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Trip Guide to Lively Cartagena, Colombia

200804-cartagena-ss-1-article

Photo: Maracas

Visiting Cartagena, an old walled seaport on Colombia’s northwest coast, is like joining a cabal of travelers who could spend a week anywhere in the world but come here for a dash of jet-set flash—and a potential Gabriel García Márquez sighting. (The author is a part-time resident.) It’s one of the prettiest cities around: Imagine Havana with a fraction of the population, San Juan unmodernized, New Orleans without sophomores on spring break. And it’s only a 2 1/2-hour flight from Miami.

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Destinations: Lasarte-Oria · Cartagena

Inspired by: Cartagena, a Hidden Retreat — by Oliver Schwaner-Albright, Published Mar. 2008

Hotels (7)

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    Casa Pestagua

    This small, chic, and stylish hotel let's guests sleep under frescoed ceilings, then wake to take their breakfast in the lush, columned courtyard.

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    Sofitel Cartagena Santa Clara

    This 121-room luxury hotel, the Old City's first, is carved from the shell of a 17th-century convent in the quiet San Diego neighborhood. The older

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    La Merced Hotel Boutique

    On a quiet corner by the Cartagena's walls, the hotel is located across from the Teatro Heredia Adolfo Mejía, one of the city's architectural gems.

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    La Heróica

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    Hotel Charleston Cartagena

    Travelers in the know are once again flocking to Cartagena for its architecture, beaches, and white-hot nightlife. The Charleston Cartagena is the

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    Hotel Agua

    Stay in this small, stylish, and private hotel complete with frescoed-ceilings. The rooms are filled with dark antiques and soft white bedding. Her

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    El Marqués

    In Cartagena’s cobblestoned Old Town, El Marqués Hotel still feels like an old colonial home. Ornate wooden balconies look out over courtyards and

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Restaurants (4)

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    La Vitrola

    In this convivial spot with potted palms, a dapper six-man Cuban band is always stationed at the door. It's Cartagena's unofficial clubhouse, a pla

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    Restaurante Casa de Socorro

    Traditional Caribbean cazuelas - spicy seafood stews - are served without fuss at a restaurant that deserves its reputation for having the most aut

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    Palma, Cartagena

    A nominally Italian restaurant (there's foccacia in the breadbasket), with refined South American dishes like cevice of corvina - a white-fleshed f

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    8-18

    The sophisticated Caribbean fare draws a chic crowd. The best tables are upstairs and the mero comes with crema agria, something like a spice crème

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Activities (6)

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    El Coro

    Housed in a 17th-century monastery, El Coro bar, at Hotel Sofitel Santa Clara, lures locals and guests alike with pitch-perfect mojitos and the pro

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    Palacio de la Inquisición

    A museum full of historical dioramas and crude 18th-century portraits of governors and generals. The first floor displays torture devices that illu

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    Iglesia de San Pedro

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    Catedral de Cartagena

    The tropical-fruit-colored façade hides a marble interior that offers a cooling respite from the hot city streets.

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    Quiebra Canto

    A lively bar just a short taxi ride from the central city with music on Fridays. Dancing couples spill out onto the balcony and salsa music lasts l

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    Café Havana

    There's dancing almost every night at this bar deep inside the iffy part of Gesemaní - take a taxi here and back.

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