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BOGOTÁ: 2600 Meters Closer to the Stars

Contributed with love and by Kelly Talamas – an Editor and Creative Director, who has called Miami, Mexico and now, Colombia her home. You can find her work in the Mexican and Latin American version of Vogue. The last ten years working at the title have taken her on trips all around the region, making her an expert on the creative scenes around the Latin capitals. She appreciates qualitative, locally made design, a good boutique hotel, travel photography, and old school hip hop. Ask her to rap, and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Rise and Shine – 

My favorite morning plan is taking a long walk around the Parque Virrey, a luscious green oasis in the Chicó neighborhood. About halfway through the park you’ll find Canasto, a cute café nestled into a corner with an outdoor terrace that looks onto the crowds outside. The terrace is conveniently covered, since rain is a constant in the city. I opt for one of my preferred dishes – the mango and piña bowl, the avocado on beet toast or the banana and oatmeal pancakes. They pride themselves on offering conscious food, meaning everything on their menu is not only healthy, but also locally sourced. They have a deliciously frothy cappuccino, which I often order several of. Tip: arrive early since it fills up quickly, especially on weekends.

Take me outdoors – 

One thing I discovered almost immediately after my move to Bogotá is that it’s a city most enjoyed by early risers. The sun rises and sets quite early year-round, therefore in order to get the most of your day, setting an early alarm clock is highly suggested. The good thing is that outdoor, morning activities abound. I love taking a hike up Quebrada La Vieja, a green paradise in the center of the city that leads you up a winding path to the most breathtaking views. It’s open from 5 – 10 AM everyday. Another option is hiking up to Monserrate. While Monserrate is a tourist destination with a Catholic Sanctuary atop of the cerro, or hill, that is 3,152 m above sea level, the walk up is quite spectacular. To go back down, hop on the cable car to head straight to brunch. I’d suggest doing the latter midweek to avoid crowds.

For leisure strolling and inspiration, head to La Candelaria, which is the historic part of town. This idyllic neighborhood consists of narrow cobble-stoned streets lined with colorful, colonial houses, authentic restaurants, as well as libraries, museums, theaters, churches and more, which are perfect to wander around and get lost in for a few hours. If here on a Sunday, stop through the San Alejo flea market for antiques or local crafts.

My culture dose in the city –

La Candelaria, is my go-to when looking for cultural enrichment. This is where the Plaza de Bolivar is located, as well as Casa Nariño, the presidential palace. In this neighborhood, is where you’ll find historical, yet still fully functioning buildings such as Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Municipal Theater, where the International Jazz Festival is held, or the Teatro Colón, Colombia’s national theater. where you can catch one of the many musicals, operas or ballets offered at any given time of year. Here you can also visit museums such as the MAMBO (Museo de Arte Moderno Bogota), the Museo de Oro or the Museo Botero.

The gallery scene –

San Felipe, or Bogota’s new art district, is quickly gaining popularity for those in the know, with contemporary art galleries such as FLORA arts + nature, a gallery and artist residence run by Jose Roca. There’s also Instituto de Visión and Sketch. In La Macarena, I love Claudia Hakim’s NC-Arte gallery, as well as Espacio El Dorado just next door. A nice plan on a Saturday is to visit both galleries, then head to lunch at Donostia, a Spanish restaurant for cañas and tapas. Catalina Casas’ Galeria Casas Riegner is a recognized institution for Colombian art, representing artists such as Mateo Lopez and the maestro Antonio CaroEspacio Odeón is noteworthy, as well. What was once a theatre and actually remains an architecturally protected patrimony has been renovated into a multidisciplinary cultural space. At the end of October during art week in Bogota, you’ll find Feria Odeón here, a platform that was created as an alternative to traditional art fairs, and is always a highlight during this time of year.

Feed me! Lunch & Dinner –

For lunch I would recommend Café Bar Universal. For rainy Bogota days, I come here to feel like I’m somewhere else. The interior design transports you immediately to somewhere far away in the Caribbean, with black and white tiled floors, and palms all around. The owners promise a unique gastronomical experience with only the best local ingredients and a menu subject to change daily based on what Mother Nature offers that week. Design-wise, Juana La Loca’s minimalist interior by Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld, is also a feast for the eyes.

