Street Art, Usaquén, Bogotá, Colombia

Bogotá has grown exponentially over the last half century. As has happened all over the world, what were once distant towns and villages are now very much part of the fabric of city life. And so Usaquén, at one time a very large tract of urban geography located way north of the historic center of Bogotá, now finds itself officially this city’s First District. Many moons ago, to get to Usaquén from downtown Bogotá, you took a flota – a long distance bus. You can still take a so-called Flota Usaquén coming uptown along la Septima, 7th Avenue, but you will now simply be on a local city bus that will deposit you at the Hacienda de Santa Barbara at 116th Street and 7th.

Hacienda Santa Barbara, Usaquén, Bogotá

The best introduction of the First District of Bogotá is Usaquén’s village square, the plaza of the village of Usaquén, just a short walk from the main entrance of the Hacienda Santa Barbara. On a Sunday or a holiday afternoon, this is where thousands of Bogotanos, and many many visitors, congregate. Congregate is probably not the most accurate word, as the groups of people here sometimes stand and watch the street performers and mimes, sometimes ogle the new puppies in baskets for sale on the walkways of the park, sometimes watch large TV monitors if there is a city sponsored cultural or sports presentation going on, sometimes listen to a traditional oral storyteller and sometimes just amble on by.

Street Performer, Usaquén, Bogotá

Usaquén on Sundays and holidays is a great urban unifier. The weekend vibe here consists pretty much of just lazily milling about on colonial streets in the company of many others, a sort of contemporary promenade to see and be seen in Bogotá. And then the extra treat. Street after street in Usaquén on a Sunday is chock-a-block with artisans offering their wares. Bogotanos and Colombians have a special reverence for anything made by hand, and in Bogotá there is nowhere better to enjoy the results of Bogotano creativity than along the streets of Usaquén on a Sunday or holiday afternoon. There are at least three distinct market areas here, but as you walk along they will all seem to merge together into one festive celebration of creativity. Just wander – you don’t need to do more – and enjoy the vast outdoor marketplace of artesanías in weekend Usaquén.

Street Artesanías, Usaquén, Bogotá, Colombia

But not just that. The village of Usaquén is now filled with hip restaurants and stores. Eating and shopping and being seen are all happily married at this point in time in Usaquén, Bogotá. Are you hungry yet? Yes? Well, you just happen to be in a really good place to eat, or drink or have coffee or onces. Usaquén has become one of Bogotá’s most fashionable eating neighborhoods (thanks partly to the nearby office towers and partly to the charm of its still stant colonial era buildings). La Mar, reference Lima, Peru, is here. Abasto, reference Colombia is here. You decide. As you wander around, you will find no shortage of restaurants in which to relax and enhance the afternoon.

La Mar, Usaquén, Bogotá

In addition to the strolling, the browsing and the eating, there are three extra-special reasons to spend some time in Usaquén. First, the Cinema Paraíso. On the corner of Carrera 6 and 120A Street, the recently upgraded Cinema Paraíso is unique in Bogotá. Here, in armchair-like seats, you can watch first run art films from all corners of the globe in an intimate 80 person theater. Small coffee tables are provided for your drinks. It’s a fun space, and observing the audience in a cinema in a new city, I always find, is a great way to take in the local status quo.

Cinema Paraiso, Usaquén, Bogotá

The second not-to-be-missed location in Usaquén is located right across the street from the Cinema Paraíso behind a high brick wall, the local cemetery. The scene here is a complete counter to the busy activities on the surrounding streets. Here, in near quiet, you can take pause and connect to the realities of the present and past of Bogotá. For me, time spent here is never wasted, always rewarding, like hopping a stone through almost still water.

Cemetery, Usaquén, Bogotá

The third must see in Usaquén is the church on the plaza. Open only during mass hours, this exquisite colonial church – a true jewel – is worth making a special visit to Usaquén for. Or stick around until 6.00 p.m. on a Sunday when the church opens for an hour and a half. At no charge then, feel yourself thrown back a couple of centuries and immersed in the mystery of those who have attempted to express devotion and art through religion, and also more immediately immersed in the mystery of those who still seek comfort here.

Iglesia, Usaquén, Bogotá

All in all, be in Usaquén, Bogotá, on a Sunday or a holiday afternoon, and feel that you have been somewhere unique. And you will be right! Sunday in Usaquén is special.