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Recommendations in Colombia

s
SusanB Jan 11, 2012 03:11 PM

I haven't found too many posts re Colombia. We're going in early February and will be spending time in Cartagena, Bogota, Santa Marta and Villa de Leyva. If anyone has recommendations, I'd appreciate it. Thanks.

  1. q
    Qwas2123 Feb 6, 2012 02:32 AM

    Hmmm Ok, well this is coming from a 22 year old who lived in Bogota from 14 to 19 so my suggestions are going to be on the riskier/louder part of the spectrum. Advice- don't be scared but also don't be cavalier, don't travel alone and keep your eyes open when you move around; DON'T GET SCOPED is kinda what I'm getting at. The paso millionario's a bitch and It happens more frequently than people will lead on to believe. Colombian food is seriously some of the greatest food out there, it's just finding it that becomes the mission.
    Bogota - it's beautiful if you find yourself in the right bubbles, but horrible if you start straying. The city works on a grid system making it almost impossible to get lost, and if you do just stop and ask someone to help you out. If language is a barrier just use your hands and you'll be able to figure it out.
    Ok, Nightlife is fun and I like drinks so here's pretty much the breakdown; the city revolves around 3 to 4 main hubs all straddling the "main vein" being septima (7th Ave).
    To start, the Candelaria is around the 30's and 40's with septima, making it convenient if your staying down that way. It's this old Spanish colonial sector of the city which has a lot of nice bars and restaurants. The bars tend to be on the cheaper side and/or they'll have specials like "15 thousand to get in, but it's consumable", stuff like that. The restaurants tend to serve "comida tipica" which tends to be a big piece of meat with these little tiny yellow potatoes that they give you with EVERYTHING. A lot of the places down town cater to the college students, which is fun and rowdy, but has a tendency to bring down the quality of the joints. Sanitation's an issue alot more than it would be further north on septima.
    The Zona Rosa is pretty much where a good percentage of the nightlife goes down. The Zona T is this little closed off plaza IN the Zona Rosa, it has a slew of restaurants, pubs, clubs and lounges usually with really good service. Walking around is fun- walking around smashed is even better :D It really is this all encompassing party going from the strip/brothel joints on 86; to the Ozy pub and Chamois on 85; to Andres D.C and Casa De La Cerveza in the heart of the zone. Fun time if your adventurous.
    Parque 93 is alright, not really my cup of tea unless It's for going to the Terraza Peroni. It's located at around 93, obviously. The establishments tend to be more on the "loungie" side through out the park if that makes any sense. The Terraza Peroni is on top of the restaurant Cafe Renault, which is absolutely delicious by the way - highly recommend it. The lounges serve amazing food but I find alot of them to be confusing, as in I'm sitting there trying to eat an amazing meal but I'm also battling the blood coming from my ears and then this SuperSalsa couple trying to show off all of their moves. Don't get me wrong, I love 93, its just confusing in some spots.
    Then there's Usaquen. This place has the power to be either really nice and cozy, or flat out bat shit crazy. You have to have the mindset to be able to jump into a small, compartmentalized scene and own it once your there. I guarantee you will enjoy yourself if your just willing to open up the small, thick wooden door of the loudest place you find. You have to go searching but I guarantee you'll find something fun. That's actually another good rule, If you're proactive in your search for a good time, your most definitely going to find it through out Colombia.
    The rest is going to go quicker because I'm tired and it's pretty much just going back and visiting these same places during the day. Day time in Bogota, Whoop Whoop - Ok, keep in mind that you can cab it everywhere for cheap unless you have a driver in which then it doesn't matter. Like I said, just go back to these same four places and you should be good. They have the emerald district in el centro if your into that sort of thing; they sell emeralds for disgustingly low prices If you know how to haggle (very important ). They have the leather district that is located somewhere in the 60's with something, which again, is cheap as shit if you know how to haggle. A nice, hand made leather jacket should be around $150 - $200,000 Colombian if you talk to them right/ or buy in bulk, either or. They also have an amazing flea market on Sundays down septima, near el centro, somewhere in the 30's (32 maybe 34) and a beautiful book market in the same area. Food wise, the standard are these established Chicken/broaster joints or empanada/arepa stands - they're all pretty good but just watch out if you tend to have a weaker stomach. Really the best restaurants where, I think, covered already, Andres is probably the best representation of what true Colombia is; when comparing price, quality, and scene it comes out best in my eyes. The casa Colombia place is pretty tasty, I feel they rely more on there location and aesthetics rather than food but whatever. Di lucas is pretty nice. The Argentine steak house in Usaquen is seriously the best piece of meat I've put in mouth. OH SNAP, almost forgot - I have this pretty serious man crush on "Wok" in the Zona T, they're an asian fusion chain that is scattered through out Bogota. They're a good safeguard because they have a lot of them and the Pad Thai and sushi are amazing; there is very good seafood in country. Then there's the typical crepes and waffles which you'll see alot of; they have the best Ice cream hands down. I recommend either Maracuya with frutas del bosque or Arequipe with Pistachio, or truly whatever you want, depends on your taste. Another nice restaurant is Astrid y Gaston in the Zona G somewhere - It's not the original, which is in Lima and was voted top 50 in the world, but it's still flat out amazing food. I like it because the service is wonderful and your not going toe to toe with some billionaire just to get a reservation.
    Cartagena = It all revolves around the old city so try staying inside of it, it really is the best way to go. It's easier to just walk outside and be in the zone rather than having to finagle with cabbies because they don't carry meters - I'm sorry, it just pisses me off when a cabbie doesn't have a meter and in Cartagena, none do - so I get grumpy. Nightlife - Babar, Tu Candela, Quibra Canto, all are really nice and fun and the drinks are delicious. Food - get lost and eat everything you find, its part of the fun.
    Colombian Hot dogs are legit except I get mine with out the pine apple sauce. They're these massive foot long wieners that have a pretty large bun to match, the Colombians load them with buckets of Ketchup, Mustard, Mayo, and Pine Apple sauce then top them with crushed Potato chips - that's pretty much it, they're alright. Go to the Ozy pub and get one with mashed Potatoes and mashed Pea's then throw some gravy ontop OoOoOo that's what I'm talking about.
    Ok I'm done- If you want to know anything else, I have a pretty good, pragmatic point of view, so don't hesitate.

