Best of Bogotá
Having shucked off the specter of violence and war that long kept this vibrant city off travel maps, Bogotá has emerged as a destination for lovers of art and cuisine. The booming shopping districts, restaurant districts, museum districts, bike paths, and street-art tours make it clear: Bogotanos have awakened and are driving the city into a new and promising future.
Carrera 6 No.15-88, Bogota 110321, Colombia
Bogotá’s museum of all things gold is one of Colombia’s greatest treasures. Yet despite the name, you’ll find more here than just the precious metal. In addition to stunning displays drawing on a collection of more than 30,000 gold treasures, you’ll find highlights from the institution’s more than 20,000 artifacts of clay, textiles, and other materials that reveal the history of Colombia’s diverse pre-Hispanic cultures. Audio guides enhance the experience with information on the objects’ purpose and provenance that connects various periods and movements. The museum shop offers dazzling (if somewhat expensive) souvenirs fashioned by members of Colombia’s many indigenous nations.
Monserrate Bogotá, Colombia
The peak called Monserrate towers over central Bogotá and lends its name to the church that tops it. Perched more than 10,000 feet above sea level, the sanctuary—dedicated to the Passion of Christ—has beautiful gardens showcasing marvelous highland vegetation, and the city views from here are spectacular (sunsets are especially recommended). Ascend Monserrate by cable car, via railway, or on foot (this last is only for the fittest and those already acclimated to the altitude). That beautiful white house on the mountainside is Casa Santa Clara restaurant, a better-than-expected, special-occasion-suitable venue at which to try traditional Bogotá favorites like ajiaco, a thick potato-and-chicken soup.
Dg. 68 #1242, Bogotá, Colombia
After more than a decade as one of the Bogotá art scene’s nerve centers—in addition to being a Pan-American landmark—Nueveochenta, founded by former Colombian president César Gaviria, now operates out of a house from the 1960s recently restored by Colombian architect Luis Restrepo. The building’s “patio” is a canvas in itself, for site-specific, outdoor works that complement what can be seen indoors. A bookstore and a documentation center are both open to the public.
Calle 119 Con Carrera 6a, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
Every Sunday and on holidays, the streets and open spaces of Bogotá’s Usaquén neighborhood overflow with stall after stall selling handicrafts, jewelry, leather goods, and snacks—and with thousands of Bogotanos out for a stroll. The growing city engulfed the formerly separate town long ago, yet Usaquén retains a small-town feel, including a charming central park and parish church. The neighborhood’s trendy restaurants and cafés satisfy almost any craving.
11-75 Calle 82
Aficionados of the high-end love the window-shopping and elegant eating in Zona T. Retail therapy reaches a peak at the Centro Andino and El Retiro shopping malls, chockablock with glitzy boutiques hawking refined Colombian and foreign labels; customers then pop into elegant dining rooms serving up dishes that range from Southeast Asian and Italian to local and other Latin American cuisines. Not tired yet? Try a craft cocktail at one of the district’s fashionable watering holes, if you can find a space amid the well-scrubbed, easy-on-the-eyes jeunesse dorée.
Calle 69a # 5-75, Zona G, Bogotá, Colombia
Once a quiet residential neighborhood near Bogotá’s financial district, Zona G (as in gourmet) is now an all-city dining hot spot that’s abuzz day and night, serving everything from upscale burgers (at Gordo) and pizzas (at Julia) to fine dining (at Criterión) and great brunches. The area outpost of Juan Valdez Café is Bogotá’s loveliest and liveliest. Zona G sprawls over several blocks surrounding the intersections of Calle 70 and Carrera 5.
Cra. 9 #75-70, Bogotá, Colombia
Chef Harry Sasson is nothing short of an institution in Colombia’s culinary realm, one of the people responsible for having reactivated a local interest in haute cuisine. Mixed-grill aficionados will thrill equally to his langoustines (with mushrooms and cashews in a sweet-and-sour sauce) as they will in the sweetbreads (done in parsley, garlic, and oregano). But you’ve also got the perennial house-smoked grouper, or duck that’s cooked twice to make sure every piece achieves just the right consistency. A great wine list and a merry mood overall make any dinner at this historic residence on Carrera 9 a memorable one.
Cl. 11 #4-41, Bogotá, Colombia
Set within the Banco de la República’s museum complex, the Botero Museum offers a sampling of paintings and sculptures by famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero, best known for his still lifes and his exaggeratedly rotund human figures. Botero donated 123 of his own pieces to the institution, as well as 85 from his personal collection—including treasures by Chagall, Picasso, Monet, and Miró. The gracious colonial-era mansion includes an area that displays contemporary Latin American and European artworks. Audio guides are available in English, French, and Spanish.
Cl. 79b, Bogotá, Colombia
Calle 79b (between Carreras 7a and 9a) is a favorite Bogotá destination, where restaurants, indie galleries, design stores, bars, and, above all, antiques shops come together. A visit to the Zona Rosa isn’t complete without a stroll down this street in search of treasures and collectibles. Prices can be expensive, but some surprise is always on sale. At the end of the drag, on the corner with Carrera 7a, a prize awaits: El Bandido, one of the coolest gin joints in the entire capital.
Bogotá, Bogota, Colombia
Once infamous for seedy salsa bars, La Macarena has been transfigured into one of the city’s smartest entertainment districts. Weekends and evenings the streets are packed with neighborhood residents as well as people from all over the city, who come to visit art galleries, bookshops-cum-concert-venues, and other lively outlets; or to take their pick of among scores of intimate dining rooms (including El Patio and El Panóptico) and coffeehouses (like Ázimos), all nestled within roughly a five-square-block area.