If you're traveling to a foreign land, it helps to have a knowledgable travel resource. We recently teamed up with the travel gurus at Indagare to get the inside scoop on what to eat and explore on our long weekend in Cartagena, Colombia. We're sharing those tips with you here, along with some ideas for what to pack in your suitcase.
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Sultry, tropical Cartagena sits on Colombia's northern coast like a time capsule fronting the Caribbean Sea. In recent years, its colonial heart has been championed by designers and entrepreneurs, and today the city ranks as one of South America's—and the Caribbean's—most stylish destinations.
For a warm-weather escape, Cartagena offers everything from boutique hotels and cool restaurants to salsa classes, kite surfing, and fascinating history lessons. Don't miss walking along the fortified city walls, sampling mojitos and ceviche, and staying up late—the nightlife here is famous.
1. Caribbean Sea
Though surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena is like a tropical version of New Orleans with great music, food, and architecture (in other words: forget the beaches). To get on the water, hire a boat and explore the Islas del Rosario, an archipelago of coral islands.
2. Old City
Thanks to its waterfront location, Cartagena is blessed with an abundance of incredible seafood. For a big night out, María (Calle del Colegio 6A, 57-5-660-5380) is a must. The Chef worked in London, Tokyo, and New York before returning to his native Colombia, and his restaurant is the city's top address for seafood.
3. Neighborhood Walk
Explore the fast-gentrifying Getsemani neighborhood, Cartagena's bohemian hub and home to artists’ studios, hip bars, and Afro-Cuban classic Café Havana Club. Lovers of street art should not miss Calle de la Sierpe. For dinner, head to Demente tapas bar (Plaza de La Trinidad, 57-5-660-4226).
4. With a View
The historic old town is framed by Cartagena's photogenic wall fortifications, built by the Spanish in the 16th century. There are lots of restaurants and bars along the top of the muralla. Snag a table at Cafe del Mar (Baluarte Santo Domingo, 57-5-664-6515), with expansive views of the Caribbean Sea.
5. The Fort
Sixteenth-century Cartagena served as a key storage point for valuable, Spain-bound merchandise, which made the city a prime target for pirates. This explains the many fortifications preserved to this day, including Castilla San Fernando, at the southern tip of Tierrabomba, and massive Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, which towers impressively above the sea.
The Cuban-themed Café Havana is one of Cartagena's most iconic bars, but for something that feels even more local, head to Bazurto Social Club (Carrera 9 #30, 57-5-664-3124). On most nights, there's a fun mix of live music, which can range from cumbia to champeta (which both originated on Colombia's Caribbean coast).