Jan 19

Bogota: Forget your expectations, it’s one of South America’s most exciting cities

Overlooking Bogota at night
Overlooking Bogota at night

I’m writing at the moment from the UK, where I’ve returned for the Christmas period. It’s the first time a lot of my friends have seen me for a while. After the usual small-talk a couple of talking points usually crop up. First, ‘is it safe out there?’, and second, ‘I thought you’d be more tanned?’.

View of Monserrate
View of Monserrate

Many people still travel to Colombia, and especially Bogota, with their expectations way out of line with reality. I recently went to the dentist and had to tell them I wouldn’t be back for the next scheduled check up as I was living in Bogota. ‘Really?’ she replied. ‘Is it just mafia and everything everywhere?’. When I picture myself back in Colombia’s capital city, with the high-rise flats, the swanky restaurants and the dogs wearing designer coats I can’t help but have a chuckle to myself. I’m not saying life’s completely peachy in Bogota, but it’s certainly safer than many other big Latin American cities I’ve been in and you can achieve a good style of life just by choosing the right area to live in.

The colourful streets of La Candelaria
The colourful streets of La Candelaria

To be fair, Bogota has surprised even me. I arrived and, like many, wasn’t blown away by what I saw. It seems the whole city is under construction and for first-time visitors, most of what you see isn’t far away from the traffic-choked chaos of the centre. This, I feel, is why many people leave Bogota after only one or two days. But this city is one that rewards patience. Once you start to really discover the city, you’ll find independent bookshops (cll 45), smart little cafes (La Candelaria), hidden bars (Chapinero), clandestine parties, amazing galleries (the Botero Museum is a favourite) and international-standard restaurants (Zona G). Moreover, you’ll find areas of unexpected beauty such as Usaquen, Parque Chico and Parque Simon Bolivar. Culture and art follow you around the city in the form of elaborate, innovative graffitiTravel to Bogota unveils a city full of character, but it’s a place that might require you to work just a little harder than usual to find it.

View from the Botero Museum, La Candelaria
View from the Botero Museum, La Candelaria

There are also myriad options for people that love the outdoors and adventure sports. Just outside the city you can find Guatavita, the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira, the mountains of Suesca and much, much more. Not to mention the unforgettable Andres Carne de Res – a one of a kind night out on the outskirts of the city.

Inside the Salt Cathedral, Zipaquira
Inside the Salt Cathedral, Zipaquira

I was reminded of Bogota as I walked around the streets of London. At each corner in central London you find a piece of history; an architectural marvel. This might not be the case in Bogota (nor in any South American capital with the exception of Buenos Aires), but what you will find is the excitement of a city that’s pulling itself quickly up the ladder and teeming with enthusiasm for the future – a far cry from the jaded expressions on most European faces.

Bogota is a city that bursts with culture that you can find and access with just a little work (rather than London’s frequent out-pricing or hipster-elitism). A city where the youth seem to rule the night and, often, the day. A city where people from all over the world come to live to enjoy the life, not to be seen to be living there. A city that investors are clambering to get a piece of. A city of such radically different faces it would be a challenge to keep yourself orientated if it weren’t for the beautiful, imposing mountains that surround the city’s boundaries. A city that’s so young you can still mould it to the experience you want out of it. Bogota doesn’t have a nickname, and yet it’s a city that genuinely doesn’t sleep.

Plaza Bolivar
Plaza Bolivar

Bogota isn’t the most beautiful city in the world or even Colombia, but if you stay longer than just a couple of days, you’ll quickly find out that it’s one of the most exciting.

Paul

14 thoughts on “Bogota: Forget your expectations, it’s one of South America’s most exciting cities

  1. jon peters on

    Can anyone (tourist) comment on the need to get a local guide for me, a Canadian, to walk about solo (retired male) with a good camera shooting the street architecture scenes ? Concerned about safety. thx.

    Reply

      Drew on

      Hi Jon, just found this blog and saw your comment.

      I’m from Canada (although living in the UK at the moment) and I travelled to Bogota last year. Have to agree with the article, it’s a really exciting place to be at the moment.

      I do think you’d be safe walking the streets here. I was. My advice, if you’re concerned, would be to take a guided city tour just to put you at ease more than anything else. If you’ve got a guide you’ll find the best places, and you can feel confident getting your camera out.

      Honestly, you’ll come to the city and be surprised at how safe you feel, I’m sure.

      Reply
  2. Zachary Macinnes on

    And one of it’s best kept secrets. Have a feeling that will be changing very soon though!

    Reply
  3. Michelle on

    It’s so sad that there are so many closed-minded, ignorant people out there. The funny part is they don’t do anything to educated themselves. I blame it mostly on the media. All we see in the media is the bad. Now of course, every country has it’s goods & bads, yes even America, but that doesn’t mean that we as individuals can’t look past the tip of our nose & learn about the unknown. It seems that what people are really afraid of is not the unknown but to be educated. Why? Why is it so scary to learn? Education opens the mind & teaches you to think on your own & not be driven to rash conclusions due to what you saw in the media or what someone thinks they know because they saw it somewhere.

    Bravo to you for another great article.

    Reply
  4. Stuart Cook on

    I was in Bogota for New Years 2011/12 – it is a great city, great people – can highly recommend Andres DC for a night out!!

    Reply
  5. Coraline on

    I’m planning to go to Bogota next month, it’ll be the first stop of my colombian trip and I’m really looking forward to it! I’m eager to see the Candelaria area!

    Reply

      Paul on

      It’s really great. If you need any advice on what to do/where to go, just ask 🙂

      Reply
  6. Mark on

    I was in Bogota in 2010. I did enjoy the city.

    Reply

      Paul on

      It’s great fun and somewhere too many people neglect, I think

      Reply
  7. Stephanie - The Travel Chica on

    I absolutely LOVED Bogota! Although I was disappointed I spent the time and money to see La Catedral de Sal. I would have preferred another day wandering around Bogota. You didn’t mention the street art… one of my favorite parts of the city.

    Reply

      Paul on

      Good point on the street art… Time for a cheeky edit 😉

      Thanks for the comment!

      Reply

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