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By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
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A DJ plays music at Apache Bar.
A DJ plays music at Apache Bar. (Juan Cristobal Cobo/FTWP)
CITY GUIDE

A local’s guide to Bogota, Colombia

A DJ plays music at Apache Bar.
A DJ plays music at Apache Bar. (Juan Cristobal Cobo/FTWP)
  • By Alexandra Correa
  • Photos by Juan Cristóbal Cobo
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Bogota will take your breath away — perhaps literally, given its perch as one of the highest-altitude world capitals, about 8,600 feet above sea level.

Up here is where Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez once studied, where locals start conversations with tourists just to practice their English, where the nightlife buzzes to the sounds of the Caribbean, techno music, rock, Mexican mariachis and the surrounding Andes. Colombia’s capital is elevated but not isolated: The food-and-drink culture, you will find, spans not only South American cuisine, but also Indian, Japanese, Lebanese and more.

The era of Pablo Escobar you might have seen watching “Narcos” has largely receded, and you are unlikely to have any trouble as a tourist, especially if you know where to go. You may have more trouble than you would expect trying to find good coffee, though. Unless, that is, you follow this advice.

Meet Alexandra Correa

Alexandra Correa is a journalist from Bogota. After university, she lived for a time in the United States, Spain and Germany before returning home to continue her career writing. In her spare time, she likes to explore all the regions of Colombia, especially the Caribbean coast, and try new restaurants. She loves cats, empanadas and coffee.

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IN THE ACTION
Quinta Camacho
This prosperous neighborhood close to the city’s financial district is where well-heeled Bogotanos dine, go out to bars, shop in boutiques and wander art galleries. It’s dotted with early-20th-century architecture, including the Four Seasons Casa Medina, a 1946 brick-and-stone landmark. It is safe here, and you can get to the colonial center by car in 25 minutes. Find this neighborhood.
LOW-KEY
La Macarena
Popular among local writers, painters, architects, actors and students, this area is a good option for budget travelers and anyone who appreciates art, music and hipster cafes. One of the city’s most famous buildings, the Santamaria Bullring — the scene for frequent clashes between bullfighting fans and animal rights protesters — is a couple of blocks away. It’s a short walk from the historic center, too, but after dark, it’d be better to call a car. Find this neighborhood.
Neighborhoods

Explore more of Bogota

Eat

BREAKFAST
Masa
This high-end artisan bakery sells undoubtedly the city’s best chocolate cake. If you are looking for a real meal, try the almond croissants for breakfast or any of a number of healthy options: Masa has salads, sandwiches, freshly squeezed juices and homemade soups.
BTW: Masa has two other locations to the north, on calles (streets) 81 and 105.
Calle 70 # 4-83, Bogota, Cundinamarca, Colombia
BREAKFAST
Pasteleria Florida
Located in the city center, this classic pastry shop has been serving traditional Colombian breakfast since 1936. The favorites include agua de panela (a hot drink made from unrefined sugar cane) or hot chocolate with yucca bread, cassava rolls and almojábanas, made of cassava and corn. Here you can also find quality tamales, a popular Sunday breakfast, with chicken and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves and boiled.
BTW: Build in plenty of time here. You’ll want to savor it.
Carrera 7 # 21-36, Bogota, Cundinamarca, Colombia
LUNCH
Chichería Demente
Specializing in popular Colombian fare, this bar and grill off the tourist path is a good place to sample neighborhood cuisine and traditional dishes to “picar,” or pick at with toothpicks. One favorite is the morcilla, a blood sausage stuffed with rice and cooked with peas, banana, avocado and potatoes. They also specialize in cocktails; I would recommend a Lupita, based on Ancho Reyes, the spicy Mexican liqueur.
BTW: This is another area that is safe enough in daylight, but after dark, arrive and leave by car share or taxi.
Calle 69 # 15-10, Bogota, Colombia
LUNCH
Trattoria de la Plaza
Owner and head chef André Tarditti decided to steer clear of the main restaurant areas and put this Italian eatery in a semi-industrial area surrounded by auto-repair shops. But the fantastic pizza, pasta, risotto and more mean that customers keep coming back anyway — and spreading the word. If you like chocolate, do not miss the ganache dessert.
BTW: Two blocks west is the market square of Siete de Agosto, where you can find locally grown fruits, vegetables and more. Make sure you arrive by taxi or car share.
Calle 66 # 22-45, Bogota, Colombia
DINNER
Llorente
An old three-story house has been turned into this restaurant with classic European decor, live bands playing classic rock, and dim lighting, making it a good spot for couples. Located in the Quinta Camacho neighborhood, Llorente was named Best New Restaurant La Barra 2019, a Colombian food-and-drink award. Consider the mercado pesca: the catch of the day with sweetcorn sauce, grilled asparagus and Asian mixed greens.
BTW: Try a Patria Boba cocktail, made with vodka, passion fruit and ginger extract, jalapeño tincture, lemon juice, and soda.
Carrera 9 # 69-7, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
LATE-NIGHT
Andrés Carne de Res
Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez once said that in Colombia, “any gathering of more than six people, regardless of class or the hour, is doomed to turn into a dance.” That certainly holds true at uniquely Colombian Andrés Carne de Res. It’s famous for its lomo al trapo — a steak filet baked in a cloth crusted in salt, then sliced open — but each evening, the vast restaurant transforms into something resembling a disco. Brass bands go from table to table, and the staff fling yellow paper butterflies in the air, a reference to Marquez’s iconic novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”
BTW: Tell the restaurant it´s your birthday, and they will send a live band to your table and give you a sash.
Calle 81 # 11-94, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
LATE-NIGHT
Apache
You don’t need to be a guest of the Click Clack Hotel to enjoy its 10th-floor bar. Apache boasts one of the best views of Bogota, perfect for sunsets with a glass of wine in hand. There is a good selection of rock music from the ’50s to the ’80s, and DJs spin at night from Wednesday to Saturday, with the atmosphere heating up at 9 p.m. The menu has 10 types of hamburgers, classic cocktails and house specialties such as the Margarita Apache, a concoction made with tequila, jalapeños, lemon, syrup, bitters and smoked salt.
BTW: The decorations are inspired by U.S. Native American culture.
Carrera 11 #93-77 piso 10, Bogota, Colombia
(Ximena Jimenez for The Washington Post)
LOCALS THINK YOU SHOULD KNOW
  1. The bill includes tip, and the waiter will ask if you want to pay 10 percent. Nearly everyone does so unless service was truly dreadful.
  2. The Andes region is not like the Caribbean; don’t arrive at the airport in flip-flops. When it’s sunny, the weather here is perfect, like a spring day in New England. But it rains a lot and is cold at night.
  3. Young people try to speak English, but it’s uncommon in the older generation. Learning some Spanish before you come will help.
(Ximena Jimenez for The Washington Post)

