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Bogotá Travel Guide

About Bogotá

From your first steps into the creaking, pastel-coloured neighbourhood of La Candelaria, there’s the sense of something unusual about Bogotá. It’s not quite like anywhere else in Colombia - or South America for that matter.

There’s solemn beauty in its soaring neoclassical spires and greying colonialist architecture, but that’s not it. It’s the impression that Bogotá is a city all too used to standing alone.

For years, Bogotá felt more like Imperial Spain than the rest of Colombia. A sprawling metropolis nestled in the lofty Andes; the capital can still feel isolated.

Travellers often skip it, seeing the city as unwelcoming and dangerous. But a lot has changed since the all-out-war between the government and guerrillas raged in the 1990s.

Today Bogotá is staging an incredible comeback. The arts have burgeoned, security has tightened and several enlightened city schemes have been introduced. Bogotá now has one of the widest choices of restaurants in South America, several world-class museums, lively street art, frequent festivals and a pulsating nightlife. It even has a cable car running up into the Andean peaks.

Then there’s the abundance of colonial churches and mansions to wonder at. One of the nation’s grandest sights can be found in Plaza Bolivar, where a great statue of Simón Bolívar, the Liberator, stands. Surreally, llamas trot around him, available to ride for a few pesos.

Comparatively, downtown seems a bit ugly, but there’s a buzz about the area: the streets are crowded with people chowing down street food and watching Michael Jackson impersonators. Further north are the trendy districts of Chapinero and Zona T, awash with bars and restaurants.

Yes, Bogotá still has its share of problems (poverty, congestion, crime and pollution persist), and riots still flare up, but instead of a returning to the dark ages of instability, protests are a reminder of the perils of leaving people behind as the country rapidly develops.

Bogotá looks set to steer Colombia into a bright and exciting future, and although its standalone spirit will surely remain, the capital now has the responsibility of pioneering a nation towards a hopeful destiny.

Key facts

A digital image at https://illuminoto.com

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Featured Hotels


Hotel de la Opera

Situated in two buildings next the Teatro Colon, the Hotel de la Opera is probably the best accommodation in La Candelaria. Housed in a wonderfully restored historic building, it has class, charm and character, and its rooftop restaurant offers great views over the old part of town. The hotel has 42 rooms, each decorated with Italian furniture, but the best have views over Plaza de Bolivar. Booking ahead is essential.

Casa Medina

Atmospheric and full of character, this Bogotá hotel offers modern facilities with an Old World atmosphere. Located in a restored historic building, it feels more like a home than a hotel with roaring fires, thick rugs, timber-framed ceilings and leather armchairs. The king-size beds are enough to lose a weekend in, while its La Casa Restaurant offers fine dining in a country cottage setting.

Hotel Augusta

Don't be put off by the aquarium feel of the lobby; Hotel Augusta is a smart, cosy little hotel in the La Candelaria area of the city. The sleeping quarters are light and open, and lead onto a contained living room. Equipped with modern amenities like flatscreen TVs, Wi-Fi and desks, the hotel is ideal for tourists or business travellers as well as backpackers with a little more in their pocket.

Hotel Abitare 56

While bedrooms give off a student dormitory vibe, the sleeping quarters at this budget choice are spotless. Rooms are bright and each of the 28 on offer comes with Wi-Fi, satellite TV and a private bathroom. Tucked away from the nearby bars and restaurants, this hotel also offers a little sanctuary from the buzz of central Bogotá.

Celebrities Suites

With contemporary touches and a modern palate of creams, whites and flashes of red, the Celebrities Suites could be modelled on a famous personality's own pad – if it weren't for the huge murals of superstars sitting above each bed. Each individually designed apartment comes themed around a superstar (think Brad Pitt or Beyonce) and is fully equipped with a kitchen, generous lounge area and beautiful bedroom. A flatscreen TV and Wi-Fi come as standard, while breakfast in bed with Brad is available on request.

Wyndham Hotel Bogota

While it may not look like a work of genius from the outside, behind the doors Wyndham Hotel Bogota flexes its creative muscles. Its 261 rooms are well-appointed and spacious with huge windows letting in plenty of light, but it's the blossoming of primary colours, mesmerising carpets and patterned wallpaper that make it such a pleasure to stay in. The steaks from the restaurant are more hearty than arty.