Colonial meets cool in the heart of Colombia.
Forget the dated stories you’ve heard about Colombia’s capital city; it’s been safe for years. While glamorous coastal Cartagena more successfully seduced globe-trotters, Bogotá almost secretly blossomed into the hippest destination in the country. The rest of the world is finally starting to notice. Located at a dizzying 8,560 feet on an Andean plateau, Bogotá is big – both in population (8 million) and sprawl.
Fortunately, most travelers can focus on a handful of easily explored neighborhoods: downtown’s Candelaria (Bogotá’s historic core of Baroque churches and art deco buildings); Zona G, for trendy gourmet restaurants and cafés; and Zona T, for loud, anything-goes nightlife. On the weekends, join stylish bogotanos brunching and shopping in Usaquén, a colonial neighborhood in the north.
Start the day at Pastelería Florida (Carrera 7, 20-82), an 80-year-old dining institution that’s always packed. Most come for the santafereño, hunks of cornbread and white cheese meant to be dunked and melted in the accompanying mug of rich hot chocolate.
Leo (Calle 27B, 6-75) works with farmers all over Colombia to ensure that indigenous produce and ingredients shine – including ant dust, which is used as a crust on lightly seared albacore tuna.
A vertical garden and colorful furniture create an intimate setting for Tomás Rueda’s Restaurante Tábula (Calle 29, 5-90) in artsy La Macarena. Balance hearty family-style servings of garlicky roasted potatoes or lamb stew with plates of steamed white fish and leafy salads.
Fuel up with a hot cup of Colombian coffee at Amor Perfecto (Carrera 4, 66-46), in Chapinero, which roasts beans on-site. Baristas can suggest whiskey and rum pairings with coffee to amp up your midday break.
Discover Bogotá’s cocktail scene at The 86 (Carrera 12, 93-43), a dimly lit bar hidden behind a bahn mi shop. Co-owner Chalo Marin’s creative twists include adding shiitake mushrooms to old-fashioneds for an earthy finish.
Gordo (Carrera 4A, 66-87) is as popular for potent cocktails – featuring house-made vermouths, tonics, and infused spirits – as it is for American comfort food from Mario Batalitrained chef Daniel Castaño.
On Sundays, stock up on colorful crocheted mochila bags, artisanal soaps, hand-carved chess sets, and other souvenirs at the Usaquén street market.
Months-old Casa Précis (Calle 79A, 8-45) is a retail collaboration of 20 of Colombia’s most promising designers. Recently sighted: sculptural necklaces and bracelets from Faoba Joyas, leather oxfords from Gal vs Buck, and Bahia Maria’s sexy swimwear.
After browsing the Museo del Oro’s (Carrera 6, 1588) gilded artifacts, stop by its shop for gold jewelry and gifts, such as meticulously carved dolls dressed in traditional Colombian outfits.
Exposed beams and patterned tiles add a colonial warmth to the Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina Bogotá’s 62 guest rooms. Castanyoles, its modern restaurant and bar, serves five house-made sangrias with local fruit bases that are macerated in fine rum, sherry, and other liquors. Doubles from $379, including breakfast daily and a $100 hotel credit.
For a more contemporary atmosphere, head to the 64-room Four Seasons Hotel Bogotá in glitzy Zona T. Lauren Rottet designed spaces with a minimalist touch and an occasional burst of graphic prints and texture. The hotel’s robata grill and sushi restaurant, Kuru, has drawn local crowds since it opened last year. Doubles from $379, including breakfast daily and a $100 hotel credit.
W Bogota Hotel welcomes travelers to the residential northern Usaquén neighborhood with a bright urban style, three lively restaurants and bars, a gold-tinted indoor pool, and locally inspired spa treatments, such as an emerald massage. Doubles from $290, including breakfast daily and a $100 spa credit.