Sarah’s fun-filled 48 hours in Bogotá
Colombia’s capital is a cosmopolitan city that sits 8,660ft above sea level within the Andes. Because of its location, Bogotá has panoramic mountain views and a temperature average of between 8°C and 24°C. It is fast becoming ‘South America’s Next Capital of Cool’ – as dubbed by Forbes magazine, and with its fabulous restaurants, trendy bars and designer boutiques – it’s clear why. I recently spent 48 hours here to see what all the hype was about.
We started our day in the best way – with an introduction to Colombian coffee, along with a molecular tasting, at Café San Alberto in the Usaquén quarter. This is a wonderful first experience because you learn all about the significance of coffee in the country. Sadly, almost all of the decent produce is exported but this cafe is a good place to experience some really amazing, fresh brews and buy some beans to take home. You are guided through the flavours and aromas by a specialist, as if drinking wine with a sommelier, and taught how the quality is affected by the cultivation process. They also show you all the different methods of brewing and what happens to coffee when you are making a cold brew, latte or espresso. It is really interesting and fun.
Our private guide, a local chef, then took us to Paloquemao Market to discover Colombia’s infinite variety of vegetables, flowers and herbs used in natural medicines. You learn about traditional cuisine and can taste exotic fruits, juices and treats from the country’s most remote regions. The best time to go is first thing in the morning. It is a really attractive and photogenic bazaar, with a dazzling diversity of produce. We really loved the flower market outside too – it is huge and, again, there’s a vast array of colours and types of bloom.
After stopping for a simple lunch, we went to look around some of the burgeoning contemporary art galleries. Having viewed myriad styles, we drove 45 minutes to the city’s industrial district to some authentic tejo fields. Tejo is the most fun game EVER. It involves throwing iron pucks at gunpowder targets. It goes hand in hand with beer, as part of the cultural tradition is that you buy your time on the court along with a bucket of ale. I must warn you: tejo is a lot more challenging than it looks and takes a long time to get the hang of it.
That evening, we feasted at Nemo, one of our favourite restaurants in Bogotá, which serves “an elegant distillation of Colombian cooking”. It is attached to the more modern of the city’s two Four Seasons hotels – both of which, incidentally, are excellent places to stay, depending on your taste.
Well rested, the following morning we set off on another full day’s exploration of this fascinating city. The Spanish arrived in this Andean region in 1538 and brought their culture and colonial architecture with them, which we saw in spades in downtown La Candelaria, the lively historic heart of Bogotá.
Our lovely local guide walked us around this pretty, cobbled neighbourhood, telling us the tales behind the little streets, beautiful houses, plazas and cathedrals. We looked at the government buildings, the huge Plaza Bolívar and the city centre. We particularly enjoyed being told about the street art – the story-telling murals which give an insight into Colombia’s difficult past and the recent political and economic revival.
The city’s modern area was once inhabited by various indigenous tribes whose relics can be seen in the phenomenal Museo del Oro (or Gold Museum). This is an absolute must-see, as the largest collection of pre-Hispanic gold in the world is displayed here.
Our final stop was the Museo Botero. It is named after Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most famous artist, who produces paintings and sculptures of disproportionate people, objects and animals. The museum houses one of Latin America’s most important international art collections.
There is no doubt that two nights in Bogotá makes a wonderful starting point for any journey in Colombia, and with our insider knowledge and friends on the ground, we can ensure you have a rejuvenating, fun and enlightening 48 hours in this exciting destination.