36 Hours in Bogotá – The New York Times – Smart Media Magazine

36 Hours in Bogotá – The New York Times


Bogotá just gets better and better. The city hums with energy and possibility, offering a thriving environment for creativity that makes its negative aspects — the pollution, the traffic — not quite as noticeable. These days, Bogotá is blossoming with new ideas, from collectives that house everything from feminist bookshops to hair salons, to offbeat, all-day bars that organize gay tango events, to exquisite dining in rough-and-ready neighborhoods. The dazzling talents of Bogotanos, from culinary flourishes to chic shoemaking to visual art innovation, is on display like never before.

It’s possible to lose hours wandering the paths of Paloquemao: This enormous market is lined with stalls piled high with colorful and extraordinarily varied fruits, and dozens of species of potatoes. You can breakfast for less than the equivalent of $5 on arepas fresh off the grill and stuffed with cheese, along with juices made from mango, strawberry, lulo and many more fruits you’ve never seen or heard of before. In between snacking and sampling new produce, stock up on woven baskets, bird cages and bottles of colorful potions for various purposes, including attracting money, scaring off spirits, securing good luck and raising the dead.

Check out some of Bogotá’s most interesting designers at Casa Précis, where you’ll find shoes from Gal vs. Buck, a gender-neutral line of colorful leather wingtips with fringe. You can also pick up chic straw hats, jewelry and brightly patterned swimsuits from the Colombian label Baobab. Trama Casa de Creadores is a former house where each room is now occupied by a different business. There’s a hairdresser and tattoo artist if you want a new look, but for something less permanent pick up fabulous high-waisted pants and skirts made in Colombia from colorfully patterned African cloth, designed by Lia Samantha. Upstairs at Alma de Coco, artisanal body lotions, face masks and cosmetics are made from cacao and coconut oil from Colombia’s Pacific Coast. El Telar de las Palabras, a bookshop selling only books by women, is on the ground floor.

The resting place for politicians and sculptors, Bogotá’s Cementerio Central is a shabby, romantic and still-majestic place to visit. Its mausoleums, in varying states of upkeep, hold the remains of a dozen Colombian presidents, illustrious families and artists. Walk the paths and you’ll see ornate statues, locals lighting candles, and the faithful leaving flowers and prayers at the feet of the Virgin Mary statue. It’s probably the most tranquil place in the city. Note that you may be asked for identification to enter. From here, stroll a block down Calle 24, past colorful street art, to Café de la Fonda, a quiet neighborhood spot, for an excellent cup of Colombian coffee. Pick up a few bags (12,000 Colombian pesos) to bring home while you’re at it.

Bogotá is now home to a number of clever collectives: complexes that house shops, bars, cafes and sometimes performance spaces under one roof, and which are perfect places to stop for a midday break. For a gay-friendly, artsy space, head to A Seis Manos, where small stores sell vintage clothes, ceramics and trendy enamel pins, and a whimsically decorated all-day bar turns out reasonably priced cocktails and coffees. Check the calendar for the roster of activities, which range from gay tango to pub quizzes. For a swankier option, try Casa Arsenal, where the city’s well-heeled relax in a courtyard filled with tables and chairs, surrounded by miniature versions of chic craft breweries, cafes, patisseries and restaurants, as well as a bookshop and a co-working space.

If climbing the steep mile up Monserrate Mountain isn’t your thing, get a milder workout by walking around the hilly paths and gardens of the one-time home of the Liberator, Simón Bolívar. The simply furnished rooms of the Quinta de Bolívar (free on Sundays, 3,000 pesos at other times) are surrounded by cobblestone paths that curve through an enormous variety of plants and statues. Bolívar didn’t live here for much of the 10 years that he owned the house, but you can see why he came back here between independence campaigns: The lush gardens are surprisingly free from urban noise and offer some of the freshest, least polluted air in the city.


If you’re looking to rent an apartment through Airbnb for your stay, there is a good range of apartments in Chapinero, a central neighborhood with easy access to both the north and south of the city. Expect to pay between $40 and $90 for a one-bedroom.

The landmark building housing the Four Seasons Casa Medina (Carrera 7 #69A-22; fourseasons.com/bogotacm; doubles from $359) is just steps from the city’s best restaurant neighborhood, the Zona Gourmet; its individually designed rooms offer beamed ceilings and fireplaces.

Homey Casa Leleyte (Calle 64 #3A-29; facebook.com/Casa-Lėlytė-783126315184861; doubles from $100, including breakfast) opened in 2017 with just four rooms, an Instagram-worthy bar with midcentury modern furniture, and a colorful art collection, all in a spectacularly central spot.



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