Chameleon City

As I walked down the streets of La Candelaria on Sunday afternoon, I began to take in the colors of the walls adorned with elaborate doors, clever signs in English and Spanish announcing restaurants or hostels and artistic graffiti that lead to the very same plaza where the city of Bogota was founded. I had been in Bogota for two days already, experiencing the new and the old, the chic and the traditional, the cultural and the historical, when suddenly, I stood in front of a mural of a chameleon painted on a vivid pink wall and it hit me…the symbolism of this color-changing animal seemed very appropriate for a city that is also able to adapt to a variety of cultures and people, each bringing their own color to Bogota.

During my 10 day stay in the capital of Colombia, I was able to experience Bogota as a tourist and a local. There are so many things to do in this city that my days were filled with cultural activities, promenades around beautiful parks, and unscheduled rendez-vous at little cafes just to have dessert (which I noticed is a cultural norm in Bogota- don’t mind if I do!).

I will show you this ever-changing, colorful, multicultural South American city in a series of posts that will include my favorite hangout spots in Bogota, the best places to eat in this gastronomic mecca, the artistic and historical side of the city and a magical rainy afternoon in one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever been in.

Let’s begin!

La Zona T in Bogota is the place to be. A street in the northern part of the city hosts a variety of restaurants, bars, and designer stores. Some of the most popular restaurants are Crepes & Waffles, Wok, Juan Valdez Cafe, Andres D.C (also one of the hottest nightclubs in the city), Bogota Beer Company and La Paletteria. So whether you’re in for a drink, a quick bite, or just have a sweet tooth, La Zona T will give you the necessary fix plus an afternoon of shopping…why not!?

La Paletteria
La Paletteria

El Parque de la 93 is another favorite spot for locals; perfect for picnics but it’s also surrounded by some of the best restaurants in the city so you can plan brunch or dinner with your friends in this area. My recommendations include Al Agua Patos Cafe & Restaurant, Mercado by Chef Leonor Espinosa, and Bogota Beer Company.

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Al Agua Patos Cafe & Restaurant
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Parque de la 93 (north end). My friends Paula and Laura with Sam the Samoyed.
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Juan Valdez Cafe
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My friend Andrea and I, enjoying some afternoon coffee (Juan Valdez) al fresco.

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The Click Clack Hotel just around the corner of Parque de la 93. One of Bogota’s trendiest hotels.

If you keep going north, you’ll hit Usaquen. What was once a small village outside Bogota has now become part of the city and one of the most visited neighborhoods. Usaquen hosts its famous flea market on Sundays with Colombians displaying art, crafts, accessories, typical food and souvenirs. The chic neighborhood also accommodates elegant and traditional restaurants with cuisine from all over the world, a park/plaza and a church.

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Usaquen Park

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Usaquen by night

A great hangout spot for a clear and sunny day in Bogota (take advantage of these days as they are scarce) is Monserrate. An iconic mountain overlooking the entire city stands more than 3,000 meters high. Visitors have the option of climbing three ways: by cable car, cable railway or just walking up (take into consideration the city’s altitude, the wheather and the natural conditions- bring hiking shoes and clothing if you’re up for the challenge. Some local Catholics believe they will pay for their sins by going up on their knees or barefoot- do NOT attempt this the first time you visit Monserrate).

Once you’re up the mountain, you can enjoy one of the best views of the city, visit the church at the top, walk around the local flea market and have some traditional hot chocolate and almojabanas at one of the restaurants.

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View of Bogota from Monserrate

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If you’re into picnics, visit Parque El Virrey, a beautiful park in Bogota where people go out to bike, jog, walk their dogs or enjoy a delicious picnic. Locals come here on their lunch hour during the week and lie on the grass with their coworkers or friends. I had the opportunity to do just that with my friend Laura on a Tuesday and the park was full of people.

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Flower shops by Parque El Virrey

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Of course there is plenty more to do in and around the city…what are your favorite hangout spots in Bogota?

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