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by Grace Bastidas

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At 8,660 feet above sea level, Bogotá offers many highs beyond simple altitude. The Colombian capital not only has funky shops, dazzling museums, and fine restaurants, but it’s also home to Latin America’s first LGBT Center (Calle 66 No. 9A-2B, Tel: 57-1-210-0999), a community space that opened its doors in December of 2006. “This place represents an important step towards changing the mind of a conservative Catholic society,” says director Iván Angel Manrique, who has already welcomed thousands of residents inside this two-story brick building.

The center is firmly planted in Chipinero, a progressive neighborhood paved with rainbow flags and bustling with café-bars that cater to a pre-rumba (party) crowd. You can kick off the night with a little bar hopping as early as 5 P.M., when most spots open their doors. Start out at the city’s oldest gay coffeehouse, the revered Village Café (Carrera 8 No. 64-29, Tel: 57-1-346-6592), which is hidden behind a nondescript pink façade. Inside, the décor is also plain but the refreshing margaritas and impeccable service make up for any cosmetic flaws. Don’t forget to ask the friendly waiters for the inside track on what’s happening in town that week—they seem to know everything and everyone. Next, visit the newest (and trendiest) kid on the block, Palo Santo Café (Carrera 13A No. 79-20, Tel: 57-1-610-7656., where you can enjoy a coconut martini on one of the comfortable couches while listening to a selection of lounge, ambient, and house music played by an eager to please DJ. Another worthwhile stop is the Asian-themed Kiotho (Calle 66 No. 10-75, Tel: 57-1-211-4068), a converted garage that feels like a cozy den with its low tables, floor cushions for seats, and candlelit glow. The very handsome owners even offer complimentary I-Ching readings for those desperate to know what the night holds.

Once you’ve warmed up, head to Bogotá’s biggest gay disco, Theatron (Calle 58 No. 10-34, Tel: 57-1-249-2092., which can hold up to 5,000 revelers amid a whirl of flashing lights, drag shows, and go-go boys. Located in the former home of the Metro Riviera movie theater, the multi-level space has five different clubs—Lux, Teatrino, Chillout, Lottus, and Theatron—that cater to everyone from house-heads to lounge lizards. All of them are open to women, except for Lottus (Calle 58 No. 10-42, Tel: 57-1-249-2092), a new addition that draws international DJs like Ministry of Sound’s Mark Knight.

Of course, on select Sundays the only place to be is Cha Cha (Carrera 7a, No. 32-26, Tel: 57-1-350-5074. for their biweekly “Sungay” party that benefits gay rights organization Colombia Diversa ( Housed in the 41st-floor ballroom of what was once the Hilton Hotel, the nightclub is elegantly dressed in red and yellow tones with crystal chandeliers. The only thing that distracts from the scene is the building’s magnificent city view.

When it comes time for sleep, visitors can rest their heads in one of the new upscale hotels in Northern Bogotá, where there are plenty of options for even the most finicky guest. Grand House (Carrera 18 No. 93-97, Tel: 57-1-403-4000. is a 64-room property that provides refined service in an intimate setting. Designed by Colombian architect Luis Restrepo, who is known for his modern, fluid spaces, the hotel is minimalist yet warm and inviting. Suites are equipped with Jacuzzis and L’Occitane bath products, ensuring a great start to any day. The restaurant on the lower level serves a complimentary breakfast with exotic fruit juices and fresh-baked bread.



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Another beautifully appointed hotel is 104 Art Suites (Cra. 18A No. 104-77, 57-1-6025959., a small property imagined by young Colombian artists craving an inspirational space where they could observe and interact with art. The hotel is swathed in black, white, and red, and filled with contemporary pieces, as well as modern amenities (wifi, stereo, chimney) in every room.

A quick cab ride away is Centro Andino (Carrera 11 No. 82-71, Tel: 57-1-621-3111., a popular meeting spot for serious shoppers. The mall has familiar stores like Montblanc, Bulgari, and Louis Vuitton alongside Colombian chains. On the first floor don’t miss Libreria Nacional (Locale 122, Tel: 57-1-256-5446), a reader’s paradise, especially since Bogotá was named UNESCO’s World Book Capital in 2007. On the second floor, Emerald World Joyeria (Locale 218, Tel: 57-1-616-1554) beckons with sparkling jewelry featuring Colombia’s most exquisite stone. If you still have more cash to blow, there are a variety of designer stores steps away from Centro Andino. Ricardo Pava’s eponymous shop (Calle 84 No. 13-17, Tel: 57-1-256-6887. caters to avant-garde men with a taste for monochromatic fabrics. The Bogotá-born designer, who studied fashion design and art history in Italy, makes clothes that are classic yet innovative. He is especially adept at creating tailored suits and sleek jackets that fit the contours of a man’s body.

Soak up some culture in the colonial quarter of La Candelaria, considered the heart and soul of Bogotá. Tiled rooftops, ornate balconies, and cobblestone streets lead the way to small galleries and world-class museums. The crown jewel is the Gold Museum (Calle 16 No. 5-41, Tel: 57-1-284-7450), which has the world’s biggest collection of pre-Colombian artifacts. Founded in 1939 to preserve Colombia’s archaeological heritage, the institution is currently under renovation and will reopen in a new building later in 2008. Till then, you can see two floors that were renewed a few years ago with displays of dazzling gold, pottery, wood, stone, and textile objects.

A short walk away is the Donación Botero (Calle 11 No. 4-41, Tel: 57-1-343-1340), located in a beautifully restored mansion that showcases the work of Latin America’s most famous artist, Fernando Botero. The Colombian painter and sculptor, known for his corpulent figures, donated his own works to the museum as well as pieces by Matisse, Picasso, Dalí, and other greats from his private collection.


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Hola, planeo visitar bogota pronto, me gustaria saber cual es el chicest restaurant and the chicest store to shop!!(like barneys or colette..
- hernan ortiz , ny,ny

Que buen articulo y que buen consejo del hotel Grand House para noches romanticas. Fui con mi pareja a disfrutar la noche especial y quede encantada! excelente servicio y la decoración del restaurante y habitación espectacular.
- Carolina , Bogotá

- DORIS MOYAN , bogota-colombia

For a complete Bogota travel guide go to
- JhonR , Bogota, Colombia

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