Big on Bogotá

Bogotá boasts the world’s best coffee and a whole lot more.

Colombia’s capital city has a population of 7.5 million, making it quite a bit larger than many major US cities. In a kickback to days gone by, the sight of horse drawn carts — 2,890 of them in total — is modern luxury cars in Bogotá city traffic. In an effort to merge this image with that of the city’s modernity, there is an effort underway to rehouse and replace animals with trucks, allowing owners to continue trawling streets for paper, cardboard, metal, wire, and junk to recycle for cash.

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Bogotá, Colombia: Land of Bolívar

bogotaTony Wheeler, co-founder of Lonely Planet, reminds us that Bogotá is high up in the hills… twice as high as Katmandu. He suggests climbing even higher for a great view atop Cerro de Monserrate, accessible right from the center of town near the Plaza Bolivar. Take it slow and leave an hour for a walk slowed by the altitude.

From backpacker hostels to boutique hotels, Bogotá has a wide range of accommodation. In La Caneleria, the historic district, Hotel de la Opera is a colonial luxury property with thermal spa. Views from its romantic rooftop terrace at Restaurant El Mirador look out onto the domes of the Church of Saint Ignacio. B.O.G. Hotel with 55 roooms is the city’s first design-centric property, featuring a spa and Restaurant Espinosa, opened in 2012. A TripAdvisor favorite among travelers is the JW Marriott, singled out for its location, service, spa, lap pool and fine dining. Before a meal, visit the Marriott’s Dry 73 for as many different martinis as the name suggests. La Mina is considered one of Bogota’s best restaurants, where both steak and lobster are featured on the menu.

Bogotá is receiving lots of press for ita culinary scene of late, as up-and-coming chefs are returning from high-profile training with world-renowned celebrity chefs. A star of local food television programming, Chef Leonor Espinosa has three restaurants; Mercado is the newest based on an all-Colombian organic farm-to-table formula. Andrés D.C. gets mixed reviews but plenty of attention for its two locations, both crowded and cavernous, where dinner is a theatrical experience. And Condé Nast Traveler cites Chef Silvana Villegas as one to watch, with Masa opened in 2011 after her return home from a stint with Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It would be a shame to leave Bogota without sampling a tapas meal; head for La Taperia or Tapas Macarena. Others say that if you’re in Bogotá, you mustn’t leave without Amazonian juices and grilled blowfish with ceviche from Mini Mal, in a cul-de-sac off the busy 7th Avenue.

And everybody raves about Colombian coffee, of course. With so many choices, it may require a Colombian coffee tour to determine a favorite.

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