Bogotá is a city of contrasts. From its founding in 1538 until today, it has been growing steadily and shaping its identity. Bogotá was a typical colonial city in the beginning, but around the turn of the 20th Century, other European tendencies began to replace the dominant Spanish influence. France's influence is evident in many of the palaces built during this period. Residential areas show English influence in houses built during the mid-20th Century. And finally, one can feel the United States' influence in the new skyscrapers and huge shopping centers built toward the end of the 20th Century. The best way to experience this vast variety of architectures is by visiting Bogota's distinct districts, which retain their rich individual characters. Immerse yourself in the city's culture, entertainment and varied cuisine.
Barrio La Candelaria
This, Bogotá's oldest district and its historical center, dates back to the city's foundation. Keep your eyes open as you walk these streets as points of interest abound. The district is located between Calle 7 and Avenida Jiménez de Quesada, and between Carreras 1 and 15, and it is comprised of two distinct zones, easily distinguishable by their location and style. The residential sector lies toward the eastern hills. It is famous for its colonial houses with their wooden balconies and clay tile roofs. The once white walls are now painted in bright colors more in keeping with the spirit of the city. This area contains many places worth visiting, including
West of Carrera 7, you will find the
Nueva Santa Fe, part of a project to revive the city center, lies to the south of La Candelaria. The new neighborhood is a perfect example of late-20th-century architecture in Bogotá. Nearby, you will see the impressive
The area surrounding the
Characterized by its many parks and open green spaces, this is the best area for sports and relaxation in the west end of Bogotá. Come to walk, run or just sit. Features of the district include the Unidad Deportiva El Salitre, the
Also known as Calle 72, this is one of the most important business sectors in Bogotá. Perhaps the most interesting place in the area is the
This area between Calles 60 and 70 and between Avenida Caracas and Carrera 7 was one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Bogotá in the mid-20th Century. Although it has gradually lost its prestige over the years, it is now an important shopping area. You will also find interesting buildings here, including the Neo-Gothic church Nuestra Señora de Lourdes and the
On Avenida Ciudad de Quito, between Calles 53 and 63, lies the important sports and entertainment area of El Campín. Football (known in the United States as soccer) games are held regularly in the
Recently converted into the largest pedestrian-only zone in Bogotá, this area between Calles 72 and 100 has become one of the most important commercial districts in the north of the city. Along the length of the street you will find important cafés, restaurants and shops. Have a look at the
La Zona Rosa
This area is particularly famous for its restaurants and discotheques. The nightlife here is perhaps the liveliest in Bogotá. During the day, people come to shop, and at night they come to eat, dance and have fun. Into its small area, La Zona Rosa packs bars, restaurants and clubs that cater to every taste and every rhythm.
This route through the city's east hills has one of the widest assortments of restaurants and discotheques in Bogotá. The area offers spectacular views of the city both by day and by night. On the weekends, the Vía de La Calera attracts and challenges many cyclists, who ride up and down one of the steepest streets in the city.
Parque de la 93
Since its beautification, the area around this park has become one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Bogotá. The area is characterized by its wide range of international restaurants, many of which have terraces overlooking the park. This is an ideal place for a gastronomic tour of the five continents.
Bogotá offers the full range of regional Colombian cuisine, as well as just about every sort of foreign food - head to Carrera 7 for restaurants offering cheap set lunches. La Candelaria has lots of good cafes, while northern Bogotá prides itself on fine dining.
Bogotá is the geographical, political, cultural and financial center of the country. Colombians from all over the country live in the capital, bringing with them their customs, cultural expressions and traditional cuisine. There are many places in Bogotá where you can try delicacies from every region in the country, as well as many international restaurants from every country you can imagine. Whatever your tastes, there's an establishment somewhere in the city to satisfy them. There are restaurants in every corner of the city; however, many of the best restaurants center around the following hubs.
La Candelaria & Centro Internacional
La Candelaria is an area of the city center whose streets, churches and facades have witnessed three hundred years of history. The area has many fine examples of colonial architecture. Many restaurants are located in spacious houses built around beautiful patios. The most popular places here include Café de L'Avenir, Andante Ma Non Troppo, and Los Últimos Virreyes. Restaurante La Romana serves up Italian cuisine along with selling its dried pasta and other specialties for guests to take home. Habakkuk Burritos offers an interesting twist on something familiar with its Mexican/Asian fusion cuisine, along with the more basic, plain Mexican dishes.
