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World Travel Guide > Guides > South America > Colombia > Bogotá

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Local time Bogotá

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Bogotá History

Bogotá's origins can be traced back to 1538 when Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada decided it was a good location to found a settlement for his fellow Spaniards. Originally called Santa Fe, it was actually built on the site of Teusaquillo, a small indigenous settlement in the area that was predominantly inhabited by Chibcha speaking people.

The city steadily grew and soon became the capital of the New Kingdom of Granada and the Royal Court was established there in 1550. By the beginning of the 19th century, its population had reached 30,000 and its cultural, academic and artistic offerings showed all the characteristics of a true national capital, with three universities, a large number of monasteries, convents and schools, as well as numerous collections of paintings, carvings and sculptures.

A new chapter in the town's life began on 20 July 1810 when the independence movement started. A charismatic Simon Bolivar (still very much in the minds and hearts of the today's Latin America) was elected president of the new republic which desperately tried to run away from the despotic, greedy and parasitic rule of the Spanish court. In 1819 the city changed its name to Bogotá.

The city has since developed its infrastructure and established itself as the country's main urban centre. Interestingly, the 20th century remained a fairly dictator-free period, something that cannot be said for the rest of continent.

Bogotá earned a bad reputation, however, through its notoriously poor record for safety, mainly to do with the narco-mafia and organised crime that plagued the city in the 1980s and early 1990s.

On 6 November 1985, the city was rocked when the Palace of Justice was besieged by 35 guerrillas from the 19th of April Movement who demanded that President Belisario Betancur “stand trial”. They held some 300 lawyers, judges, and Supreme Court magistrates hostage. A day later, 115 people were dead.

The city’s stability improved substantially in the 2000s after the former NYC mayor Rudolph Giuliani's crime fighting policies were implemented by Colombia's 31st president Alvaro Uribe.

Did you know?
Began in 1998, the cycle lane network in Bogotá is now the most extensive in South America.
In 2013, Jhonathan Florez broke four wingsuit world records when he jumped from a helicopter over Monserrate in Bogotá. They included the longest duration, the highest jump and the greatest horizontal distance ever travelled.
The Bavaria Brewery, which still exists today, started its operations in Bogotá in 1889.

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City Highlight: Bogotá

One of the biggest cities in the Americas, Colombia’s vibrant capital Bogotá embraces an outward-looking modernity while still celebrating its rich colonial past.

Featured Hotels

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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 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.

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.

Morrison 114

Smart and stylish at the same time, Morrison 114 is a boutique hotel that mixes up utmost comfort with designer touches. Expect tall windows, airy rooms and massive beds with plenty of mod-cons, including expansive plasma screen TVs, iPhone docks and soundproof windows.