the urbanist: bogotá

All Day and All Night in La Macarena, the Bushwick of Bogotá

La Piel Roja. Photo: @grandongatsby/Courtesy of La Piel Roja

Abutted by green hills, the bohemian streets of La Macarena might be the most charming in Bogotá. Apart from the landmark Santamaría Bullring, now a cultural space, and a few museums, most of the neighborhood remains blessedly off the tourist trail. Expats, writers, and artists make their home here, and the barrio has become a breeding ground for innovative restaurants, progressive galleries, and wild rumba clubs. We asked a quartet of locals who live and work in the neighborhood where they like to hang out.

Antonuela Ariza, founder Selva Nevada ice cream

La Monferrina is a casual Italian restaurant, opened in 2008 by Sebastián Bedoya. He and his father, Mario, are always there to offer the day’s specials with a smile and a list of fresh ingredients. I recommend their provoleta, queso fundido with Paipa De Origen cheese, the osso buco, or the tagliatelle with shrimp and spinach.”

Plaza de la Perseverancia. Photo: Fabricio Galindo/ Courtesy of La Perseverancia

“The market at Plaza de La Perseverancia is best known for its small eateries owned by women from many different cities of Colombia, which makes it rich in flavors and dishes. Some of the women have been cooking there for three generations and each has a special recipe. Menus change daily, but the last Friday of every month, there is a festival that offers special regional dishes, like ceviches and whole fried fish. It is open for lunch only.”

“Inside the Museo Nacional, El Panóptico offers a view and a taste of traditional, but not common, Colombian dishes, plus regional ingredients in dishes like braised beef neck with açaí sauce or samai, a tender vegetable and peanut soup. The flavors complement a visit to the museum, as both explore important parts of our culture.”

Donostia. Photo: Courtesy of Donostia

“Tomás Rueda has been promoting family-style cuisine since he opened Donostia in 2002. He takes it to the next level with carefully made stews and big, generous pieces of beef with vegetables, along with other Colombian delicacies.”

Mónica Páez, co-founder of Tangrama graphic design studio

La Ceiba Pasteleria is a small bakery that invites you to linger around. They have a variety of local desserts and baked goods worth trying, like the almojábanas and pandebonos [cheese breads], the torta de coco [coconut cake], and corn breads that are some of our favorites at the studio.”

“Built between 1968 and 1970, and designed by the architect Rogelio Salmona, the three residential towers, Las Torres del Parque, look over Parque de la Independencia and the Plaza de Toros, which is no longer used as a bullfighting ring, but rather a stage for concerts and plays. There are many communal areas within the towers that are open to the public and worth visiting before taking a stroll in the park.”

Espacio El Dorado. Photo: Courtesy of Espacio El Dorado

Espacio El Dorado is a contemporary gallery with four interconnected spaces and a focus on solo shows. If you keep walking south on Carrera 5ta, you will find another series of exhibition spaces, like NC-arte, which is supported by the Fundación Neme. Their program has strong support for the development of site-specific projects from contemporary artists.”

Catalina Salguero, founder of Valenzuela Klenner Galería

“You can usually smell bread baking in the streets outside of Azimos, which is part gourmet bakery, part health-conscious restaurant, part organic food shop. Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, you’ll find something there, from corn and cheese arepas to squash pancakes with plum syrup. On Saturdays, they have an organic market, selling ingredients from farmers from the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, the high plateau outside of the city.”

“There’s something trendy about Andante, but it’s one of the most reliable cafés in the neighborhood. I come for the pizzas or the chocolate and almond bread, but there are good coffee drinks, traditional breakfasts like calentados [mixed plates of rice, beans, potatoes, and meat], or pastas later in the day.”

La Piel Roja. Photo: @grandongatsby/Courtesy of La Piel Roja

“The best place to rumba is at La Piel Roja, a straightforward criolla restaurant by day that turns into a raucous disco bar at night. They’ll play everything from salsa to merengue to tropical to plancha ’80s, plus will bring in big-name DJs from other parts if Colombia. There’s usually a 15,000 COP [$5 USD] cover.”

María Uribe Olarte, subdirector of La Balsa Arte

Luvina. Photo: Courtesy of Luvina/Facebook

Luvina is a bookstore and coffee shop frequented by artists and bohemian characters in the neighborhood. It’s something of a cultural center with frequent readings and exhibitions. There’s a large selection of books, some of them in English, and their shopkeeper can help you sort through sections on poetry, novels, and essays. It’s a great place to find a book and have a coffee.”

“Almost everything at Anna & Otto is cooked in a wood-fired oven, and it’s a great place to have pizza and drinks with good service. It’s run by a Dutch chef and DJ and his Colombian hostel-owning partner. For a starter, I recommend ordering the peas baked with Parmesan.”

“I always go to Almacén Soluciones when I want to get one of those things I don’t need but really want. The gift shop is located inside the Torres del Parque and you can indulge yourself with books, notebooks, bags, art objects, and all-around designy things.”

A Neighborhood Guide to La Macarena, the Bushwick of Bogotá