Michael: Bogotá has a plethora of what they call centro comerciales or malls in English. Of course with over eight million people in the city it is to be expected. In the last ten years my wife and I have hit most if not all of them. Do not think that my wife likes to shop. The reason is that I wanted to see the differences. It is the curiosity thing in me. You can tell much about an area and its people from their shopping areas. Then there is the history part. How these major shopping centers have evolved. The part these shopping places play into the lives of the people and the dynamics of the city is fascinating.
Graciela: There seems to be a mall in most neighborhoods. But we still have many beauty shops, bakeries, coffee shops, grocery stores, hardware stores and other small stores in each neighborhood. For the basics you can walk and get what you need from these tiendas.
Michael: However, to me Colombians are becoming like U.S. citizens. More and more seem to enjoy hanging out at the malls. Many of the large newer centro comerciales require transportation to get to. Though there are some smaller malls in neighborhoods that some can walk to. Readers must also remember that the population density in Bogotá is 13,500 people per square kilometer. Now compare that to America’s most dense city, Los Angeles, with only 2,750 inhabitants per square kilometer.
Graciela: To pick five malls, from the hundreds, for tourists to visit when in town was not an easy task. Michael and I engaged in many debates. Though there are some unique and interesting malls around the city, we decided that it was best to concentrate on those in the major areas where tourists would stay or feel comfortable.
Michael: I set my own criteria as well. The malls we recommend must have seats on their toilets. I know that sounds strange, especially for people from developed countries. But, I can easily state that the vast majority of shopping centers in Colombia decline to meet my condition. Why these places fail to provide seats makes absolutely no sense to me, but Colombians are use to it and seem to take it for granted. This little fact helped us narrow down the list to mostly malls in gringolandia areas.
Graciela: I try to look at the choices of malls from the perspective of a visitor shopping and discovering Colombia. That does not mean cheap trinkets, but rather unique fine quality Colombian products.
Michael: OK, let’s get started. There are not presented in any particular order.
Graciela: This is one of my favorites and I have shopped there often. The office I worked at was just a few blocks away. Many people find it an enjoyable place to walk. There is an open feeling in the design. The best brands are presented in the stores. This a place where you can find Colombian made items that cannot be found elsewhere. There are also several banks on premise as well as money exchange places.
Michael: The mall is 20 years old and located in the Zona Rosa (gringolandia) area of Bogotá. There are many fine hotels nearby including one of our favorites, the Morrison. Others can be found in our listing of hotels in the Zona Rosa section. While the place is a little too gringo for my taste I will admit that it puts on terrific holiday displays.
Cine Colombia is the movie theater at the mall. If you are looking for something to see in English then this place is more likely to have it at an earlier hour than many other malls.
On the top floor is the food court. Nothing really special in the food department in my opinion but the atmosphere has an open feeling to it. And indeed there is variety available, so one is sure to find something they like.
Graciela: Good high-end exclusive products is one way to describe the place. You will definitely find things here that you cannot find anywhere else. El Retiro is located directly across the street from Andino. This is also a very international place. You can find shops from around the world.
Michael: While my wife is correct that the unique stores are there, the atmosphere seems dull and drab to me. Andino is alive with design. El Retiro is a glass and steel building with rectangular sized stores off an hallway. Even the stairs seem to be misplaced to me.
I was ready to give them kudos though for their app for shoppers. However my excitement took a nosedive after their app for Android phones took forever to load and then failed to display the stores on my phone. To me, especially if you are a place promoting yourself for quality items you should make sure your app works.
Graciela: This is my favorite mall. It has over 300 stores covering a range of items and prices. They gave it a face lift in the last few years making it even better. The space has a very open feeling to it especially with the trees inside.
It has both a movie theater and a food court. Cine Colombia is the theater. But what really makes it nice are the number of restaurants on floors other than food court. And one of the very few places in the North of the city where you can get the real
Colombian Chocolate Santafereño you should go to Picaflor located on the second floor.
Michael: Yes there are plenty of good hotels nearby. In our listing of hotels in Bogotá look under the Unicentro area heading.
I also like the mall. And if you want to talk coffee, well my recommendation is to visit Deli Pasteleria. It made our list of the top 10 coffee shops in Bogotá for 2014.
Centro Comercial Santafé
Michael: I’ll start first this time because this is my favorite mall in Bogotá. I even like the layout of their website. For me, this place is just enjoyable to walk around and discover. There are over 300 stores laid out in a pattern that seems to highlight each one. The food court has a very large selection plus there are restaurants around as well. The cinema is Cine Colombia and has eight theaters. Though there are people everywhere, this one seems to be less noisy than most other malls.
Graciela: Santafé has some great stores for women’s clothing. I would say there are about 50 locations where you can find colorful colombian wearables.
What my husband forget to mention is there are no hotels around this mall. It is located in the North of the city near Calle 180. There is plenty of parking under the mall. And Bogotá’s mass transportation system, the Transmilenio, even has a stop there. But the mall is worth the trip if you are visiting Bogotá and need to do a little shopping for yourself and gifts to take back home.
Graciela: Located at Calle 80 with Avenida Boyacá this is Bogotá’s newest mall. The atmosphere has a large feel to it. The food area is different than at other malls in that it does not have a cramped feeling. The movies are presented by Cine Colombia. And like Santafé there are no hotels nearby. However the parking lot is very large.
Michael: In my opinion, Titán has the most U.S. feel to it of all the malls in Bogotá. It is more than the brands of the stores, it is the size. Many malls have small store spaces. Titán shops are larger. Plus the design is such that you can easily find what you are looking for, but it is not bland like El Retiro. There is character to it. And it is the only mall I am aware of that has a Home Sentry store. Here at least you can find some hardware type items not to mention a large selection of small appliances.
If I have a complaint, it is that I am not a fan of their website. It is difficult to navigate in my opinion and there is insufficient information. For instance I was looking for banks. While their search box has 34 different categories in it, it does not have one for banks or money exchanges. I wanted to see a floor plan to get an idea of the location of a store and it did not have that either.
Graciela: Andino and El Retiro are tourist designed malls. You can find some very nice things there for yourself and for gifts.
Michael: I guess that I am more of a traveler than a tourist. To really understand the people, but at the same time discover unique gifts, one should visit Unicentro, Santafé or Titán.