City Slicker: Bogota

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Colombia's capital is shaking off its crime-ridden past. And, if you still crave election fever, it's just the place to go. Paul Bignell provides a guide

Why visit

Colombia's capital is buzzing right now because presidential elections are taking place on 30 May. Plus considerable new development is redefining the city. Indeed, Bogota is fast shaking off its crime-ridden image and becoming one of the most forward-thinking and prosperous cities in Latin America.

It benefits from a cool climate (by South American standards), sitting 2,600m above sea level and cradled by steep Andean peaks. Once you've acclimatised, there is much to see and do in this often ignored gateway city.

New areas such as the Macarena, an up-and-coming dining district, provide plenty of different forms of cuisine. But, best of all, are the restaurants that offer a modern take on traditional Colombian dishes, using regional ingredients. The nightlife's great, too. Hear the country's favourite music, vallenato – a sound first based around the German accordion a century ago but since updated – pounding out of the many clubs in the centre and northern districts of the city.

For a quiet, more cultured stay, there are beautiful 17th- and 18th-century churches to see and a cultural centre named after the country's most famous literary son, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which hosts a range of events.

The vast 1,700sq km metropolis suffers from congestion, but if you take a bike ride on a Sunday you can make the most of more than 100km of roads that are closed to cars. A new bus system, the TransMilenio, which is still in the process of being developed, links Bogota from north to south via its own road way, while the city's taxis also offer a very cheap way to get around.

Don't miss

Bogota's birthplace. La Candelaria is a delightful, colourfully painted colonial barrio, with 300-year-old buildings – most now fully restored – which often run along steep cobbled streets. Visitors will find good local cafés, restaurants and museums. Make sure you stop in one of the many cafés to grab a hot cup of canelazo, which is usually made with sugar-cane alcohol and cinnamon.

The vertigo-inducing views from Monserrate Peak. Bogota's proud symbol – a white church – sits 3,152m above sea level, perched on top of a grassy mountain on the city's east side. It is accessible by cable car or by foot, for those brave enough to take the 1,500-step hike). However, the views across the city are quite spectacular.

The newly restored gold museum (, which has more than 55,000 exhibits from pre-Hispanic Colombian cultures. It's the city's most famous museum.

The Sunday flea market, Mercado de San Alejo. It's open between 9am and 5pm and provides a great chance to sift through non-touristy knick-knacks such as posters, books and ornaments. Coca tea will sustain you while you browse.

Parque Simon Bolivar. Bogota's green heart is slightly larger than New York's Central Park and contains lakes, walkways, bike paths and stadiums, attracting almost a quarter of a million locals each weekend. Good for a break from the traffic-heavy streets.

The quaint historic town of Zipaquira, north of Bogota. It has underground cathedrals built in salt mines and is a popular getaway for locals wanting to escape the big city.

What's new


With its laid-back bohemian feel, Usaquen, in the northern part of the city, is one of the newer emerging areas. Small, cobbled side streets and colonial architecture cosy up to such ultra-modern places as Unicentro, one of the largest shopping malls in the country, as well as boutique shops, chic cafés and a student nightlife scene. Set against the eastern Cordillera mountains, the area was originally a village where Bogota's elite kept country homes. It has now been swallowed up by the city's relentless sprawl. Don't miss the Mercado de las Pulgas, an artisans' market selling art, jewellery and children's toys. Also, sample a bite from the many homemade food stands. There's even a country club if you fancy a spot of golf.


Just open, Pachanga has quickly become the favoured spot for trendy Bogotanos to come and let their hair down and dance to rumba rhythms. Such is the emphasis on dance, the building has been fitted with a modern ventilation system to prevent any unwelcome "overheating" on the dancefloor. The quirky interior design, the wide range of drinks and cocktails, and a number of themed nights – such as the recently held "retro" party night, which starred New York-based Dominican-American band Pryecto Uno – mean that Pachanga is the latest place to see and be seen.

Details: Pachanga (00 57 1 236 1417)

Andres DC

Andres Carne de Res's new restaurant in the Zona Rosa is something to behold. Set on four floors with a "heaven and hell" theme, it is part-restaurant, part-theatre and part-disco. Res is one of Bogota's most famous chefs but he is also an entrepreneur famed for his surreal decor as much as his legendary steaks. The huge menu puts a modern twist on classic Colombian dishes. The restaurant attracts a mixed clientele – even the odd former president (one of whom happened to be enjoying a drink the night I was there).

Details: Andres DC (00 57 1 863 7880)

Hotel de la Opera

Set in the heart of La Candelaria, this Spanish colonial-style hotel has recently been updated with the addition of a further 15 rooms. The more highly priced rooms come with balconies. The suites, however, are large and sprawling and have plenty of ornate period details. There's also a spa room and swimming pool tucked away in this Tardis-like townhouse. And there's a restaurant on the top floor, too.


Insiders Secret: Tiffany Kohl, Salon Manager

"I originally arrived in Colombia for an internship and after falling in love with the culture and the people, I decided to stay. One of my favourite places is the Parque Chicaque, otherwise known as 'the cloud forest', to the south-west of Bogota, which has amazing walks and waterfalls in the rainy season."

Compact Facts

How to get there

Paul Bignell travelled to Colombia as a guest of Proexport, Colombia Tourist Office (020-7491 3535; He stayed at Suites Grand House (00 57 1 403 4000;, which offers double rooms from about $200 (£140) per night.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations should be regarded as an offensive act
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Morrissey pictured in 2013
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices