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Bogotá & beyond,  Colombia

A guide to the best barrios of Bogotá, Colombia

There is a huge number of barrios of Bogotá, so we’ve provided a brief guide to the vibes of each one we spent a lot of time in. Hopefully this will help you decide where to stay in Bogota and which parts of the city to visit, and we’ll also tell you about the key area on the tourism map that we actually don’t recommend you stay in. Needless to say, we stick to the safer parts of the city. You can feel things get rough as soon as you step into a bad area, so if that happens just turn right back around! Lots of people’s first questions is ‘is Bogota safe?’ Head over to our post on safety in Bogota for tips on how to stay out of trouble.

We lived in Bogota Colombia for a total of 7 months all in all, so if you want to find out all there is to do and eat in and around this buzzing city, we’ve got you covered:

Spanish-speakers, please forgive us in dropping the tilde off Bogotá, it’s only for SEO purposes! [We hate ourselves.]

 

Bogota’s Estrato System

In this post, we’re going to go through the best barrios of Bogota, and the areas that you’re most likely to hear about as you look for accommodation in the city, but if you want to know about the general safety of a barrio that isn’t included in this ‘ere guide, there is another way that you can make an estimation.

All cities in Colombia use an estrato system. This is a way of decided how much tax residents pay based on the wealth in the area. Estratos run from 1 to 6, with 6 being the most affluent. In estrato 6 barrios of Bogota, due to the wealth of the population, you can expect to see armed guards everywhere, high police presence, electric gates and 24/7 doormen for every apartment. Some, such as Usaquén, even have drone surveillance to crime-check the area. In poorer barrios of Bogota, expect very little of this, so security is more up to you as an individual.




Introduced in the 80s, the estrato system has become a way to classify and even enforce class in society; it’s been known for some people to refer to each other by their estrato as a way of determining their place, and some argue that lower estrato people may lose out on well-paid jobs because interviewers use ‘where to you live?’ as a first question to predict the kind of background and class the interviewee has. But to the average tourist, it is a fair indicator of the level of safety you can expect from a barrio in Bogota (or most other cities in Colombia). It’s easily Google-able, so if you’re not sure of an area, that’s a simple place to start.

For most of your searches though, you’ll probably end up seeing a lot of the below barrios of Bogota. We’ll go through their vibes so you can choose where to stay in Bogota that’s best for you!

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Where to stay in Bogota: barrio breakdown

Chapinero

Chapinero, Bogota is a huge barrio that encompasses a lot of small areas put together, which can vary a lot in vibe and quality. Very generally speaking, the further north you go in Chapinero, the nicer the areas become. We’ve tended to stay south to feel in the action and get cheaper rent, but if only visiting for a short time there’s not much point in staying in the rougher side of the area. We lived in a house-share around Marly, which was perfect for us with very local vibes outside, but due to its proximity to Carrera 14, didn’t feel 100% safe at night. The Chapinero barrio is particularly good for bars and clubs, check out the nightlife in Bogota guide for more on this.

Map Chapinero Bogota - Guide to the barrios of Bogota, Colombia | South America Travel Guides by Cuppa to Copa Travels

 

Is Chapinero, Bogota safe?

With common sense, yes. In Chapinero, we would advise you avoid staying on Carrera 7 (more commonly called Septima) or Carrera 14 (Avenida Caracas). These main roads have buses and taxis roaring down them at all hours, they’re generally pretty dirty and they’re known as streets where you find the strangest of people ambling about, so night times can bring some odd sights and sounds. However, walking down Septima or Caracas during the day and early evening is fine – and you shouldn’t miss out on Arepas Jimmy el Hambriente on Carrera 14 with Calle 44!

Where to stay in Bogota best barrios Colombia

 

So, from roughly South to North, here are some of the most notable areas to stay and visit within Chapinero, Bogota:

1. Javeriana & Marly

True student-ville. There’s a ridiculous number of universities around this area, so the majority of people you’ll see out and about are young and educated. Here and Chapinero Central (which we’ll get to in a bit) are where you’re most likely to find student housing in Bogota, so if you’re on a year or semester abroad in Colombia this is where to stay in Bogota. The vibe is buzzy on a weekday, and Calle 41 with Carrera 8 lights up on a Friday night, when drinking in the small bars and restaurants reaches a peak. Make sure to check out Varietale for excellent coffee and Zarzamora for a fantastic Menu del Día lunch if you’re ever in the Javeriana neighbourhood! If staying here, it’s best to be towards the north, on the edges of Chapinero Alto (which starts around Calle 44) than Santa Fe, as this area has a reputation for being sketchy.

Where to stay in Bogota best barrios Colombia | is bogota safe

 

2. Chapinero Alto

This is a neighbourhood of quality high-rise apartments built up into the foothills of the mountain, and for many Bogotá natives it’s an aspirational place to live. For this reason, when you search for where to stay in Bogotá, you’ll come across many accommodations claiming to be in Chapinero Alto, when in fact they’re in the much less aspirational Chapinero Central or Javeriana, west of Septima (Carrera 7). Though Google Maps puts Chapinero Alto as a very small area around the military university, it’s a term loosely used by locals to describe the nicer, higher-priced areas east of Septima, between around Calle 44 and 65.

