More Than Just Hookers And Blow In Bogotá, The Athens Of Latin America
Bogotá is overlooked because of some unfortunate and misleading stereotypes.
The first stereotype is that Colombia’s cartels and rebel groups run rampant and violently target foreigners. Countrywide, cartel and rebel groups are losing support among the general population in Colombia, and their tactics reflect that. Drug cartels are looking for new countries to serve as their safe havens. The FARC is negotiating for peace with the government. This is not your grandparents’ Colombia. Everywhere in Colombia is safer than you think, including Bogotá.
The second stereotype that continues to keep people away from Bogotá relates to the city’s culture and entertainment options. Bogotá’s legal prostitution industry has received a fair amount of air time from U.S. media.
It needs to be said that entertainment in Bogotá is not all hookers and cocaine. During my recent visit to the city, I failed to encounter either. What I did find were museums, art galleries, cafés, restaurants, and lounges—all full of ordinary folks enjoying themselves as like anywhere else.
Bogotá is the fastest-growing major city in Latin America (expected to reach 25 million inhabitants by 2038), so it’s no surprise that it’s full of culture and entertainment. With more than 100 post-secondary institutions in the city, it’s even been dubbed the Athens of Latin America.
To satisfy all those inquisitive student minds, Bogotá has more than 50 museums, 60 art galleries, 30 libraries, 40 theaters, and 150 national monuments. Many are located in the historic neighborhood of La Candelaria, and often entrance is only a few bucks, if not free. Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle would have had a field day here.
For history buffs, the Colombian National Museum is a must-see. It’s the biggest and oldest museum in Colombia and one of the oldest on the continent. Built as a prison in 1823, the building and its 104 prison cells ceased holding prisoners in 1946. In 1975, the place re-opened as a museum and today houses 20,000 pieces related to Colombia’s history, art, and culture. Some of the artifacts date back 12,000 years.
For those who enjoy the arts, Bogotá’s Botero Museum is home to more than 100 works of internationally renowned Fernando Botero, famous for his politically charged and sometimes humorous paintings of people with extremely bloated bodies. The museum also features dozens of works from other Colombian and international artists, including Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.
Colombia’s history and artwork aren’t the only types of treasure on display in this city. The Gold Museum’s 35,000 pieces of Tumbaga gold constitute the largest collection of pre-Colombian gold in the world.
For the sports fan in Bogotá, it’s all football. And be sure to call it “football”; no one here calls it soccer. The type of football played in the NFL is referred to as American football, in case you’re wondering.
Bogotá is a host city for the 2016 FIFA World Cup for indoor football. For league play, three professional teams are located in Bogotá.
Fun for the whole family can be found at the Children’s Museum, an 86,000-square-foot exhibition of science, technology, culture, and the arts. Established in 1986 with the goal of educating children with a learning through playing approach, the museum sees some 150,000 visitors per year, with more than two-thirds of them children under 11 years of age.
The fun learning opportunities aren’t just for kids. The city’s planetarium, located in Independence Park, offers a stunning laser light show.
Of course, being a student isn’t all about books and lectures and archives. In Bogotá, it’s learn hard, play hard.
The Zona Rosa is Bogotá’s top-tier nightlife neighborhood, with clubs, pubs, and eateries scattered throughout. A restaurant with a wild side, Andrés Carne de Res D.C. is a great spot for quality food, creative cocktails, and a lively dance floor.
If you can arrange the transportation, the original Andrés Carne de Res—a 3-square-mile entertainment complex—located just outside of the city limits, is even wilder. The 11 dining areas, 2 dance floors, 5 kitchens, and even a climbing wall entertains thousands of visitors on any given weekend.
Be careful not to confuse Zona Rosa with Zona Roja (one translates to “pink zone” and the other to “red zone”). As you may guess, the red zone is Bogotá’s red-light district. Bike tours (not kid-friendly) through Zona Roja’s seedy streets are offered by Bogotá Bike Tours, but generally this area is best to be avoided.
Unless, of course, you’re a U.S. Secret Service agent. If that’s the case, just be sure to pay your bill.
Editor’s Note: Our upcoming Live and Invest in Colombia Conference will showcase the best of this country, including Bogotá, Medellín, Cartagena, and many appealing cities, towns, and mountain spots in between.
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