The Independent | 6/2/2010 12:00:00 AM
City Slicker: Bogota
June 2--Colombia's capital is shaking off its crime-ridden past. And, if you still crave election fever, it's just the place to go. Paul Bignell provides a guide.
Colombia's capital is buzzing right now because presidential elections are taking place on 30 May. Plus considerable new development is redefining the city. Indeed, Bogota is fast shaking off its crime-ridden image and becoming one of the most forward-thinking and prosperous cities in Latin America.
It benefits from a cool climate (by South American standards), sitting 2,600m above sea level and cradled by steep Andean peaks. Once you've acclimatised, there is much to see and do in this often ignored gateway city.
New areas such as the Macarena, an up-and-coming dining district, provide plenty of different forms of cuisine. But, best of all, are the restaurants that offer a modern take on traditional Colombian dishes, using regional ingredients. The nightlife's great, too. Hear the country's favourite music, vallenato – a sound first based around the German accordion a century ago but since updated – pounding out of the many clubs in the centre and northern districts of the city.
For a quiet, more cultured stay, there are beautiful 17th- and 18th-century churches to see and a cultural centre named after the country's most famous literary son, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which hosts a range of events.
The vast 1,700sq km metropolis suffers from congestion, but if you take a bike ride on a Sunday you can make the most of more than 100km of roads that are closed to cars. A new bus system, the TransMilenio, which is still in the process of being developed, links Bogota from north to south via its own road way, while the city's taxis also offer a very cheap way to get around.
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