    1. j
      jester99 Feb 3, 2012 08:46 AM

      I will be heading to Santa Marta in a month or so, does anybody have any recs in that area? Also, I am intruged by Colombian Hotdogs, what goes ontop of it exactly?

      1. b
        BLover33 Feb 2, 2012 08:48 PM

        Wow are you lucky! Colombia is my favorite Country and all the places you are visting are amazing. I will get back to you on restaurants names since can't remember all of the top of my head but all the food is amazing! Villa de Leyva is incredible! In Bogota I know Harry's and Casa Colombiana are musts eats. Also, Zona Rosa has many great restaurants and also Parque 93. Candelaria, Usaquen, Cartagena etc...all the food, people, scenery amazing! Everything is fresh and flavorful. Also, highly recommend going to Andrés Carne de Res in Chia. It is a 45 mins drive out of Bogota but well worth it on the weekends it is happening. Food is incredible and dancing all night long. You are going to fall in love with the Country. I am American and live in NYC but found a love for Colombia. Too bad not enough people visit the Country. I will get back to you with specific places.

        1. r
          Ringo Gato Jan 17, 2012 11:37 PM

          My wife and I just returned from Bogotá and Cartegena. We had a memorable meal at the oft recommended Andrés D.C., the Bogotá location of Andrés Carne de Res in Zona T or Zona Rosa neighborhood. Great steaks in a night club/carnival atmosphere. We had a good Italian meal in the charming Usaquén area at Restaurante Il Pomodoro (Calle 117, No. 6-09) and ate at another Usaquén restaurant whose name escapes me. Usaquén is full of interesting shops and what appear to be unique restaurants that may be worth sampling but we didn’t have enough time. In La Candelaria we dined at a restaurant just down the street from our hotel (Hotel de la Opera), El Son de los Grillos (Calle 10, No. 3-60) where the ajiaco (soup) was served creamed and it was quite good. Hotel de la Opera has a notable restaurant as well, Restaurante El Mirador. A local resident advised us to visit Bogotá’s Zona G (Av. Chile) which is reputed to be an emerging gastronomic district but we never made it.

          In Cartegena, we liked the live music, food and dining on the balcony overlooking Plaza Bolivar at Monte Sacro. The ceviche and other mixed seafood dishes were good and the whole fired fish with arroz de coco (coastal specialties we tried at a few other restaurants as well) were excellent. We had one mediocre meal at a restaurant I have purposefully blotted from my memory but also ate fine meals at some hole-in-the-wall places; it is hard to go wrong with seafood in Cartegena. There are also dozens of great spots to people watch, have a drink and watch the street performers.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Ringo Gato
            s
            SusanB Jan 18, 2012 07:12 AM

            Thanks so much for the reply. We're really looking forward to our trip.

            1. re: SusanB
              r
              Ringo Gato Jan 18, 2012 10:59 PM

              One more suggestion that is rather improbable. If you are staying in historic, walled Cartegena, then it is unlikely you will venture into Bocagrande unless you want to go to the beach. If, however, you happen visit Bocagrande or your hotel is there (it is only a few minutes by taxi to Cartegena proper), you might look for Isabella’s Coffee (which I believe is on the corner of Carrera 2 at Calle 7 [San Martin]). We went there looking for tea as the nearby Juan Valdez Coffee shop had only coffee. (Bogota branches of Juan Valdez have tea). Isabella’s serves some serious looking desserts and café food including ceviche. In any case, while waiting for the tea we noticed something interesting being prepared. It turned out to be carpaccio. We decided to try it as well as octopus carpaccio. The beef was sliced a little thicker than what I am used to but was otherwise excellent. The octopus was reasonably tender and tasty as well. I think the total cost for the two plates was 250,000 pesos (about $12-13US) and the servings were generous. I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to find Isabella’s as we were told the carpaccio was a special menu item that day. But if you are in Bocagrande (and you like carpaccio and raw seafood) it is worth stopping by to see if it is on the menu.

              1. re: Ringo Gato
                s
                SusanB Jan 19, 2012 06:57 AM

                Thanks Ringo Gato. We'll be in Cartagena for a week before moving on to Santa Marta, so we will probably find ourselves in the Bocagrande area at some point. I love carpaccio and raw seafood!

                1. re: Ringo Gato
                  q
                  Qwas2123 Feb 5, 2012 11:04 PM

                  WHOA, hold up. Just a quick correction- $250,000 pesos is about $140 to $150 USD. A slight difference from $12-13 USD. The type-o is actually a good lead in to a point I would like to make. You really have to realize what the value of your money is when your moving around down there; as an example I have a tendency to get down there and just start crapping out money. I get into this Monopoly money mentality and then I'm ticked because I just blew $500 US in one sitting.

                  1. re: Qwas2123
                    r
                    Ringo Gato Feb 11, 2012 10:39 AM

                    Correct. The cost of the items I was referring to is 25,000 pesos, not 250,000. My bad.

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