 

3. Chapinero Central

Chapinero Central holds a plethora of cheap-cheap shops along Carrera 12, and is also close to the Zona T/Rosa bars and lots of shopping malls. We don’t really recommend this as a place to stay in Bogota if you’re just visiting, but it’s a really good area to mooch around to soak up local life during the day. At night, clubs such as Odem attract party-goers from all over the city.

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4. Zona G & Rosales

A particularly leafy part of Chapinero, with foreign embassies and high-end hotels. While you might not be able to afford to stay here, one of the places we kept coming back to was Juan Valdez Originés on Calle 70 #6. The Originés store is a flagship for the Colombian coffee chain, and it is BEAUTIFUL. From conference rooms and hot-desks to sofas and a rooftop terrace, Juan Valdez Originés hits the spot for digital nomads and chillaxers alike. Perfect for an afternoon of digital nomad life in Bogotá! There are also plenty of fancy restaurants in the Zona G & Rosales areas, and the zone is pretty safe.

Chapinero Juan Valdez Origines Bogotá | Colombian coffee | A Guide to where to stay in Bogota, Colombia | is Bogota safe?

 

5. Chapinero Norte & Quinta Camacho

The first area we stayed in was North Chapinero/Quinta Camacho, a fairly quiet neighbourhood with mostly gated houses instead of high-rise apartments. Quinta Camacho is a great place for after-work dinner and drinks in cosy, slightly more upmarket bars (Wu Dumplings & Beer followed by drinks at El Mono Bandido or Huerta Bar is a great combo). It’s also home to one of the CoWo workspaces, and nearby in La Porciúncula you’ll find another co-working space at the new Selina Hostel.

During our very first visit to Bogotá back in April 2018, we stayed in Republica Hostel, which was chilled, homely and had a really great breakfast (the way to our hearts). There isn’t much space in the dorms, but the beds themselves are large and super comfy. There is also Fulano, a party hostel nearby, which you don’t have to be a guest of to join in the festivities.




6. Zona T

Zona T in Bogota is always hustle and bustle. It’s fantastic for shopping, with several large shopping malls and some non-Latin favourites such as Forever 21, Pull&Bear and Bershka. Lozzy replaced all the clothes in her backpack in one day in Zona T (more of a necessity than a luxury by that point). If you want to do some SERIOUS outlet shopping (including Adidas, Nike, Koaj & H&M), we do however recommend you take an Uber out West to the Multiplaza in Ciudadela La Felicidad.

Zona T is one of the areas in Bogotá that comes alive at night, with restaurants, bars and clubs opening their doors to locals dressed up for an evening on the lash. Morena is a great rooftop club to get your fix of reggaeton. A slightly less dolled-up night is Gringo Tuesdays at Vintrash, which starts at 4pm as an intercambio / language exchange and then turns into a pretty good nightclub from 8pm till the early hours of the morning (just be careful of your things and don’t leave your drinks unattended – hello, sitting ducks!). Just opposite the small park in Zona T, there is an excellent craft beer place called El Sindicato with a whole spectrum of beers to try and some expert staff to help you choose.

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Zona T in Bogota is not the cheapest place to eat or drink, but there are at least plenty of options to choose from. On a random note, there isn’t much drainage in Zona T, so when it rains heavily you can expect the roads to become literal rivers.

 

7. Parque 93

The northernmost and therefore swankier end of Chapinero, Don’t expect to find a cheap, local-feel menu del día around here; this is the place to come if you want to feel back in the first world and/or can’t live without your Starbucks fix. If you decide this is where to stay in Bogota, hotels will be pricier around here, but you have the advantage of being in a very safe area with lots of mid- to high-end bars and restaurants to choose from. The best accommodation in Parque 93 on a budget is Selina 93, which is just a couple of streets from the main park and is much higher quality than your typical hostel.

It’s in Parque 93 that you’ll find Gaira Café, a nightclub with a slightly older crowd, which is owned by the famous singer Carlos Vives and offers incredible live Latin-fusion music and galleries from which to watch real salsa in action. Drinks are pricey on Colombian terms, but still cheap compared to London, and the night is always incredible.

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If you’re in Parque 93 on a Saturday or Sunday, you absolutely must reserve a table for the Click Clack Hotel Brunch – it’s insaaaaaane with unlimited cooked-to-order food and drink with no time limit for 95,000 COP (£24). Oh, how the other half live!

You may also be tempted to stay in nearby Chicó Norte, which is über-safe and extremely quiet, but it’s also a very corporate district so you would struggle for things to do and see. There is another CoWo co-working space here.

