The capital city is also Colombia’s nightlife capital. The Zona Rosa may still dominate the nightlife landscape, but downtown hasn’t completely surrendered. La Candelaria has its share of long-standing smaller bars, catering to Bogotanos and visitors alike; the non-SUV crowd hangs out in Macarena hideaways; while the party till dawn crowd throngs the nearby nightclub Radio Berlín. Gay bars and cafés thrive in Chapinero, with massive Theatrón, as it has for over a decade, reigning as the club with something for everyone.
It’s always a good idea to head out on the town with lots of smaller bills.Most of the nightspots are, like everything else, located along the Carrera 7. To get the latest on nightlife, and find out about parties, check out Vive In or Plan B. Many electronic music parties, attracting big name DJs, take place outside of the city towards Chía, and often the best way to find out about them is by stumbling upon posters on streetlight posts.
Bars and Clubs
Thanks to Bogotá Beer Company (tel. 1/742-9292), a successful chain of pubs with several locations throughout the city, sipping on a Candelaria artisan beer has become trendy in Bogotá. They also serve decent burgers. Try one of the northern locations (Cl. 85 No. 13-06 or Cra. 11A No. 93A-94). Sitting on the terrace and listening to rock at the always-packed Pub Bogotá (Cra. 12A No. 83-48, tel. 1/691-8711, noon-close daily, no cover), you’re in a strategic position to watch people cruising the Zona T.
Most clubs have a cover between COP$10,000 and 30,000 (rarely). Covers usually include a consumible (complimentary drink). You can usually try to negotiate with the bouncer on the cover, especially if you’re with a group. Finally, it’s always a good idea to head out on the town with lots of smaller bills. Sometimes bartenders suffer from forgetfulness and fail to return your change. Tips are not expected at bars.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside El Coq (Cl. 84 No. 14-02, tel. 1/611-2496, hours vary Wed.-Sat., cover COP$20,000), a relaxed and groovy bar in the Zona Rosa, it is pretty stylish. Also in the Zona Rosa, Armando Records (Cl. 85 No. 14-46, hours vary Tues.-Sat., cover COP$15,000) attracts a slightly grungy but cool crowd. The terrace is a fun (but sometimes cold) spot. Live bands and well-known international DJs regularly play at Armando. La Villa (Cra. 14A No. 83-56, hours vary Tues.-Sat., cover COP$15,000) hosts the popular Gringo Tuesdays parties, but has all kinds of themed parties catering to locals and visitors alike.
For fans of vallenato (love ballads accompanied by accordion), the old-school Rincón Rafael Ricardo (Cl. 85 No. 14-55, tel. 1/530-2118, hours vary Thurs.-Sat., no cover) and flashy Matildelina (Cl. 81 No. 11-34, tel. 1/805-2933, 9pm-3am Thurs.-Sat., COP$20,000 cover) are the places to go in the Zona Rosa. Live bands from the Caribbean Coast perform regularly on the big stage at Matildelina, warming up the crowd. Salomé Pagana (Cra. 14A No. 82-16, tel. 1/221-1895 or 1/218-4076, 6pm-2:30am Tues. and Thurs.-Sat., cover COP$15,000) is a Zona Rosa staple that is your salsa and cubana headquarters, often hosting well-known singers and bands.
Céntrico (Cra. 7 No. 32-16, 41 floor, hours vary Wed.-Sat., cover COP$20,000) is a hot bar-restaurant where you can sip your cocktails while overlooking the city from the 41st floor. It is pretty fancy, so dress to impress.
Trampa de Vallenato Galerías (Cl. 53 No. 27A-31, no phone, 5pm-3am Thurs.-Sat.) may have the warm authenticity that you have been craving. This vallenato club is regularly voted as the top in the city. To hear cubana and salsa music, you can pop into the charming little downtown bar Son Salomé (Cra. 7 No. 40-31, 2nd floor, tel. 1/285-0547, hours vary daily) for a drink or two to unwind.
On Fridays it’s often rock that the students, hipsters, and visiting foreigners groove to at classic Candelario Bar (Cra. 5 No. 3-14, tel. 1/342-3742, 9pm-3am Fri.-Sat.), but don’t be surprised to hear electronic, reggae, or Latin beats. It also serves lunch during the week. Quiebra de Canto (Cra. 5 No. 17-76, tel. 1/243-1630, 6:30pm-3am Wed.-Sat., cover COP$10,000) is a classic haunt where jazz, funk, and salsa are often the order of the night. Wednesdays are especially popular in the two-floor joint. A different vibe can be found at the Viejo Almacén (Cl. 15 No. 4-30, 6pm-2am Wed.-Sun.), a tango bar named after the famous Viejo Almacén in Buenos Aires.
So, it’s 6am and you still need to dance? Near the bullfighting ring and in a basement, Radio Berlín (Cra. 6 No. 26-57, 9pm-5am Fri.-Sat., COP$20,000 cover) is almost too cool for school. It’s occasionally open on Thursdays. If you’re looking for a late-night groove, often featuring international DJs, this is your place.
In the Macarena, cool Baum (Cl. 33 No. 6-24, cell tel. 316/494-3799, 10pm-5am Fri.-Sat., COP$15,000) attracts a fun crowd and often hosts international DJs.
Bogotá is not lacking in gay nightlife spots. At last count there were over 100 gay establishments in the city. This is the place, after all, where many gay Colombians gravitate to so that they can escape endless questions from relatives about when they are going to get married. This isn’t a gay bar town, as most people skip that step and head straight to the clubs.
On Wednesday nights the place to go is Cavú Club (Cra. 15 No. 88-71, tel. 1/249-9987, 9pm-3am Wed. and some weekend nights, cover COP$15,000). Here the music is música pa’ planchar (music to iron by), and there is usually a performance by a drag queen, such as regular La Lupe. At reliable Blues Bar (Cl. 86A No. 13A-30, tel. 1/616-7126, 9pm-3am Thurs.-Sat., cover COP$15,000) you can drink and listen to cool music as you warm up around the bonfire in the patio.
As far as clubbing goes, Theatrón (Cl. 58 No. 10-32, tel. 1/235-6879, 9pm-3am Fri.-Sat., cover COP$20,000) is a humongous disco in Chapinero. Theatrón is one-stop shopping for the gay crowd. It has no fewer than nine dance floors, featuring different types of music, including reggaetón, vallenato, pop, house, and trance. In the main room there is usually a drag show or contest at around midnight on Saturdays. There are few bars and clubs specifically for women, although at Theatrón they won’t feel like second-class citizens. Theatrón occasionally puts on special parties for women. All the major electronic music clubs are gay-friendly. Salsa and vallenato clubs—not so much.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Colombia.