Culture + Style

Get Your Culture Fix in Bogotá: A Guide to the Colombian Capital’s Music Scene

As Colombia’s capital, it’s no surprise that Bogotá is a hub of culture. Here are a few places where you can immerse yourself in Colombian music — from highbrow to pop — making unforgettable travel memories in the process.

Catch an Epic Show

bogota nightlife
Enjoy a night at the symphony. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Grammy-winning Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá, which celebrated 50 years in 2017, is a prized cultural institution, and the group performs almost every week at the Auditorio León de Greiff at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. In attempt to create a more inclusive classical music experience, the philharmonic hosts free concerts on Fridays and offers low-priced tickets on Saturdays.

You’d be wise to also check out the schedule for Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo, Teatro Colón and Teatro Jorge Eliécer Gaitán to track down Broadway shows, Hispanic hitmakers, international operatic ensembles, and—if you’re lucky—a folkloric ballet troupe from Colombia or another Latin American country that mixes ancestral steps and costumery with modern techniques and artistry.

Rock out at a Music Fest

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Crank it up to 11. (Photo: Getty Images)

In 2012, UNESCO recognized Bogotá as a City of Music for its progressive and bountiful musical offerings. Rock al Parque, hosted in July at Parque Simón Bolívar, is the biggest free rock festival in Latin America.

Estéreo Picnic, held in March, mixes international and national indie acts like The Killers, LCD Soundsystem, and Bomba Estéreo. Raíces Flamenbo celebrates the country’s Spanish influences. Colombia Al Parque brings forth traditional tunes from every region during its outdoor summer series.

The electro scene is also picking up in Latin America, and Bogotá is leading the charge with Baum Festival and Sónar Bogotá. Toward the end of the year, Misi Produccionesdraws the masses for its holiday musicals, running 30 years strong.

Dance Salsa with the Best of Them

Locals say Bogotá is “full salsero.” In other words, Bogotanians love to dance salsa—a tradition adopted from sister-city Cali, known as the Salsa Capital of the World.

In addition to having a large roster of clubs where the tropical sounds thump late into the night (Galería Café Libro, El Panteón de la Salsa, and Casa Buenavista are solid options); you’ll also find Cuban joints straight-from-the-island. Habana 93 near Parque de la 93 has a live band made up of Caribbean transplants.

Cubanita feels trapped in time, as it captures the vibe of 1950s Cuba. El Bembé has a Cuban chef and a rum bar with dozens of mojitos. And at Cachao Bar, the Pearl of Antilles glitters on the walls—filled with pictures of legends like Celia Cruz—and on the dance floor, where revelers dance to records from the old guard.

Hobnob with a Legend

Carlos Vives is one of Colombia’s crown jewels. Almost 20 years ago, the vallenato king opened Gaira Café—a restaurant, disco, bar, and live music venue, located in the home where he spent his adolescent years.

The space opened in the ’90s as a stage for up-and-coming artists; over the years, it kickstarted the careers of other musical legends, including Juanes and Shakira.

Though Gaira is more known for its late-night dance parties and restaurant, it’s not uncommon to see Vives or any of his famous friends play a pop-up intimate show on any given night.