Romance the Past in Bogotá

1. Where to Stay

Sleep well in a suite at the Sofitel Victoria Regia.

Find comfortable but basic amenities at the Sofitel Victoria Regia(from $260), the red-brick faux-colonial preferred by business travelers for its reliable Wi-Fi connection and small but well-equipped gym. Walk to many of the city’s top bars and restaurants, then return for a quiet night in your well-insulated room.

Feel like a VIP at the sprawling, grandiose 578-room Tequendama (from $165), where you’ll pass visiting dignitaries and government officials in the lobby on your way out to the major museums and downtown business district.

Experience a slice of colonial nostalgia at the 43-room Hotel de La Opera (from $178), where fourteen-foot ceilings and original furnishings evoke the grandeur of Bogotá’s pre-Republic heritage. The historic mansion, dating back to 19th century, is located next to the gilded Teatro Colón.

2. Where to Eat

Inside the dining room at Andres Carne de Res.

Prime for a night out at 14 Inkas (Cra. 12 No. 84-85; 471-257-4824), where the mod, white interior and pre-club crowd are a sleek backdrop to an assortment of traditional Peruvian ceviches.

Turn your meal into spectacle at Andrés Carne de Res, a 700-seat carnivorium on the outskirts of town, where massive cuts of beef are paired with liter-sized margaritas, folksy merengue singing, and salsa dancers. Reservations are essential, but you’ll still wait for a table.

Take a self-guided food tour along Calle 29 in San Martín district, which is emerging as a culinary hub for pan-Mediterranean eateries. Try housemade pumpkin ravioli at the sun-drenched Gigi Trattoria (Bis No. 5-74; 571-232-7122), Colombian-style chuleta de cerdo (BBQ pork ribs) at Donostia (Bis No. 5-89; 571-287-3943), or a variety of Spanish tapas at Rueda’s Tabula (Bis No. 5-90; 571-287-7228).

3. What to Do

Inside Museo Botero, left, and the square in La Candelaria, right.Photo: Diego en Bogotá (Museum); arafi (Statue);

Bogotá’s shopping scene is where Andean craftsmanship meets innovation and affordability. Start at Revérsika (Atlantis Plaza, Shop 308; 571-531-0770), where reversible street-skater-style clothing gives you two outfits for the price of one. At nearby Deimos Arte, hunt for intricately wrought treasures like woven-leather baskets and carved wooden trays at reasonable prices. Also within walking distance is Silvia Tcherassi’s flagship boutique—her couture-worthy, body-hugging creations look even better with the favorable exchange rate.

Find haven from Bogotá’s daily rains in the city’s cluster of museums. Begin at the eponymous colonial-era house of native son Fernando Botero , where over 100 of his abstract works hang alongside Dalís, Renoirs, and Picassos. The nearby National Museum was once the site of the Panóptico prison and now displays Colombian artifacts in the converted jail cells. Be dazzled at the Museo del Oro (Calle16 No. 5-41, Parque de Santander; 571-343-2221), reopened in 2008 after a decade spent in renovation, and its 6,500-piece collection of gold masks, crowns, and ceremonial vessels dating back more than 2,000 years.

Take in Bogotá’s eclectic architecture with a late-day amble around La Candelaria, the city’s original colonial center. The newly chic quarter abounds with sixteenth-century terracotta-tiled homes and baroque churches; wander amid the imperial Spanish splendor before stopping for a caffeine perk at the Juan Valdez Café. The ground-floor coffee shop is located inside the Centro Cultural Gabriel García Márqueza mainstay of contemporary Colombian architecture.

4. Insider’s Tip

A typical night on the massive dancefloor at Theatron.

Despite a strong Church influence and traditional machismo, Bogotá has emerged as Latin America’s unlikeliest gay mecca. There are some 100 GLBT bars and a thriving gay hood (Chapinero Alto), and same-sex civil unions were legalized this year. Witness the progress firsthand at gay Bogotá’s hottest nightlife spots including Theatron, a massive disco housed in a former cinema, and the aptly named Brokeback Mountain Café and Bar (Cra. 9A #60-25; 571-542-5683), which has nightly karaoke.

5. Oddball Day

The village of Villa de Leyva.Photo: adrimcm

Do as posh Bogatenos do and head for the hills, specifically to the charming town of Villa de Leyva, about three hours west of the capital by car or bus. Nestled amid the towering Andes, the town is a postcard-ready mix of cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses, and horse-drawn carriages. Make your base at the Hotel Boutique Candelaria (from $65), a quiet, five-room bed-and-breakfast that’s a short stroll from the main square. Visit nearby pre-Colombian temples at the hillside site known as Sachica, or see a 40-foot, 100-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton at the kid-friendly Paleontology Museum (578-732-0466). Later, shop for handcrafted leather goods at Ricardo Luna (Calle 13, no 7-42; 573 15 311 3851) before retiring for drinks at La Chicheria del Pote (Mercado Guaca), which specializes in chicha, a local liquor made of corn.

6. Links

22 Places to Go in Bogotá is a clever collection of Bogotá’s urban best.

Map y Map details the hip shopping, hotels, dining, and nightlife around Zona T, Bogotá’s happening leisure district.

For the best of Colombia’s booming GLBT culture, Guia Gay Colombia details the country’s entire scene.

Romance the Past in Bogotá