It’s seldom a surprise when Cartagena lands on the top of a traveler’s bucket list, what with its romantic UNESCO-listed Old Town, high-octane culinary scene, and Caribbean verve. Here’s where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit this vivacious Colombian city.
This boutique hotel is one of Cartagena’s most charming places to stay. It comprises three whitewashed buildings that are capsules of Spanish Colonial-style architecture. Plus, the pool here is oh-so-pretty.
Cartagena’s sanctuary-like grand dame sits right in the heart of the historic district. Its old-world exterior belies the 125 contemporary guest rooms within, which include spacious suites named after legendary Colombian creatives. After dinner at the hotel’s 1621 restaurant, tuck into El Coro Lounge for mojitos and live jazz. Sofitel might own it, but we assure you this stay feels like a special boutique hotel on all fronts.
Locals universally recommend this award-winning restaurant for its elevated spin on authentic Colombian classics. Enjoy generously portioned dishes of grilled Caribbean lobster with coconut rice and ceviche made with fresh-caught fish, accompanied by captivating live dance performances that move about the dining room all evening long.
A 19th-century edifice shelters this well-designed, tasty restaurant. Seafood and local shellfish are the move here. That said, if you’re more of a carnivore, they have an ambrosial grilled beef shoulder with blood sausage and piquillo peppers.
This World’s 50 Best Bar is one of Cartagena’s most coveted spots for innovative drinks and flavor-packed small plates. The bar spans three floors of a colonial mansion, each with a unique menu inspired by spirited themes like tropical colors and Colombian wildlife.
Best discovered on foot, Cartagena’s Old Town is a labyrinth of technicolor colonial mansions, grand theatres, and myriad other historic sites. Tap March Diaz of Mardeleva Travel for a walking tour distilled through a local’s lens, covering food to architecture. Pop into Casa Chiqui, a shopping boutique packed with bespoke beachy trappings.
El Portal de los Dulces
Follow your sweet tooth to this desserts mecca beneath the arcade at Plaza de los Coches, where you can sample traditional homemade confections like cocadas (jelly-stuffed macaroons) and muñequitas de leche (doll-shaped caramels) sold by mainly women vendors.
Looking for some culture while out in the desert? Stop by Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum, an open-air museum and sculpture park that features his unique folk art and installations.
Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa
A working monastery housed in a renovated early 17th-century building, this relic sits atop the city and is the tallest point in Cartagena. When visiting here, you’ll be privy to panoramic views of the area, alongside a petite museum and gardens.