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Best of Cartagena

Colombia’s scenic walled town is part jet-set magnet, part sleepy seaport.
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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Duration: Multiple days

Overview :  Visiting Cartagena, an old walled seaport on Colombia’s northwest coast, is like joining a cabal of travelers who could spend a week... more »

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Points of Interest

1. 8–18

The sophisticated Caribbean fare draws a chic crowd. The best tables are upstairs and the mero comes with crema agria, something like a spice crème fraîche.

Address:
2-124 Gastelbondo, No. 8
Cartagena
Colombia

Phone:
57-5-664-2632

2. Café Havana

There’s dancing almost every night at this bar deep inside the iffy part of Gesemaní—take a taxi here and back.

Address:
Corner of Media Luna and Guerrero
Cartagena
Colombia

Phone:
57-315-690-2566

3. Casa Pestagua

This small, chic, and stylish hotel let’s guests sleep under frescoed ceilings, then wake to take their breakfast in the lush, columned courtyard. Opened in 2007, the stately upstairs rooms are furnished with 19th-century antiques that smell like beeswax.

Address:
33-63 Calle de Santo Domingo
Cartagena
Colombia

Phone:
57-5-664-9510

4. Catedral de Cartagena

The tropical-fruit-colored façade hides a marble interior that offers a cooling respite from the hot city streets.

Address:
Plaza de Bolívar
Cartagena
Colombia

5. El Coro

Housed in a 17th-century monastery, El Coro bar, at Hotel Sofitel Santa Clara, lures locals and guests alike with pitch-perfect mojitos and the prospect of glimpsing writer and occasional barfly Gabriel García Márquez.

Address:
39-29 Torno, Plaza San Diego
Cartagena
Colombia

Phone:
57-5-650-4700

6. El Marques

In Cartagena’s cobblestoned Old Town, El Marqués Hotel still feels like an old colonial home. Ornate wooden balconies look out over courtyards and shaded terraces, rustic beams and polished stone floors set off white walls and bathrooms, and low-slung canvas chairs create quiet nooks under the palms. La Cava, the hotel’s restaurant, is one ... More

7. Hotel Agua

Stay in this small, stylish, and private hotel complete with frescoed-ceilings. The rooms are filled with dark antiques and soft white bedding. Here you spend most of your time outdoors, either in sitting rooms that open onto the courtyard, or on the rooftop terrace, where the pool has a view of the cathedral tower. A favorite of the fashion set, ... More

8. Hotel Charleston Cartagena

Travelers in the know are once again flocking to Cartagena for its architecture, beaches, and white-hot nightlife. The Charleston Cartagena is the city’s grand dame: the sweeping staircases and hand-painted woodwork of the original building, a 17th-century convent, have been preserved; the 90 guest rooms are outfitted with marble bathrooms and... More

On a quiet corner by the Cartagena’s walls, the hotel is located across from the Teatro Heredia Adolfo Mejía, one of the city’s architectural gems.

Address:
36-165 Don Sancho
Cartagena
Colombia

Phone:
57-5-664- 7727

A museum full of historical dioramas and crude 18th-century portraits of governors and generals. The first floor displays torture devices that illustrate how a little wrought iron might shape one’s faith.

Address:
Plaza de Bolívar
Cartagena
Colombia

Phone:
57-4-664-4113

11. Palma, Cartagena

A nominally Italian restaurant (there’s foccacia in the breadbasket), with refined South American dishes like cevice of corvina—a white-fleshed fish similar to sea bass—prepared with lime, hot peppers, and corn.

Address:
38-137 Curato
Cartagena
Colombia

Phone:
57-5-660-2796

12. Quiebra Canto

A lively bar just a short taxi ride from the central city with music on Fridays. Dancing couples spill out onto the balcony and salsa music lasts late into the night. A half-bottle of a Colombian rum like Tres Esquinas costs around $15 (though you might splurge on a superior Cuban label), and you’ll get looked at funny if you order anything less.

... More

13. Restaurante Casa de Socorro

Traditional Caribbean cazuelas—spicy seafood stews—are served without fuss at a restaurant that deserves its reputation for having the most authentic food in town. The portions are heroic: a starter like the picada de tortuga (stewed turtle meat)—is a meal itself, and a party of four could fill up on the cazuela de marisco, an intensely flavored... More

In this convivial spot with potted palms, a dapper six-man Cuban band is always stationed at the door. It’s Cartagena’s unofficial clubhouse, a place where dignitaries and journalists trade off-the-record jokes and women in expensive sandals pick at complicated salads. Try the carpaccio de mero—grouper sliced paper-thin and dressed with lime and... More

In 1995 Sofitel opened the Santa Clara, a 121-room luxury hotel in the shell of a 17th-century convent. Located in a peaceful part of town with views of the sea, the older part is grand enough to host a head of state but most rooms are undistinguished (if comfortable), as if they’d been plucked from a Florida resort.

Address:
39-29 Calle Del... More