Bogotá may seem chaotic, but there is inspiration to be found in the city’s changing venues and multi-purpose spaces.
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Bogotá has emerged as a cultural destination that is brimming with energy. The rapid growth that is currently dominating the city, caused by an influx of Colombians moving to the urban hub from the surrounding rural towns, contributes in large part to its underlying character of transition and flux. But despite the growing pains, there is also history and inspiration to be found inside these constant transformations. What kinds of creative thought-starters can be found in Bogota?
A day of inspiration in Bogotá should start with a visit to Monserrate, a mountain that dominates the city center and offers visitors a prime vantage to appreciate the geography of the city below. Although Bogotá is a bustling metropolis, it is one that is surrounded by vast nature and a strong local and rural culture. The view from Monserrate will highlight this juxtaposition and help create the cultural lens through which to understand the city for the rest of your day.
If walking around on a Sunday morning, Bogotá’s Ciclovía is a must. The 37-year-old tradition sees the closing down of more than 100 kilometers of the city’s streets and opening them up to pedestrians, cyclists, walkers, skaters and joggers. Simultaneously, stages are set up in the streets and in parks where aerobics and yoga instructors walk people through basic lessons to improve local fitness, while bands play music to get people up and dancing. Seeing a city-wide focus on fitness and health—especially in an urban center so plagued with traffic congestion—is both educational and inspiring.
The retail scene in Bogotá offers everything from upscale sophistication to hand-made crafts produced by local artisans. The Artesanías de Colombia, an initiative supported by the government that showcases the best local craftspeople and the products made in the region including hammocks, purses, toys, decorative masks, woven rugs, and clay vases. The store – in conjunction with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism – hold workshops and fairs to highlight local production and teach the various crafting methods to ensure their longevity in the rapidly industrializing city.
Still more inspiration can be found from the local food scene; Mercado, opened by chef and Bogotá native Leonor Espinosa, is a simple restaurant offering up all-organic Colombian fare on a small but well designed menu. Espinosa is interested in highlighting the history of the local cuisine with her food and creates an educational experience through her preparation and presentation of the dishes. Having studied advertising prior to becoming a chef, Espinosa understands how cultural trends can manifest themselves in food, and aims to demonstrate those that have influenced Colombians with her carefully curated offerings.
For an afternoon coffee break that will get your creative juices flowing, head to Casa 53, a meeting place where local artists, designers and musicians come to discuss and display their work, and enjoy a piece of cake. Projections on the walls inside and the outer façade will give you some visual inspiration as you sip your tea. At night, the venue becomes an electro funk and indie club that highlights the best Colombian music and what’s popular around the globe.
What would a trip to Latin America be without a foray into local nightlife? Unlike anything visitors have ever experienced before, Andrés Carne de Res is famous for both its rumba and its steak. This multi-purpose venue combines a club, performance space, restaurant, gallery and retail outlet all in one. This transitional space demonstrates how the constant development of the city requires that merchants are able to provide more than one cultural offering at any given time in order to remain relevant, and this many-storied place is a prime example of the trend.
The fluid nature of Bogotá’s urban setting may seem a little chaotic at times, but there is inspiration to be found in the city’s shifting and changing venues and multi-purpose spaces, and some creatively enriching sights to be seen, even as they morph into something new right before your eyes.
Photos by Kiko Kairuz.