Colombia's capital city is a vibrant place, full of history and culture. Don't limit yourself to a layover here – give yourself enough time to explore Bogotá's wealth of attractions. Before you visit, here are 10 things you should know about Bogotá.
1. It’s the third highest capital city in the world, after La Paz and Quito, at 2600m above sea level. Hence the city slogan, “2600m closer to the stars.”
2. Bogotá is the largest city in Colombia, and one of the most populated cities in South America. An estimated 8 million people live in the metropolitan area.
3. The inhabitants of Bogotá are called Bogotanos or Cachacos (which has a connotation of being helpful, polite or well-educated) and will always go out of their way to help you with a smile.
4. It is known as the ‘Athens of South America’ due to its many libraries and universities.
5. The city’s name has changed many times. It was originally called ‘Bacatá’ (planted fields) by the native Muisca people. When the Spanish took hold in 1538, it changed to ‘Santa Fe de Bacatá.’ After Colombia’s independence, led by Simon Bolivar, the name became ‘Santa Fe de Bogotá’ before being simplified to just Bogotá.
6. Bogotá’s city limits are marked by its natural surroundings. Situated on the Savannah of Bogotá, the horizon is dominated by the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes to the east. The hills running south to north, limit the city growth, and the Bogotá river forms another border on the west. If you’re ever lost, just look for the Andes mountains to help you navigate!
7. Bogotá’s streets use an easy grid system. Street numbers start from zero at the central square, Plaza Bolivar. Roads named Carrera run from North to South of the city with street numbers increasing to the North, while streets named Calles run from West to East, with numbers decreasing towards the mountains. There are occasional diagonal and transversal streets that make things slightly more complicated, but just get back on the straight and you’ll find your way again in no time.
8. The city consists of 20 districts. The wealthier neighbourhoods tend to be in the north and north-east, close to the foothills of the Eastern Cordillera, while the poorer neighbourhoods are mainly in the south and south-west. The northern zones are also where you’ll find a superb diversity of cultural, natural and architectural sites of interest and the social hub of the city.
9. The temperature is cool year round. Despite the proximity to the equator, the high altitude means that days are mild and cool, with cold nights, pretty consistently year round. The weather tends to change quickly and dramatically during the day, so it is advisable to always carry an umbrella!
10. Bogotá is considerably safer than it used to be. Colombia’s healthy economy has sustained development in Bogotá, creating a modern, clean and welcoming centre for locals and tourists alike. As with most major cities, crime does still happen, but no more in Bogotá than any other city. Be sure to stay aware of your surroundings, avoid unsafe neighbourhoods and keep an eye on your belongings. There is also taxi related crime, so its best to use an app like tappsi or uber, rather than hailing a cab off the streets.
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