Eh, Macarena! Is This Bogotá’s Most Vibrant Neighbourhood?


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Colombia‘s capital continues its march apace as a hotbed of creativity, dynamism, and excitement – and Exhibit A is its Macarena neigbourhood, tucked amid the gentle hills of the eastern part of Bogotá, and sporting the vibe of a cool and charming little village.

Streets here are lined with colourful façades, many of these buildings dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries, with nearby landmarks including the 105-year-old Parque de la Independencia, a lovely park that’s home to a number of key institutions such as the Santamaría Bullring, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Library, and the city planetarium.

Believe it or not, La Macarena was not so many years ago a somewhat dodgy neighbourhood, but the renaissance in recent years of Colombia in general and Bogotá in particular has made what some bogotanos now dub “Zona M” bloom as a desireable place to live, work, and play. These days it’s a magnet for artists, intellectuals, actors, artisans, expats, and culture vultures of all stripes (the New York Times once dubbed it “Bogotá’s Greenwich Village). Young people also abound, both because of the neighbourhoods own attractions and a nearby university campus.

As with GV, there are certainly plenty of bars and restaurants here, and several years ago it was developing into quite the centre for “la rumba” (nightlife). But some of the local neighbours put a stop to that because of the noise and disruption late into the wee hours, so the scene is a lot more laid-back these days, with most of the noise coming from the bullring crowds when the toros are in season, and nightspots more along the lines of Bogotá Beer Company (Carrera 4A), with microbrews and locally made organic beers and ales.

Those aforementioned eateries run the gamut from creative Colombian to Spanish (like Gaudí on Carrera 4A) to the likes of Serbian (Beograd, Calle 26). Others include La Jueguetería (The Toy Shop, Carrera 27), decorated with all manner of playthings and specialising in beef dishes; La Hamburguesería (Carrera 4A), with tasty gourmet burgers; Wilder’s for lovely pizzas (Carrera 4A); candlelit Vásquez y Cebollas (Calle 26 4) for French and upscale Colombian; and En Obra (Carrera 4), you can order the likes of both Asian seafood soup and luscious chocolate cake, and/or come for regular events like music concerts and a monthly screening of documentaries.

Feasts for the eyes and the soul also abound, especially in the form of appealing art galleries. Top spots include Alonso Garcés (Carrera 5A), housed since 1997 displays both emerging and established artists with a bit of a rebel flavour in a former church (which underscores the point). There’s also Luvina bookstore (Calle 26A), a centre for literary and other cultural events. Other shops include Zona Retro (Carrera 4A), with friendly, attentive service and all manner of vintage furniture and objects.

’Cause that’s just how La Macarena rolls these days – a fetching mix of retro and cutting-edge.

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Best fares from the U.K., from Spain.

image | Arturo Edison Aparicio Guzman