 

Teusaquillo: Galerias & Quesada

Teusaquillo is another larger barrio, sort of the westerly equivalent of Chapinero. If you’re searching for where to stay in Bogota that will be quiet and not too costly, Teusaquillo is definitely a Bogota barrio to consider.

Galerias is the hub that buzzes around Calle 53, while Quesada is a more chilled, less happening buffer between Galerias and Chapinero. These areas are in no way beautiful, but they scream local life in a very real part of the city. You can find anything from wedding dresses to year-round Christmas trees on la 53, and there’s plenty of simple menu del día restaurants on the streets that branch off from it, with some of your most typical no-frills Colombian food in the city.

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At the western edge of Galerias, you’ll come to a neon-lighted strip of local bars, karaoke houses and clubs which looks a little like Magaluf. It’s very rare to see a foreigner down there, but not particularly unsafe. For recommendations on where to stay in Bogota’s Galerias & Quesada barrios, we’d suggest sticking to the Eastern side of la 53, just for its proximity to Chapinero and therefore the rest of the things to see in Bogota, Colombia. There aren’t many hostels in Galerias nor Quesada, but if you’re travelling with a bigger budget or staying in Bogotá a little longer it’s a great place to find a reasonably priced 1 or 2-bed apartment. We’ve had lovely longer-term stays at Apart Studios Charles 52.

 

Is Teusaquillo, Bogota safe?

If staying this side of Septima, don’t wander too far north. From around calle 60 and above, the area starts to become very dodgy, with plenty of rubbish on the streets, prostitution and pay-by-the-hour motels. It’s a dirty part of the city and one we didn’t feel too safe to be staying in.

 

Usaquén

Usaquén has a really residential vibe, and it’s definitely an old-money neighbourhood. It’s a little further out of the city than we would normally look when choosing where to stay in Bogota, but the chance to sign up for a gym, have a local bakery and fruit/veg store whilst also being close to the square with bars and restaurants (and not a gringo in sight!) was exactly what we needed after 8 months of hostel-life.

The bars in Usaquén are actually pretty cool, and they have one of the larger Crepes & Waffles restaurants we’ve seen, which equals no queues! The area is known for its Sunday artisanal market, which lines the streets in every direction. Expect to find handmade, quality gifts and pieces for your home rather than tacky souvenirs at the Usaquén market.

Usaquen, Bogota | A Guide to where to stay in Bogota, Colombia | is Bogota safe?

We used Usaquén as our base when we had a 2-week solid consultancy project to work on. We chose a 1-bedroom apartment through AirBnB and absolutely loved feeling like we had a home again. This AirBnB actually made our list of favourite accommodation in South America. Any more North than Usaquén and you’re going to feel pretty out of the city, though for some people this is very appealing, so there is now a growing pool of expats living up in the area of Cedritos.

 

Is Usaquen, Bogota safe?

About as safe in Bogota as you’re gonna get!

 

La Candelaria

This is the barrio that most tourists stay in. La Candelaria’s main draws are that it’s close to most of the points of interest, and the area’s architecture is beautifully colourful.

Plazoleta del Chorro de Quevedo is the perfect square in which to have an arepa dinner and try the Colombian alcoholic drinks chicha or canelazo. If in this area, we also recommend checking out Café Atico on Carrera 2 (an alley off the Plazoleta, pictured below) – the bar-lady is nuts but wonderful once you talk to her properly.

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Police ID checks are strict in this area due to the high amount of tourism, so even if you look 35 you will need to have a hard copy of proof of age on you to enter a bar, or else the bar owners may turn you away. There are a few small dance bars such as Café Rosas that aren’t too far a walk from here and are open much later.

La Candelaria probably has the highest concentration of hostels of all barrios, and its the opinion of most travel guides that this is where to stay in Bogota. A hostel that caught our eye was the Fernweh Photography Hostel, a space for creatives to meet, get inspired and sleep in a reasonably-priced bed. There are also Selina and Masaya Hostels in this area which are always a sure win.

Why you should not stay in La Candelaria, Bogotá

 

That being said… Don’t stay in La Candelaria in Bogota

That’s right. Our advice on where to stay in Bogota is not La Candelaria. But isn’t that where all the tourist activity is, we hear you cry?! Exactly. Those visitors who do stay in this area feel they have little reason to ever leave it, and our theory is that this is why Bogota has such a bad reputation amongst those who only stay a few days. The Candelaria area seems particularly affected by homelessness, and we’ve seen tourists being hassled by those living on the streets several times. Coupled with this, thieves know that this is the area in which the tourists hang around, so quite frankly you’re a sitting duck in La Candelaria. At night, the area isn’t so pleasant and you need to be especially on your guard.

But it doesn’t have to be like this! Instead, get yourselves out to the quiet, leafy suburbs where the city is more developed and the thieves aren’t out hunting for tourists, and spend a little extra cash on cheap taxis to get the most out of your time in Bogota, Colombia. Enjoy the city to its fullest!

 

The Colombia Guide by Cuppa to Copa Travels

 

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