One of our concierge team, Jaike Rowe, has just returned from a trip to Peru and Colombia. Here he writes about the best things to do in Bogotá.
I recently had the opportunity to take the most incredible trip to Peru and Colombia; two of our hottest, most in-demand destinations.
Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá, is very much a city on the rise. It may not be the first place that springs to mind when planning your next city break – but believe me, it’s Latin America’s best-kept secret.
Bogotá is located 2,640 meters above sea level, making it one of the highest capital cities in the world. The city is quickly developing a reputation for its ridiculously cool urban vibe. Think Shoreditch in London or Chelsea in New York: industrial coffee shops, artisan restaurants, street art, exciting bars, boutique hotels, parks. You get the picture.
If you’re looking for luxury, you won’t be disappointed. Bogotá has an incredible selection of five-star hotels, Michelin star restaurants and designer malls. Just to give some context, I accidentally stumbled into a Christian Dior launch party in the lobby of the Four Seasons! Needless to say, I stayed for the free champagne.
Culture in Bogotá
There are so many significant landmarks to visit in Bogotá. No trip is complete without a wander around the Plaza de Bolívar, the home of Colombia’s prestigious palaces, government buildings and law courts. The square is often referred to as ‘the heart of historic Bogotá’. It was the site of Pablo Escobar’s infamous Palace of Justice siege in 1985.
You can’t visit Bogotá without sampling some of the legendary street food. Forget the diet, there’s no point even trying to resist. Empanadas, ceviche, arepas, obleas – they are everywhere! The whole street food scene was a real highlight for me. Recipes have been passed from generation to generation, and the ingredients are so fresh. Even Anthony Bourdain was blown away by Bogotá’s food scene.
If you’re interested in Colombia’s conflicted past, then you have to visit one of the many chocolate and coffee shops popping up across the city. Colombia’s cocaine production is declining, and many rural communities are now substituting coca and poppy production for coffee and cocoa. These shops are a great way to learn first-hand about the reality of Colombia’s troubled past, and see how communities are moving forward to create a safer and more sustainable future for Colombia.
Where to Stay
Bogotá has a massive selection of incredible hotels – from boutique casas to the super luxury chains. I stayed at the incredible Four Seasons Casa Medina and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
I also had a chance to visit the stunning Sofitel Victoria Regia – which has been listed by Forbes as one of the best hotels in the city. They are working closely with the Colombian LGBT Chamber of Commerce to further improve the experience of LGBT travellers. The hotel has implemented a pioneering training scheme throughout the hotel to ensure that everyone has a perfect stay, no matter who they love.
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind experience then you can’t beat Casa Legado, another amazing LGBT-friendly property in the heart of the city. Casa Legado is the brainchild of a local (and fabulous) interior designer. She has turned a large house into a really stunning hotel – with beautiful communal spaces, individual rooms and bathrooms to die for. Each of the seven bedrooms has been designed around one of her nephews or nieces. This is an ideal base if you’re planning a city break in Bogotá.
The Gay Scene in Bogotá
Chapinero is Bogotá’s unofficial gay area, and it’s packed with gay bars. No trip to Bogotá is complete without a night at Theatron, Latin America’s biggest LGBT venue – it holds over 8,000 people! The club is situated in an old cinema complex and has 13 enormous dance floors to choose from (one of them is in an abandoned chapel). There is also a restaurant, underwear shop and roof terrace.
If you’re there short for time, Out Of Office can arrange you an amazing LGBT nightlife tour – giving you the opportunity to experience the best of Bogotá’s scene in one night.
When To Visit Bogotá
Due to the altitude, Bogotá is a little colder than the majority of Colombia. Temperatures are fairly consistent throughout the year, averaging around 12-15°C. Expect a little rain and a little cloud – but don’t let this put you off. If you’re more of a sun worshipper, it’s definitely worth combining Bogotá with Cartagena – perfectly located on Colombia’s beautiful Caribbean coast.
The Most Memorable Thing About Bogotá
What struck me most was how safe I felt. Twenty years ago, Bogotá was a no-go zone. Colombia was at war with the drugs cartels and Farc rebels. Today, you’ll see more hipsters than mobsters.
There are still tensions. Walking the streets of Bogotá alone late a night might not be a great idea – but the same could be said for many cities.
Oh, did I mention the coffee? Colombian coffee is among the best in the world.
Bogotá is served by El Dorado International Airport, and has a huge flight network across Europe, the USA and South America. Avianca operates a daily service between London Heathrow on the 787 Dreamliner – with the option of economy and business class.