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It’s been more than two years since I started calling Bogotá home. After the initial excitement and honeymoon with the city, reality slowly but surely started to creep in. The pollution, the horrendous traffic, the overpriced beers in Parque 93… It felt a bit like I was no longer living in Colombia but just in another soulless megalopolis.
So what to do? Accept the rat race and look for the latest boutique hotel or try the next gourmet burger?
No, I dug, I scraped, I ventured. I went off the beaten tracks to find those little gems of culture, those reflections of what living like a Bogotano meant. I like people with character: rich, poor, chic, casual; all of them. And I want to follow them as they enjoy the city. Not when they go out in the Zona T drinking a cosmopolitan while listening to the latest David Ghetto. But when they get up early on Sunday to have a fresh orange juice after sweating it on La Ciclovia, or when they cure their hangover of aguardiente (literally fire water) with a Caldo de Costilla (beef rib soup) in the Mercado de la Perseverencia. I’ve done the research and I hope you’ll enjoy these little corners of authenticity in Bogotá. Comment, share your tips, and tell us about your own little “rincones” (corners).
Markets feed the soul as much as the stomach. Visit the daddy of all markets: Paloquemao. Taste dozens of new fruits, buy a bunch of exotic flowers, or simply get yourself a coffee at a good spot to watch the Bogotá world go by.
Real Bogotá food? Search no more and go to Doña Elvira. In the heart of Galerias, Doña Elvira has been serving criolla food (European recipes, mainly Spanish, coalesced with local ingredients and style) since 1934. Try the morcilla (black pudding) or the cordero sudado (lamb in sauce) or a real sancocho (chicken or beef stew). Hearty, authentic, a must for any carnivore.
Get up early on Sunday morning and join the procession to Cerro de Guadalupe. The view is just as good as Monserrate with less tourists and the experience is a lot more authentic.
Detox and refresh at one of the surrounding Páramos. This eco-system is unique to the Andean region and usually includes amazing mountain views full of cacti - like frailejones. To do so, try the highest waterfall in Colombia at La Chorrera or venture a bit further to visit the birth of the Bogotá River. Returning to Bogotá after such a day out will give you plenty of energy to face the city again.
Stay away from the Hollywood trail and visit one of many Bogotá’s theatres. Watch a show at the Teatro Gaitán or see a classical piece at the magnificent Teatro Colón. Its layout is modeled after the Opera Garnier in Paris and it should re-open in 2014 after extensive renovations. And if you happen to be in Bogotá in April, do not miss the biggest international Theatre festival in the world, the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogotá.