Strolling along a path surrounded by trees, it is easy to forget you are in hectic Bogotá. Even though it is lined by roads on both sides, this avenue in the centre of the city provides some much needed serenity. In the morning, women sit and gossip on the benches, and at night groups of bohemian looking students lounge on the grass drinking and telling typically raucous stories in Spanish. At times the scene brings to mind a park in Europe more than a busy thoroughfare in Colombia’s capital.
This is Parkway, an area of Bogotá oft-neglected by tourist guides but nonetheless worth a visit. The street was designed in the mid-20th century by Austrian architect Karl Brunner, which perhaps explains its European feel. Parkway runs along the Carrera 22 from Calle 36 to 45, and it is amazing how many bars, restaurants and theatres are packed into these few short streets.
Walking from Transversal 36A where Parkway begins, you will first arrive at the bookshop and cafe Magisterio (Diagonal 36 Bis No.20-70). The cafe’s smooth jazz and comfy sofas make it the perfect place to relax with a good book, although the bookshop itself stocks more academic titles than fiction. Books, as ever in Bogotá, are pricey: titles range from $30,000 to $70,000 pesos. There is a second-hand section for the bargain price of $10,000 pesos, but on the day I was there pickings were slim and more of the sort you’d find abandoned on a hostel bookshelf, causing you to ponder questions like: just who decided to read a complete history of tractors in Russian?
But the cakes and coffee in the cafe are delicious, and it makes a nice relaxing pit stop on your journey along Parkway. If you continue along the tree-lined avenue, you will soon arrive at the striking blue headquarters of the Partido Conservador (Conservative Party).
Crossing the street from the party’s headquarters, you can forget about political hues with a quick drink in the jazz bar Trementina (Cra. 24 No.37-44). A favourite with locals, the bar has an outdoor terrace with heaters, and equally charming indoor seating. The vino caliente is a winner and the food, although slightly pricey, is flavoursome. A glass of wine and some bruschetta will set you back roughly $20,000 pesos so this one’s a treat, but well worth it if your budget will stretch.
If you’re not quite ready for an alcoholic drink, the cafe Andante (Cra. 22 No.39A-10) has a fresh, cleanly styled interior and a great selection of food. I’d recommend the breakfast: $5,500 pesos will get you a coffee or tea, fresh orange juice, and a meltingly warm croissant with butter and jam. The cafe also stocks a large variety of Twinings teas for the homesick Brits among us.
Or if you have more of a sweet tooth, you should head to the cafe Bliss (Cra.22 No.40-53). A small cafe situated in a nook under an apartment building, it opens onto the street allowing you to enjoy the view of Parkway while you eat. The cafe has a great selection of sweet treats and the infusion is like a mojito without the alcohol and none the less tasty for it.
Now that you’re fed and watered, it might be time to soak up some culture. Parkway is well catered for this, with no less than three theatres nearby. Head to the Casa Ensamble (Cra. 24 No.41- 69) for a striking exterior and cheap but interesting pieces (tickets from $10,000 pesos.) The Teatro Nacional is a bit more traditional, and advance booking is recommended. Finally, the Teatro Arlequin (Cra. 25 No.41-64) boasts a diverse repertoire and, perhaps more importantly for some, a delicious burger restaurant.
After all that, you will probably be in need of another drink so should wander over to the jazz bar San Café (Cra. 24 No.45A-64) to end your evening. On Wednesdays, the bar hosts an open mike jazz night. This makes for an authentic experience, with musicians who have never met before jamming together. A glass of red wine costs about $8,000 pesos but comes in a goldfish bowl sized glass – two of these were sufficient to give me a thumping head the next day.
Stumbling home after your day and night in Parkway, you will hopefully agree that this area is just as worth a visit as more famous areas of Bogotá. Plus, its quiet tree lined avenues make it the per- fect place to start a new book and nurse a hangover.