In the exclusive Chapinero district, visitors will find a nice variety of upscale, delicious cuisine. For mouth-watering seafood, Restaurante Le Poivre serves it up, French style, with the ambiance to go with it. Close to the presidential residence is El Gabinete is a comfortable restaurant for all kinds of weather, with its cozy fireplace and outdoor patio for sunny days. The well known Pozzeto features traditional Italian dishes and live piano music on the weekends. Desayunadero de la 42 is open around the clock and specializes in northern Colombian cuisine, which includes plenty of roasted meats.
La Zona Rosa
The Zona Rosa lies in the north of the city, near the Andino shopping center between Calles 80 and 86, and Carreras 8 and 11. This is one of the main shopping areas in Bogotá, and the international array of cafés, restaurants, bars and discotheques here will appeal to all gastronomic tastes. There are typical Colombian restaurants such as Casa Vieja, and North American-style places such as Friday's and Tony Roma's. If you fancy seafood, try La Bodega Marina. For Mexican, try La Taquería or Harry's Cantina. And for Mediterranean, visit Niko Café. Some of these places function as eateries by day but at night turn into bars where you can dance and have a drink. Most establishments are open all week, but they tend to be livelier Thursday through Sunday.
El Parque de la 93
The area around Parque de la 93 is considered the most exclusive neighborhood in the north of the city. Cafés, bars, nightclubs, hotels and international restaurants surround the park. Most of the restaurants here have terraces with park views. The range of restaurants and international cuisines here should satisfy anyone. For a light snack or meal, try one of the many cafes, such as Crepes & Waffles. Hatsuhana and Kyoto Oriental Groceries serve such Eastern delicacies as sushi, teppanyaki and nabemono. Pesquera Jaramillo and El Buque serve fresh fish and seafood. For a taste of Spain, try Pajares Salinas.
Long before the Spanish conquest, the Sabana de Bogotá, a fertile highland basin which today has been almost entirely overtaken by the city, was inhabited by one of the most advanced pre-Columbian Indian groups, the Muisca. The Spanish era began when Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and his expedition arrived at the Sabana, founding the town on August 6, 1538 near the Muisca capital, Bacatá.
The town was named Santa Fe de Bogotá, a combination of the traditional name and Quesada's hometown in Spain, Santa Fe. Nonetheless, the town was simply referred to as Santa Fe throughout the colonial period.
At the time of its foundation, Santa Fe consisted of 12 huts and a chapel where a mass was held to celebrate the town's birth. The Muisca religious sites were destroyed and replaced by churches.
During the early years, Santa Fe was governed from Santo Domingo (on the island of Hispaniola, the present-day Dominican Republic). In 1550, however, it fell under the rule of Lima, the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru and the seat of Spain's power for the conquered territories of South America. In 1717, Santa Fe was made the capital of the Virreynato de la Nueva Granada, the newly created viceroyalty comprising the territories of present-day Colombia, Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador.
Despite its political importance, development was hindered by earthquakes, and the smallpox and typhoid epidemics that plagued the region throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.After independence, the Congress of Cúcuta shortened the town's name to Bogotá and decreed it the capital of Gran Colombia. The town developed steadily and by the middle of the 19th century it had 30,000 inhabitants and 30 churches. In 1884, the first tramway opened and, soon after, railway lines were constructed to La Dorada and Girardot, giving Bogotá access to the ports on the Magdalena River.
Rapid progress came in the 1940s with industrialization and subsequent peasant migration from the countryside. On 9 April 1948, the popular leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was assassinated, sparking the uprising known as El Bogotazo. The city was partially destroyed; 136 buildings were burnt to the ground and 2500 people died. Peace in Bogotá was again disturbed on November 6, 1985 when guerrillas of the M-19 Revolutionary Movement invaded the Palace of Justice - more than 300 civilians were taken hostage in the building. By the next day, 115 people were dead, including 11 supreme court justices.
The '80s and '90s were volatile for Bogotá. Although the big drug cartels were based in Medellín and Cali, many of the kidnappings and assassinations that marked their reign happened in the capital.
In recent decades, the city has continued to expand as the industrial, commercial and business center of the country.
On top of repelling anti-government insurgents and negotiating drug wars and trade, Bogotá is making significant progress in managing its massive population. Despite its troubles, steps have been made to keep the city green. Citizens have embraced an annual 'Car-Free Day Thursday' each year since 2000 - the whole urban area is restricted to cyclists, pedestrians, rollerbladers and users of publictransport. Improved security, infrastructure projects (such as the TransMilenio mass transit system) and a citywide clean-up campaign have all helped to bring a new face to the once-beleaguered metropolis.
What's more, Bogotá is developing a reputation in Latin America as a city of culture. It hosts the region's most prestigious celebration of theater, the biennial Iberoamerican Theater Festival, and, in 2007, was named Unesco's Book Capital of the World.