So often the backpacker travel style can leave you in a rut where dressing up means putting on a “clean” set of pants and “going out” for the night means a beer at the hostel bar. This is a shame, especially in countries like Colombia where the nightlife is a vital part of the culture. Colombians love to dress up and go out – for dancing, drinking, and socializing.
Bogota, being the capital, has some of the best bars and restaurants in all of South America. Most backpackers stay in the La Candelaria area but for a true local nightlife experience, you need to head north.
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Starting around Calle 79 and between Carreras 11-15, Zona Rosa is one of Bogota’s hippest neighborhoods. It has a youthful vibe and enough clubs and bars to keep you busy for a year full of weekends. The Zone is very popular with upperclass Colombians and the prices reflect this. Most of the clubs charge covers and speciality parties or events can cost you up to 50,000 pesos just to get in.
On the edges of the zone, the clubs get a bit smaller and cheaper. These bars also tend to attract a slightly younger crowd. In the center of the zone, the larger clubs sit side-by-side with equally popular casinos, boutique shops, and a mall filled with only the highest name-brand designers. Head here on the weekends, even if you can’t afford the cover charges, to just people watch. This is where you will see the whos-whos of Colombia all dressed to kill.
In the center of Zona Rosa is a small zone – Zona T – named after the T shaped intersection of two pedestrian-only streets. This is the best place to head if your idea of a night-out is more about a nice dinner then a loud club. The two streets are lined with great restaurants (try Wok for great Asian food) and more casual bars (the Irish pub is a favorite of foreigners and locals alike).
If you can’t make it to Zona T at night, stop by this area at least for an afternoon. The sidewalk cafes fill up with a diverse crowd at lunch everyday and there are sometimes art exhibits displayed down the center of the street.
Parque de la 93
Just a few blocks further along, you’ll hit Zona G, the Gourmet District, which lines a beautiful park. Parque 93 is worth a visit in itself, but perhaps better during a clear day, when locals come out to soak of the occasional warmth of the sun, than at night when it can get a bit deserted. All around the park though are high end restaurants and more dance clubs as well.
The nightclubs here are equally as expensive as in Zona Rosa but there is a bit more diversity in the restaurants – ranging from budget crepe cafes to the famous gourmet Astrid & Gaston restaurant.
Couple Travel Tips
- Don’t wander too far from the center of the action. This area of Bogota is safe but a few streets in the “wrong” direction and you’re chances of getting robbed go up quickly.
- Budget for a night out carefully. Bogota is not a cheap city when it comes to the nightlife. Bar and restaurant prices often match or exceed what you might be accustomed to back home.
- Please, for the reputation of all poor backpackers, leave the hiking sandals back at the hostel. This area of Bogota has some of the best dressed people in Colombia. So, pull out the least wrinkled item in your bag and enjoy a rare night of “luxury.”