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Cartagena: The Jewel of the Indies

Written By Rachel Braylovsky

Think: raw culture, the realest people, 85-degree weather year-round and the best food at your fingertips, day and night.  This is Cartagena. Reminiscent of a Latin NOLA, this city brings flavor, dance moves and spot-on drinks, making for the perfect long weekend.

Stay

Casa San Agustín: From the original frescoes in the library to the centuries-old wooden beamed ceilings in the rooms, the architecture of Casa San Agustín evokes the rich history of the 17th century city. With 20 rooms and 11 beautifully decorated suites, it feels intimate, managing to preserve the authentic Colombian style, while incorporating modern services and amenities for today’s travelers. | Book Here >>

Hotel Boutique Casa del Coliseo: This luxury hotel that features just a dozen rooms and suites, ensuring a boutique feel for guests. We love that Casa del Coliseo is housed in a 17th-century colonial building that has been restored to perfection, combining historical charm with 21st-century comfort and an exquisite décor. Guests can reserve individual rooms or the whole house.

Sofitel Legend Santa Clara: This beautiful resort-style hotel in the heart of the city is filled with stories. Housed in a former convent, the property offers a blend of colonial architecture and French luxury. Aside from the comfortable suites, we love it for its swimming pool, upscale spa and gourmet cuisine. | Book Here >>

Dine

  1. La Cevichería: You know it from watching Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” Colombia episode. This places easily serves the best ceviche in town, with or without the hype. They know how to pack the flavor in.
  2. Carmen: This is your spot for a heightened culinary experience in Cartagena when you want something with sophistication. Go for the tasting menu, it’s creative without being pretentious.
  3. La Mulata: A favorite find for a straight up authentic and non-fussy lunch spot, complete with the friendliest wait staff. Funky, ornate art lines he walls and the menu is simple. Come here for the fried fish and coconut rice and don’t forget the fresh juices!
  4. Maria: Here, you’ll discover a modern take on classic Colombian dishes. This restaurant is chic and funky, perfect for a night out. It’s no secret that their seafood is a hit.
  5. Juan del Mar: This culinary group has two restaurants next door to one another. If you’re feeling something different, go for the pizzeria. They have a wood-burning oven that will not disappoint. Creative thin-crust pizzas and the best mushroom risotto I’ve ever had! Flavor and creativity are key here.

Drink + Dance

If you don’t partake in some form of dance in Cartagena — salsa, champeta or otherwise— you haven’t had the full experience. Head to the Bazurto Social Club on any given night for a real thrill. In the earlier hours of the evening they give super fun dance lessons—literally everyone gets on their feet for this and trust me, it’s a real workout. Later in the evening, a live band comes on and shakes up the place with loud music and good vibes.

Not only does the city have a full on dance club scene, it also boasts some amazing cocktail focused bars as well. Check out Demente, Alquimico, El Barón and El Arsenal to name a few. These will take you through the neighborhoods from Centro to San Diego and Getsemani. Don’t leave the city without taking a ride on the famed Chivas Bus. Essentially, it’s a party bus with Aguardiente flowing and an MC/ hype man leading the way; it’s a Cartagena staple.

Play

The city of Cartagena de Indias was founded in the early 16th century by the Spanish colonizers. So. we’re talking plenty of history and sites to explore. Take a walking tour (or two!) of the city to learn about its history and culture. There are incredibly beautiful churches and if the day isn’t too hot, take a walk up to the top of the fortress Castillo San Felipe overlooking the city. You have art museums, galleries, street art, the former home of author Gabriel Garcia Marquez and in European fashion, plenty of squares and plazas to stroll through. Not to mention, no shortage of rum and coffee tastings that can and should be a daily affair.

Outside of the city, you can visit the famed and truly authentic Bazurto Market and La Boquilla fishing village. City life aside, no trip to Cartagena is complete without your own private yacht to visit the nearby islands off the Colombian coast. Take a trip to the Rosario Islands for snorkeling! Or, set sail to Isla Tierra Bomba for chic beach clubs and the best seafood.

Once you’re back on dry land, get yourself up to a rooftop for the most spectacular views of the old city. The stark architectural contrast of the old walled city and the new city, or “Little Miami,” will make for a great photo-op.

Shop

For all things shopping, we checked in with our resident fashionista, fellow Manhattan-based travel advisor, Daniela Ratner. With her  Colombian roots and keen sense of style, trust us, you won’t want to miss her top picks.

  1. Casa Chiqui: Come here for a gorgeous boutique, housed in a warehouse restored from its 1930’s glory. The shop exhibits accessories and furniture from Bali, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand and India.
  2. Silvia TcherassiWith more than 25 years in the industry, Tcherassi has shown her prêt-à-porter collections at the fashion weeks in Milan and Paris as a special guest of the organizers. Her collection includes bridal, home and accessories.
  3. St. Dom: This is a high-end concept store featuring luxury accessories, bags and jewelry, as well as home wares, like the perfect coffee table books. The store is located in a historical, colonial-style house.
  4. Mercedes Salazar: This global brand offers a wide product portfolio, including contemporary jewelry and fashion accessories handmade by master artisans in Colombia. The jewelry can be described as elegantly tropical, the type of pieces sure to spark conversation.
  5. Onda de Mar: Stop here to check out vibrant swimwear, designer bikinis, resort-wear and summer dresses with a distinctive Latin flair.
  6. Francesca Miranda: This renowned Latin American designer is based in Barranquilla, Colombia, making Cartagena a natural outpost. Drawing on the best of authentic craftsmanship and the diverse (indigenous) aesthetic around her, Francesca designs with a captivating sense of style and enormous creativity.
Stay
Casa San Agustín | la No. 36 44, Universidad de Cartagena, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Hotel Boutique Casa del Coliseo | Calle del Coliseo #35 – 23, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Sofitel Santa Clara | Cra. 8 #3929, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Dine
La Cevicheria | Cl. 39 #7 14, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Carmen | Calle 38 # 8-19, Calle del Santísimo, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
La Mulata | Calle Quero 9 58 Sandiego, Cartagena De Indias, Bolívar, Colombia
Maria | Local 2 Historical center Calle del Colegio #34-60, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Juan del Mar | Cl. 39 #38-18, Cartagena, Cartagena De Indias (Distrito Turístico Y Cultural), Bolívar, Colombia
Drink + Dance
Bazurto Social Club | Cra. 9 #3042, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Demente | Cra. 10 #29-29, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Alquimico | Calle del Colegio #34-24, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
El Barón  Cra. 4 #31-7, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
El Arsenal: The Rum Box | 24 #8b-19 Calle Arsenal #8b-19, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Play
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas | Cra. 17, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Bazurto Market |  Cartagena Province, Bolivar, Colombia
Shop
Casa Chiqui | Cra. 6 #36-127, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Silvia Tcherassi | Carrera 3 N° 31-11
 Plaza Santa Teresa
St. Dom | Cra. 3 #3370, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Mercedes Salazar | Sta Teresa, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Onda de Mar | Cl. 32 #313, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Francesca Miranda | Cl. 31 #3-25, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia

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