-based dishes of regions such as the Caribbean and the Pacific coast are an addition to the diversity of the now multicultural Bogota cuisine.
Traditional dishes include:
Vegetarian restaurants are not common, and vegetarian lunch menus are not typical either. You are more likely to find vegetarian eating out options in the upmarket areas in the North of the city, as well as in neighborhoods such as Chapinero or Teusaquillo.
Colombia is a paradise for street food. Available at any time of the day and almost any street corner, it ranges from healthier fruit options to deep fried delicacies. Caution must be exercised, but the rather chilly climate of the Colombian capital makes street food generally safe from serious health risks, unlike in the hot cities the Caribbean coast.
Must-try street food includes arepas, empanadas, obleas (a desert of two waffles stuck together with caramel sauce or marmalade), churros (fried sweet pastry), stuffed potatoes, fried thin banana slices, fritanga (deep fried pieces of pork) or salpicon (chopped fruit in a juice made of soft drinks). Bogotanos are generally proud of their street food and will warmly recommend it to you, insisting that even Mick Jagger tried it a few years ago.
Fast food options are plentiful as well, with local hot dog and burger chains competing with international ones.
Choosing the best restaurants from the thousands of available options is an impossible task. Some of the most representative names include:
Tips can be included or not. When preparing the bill (la cuenta) the waiter will usually ask if you wish to include a service fee to your payable amount. Service fees are usually between 10-15% of the total amount, and if included on the bill they can be paid through credit card.
A bustling Latin American metropolis, Bogota has a wide array of options for drinking and dining out, for all tastes and budgets. Bogotanos love to meet up over beer or aguardiente, and if you're the non-alcoholic kind, you can never go wrong with an aromatica, or a cup of Colombian-grown coffee. And although it's not the country's salsa capital, be prepared for some of dancing along with your dinner and drinks, even in restaurants.
Any day of the week is fine for going out, but beware that most places close on Sunday evening, and taxis are difficult to find.
The legal drinking age for alcohol is 18.
Coffee is the Colombian quintessential drink. As one of the world's top coffee producers, it is no wonder this South American country has a deeply rooted coffee culture. The drink can be bought nearly everywhere, from street vendor stalls to high-end restaurants and speciality coffee shops. Any time of the day is appropriate to have a coffee, so don't be surprised if your Colombian friends ask for a cup of tinto late at night.
While, paradoxically, it is not easy to find good-quality coffee in the country because the best beans are exported, Bogota is the place to discover the most exquisite Colombian coffee of origin. From the mild flavors coming from the renowned Coffee Triangle (Eje Cafetero) to the strong varieties growing in the Sierra Nevada or Nariño, or the smooth aromas from the plantations in Huila, you will be guaranteed to have access to a wide range of brands and varieties.
Knowing how to ask for your coffee in Bogota is essential in order to blend in make yourself understood. Don't trust your knowledge of general Spanish – the version spoken in Bogota is slightly different, and if you make any confusions, your tastebuds will feel the difference:
Cafes in Bogota
You can buy tintos at nearly any street corner, and a higher quality version is offered at one of the city's chain coffee shops such as Juan Valdez, Oma and Café Tostao. However, for more subtle tastes and complex brewing methods, head to one of the city's many specialized coffee shops. The coffee scene has been growing in the city in the last few years, and some of the recommended places are:
If you would like to experience the more traditional side of the Bogota café culture, head to:
Non-alcoholic beverages are generally served at any local neighborhood bakery. With their colorful benches and standard offerings of sweet pastries, bakeries are undoubtably a key element of the Bogota daily life, ideal for people watching or simply relaxing on a rainy day.
Bogota has a wide offering of alcoholic drinks, especially of the distilled type. Rum is widespread, mostly because sugarcane is one of the main crops grown in the country, and Colombians have an acquired taste for whisky, particularly on special occasions. The most common distilled spirit, however, is called aguardiente,a strong anise-flavored firewater that elicits love-or-hate reactions from anyone who is not accustomed to its taste.
Chicha, a fermented corn beverage sold in the old La Candelaria historical center, while one of the must-try drinks in Bogota, is hardly common on regular social occasions.
Keep in mind that as wine is not produced in Colombia, it is unusually expensive compared to other South-American countries and the availability of good-quality wines is limited.
Beer is the most common beverage for casual nights out. Local brands include Club Colombia, Aguila and Poker, even though international brands are also available. Additionally, local artisan beer is becoming increasingly popular. Bogota Beer Company is the first to open up the scene more than a decade ago, and its brand, BBC, is probably the most popular craft beer in the Colombian capital. Bogota Beer Company has pubs throughout the city, with a trendy atmosphere and excellent beers. Other popular artisan beer places are:
Most bars and pubs are concentrated in a few areas in the North and East of the city, in the popular Zona T, Parque de la 93, Usaquén and Zona G.
The legal drinking age is 18 and you will be asked to provide an ID at the entrance of bars or when purchasing alcohol. The newly implemented City Police Code also prohibits consuming alcoholic drinks in public, with significant fines for those who are caught.
Drinking and driving is completely forbidden in Colombia.