Cartagena de Indias, Colombia travel guide

With a vibrant cultural scene, buzzy bars, smart dining and glam hotels, no wonder Colombia’s jewel is a jetsetter magnet, writes Kendall Hill.

Maria, Cartagena


The once-dangerous area of Getsemaní is the city’s most energetic quarter. Its film-set charm embraces street art (along Calle de la Sierpe), dreamy hotels, an emerging bar and restaurant scene and the nightly barrio party on Trinidad Square.


The Café del Mar atop the city walls is a popular gathering spot but it’s not the Café del Mar of Ibiza and chillout CD fame. It’s pleasant enough for a watery Margarita sundowner, but don’t expect a super-cool scene.


LAN Airlines flies daily from Sydney to Santiago, Chile, via Auckland, while codeshare partner Qantas has four direct flights a week, with onward LAN connections to Cartagena via Bogotá. Call 1800 126 038 or visit


Tcherassi Hotel & Spa

Cartagena’s most charming addresses are its mansion hotels nestled within the city walls. Casa San Agustin and Casa Pestagua are both gorgeous, but the most effortlessly glamorous is the Tcherassi Hotel & Spa. Colombian fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi has created an oasis of cool white with lush walls of tropical greenery and water, water everywhere. Rooftop rooms with private pools are the pick of the seven guestrooms. Calle Del Sargento Mayor 6-21

Anandá Hotel

The well-located Anandá is an old noble home accessed via a Judas gate from the street. Guests step into an exotic reception area leading to an internal courtyard shaded by an almond tree. The rooftop terrace is a gem with its garden lounges and pool. Luxury suites have balconies over the street, perfect for acting out Fermina Daza fantasies. Calle del Cuartel 36-77



This fabulously bohemian bar on buzzy Trinidad Square is the archetype of Getsemaní’s new cool. Owner Nicolas Wiesner has furnished an ancient house with rocking chairs (symbolic of the neighbourhood), rare tunes, groaning shelves of wine and liquor and a tapas menu of albondigas (meatballs), crab dumplings and burrata salad. There’s a lot to go crazy about at Demente. Plaza Trinidad, Getsemaní

Café Havana

You must remember that photo of Hillary Clinton dancing at Cartagena’s house of salsa (some things you just can’t unsee). Trust me, you’ll look a lot cooler than the former Secretary of State when you hit the floor at Café Havana’s big-band dance hall. Don’t worry if you can’t salsa; just feel the rhythm. Rum helps. Esquina Media Luna, Carrera 10, Getsemaní

El Barón

This stylish café-bar on stately Plaza de San Pedro Claver does excellent espresso (courtesy of a $13,000 custom La Marzocco machine) and a kicking chilli-salt Margarita. Plaza de San Pedro Claver


Names such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Desigual and Michael Kors have outlets in the walled city to cater to the new jetset (Cartagena’s only a 4.5-hour flight from New York after all). But for unique mementoes make a pilgrimage to St Dom, a boutique-cum-gallery with captivating Colombian fashion, art and design. Calle Santo Domingo 33-70


La Mulata

Popular with smart lunchtime crowds for its daily-changing set menu, La Mulata is a boisterous, happy place of Caribbean cuisine. The mulato (Afro-European) menu might include a biting prawn ceviche, a side dish of lentil soup and the rice dish arroz isleño. Calle del Quero 9-58


Gordon Ramsay alumnus Alejandro Ramírez is firing up the Centro Histórico with his see-and-be-seen seafood restaurant María. Guests assemble in a decadent dining room beneath pineapple chandeliers and tiger murals to sample Ramírez’s “honest cuisine” of cured salmon with jalapeño infusion and lobster sandwiches. Centro Calle del Colegio 34-60

La Vitrola

Old Havana endures in this restaurant where tables and waitstaff are clad in crisp white. The menu offers a Harry’s Bar carpaccio, traditional Cuban dishes and lavish seafood. It’s a massive scene, sure, but you won’t want to miss it. And don’t forget the Panama. Calle de Baloco 2-01, + 575 660 0711

Related stories