It’s around 3 pm when I settle in the little coffee looking at the center plaza. Lunch has come and gone but you can still see the multitude of people enjoying the warm afternoon around the place. Some kids are playing football in the small court while the young adults and old couples wander around talking happily. They all tend to come here, in this little neighbourhood in Bogotá that has become one of the favourite places of the locals and foreigns to catch a good lunch, a quick beer or a hot coffee.
Usaquen, an old had been small town in the outskirts of Colombia’s capital, Bogotá D.C., has since long been swallowed by the furious growing of the city. The land used to belong to the Landlord Pepe Sierra, whose house is now the Comercial Center Hacienda Sta. Barbara, situated in the neighbourhood commonly known as Usaquen. The neighbourhood of Usaquen (different from the locality of Usaquen) has long since transformed into one of the most popular hang-out places in the city.
Starting with the huge church that is in the east side of the center plaza, with his elegant and ancient columns, where people go to pray to their god when the bells cling, to the small coffee shops and restaurants that surround the plaza and scatter in the three blocks around it. The center plaza still conveys the look of the old colonial towns the Spanish created when they first arrived.
With the church at one side and old colonial houses circling the ancient park in the middle. The park itself has a simple but calm look to it, as half of it has the court for people to play and the other half is made up a walking road and some green pastures. The benches around it bring people to sit on them and just relax for a while, while having a good view of what is happening all around them.
The whole architecture of the neighbourhood keeps on the ancient look that the spaniards gave it when they first came to Colombia. Even so, you can also find new buildings, mostly homes for the third age, in the same way you can see the mix of old and new in Europe, making it look even more magical and special.
What to do
Even though the neighbourhood is in the middle of a very residential zone in the city, it’s one of the favourite places for young people to hang out and spend some time with friends and in the weekends there is also a lot you can do with your friends or whole family. The neighbourhood is always vibrating with life even though it’s not loud and normally looks very peaceful.
With a rich variety of restaurants that go from the typical food provided by Casa Vieja, an old Colombian restaurant, to one of the favourite restaurants in Bogotá, where you can eat the typical soups like ajiaco or sancocho or a great bandeja paisa, to Colombian restaurants that have less typical choices but that are still one of the favourites like Crepes & Waffles.
But you don’t only find Colombian food, from Mexican to Indian, Italian and Peruvian food. There’s also a big variety of the fast food restaurants that have taken over the world such as Subway, McDonalds and Burger King. In here, you can surely find whatever it is you have a craving for with the best service and environment. Bogotá’s service is well known for being one of the bests and these restaurants will give you a good show of that.
There is also a big collection of bars scattered around the neighbourhood that, as the restaurants, go from the all time Bogota D.C. favourite BBC (Bogotá Beer Company) that has their own artesanal beers to typical Irish bars and even some of the best underground bars in the city like The Eight Bells.
And even if the only thing you want to do is go out for a Coffee by yourself or some friends, there are all the coffee shops around that you can imagine. All can give you the best coffee Colombia has to offer and you can surely find the ambiance of your preference in one of them.
The best part of Usaquen, though, comes on Sundays with the Flea Market that consumes the whole neighbourhood with tents of all kinds of souvenirs, artisans selling their crafts,:old books, CDs, Vinyls, antiques, and all the typical crafts with silver, gold and thread that make them so colourful and desirable. There you can also find the rich smell of food and all kinds of Colombian desserts, like strawberries with cream, melao, bocadillo etc. while you also find live music of some sort playing in the background, giving the whole experience a more cultural and tropical vibe.
All in all, the market has a big artistic component given that artists and artisans from all parts of Colombia come to sell their products to the crowds that come without fail every Sunday to see and buy what it’s new. The market has been functioning for more than 20 years and has been now named one of the best cultural events in the city and country and is a must go to every person that visits Colombia.
Another particularity of the day is that a few storytellers gather in the center plaza to amuse their public with stories, jokes and anecdotes about their own lives, Bogotá D.C. and everything they can come up to with which the public will be able to relate and enjoy during the afternoons.
It is often say that the great food, the great ambience and the artistic and cultural make people from all over the world come and want to stay, so if you’re interested in the richness of culture not only found in Usaquen but the rest of the city, you now know where to find it!