For dinner, head to the up and coming Chapinero Alto neighborhood. Villanos en Bermudas is the brainchild of Argentian chef Nicolás López and Mexican chef Sergio Meza (aka the Villanos). Housed in a three-story colonial home with original tile and wooden floors, its walls are decorated by local artists, including a few by Nicolás himself, whose creative hand goes beyond the gastronomical. Stop for a pre-dinner drink at the bar on the second floor before being escorted to your table on the first or third floor. If you’re lucky, you can grab a seat at the chef’s table and watch the Villanos in action as they prepare their degustation menu, which is re-imagined weekly based on the freshest local ingredients available. Tip: By reservation only.

Another favorite is Casa Lelyte, which functions as a quaint, four bedroom boutique hotel for visitors, an art gallery for local artists who can exhibit their pieces throughout the house, as well as a bar and gourmet vegetarian restaurant with a cuisine inspired by New York’s Dirt Candy, on the first floor, which has become a local favorite. The retro interior design by architect Pedro Olarte is one of the restaurants best treats.

For an alcoholic or caffeinated afternoon fix –

For an afternoon drink, stop by El Bandido, nestled in at the end of Calle de Anticuarios, this restaurant and bar offers a vintage speakeasy feel, with retro, mismatched furniture (possibly hailing from the many vintage furniture stores that line the street), and a magnificently imposing bar in the center, that leads out onto a covered terrace, a preferable option when the weather permits.

If one drink leads to another, continue the conversation over at El Enano, a hidden bar found only by those who stumble into the corner at the end of El Bandido. Inspired by the American Bar, this cozy space with limited seating is ideal for an intimate rendez-vous.

Hidden book stores –

Nada, hidden just on top of Cine Tonalá, is a local gem, selling books by (mostly local) independent authors and publishing houses. Here you can find neat and quirky books for the most eccentric of coffee tables and bookshelves. I also love visiting Centro Cultural Gabriel Garcia Márquez, a public space in La Candelaria created to promote the relationship between Mexican and Colombian cultures. It offers academic and cultural programs throughout the year, and is home to a significant bookstore, mostly with Spanish language titles, but also interesting coffee table books to take home or buy as presents.

More art (duh) but NOT in the shape of a gallery or a museum –

As far as artist studios, I love Casa Amaral, which is the creative haven of artist couple Olga de Amaral and Jim Amaral in the Quinta Camacho neighborhood.

Hidden deep within the center of town is Jorge Lizarazo’s – the architect-turned textile artist behind Hechizoo – beautiful studio where if you’re lucky enough to be invited to visit, you can witness Jorge at work with the artisans on many one-of-a-kind woven rugs, tapestries or curtain fabrics for his national and international clients.

Treasure Hunting in Bogotá –

In the early AM, head to Paloquemao for the best local fruits and flowers. Many may not be aware that Colombia is home to such an exotic variety of flowers, which they then ship all over the world. This market gives you a taste of the country’s natural richness.

Calle de Anticuarios is a charming, dead-end street, where you can spend a few hours popping in and out of boutiques. Here you can find anything from antique stores to concept stores with some of the country’s best local fashion designers, interior design and home décor spaces, as well as restaurants.

For the best in selection and design of typical local artisan craftwork and souvenirs, stop by Artesanias de Colombia. I love coming here not only to buy presents when heading back home or traveling abroad, but I‘ve also found pieces to decorate our apartment with fun, authentic Colombian accents.

Miscelánea Popular is quite possibly one of my favorites for finding unique home and table décor pieces. Created and curated by Jorge Lizarazo, here you can find not only a few of his creations, but also pieces commissioned by Jorge from Colombian, Peruvian, Brazilian and Mexican artisans, all products that tell a story and add cultural and geographical richness to your home.

Get me tipsy, take me dancing and feel me up – 

For an authentic, fun without the frills, dance all night type of evening, go to El Bembé, a Cuban restaurant and bar in La Macarena where you can brush up on your salsa skills. If those are non-existent, just merely observing the colorful eye candy on the dance floor while sipping on a Mojito is enough. Another option is the city version of Cartagena’s famous Quiebra-Canto salsa bar.

What’s your favorite thing about Bogotá –

The soothing color of emerald green mountains all around, warmly embracing the bustling Colombian capital of 8 million inhabitants. I grew up all my life at sea level, surrounded by flat landscapes, so mountains have always provoked a childlike feeling of awe and amazement within me. That and the beautiful, unexpected flowers sprinkled all over the city.

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