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Top 10 Foodie Places in Bogota That Expats Should Visit
By: Karen Attman
An expat in Bogota that wants to get a closer look at Colombian culture can find an excellent way to do it through exploring food and drink and the activities surrounding them. Here are ten places to get into the Colombian frame of mind – for eating.
1. Palo Quemao Market
Taking a trip to the Palo Quemao market is both a culinary and cultural experience. Chefs of Michelin-starred restaurants have told me that the market gave them goose bumps. It’s the smells, the sights and the tastes of fruits and vegetables in all their freshest glory. It’s also the place to get a look at bizarre vegetables with names like cubio and guatila, pick up banana leaves to wrap tamales, or buy achote (a natural food coloring) and sweet-smelling fruits with names like pitaaya or maracuya. There are also stands that sell the entire repertoire of Colombian dishes. A popular combo is eggs, cheese, bread, hot chocolate and caldo, a beef rib soup – yes, all that for breakfast!
2. Juan Valdez
One hangout that most expats love is a Juan Valdez coffeehouse. And maybe it’s not just about the coffee – after all, there is certainly good coffee to be had at places like Oma or Amor Perfecto. But there’s something about Juan Valdez, with its hang-out-and-enjoy attitude and an emphasis on supporting small coffee growers that makes people want to stay (free WiFi is also a motivation). In some areas of Bogota there seems to be one on nearly every corner. And hey, they serve 100% Colombian coffee, so it’s bound to be good.
3. Gaira Café
They call it a café, but it's much more than that. It's a mix of a Latin American music museum, a restaurant serving Colombian food, a bar and a concert hall. Established by the family of Latin Grammy Award winner Carlos Vives, it's not surprising that Colombian music styles like vallenato and cumbia are the stars of the show here. The energy at this place is amazing, especially when Carlos himself or other famous Colombian musicians show up to play. The menu has dishes from all around Colombia: arroz con coco, arepa de huevo, limonada de coco, and plenty of meat and fish dishes.
4. Sunday fair at Usaquen
On Sundays the streets of Usaquen, a neighborhood of Bogota that still retains the feeling of a small town, are taken over by vendors selling arts and crafts, leather products and handmade jewelry. But this is also a foodie experience. Taste a wide variety of Colombian fruits, fried empanadas filled with chicken, beef or pork, meat-filled mashed potato balls, chocolates made by hand in Colombia, and of course - Colombian coffee produced on small farms.
5. La Candelaria
On the narrow streets of historic La Candelaria, there are many restaurants that serve typical Colombian food. Here you can get an excellent bandeja paisa, the national dish, which is a dizzying array of rice, beef, fried pork rinds, sausage, avocado, fried egg, beans, plantain and arepa. All on one dish! At the tiny La Puerta Falsa restaurant just off the Plaza de Bolivar, try award-winning chocolate santafereño, hot chocolate served with cheese on the side for dunking. Yes, the idea is to dunk the cheese into the chocolate, mixing sweet and savory. The tamales, made from corn flour filled with meat stew and wrapped in banana leaves, are also famous.
6. Villa de Leyva
Ok, so it’s not in Bogota, but it is an easy day trip from the city. The interesting thing about this small Colonial town of about 9,000 inhabitants is that it has several hundred restaurants. It even has a cooking school. With all this culinary activity, it’s a place that foodies can’t miss. A hungry tourist can get food from around the world; Italian, French, Japanese, Spanish and more. And of course, there’s Colombian food in abundance, from all different regions of the country.
7. Andres Carne de Res
With its bizarre collection of animal statues, a circus-like atmosphere, live music, and fantastic Colombian food, it’s a place that most expats find their way to at some point. For the full experience, take the trip out to Chia, although the Andres D.C. in Bogota has five levels of pure Colombian enthusiasm. The prices are high, but most people don’t complain since the show is worth it. The 64-page menu is 100% Colombian, with dishes like lomo al trapo, (meat that, as its name suggests, come wrapped in a cloth), a meat lover’s Colombian-style barbecue, and soups with odd names like cuchuco de trigo.
8. Cerro Monserrate
Yes, this mountain is best known for its church and a lookout point to catch the best views of Bogota. But it's also a great place to drink a canelazo, which is aguapanela (cane sugar), cinnamon and aguardiente all warmed up and served in a sugar-rimmed glass. Also try the meat filled empanadas while watching Bogota's frenzied pace from a safe distance.
9. Street Food
Street food is a fun pastime in Bogota. Cheap and ready to eat, there’s enough variety to keep a person’s stomach busy for days. Buñuelos, almojabanas, corn arepas filled with gooey cheese and crispy fried pork rinds (chicharrones) sold with plantain and small yellow potatoes are some of the most popular ones. At dinner time charcoal grills are set up with meat, chorizo, arepas, and large corn on the cob. On the sweet side try obleas, two thin wafers served sandwich-style filled with arequipe, a South American caramel.
10. Club Colombia.
This last place is for when you want a touch of luxury: Club Colombia is spacious, even glamorous. The menu has all the typical Colombian food, but one of the stars is ajiaco, a chicken soup made with Colombian potatoes, corn and herbs. Served with capers and cream as garnishes and a plate of rice and avocado on the side, it’s a meal in itself.
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Contest Comments » There are 13 comments
Peter Corredor wrote 9 years ago:
Wow!!! that all sounds great.... i have to try some of those places. I like the description and passion behind the suggestions. That all sounds delicious. thanks a lot for the tips!!!
Milena Cárdenas wrote 9 years ago:
The look of a foreigner to other foreigners. Sure will have fun. An anecdotal tour!!
Janelle wrote 9 years ago:
These places all look really interesting, sounds like you have some great local eats. Jealous (and now hungry as well)!
Sally wrote 9 years ago:
You've now created my entire itinerary for my future visit to Bogota... haha this all sounds incredible. Mouth watering.
Christina wrote 9 years ago:
Great list. I will keep it in mind if I come to Bogota. Thanks for sharing it.
Tony Hawker wrote 9 years ago:
Brilliant tips! I will be trying them all shortly. This is a perfect top 10 list of foods for any expat visiting Bogota. Time to mix it up with the locals and start the day with a tinto and empanada. Check out my latest article about Colombia: http://seesomething.com.au/2013/12/17/chapter-4-the-humble-pride-of-a-colombian-policeman/
Regina W. wrote 9 years ago:
I never knew Bogota had so many wonderful places to eat! Your blog has opened my eyes to a side of Columbia that I didn't know existed. I want to come just to eat!
Michael And Graciela wrote 9 years ago:
Knowing the number of great places in Bogotá, I can only imagine that to choose just 10 was difficult. You did a good job. We had a heck of a time just choosing our 10 favorite coffee shops in the city for our blog page.
Annamaria wrote 9 years ago:
ho provato il Canelazo a Monserrate...bell'articolo per orientarsi dove trovare ristoranti e zone tipiche di Bogotà ;)
Aura González wrote 9 years ago:
Your enthusiasm and good description on what and where to eat in Bogotá makes me want to make plans to visit it. Thanks for sharing it with us!
Karen Dixon wrote 9 years ago:
Great suggestions Karen! I am so glad that you included Villa de Leyva too. There are so many great dining options there and one of the most pictaresque Colonial towns in Colombia. Thanks again for sharing!
Laura Micaham wrote 9 years ago:
Paloquemao and Villa de Leyva are one of my favorites places from this beuty tour!
Laurie Malone wrote 9 years ago:
Great to know more about street food as foreigners are often on the run between tourist destinations. Can't wait to try the obleas!