City Guide: Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena is Colombia's vivacious Caribbean jewel. The port city is steeped in history amid stories of conquistadors and battles for independence, and its colourful colonial architecture has lived to tell the tales. The old town is encircled by a magnificent 13km-long stone wall, which has acted as protector of its inhabitants since 1796. Inside, smartly painted houses in vibrant hues sporting polished wooden balconies, brilliant blooming bougainvillea and intricate door knockers abound. In the adjacent up-and-coming Getsemani neighbourhood, winding streets lead to Plaza Trinidad, a square basking in the shadow of a picturesque 17th-century church, where old men meet to play scrabble and children hone their football skills.

While away hours exploring the cobbled streets, sampling street food and exploring iglesias or simply soaking up the laid-back Caribbean vibes. If in doubt, or in need of a little inspiration, consult This Is Cartagena and This Is Colombia Travel.

Cartagena isn't known for its beaches, but the Rosario Islands are. A smattering of islets a mere 40-minute boat ride from the city, this is where you'll find crystalline waters and fish so fresh you can still taste the sea salt.

By night, dinner is al fresco, in leafy restaurant courtyards bathed in moonlight or lively plazas serenaded by street performers. After dinner? This is when the city really comes alive to the pulsating, heady salsa beats.

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San Pedro

Cartagena, Colombia

This enchanting boutique hotel, formerly a colonial mansion, has just eight rooms and offers every guest a free welcome massage. Relax in the elegant courtyard under fairytale arches covered in draping ivy, or cool off in the plunge pool or rooftop jacuzzi. Tucked away on the edge of the old town, San Pedro is an oasis that many locals are yet to discover.

Address

B. San Diego Cll San Pedro Mártir 10-85 Cartagena de Indias

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Casa Don Sancho

Cartagena, Colombia

With French-inspired decor, this six-bedroomed hotel is equipped with a sun deck, swimming pool and cosy library. Named after a famous Spanish general, the hotel has been lovingly restored to showcase its original colonial features. Combined with contemporary luxury and sea views, the Casa makes for a perfect city retreat.

Address

Calle Don Sancho, 36-126 Centro Histórico

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Hotel Boutique Casa del Coliseo

Cartagena, Colombia

Romantic interiors featuring wooden-beam ceilings, pale hues and flower-adorned balconies make Casa del Coliseo a sophisticated spot for travellers. Climb the beautiful winding staircase to take a dip in the secluded rooftop pool or curl up under the wooden awning for a lazy afternoon nap in the shade.

Address

Centro Historico Calle del Coliseo 35-23

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Casa San Agustin

Cartagena, Colombia

The San Agustin seamlessly blends old Colombian style with modern comforts. The hotel is made up of three adjacent houses and has perfectly preserved original frescoes and an ancient Spanish aqueduct wall. Guests can relax in the stunning courtyard which features a wraparound freshwater pool and elegant sun loungers, framed by towering tropical plants.

Address

Centro Calle de la Universidad 36 - 44

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Mansion Tcherassi

Cartagena, Colombia

Owned by designer Silvia Tcherassi, this chic seven-room hotel features wooden floors, private balconies and huge open-plan bathrooms. The pièce de résistanceis the rooftop, offering a 360-degree panoramic view across Cartagena’s rooftops and the Caribbean Sea. Pick from four pools to recline by, and dine in the top-notch Italian restaurant.

Address

Calle del Curato No. 38-99 Centro 130001 Cartagena de Indias

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Las Islas

Cartagena, Colombia

Located 45 minutes outside of the city centre, these magical tree houses are the perfect spot for quiet contemplation and penning your thoughts. Kayak, scuba dive or snorkel with tiny fish during the balmy days before settling down for sunset drinks overlooking the island.

Address

Ciénaga de Cholón Barú

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Townhouse Cartagena

Cartagena, Colombia

After the sun slips into the Caribbean Sea, head to the rooftop of this contemporary hotel to sip on award-winning cocktails (there’s also a view of Fermina Daza’s house from here). The creation of the founders of the nearby Blue Apple Beach Club, expect an unpretentious and playful vibe.

Address

Calle Segunda de Badillo 36-88

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Mansión Tcherassi - duplicate

Cartagena, Colombia

Stay at this colonial-era townhouse for a honeymoon filled with history. In Cartagena’s bustling centre, Mansión Tcherassi offers a sleek retreat, complete with high ceilings, exposed-brick walls, and a sunlit courtyard draped in more than 3,000 plants. Head to the rooftop pool to toast married life with views across the city.

Address

Calle Sargento Mayor 6-21 Centro Historico Cartagena 11001 Colombia