Cúcuta, which sits on the border with Venezuela, isn’t your typical border town. Colombia’s fifth largest city, with a sprawling population of more than one million, is one of the most important commercial centers in the northeast and famous for playing host to a significant battle of South American independence. Though it can be hot and muggy, you’ll find leafy parks and colonial era musuems to hide away in.
Things to Do
Step back in time at Casa de Santander, the historic childhood home of General Francisco de Paula Santander, a hero of Colombian independence, and Cúcuta’s biggest historic attraction. People watch at Parque Santander, a tree lined plaza in the city center that is anchored by a bronze statue of General Santander, or stroll along the Malecon, which runs to the Pamplonita river. For a quick side trip, visit the colonial village of Pamplona, a nearby town of narrow streets filled with beautiful churches and historic architecture.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Like most colombian cities, Cúcuta knows how to rumba. The party along the four mile strip of Avenida Libertadores, or the Malecón, and in the Centro Comercial Bolívar goes until the wee hours of the morning at bars and clubs such as Palko. An alternative would be Old Barr on Avenida 0, a nightclub inspired by the London underground.
Restaurants and Dining
Small restaurants serving dishes like tamales or mute (a regional soup) are well represented in Cúcuta’s lively center, though international eateries are not overshadowed. Rodizio, a Brazilian–style steakhouse, has been open for more than three decades. The modern Mediterranean bistro, Oporto, with its elegant brick interior and wood fired pizzas, make it one of the city’s most romantic places. A livelier scene is at the Asian fusion spot San Telmo. Molinito serves trendy Latin small plates.
Change your Bolivars for Pesos because there’s plenty to buy in this frontier town. Some of the country’s largest and most modern malls can be found here, such as the sprawling Unicentro mall with more than 110 stores, green space, and vibrant entertainment options; or the Ventura Plaza Mall, right in the city center near the Casino International Hotel.