South America Living

Cartagena, Colombia Travel Guide

Cartagena de Indias, “the jewel of Colombia”, is one of the most beautiful cities on earth. Steeped in history, bathed in bright colors and verdant gardens, and with a thriving visitor industry, it is a place you must visit if you travel to Colombia.

What to do

Walk around on foot – The Old City, within the ancient walls of Cartagena, is one of the best cities anywhere for walking. The narrow cobblestone streets (blissfully too narrow for tour busses), lined with brightly colored centuries-old mansions dripping flowers from their balconies, can only properly be enjoyed on foot. Set aside at least a day to let yourself get lost in the maze of these beautiful lanes (don’t worry – the old city is really not big. You’ll always find your back.).

Playa Blanca – Ask your hotel clerk for help in booking a boat ride to the islands of Rosario and the area’s prettiest beach, Playa Blanca.

The Palace of the Inquisition – Just what it sounds like it is, this museum memorializes one of the darker times in Spanish colonial history. The Palace was the site of one of three tribunals of the infamous Spanish Inquisition outside of Spain. At the Palacio, an ancient stone structure within the walls of the old city, you can see some pretty gruesome torture devices, and get a lot of excellent history of the colonization of this area, the treatment of natives and non-believers, and of Cartagena generally.

Palacio de la Inquisicion – Plaza de BolĂ­var
Entrance Fees: Adults $16,000COP; Children $13,000COP
Open 9am – 6pm

Where to stay

The Sofitel Santa Clara

The Sofitel Santa Clara

Sofitel Santa Clara
This luxury hotel is a beautifully restored former convent in the heart of the Old City, steeped in history, and offering the most modern of amenities.
Website: Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena

Tcherassi Hotel and Spa
Silvia Tcherassi is an acclaimed Colombian fashion designer who purchased and renovated a historic mansion in the Old City, turning it into a gorgeous 7-room boutique hotel with a spa and a gourmet restaurant.
Website: Tcherassi Hotel and Spa

Hilton Cartagena Hotel
In the modern Bocagrande neighborhood, with its own beautiful beach and swimming pool, this luxury hotel has 341 rooms and an excellent restaurant.
Website: Hilton Cartagena Hotel

Hotel Casa del Curato
A gorgeous and friendly boutique hotel in the heart of the Old City, this refurbished 18th Century mansion has 11 air-conditioned rooms, a small pool and tasty homemade breakfasts.
Website: Casacurato.com

Where to eat
things_to_do_cartagena_restaurants_la_perla_09_02La Perla
I enjoyed an excellent meal at this first class Peruvian restaurant. Read about it here.

Calle de Ayos No. 4-42
Telephone: +57 5 6642157

La Vitrola
This is the classic “grande dame” of of old Cartagena dining. With Cuban-style meals featuring fresh local seafood, and live, lively Cuban music every night, La Vitrola has served the who’s-who of Cartagena residents and visitors for decades. Read a description of my visit here.

Calle Baloco No. 33-201, Cartagena’s old city
Telephone: +57 5 6600711

Patagonia Asados Del Sur

A true Argentine Parrilla in the heart of the old city, Patagonia almost certainly has the best beef in town (I haven’t eaten everywhere, but I enjoyed two excellent meals here that held up nicely to the authentic parrillas I ate at in Buenos Aires), and provides a friendly Argentine atmosphere, with tango music and Argentine decor.

Calle del Curato No. 38-137
Telephone: +57 5 6602403

Vera at the Tcherassi Hotel20150509_133953

A fine dining Italian style restaurant at the modern Tcherassi Hotel, which I discussed above. Set in a whimsical outdoor/indoor garden, the menu features local seafood delicacies prepared with an Italian flair.

Calle de Sargento Mayor No. 6-21
Telephone: +57 5 6644445
Website: Vera at Tcherassi

Restaurante 1621

The Sofitel Santa Clara Hotel, which I also discussed above, is home to one of the city’s finest gourmet restaurants. The sommelier presents wine tastings once a week in the original refectory of this former convent where the nuns ate their meals, and the menu features international cuisine with local flavors.

Calle del Torno No. 39-29
Telephone: +57 5 6504741
Website: Restaurante 1621

City Map

More about Cartagena de Indias:

Cartagena de Indias: The Jewel of Colombia

The Door Knockers of Cartagena

Don’t Listen to Your Mom: Eat Colombian Street Food!




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