Lively, diverse and with a cutting-edge arts scene, not to mention some outstanding restaurants.
Bogota is rapidly evolving into one of South America’s core cities; a few years ago most international visitors would only stop briefly to visit the world-renowned Gold Museum and nearby Salt Cathedral before moving on to other parts of the country. Since then, the city has boomed and leading hotel groups W, Sofitel and Four Seasons have all opened top grade hotels. This signalled a profound confidence in the city which has been fully justified.
La Candelaria is the heart of the old colonial city and was founded in 1538, just a few years after Cartagena. The charming and colourful buildings stretching up the hill towards the Plaza Simon Bolivar are remarkably unspoilt, and it is worth popping into the Botero Museum on the way. On a clear day, a trip to the Monserrate Church on the mountain overlooking Bogota offers a magnificent view over the whole city. We suggest you travel up by cable car and come back down on the rather fun funicular.
The famous Gold Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of gold jewellery, body adornments and other artefacts from the pre-Colombian civilisations which fortunately escaped the clutches of the Spanish conquistadors. If you are inspired by this museum we can arrange a trip out of town to the sacred lake of Guatavita, reputed to be the site of the legendary city ‘El Dorado’.
Not far from Guatavita is the Salt Cathedral at Zipaquira. This former rock salt mine has been converted into an extraordinary church some 180 meters below ground level. With dramatic lighting, this is a fascinating place for all to visit.
Bogota has also seen a culinary boom over the last 10 years and in 2017 Leo Espinosa of Restaurante Leo was voted best female chef in South America. However, what differentiates Bogota from other capital cities in South America is the very large number of excellent restaurants using local ingredients to turn out Colombian recipes with a modern twist. Indeed, the mid-town Barrio Chapinero is now styled the ‘Zona G, standing for gastronomic; here you will find lots of stylish eateries with outdoor seating areas serving everything from sushi, hand crafted pizzas to Colombian haute cuisine. If you base yourselves at the Four Seasons Casa Medina you will find restaurant gems such as Mini-mal and El Chato on your doorstep. Another fun experience for food-lovers is to visit the remarkable Paloquemao market on a tasting tour with a chef as your guide. Here you are guaranteed to see fruits and vegetables which you had no idea existed, with names like guanabana and galupa, but you can also feast at one of the many open fronted stalls on local dishes of maize and pork.
For modern art, visitors should head to the San Felipe District, Bogota’s next cusp-of-cool barrio where a number of galleries and modern art restaurants such as Espacio KB have sprung up close to each other showcasing Colombian style. Larger galleries such as MAMBO (the modern art museum) and Espacio Odeon, a former derelict cinema which has been minimally restored to create a fascinating exhibition space should also be checked out to see what is on display. And of course, Bogota is famous for its street art drawing on Colombia’s turbulent past and subsequent peace agreements to create some of the best open-air artworks on the continent.
As dusk falls and the lights come on, Bogota starts to rock, especially at weekends. With several universities, the large student population keeps the city buzzing, whilst the growing band of middle class Bogoteños certainly know how to party. Venues such as Andres DC make for a lively evening out, but don’t expect to be up all night as the city quietens down after midnight.
To really get a feel for the Colombian capital, and fit in most of the above, we would recommend staying here for two or three nights.
To discover more about Bogota, give us a call or send us a message.
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