I have been dreaming of visiting Cartagena for the past couple years now after I saw one of my favorite journalists, and instagram style gurus, visiting the city over New Years with her husband. Everything about it looked so enchanting – the colors, the cascading flowers over the Colonial style buildings, the Palenqueras (fruit ladies) and their amazing ruffled dresses. When I finally found a small window in my calendar to head out for 4 days, I did exactly that. Turns out it’s even BETTER than I imagined it would be! It is undoubtedly the perfect NYC escape – revitalizing and inspiring. Here is what NOT to miss on your first journey there.
What to Pack:
- Warning: Cartagena is incredibly hot and humid. Jeans and sweaters won’t be necessary, but your sunblock definitely will be. I packed a number of off-the-shoulder dresses in bright colors that I knew would pop in the city streets. My impression is that Colombians take great pride if how they dress, so don’t be scared to wear your best, even during the day! At night there are a great number of beautiful bars and restaurants to hop to so make sure you have some chic evening looks. I found heels to be a bit tricky to walk-in on the cobbled streets, so do pack some easy slides for your late night strolls.
Where to Stay:
- Hotel Casa San Agustin (pictured above) – utterly majestic oasis in the heart of the Old Town. I was completely transfixed by their outdoor pool that wrapped around an ancient exposed wall.
- Tcherassi Hotel – founded by fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi.
- Casa Pombo – if you are looking to rent an incredibly luxe apartment
- Airbnb (Old Town)
What to See:
- The Old Town – my knowledge is somewhat limited to this area since this is where I stayed, but you really could spend days wandering those streets and not get bored.
- Getsemani for Street Art
- Mercado de Bazurto (food market)
Where to Eat:
- Alma – fine dining at Casa San Agustin
- Vera – fine dining with a view at Tcherassi Hotel
- Maria – amazing cocktails and inventive seafood
- Carmen – chic design and contemporary cuisine
- Don Juan – mix of Colombian and Caribbean
- La Vitrola – less trendy but excellent. Order the fried fish with coconut rissotto.
- La Cevicheria – you won’t find one guide not telling you to eat ceviche here. It is always packed so do go for lunch or early for dinner.
Where to Shop:
- St. Dom – contemporary store featuring tons of local designers and a built in shop for Colombia’s fashion game changer, Johanna Ortiz.
- Casa Chiqui – a perfect mix of home decor and local Colombian fashion accessories and designs.
- Gloria Angulo – purchased one of her amazing silk kimonos. Really unique, local designer.
- Silvia Tcherassi – seriously divine collection and shop. I tried on nearly everything. Reminds me of Manoush in Paris.
- Onda de Mar for Swimwear – really unique Colombian bathing suits.
- Wayuu Bags at Street Vendors (see below)
Where to Play:
- El Baron – really tiny but amazing cocktails and great music!
- Alquimico Bar – also amazing tunes and artisanal drinks but much bigger with a rooftop bar.
- Cafe del Mar – must go for the sunset and chill seaside vibes.
- Cafe Havana – if you want to experience salsa, this is a fun spot to dance the night away.
What to See Outside the City:
- Blue Apple Beach House: I thoroughly enjoyed spending the day here. We headed down to the Marina Santacruz where we took a speedboat out to the island. You could lounge poolside or head down to the private beach area. It was a perfect reprieve from the sticky city.