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June 03rd, 2016

Top 5 bars and cafes in Bogota

During his year spent teaching English in Bogota, David had plenty of time to discover the city's best bars and cafes for a laid-back "trago". Here he shares his top 5 spots:

La Chocolateria


This is a delightfully homely, rustic little chocolate shop complete with top-to-bottom wooden decor and a French gastronomically-trained local lady who produces small, artisanal chocolates (flavours including mint, salt, rum and ginger), exquisite chocolate beverages and even chocolate fondue for all those who’ve struggled the worthwhile climb up to Bogota’s charming La Macarena neighbourhood. This little-known chocolate haven embodies all the quirky qualities of the eccentric artist commune in which it is situated: on entering, one is struck by a serene tranquillity and spirituality that is rather “un-Bogotano” in nature. It only seats about 10 people so always feels cosy and intimate, and often lulls you into whiling away the entire afternoon perusing some of the wide variety of books (from Argentine History to world philosophy) found in its mini library. (Address: Carrera 4A No. 26B - 12 - La Macarena – Bogotá)

Cafe Usaquen

In north Bogota’s verdant, cobble-stoned artist colony, Usaquen is home to a Sunday flea market (including an off-the-wall, bespoke cobbler), an international art-house cinema, and a quaint, old church as its centrepiece. There’s even the excellent Italian restaurant Amarti which, with its seductive interior design combining wooden, chalet aesthetics and enormous ceiling-to-floor windows, along with its all-evening projections of Charlie Chaplin films on an opposite wall, provides a wonderful atmosphere and irresistible dishes. Set back from the main square in a hidden side-street, however, is one of Bogota’s secret gems. Cafe Usaquen offers a sophisticated yet calming space where you can recline on the antique furniture whilst drinking in the locally-painted artwork and indulge oneself in a variety of Argentine delicacies. Owned and run by a friendly Buenos Airen lady, this cafe’s authentically Argentine empanadas are outstanding, using imported ingredients direct from Argentina. To accompany any snack, their stock of sumptuous Malbec red wine (also sourced from her homeland) makes for a wonderful afternoon before your evening’s events ensue. (Address: Calle 118 # 5-09, Bogota)

A Seis Manos

Self-promoted as a restaurant-cum-cultural-space, A Seis Manos is a first in Bogota – a designated art-space converted from an industrial warehouse. Once you step in off the rather ordinary street, the unexpectedly colourful walls and wooden beams that glue A Seis Manos together almost overwhelm you. Named after the two Colombian and four French hands that helped construct this establishment, the principal owner, Juan-Carlos Mazo, now uses A Seis Manos as much as a platform to promote his own theatre company’s productions as for the language cultural exchange evenings that originally made his venue famous. Whether full of hundreds of 20 and 30 year old travellers and locals congregating to practice everything from Russian to Spanish to French to Portuguese to English, or overflowing with some of Bogota’s finest salsa dancers ramba-ing uninhibitedly to some of Colombia’s most exciting live salsa bands, or even being used for their monthly film nights, Mazo has created a space that Bogota’s burgeoning community of artists and creatives have long sought. It welcomes all regardless of nationality, class, sexuality, ethnicity or artistic preferences– and still manages to maintain its delicious, homely kitchen service. (Address: Calle 22 No 8-60/62, Bogota)

El Gato Gris

Hidden amongst the maze of winding passageways that make up Bogota’s colonial centre known as “La Candelaria”, El Gato Gris offers visitors a soothing way of soaking up the Colombian capital’s old charm whilst sipping one of its warming beverages (the latter of which is often rather necessary given the high altitude city’s comparatively ‘cool’ 21˚C average temperature). Architecturally-speaking, this bar/cafe rather resembles the end result of a child’s wild reimagining of their fantasy home. The rickety network of winding stairs that ascends to the seventh floor leads visitors up past each contrastingly decorated and furnished landing. So whether you opt for the third floor lounge, the fifth floor internal balcony or the top floor roof terrace overlooking the city, El Gato Gris offers a lovely spot to enjoy a relaxed lunch, pause for an afternoon coffee power-up or share an evening bottle of wine whilst listening to the seductive melodies of a local bolero act. (Address: Carrera 1A # 12B–12, Bogota)


Ristorante ‘Liberty’

Nestled amongst the smattering of La Macarena’s chic, new eateries is a stand-out spot known for its excellent French cuisine. Liberty is a vibrantly coloured and slightly zanily decorated bistro that has positioned itself towards the upper end of Bogota’s burgeoning restaurant market. No matter whether you are after a grandiose Sunday lunch or an intimate setting for a quiet evening meal, this corner of the city, and this particular establishment, will satisfy your every need. The French onion soup is excellent, the variety of traditional dishes (including a succulent boeuf bourguignon) is surprisingly authentic and the sense of occasion and attention to detail renders this a true delight to sit and dine in. (Address: Carrera 4a # 27-42)


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