Do

La Palma & El Tucán coffee plantation
Although Colombia produces some of the world’s best coffee, most of our highest-quality beans are exported. Fortunately, the landscape is changing fast, and you can experience the country’s heartland at this fantastic farm, just a 90-minute drive outside Bogota. There are tours inside the plantations, and you can pick coffee cherries yourself while enjoying a spectacular view of the mountains and drinking one of the best coffees in the world. It works for a family or friends day trip, but there are cabins in the field for those who would prefer to stay over.
BTW: Transportation from Bogota is not included, but they will arrange it for you if you ask them to.
Finca La Palma y El Tucan, Zipacon 253017 Colombia
See Ciudad Bolivar in a cable car
The sprawling working-class districts of southern Bogota can feel like another planet from the wealthy northern areas. If you want a glimpse of this other Colombia, a good option is to visit Ciudad Bolivar, home to more than a million people. The cable-car line TransMiCable, which opened in 2018, will let you soar over four colorful neighborhoods hanging from the hills. Look out for the street-art murals.
BTW: The surrounding areas aren’t especially safe, but you should be fine if you stay in the TransMilenio stations. It’s better to go between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Portal Tunal, Calle 56 Sur, Bogota, Colombia
Quebrada de la Vieja hiking trails
If mountain walks are your thing, you will love this steep trail in the national parkland that overlooks Bogota. There are three paths you can take here; Sendero de La Virgen (mapped below) is the best: It reaches 9,500 feet, takes up to three hours and rewards hikers with a fantastic view of the eucalyptus trees, pine trees and city below. The trails, which are open only in the mornings and closed Mondays, have a heavy police presence and are safe.
BTW: You have to book online before you hike.
Av. circunvalar con calle 71 Este, Bogota, Colombia
Paloquemao Market food tour
With its vast rainforests and mountain ranges, and coasts on the Pacific and Caribbean, Colombia is one of the most biodiverse nations in the world (some say second only to Brazil), with rich ecosystems and an array of species. You can see, smell and taste much of the country’s produce in the Plaza de Paloquemao, an enormous wholesale market that supplies thousands of restaurants, shops and family pantries. Try a “food safari” tour with the company Tour de la Fruta, which lasts a maximum of three hours and costs about $50 per person (part of which is reinvested into the surrounding area).
BTW: The market is downtown, but it’s in a public-transit desert. Car share or a taxi is best.
Av. Calle 19 # 25-04, Bogota, Colombia
OjoRojo Fábrica Visual
The photo displays and workshops at this gallery in the Macarena neighborhood give a deep look at Colombian society, its idiosyncrasies and its decades of conflict, through the eyes of Colombian and foreign photographers.
BTW: The photographers’ works aren’t just on display: Talented and experienced professionals from Colombia, the United States, Chile, Colombia, France and Italy also run the place.
Carrera 5 # 26c-62, Bogota, Colombia
Go to salsa school
If you have ever wanted to learn how to salsa, your visit to Bogota is the perfect time. The school Punta y Taco offers super-fun classes by the hour, where you can dance with local students every day except Sunday.
BTW: If you’d like to practice your new skills, it’s a short walk from here to salsa disco bar Cachao.
Calle 85 # 19 A 25, Bogota, Colombia
Alexandra Correa
Alexandra Correa is a journalist from Bogota. After university, she lived for a time in the United States, Spain and Germany before returning home to continue her career writing. In her spare time, she likes to explore all the regions of Colombia, especially the Caribbean coast, and try new restaurants. She loves cats, empanadas and coffee.
Juan Cristóbal Cobo
Juan is a contributing photographer to The Washington Post based in Bogota. His favorite place there is the historic center of the city in general, where he feels most alive. Holding at once the scars from the past and present, it is, to him, an unending parade of interesting people to watch.

CITY GUIDES