About Time You Visited: CartagenaBy Kate Samuelson
Netflix’s latest big hit Narcos may be igniting an interest in Colombia, but there’s far more to the oldest city in South America than the drug cartels and violence portrayed in the show
From Cali, the salsa city, to Taganga and the diver’s heaven – Colombia is so varied a country that one would need years to truly see it all. However for a snap shot of the best the country has to offer there’s only one place to visit: Cartagena.
Where to Visit
Photo Credit: morbidofest
The Palacio de la Inquisición off Plaza de Bolivar, one of central Cartagena’s main squares, is not for the faint hearted. Dating back to 1610, the Palacio is stacked with gruesome torture instruments: around 800 people are said to have been executed there. It formed the base for the notoriously cruel Inquisition, whose job was trial Jews and other non-Catholics as well as those who had committed ‘black magic’ in colonial Cartagena. Charming.
Price: The descriptions are all in Spanish but English-speaking guides are available for COP $35,000. Entrance is COP $11,000.
Where: Plaza de Bolivar, Cartagena
Across the square from The Palacio de la Inquisición is the Museo del Oro Zenu – otherwise known as the ‘Gold Museum’. Although it is a lot smaller than Bogota’s far more famous version, this one is totally free to enter and everything has an English description.
Price: Free to enter
Where: Plaza de Bolivar, Cartagena
Where to Shop
The MYKITA Shop can be found inside a colonial building in the old town, the store’s modern interior contrasting with the historic architecture of the sounding buildings. Look no further for snazzy sunglasses and stylish frames.
Where: Calle del Estanco del Tabaco, #35-24 Cartagena
Check out Glory Ang Atelier for the chicest clothes in Cartagena. From funky patterns to high-end couture, these designs are fashion with a fun twist.
Where: Calle de la Iglesia Edificio Ayos, #5 Cartagena
Photo Credit: Lurecartagena.com
Where to Stay
For unparalleled luxury, it has to be the Hotel Santa Clara Cartagena, one of just five ‘Sofitel Legends’ in the world. The hotel gained ‘Legend’ status because of its building’s history; it dates back to 1621 and was originally a convent. It’s no shock that the hotel, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary last month, has been acknowledged as ‘Best Hotel in Colombia’ several times by the World Travel Awards and has won the ‘Best Wedding Destination in South America’.
Where: Calle del Torno, #39-29 Cartagena
Hotel Quadrifolio – ‘quadrifolio’ meaning four-leafed clover’ is a small, luxurious and award-winning hotel in the heart of Cartagena’s historic centre. The hotel’s eight suites, which were designed by top Colombian architect Miguel Soto Casas, are well equipped and spacious.
Where: Calle del Cuartel (Cra. 5) #36-118, Cartagena
La Passion is a charming boutique hotel perfect for people looking for a quiet escape from the bustling city. The hotel is built in a sixth century republican-style house and features a rooftop swimming pool and lounge area. Yacht rental is also available.
Where: Calle Estanco del Tabaco #35-81, Centro Historico 13001, Cartagena
Just a stone’s throw from the Sofitel Legend is La Cevicheria, known for its reasonably priced yet delicious ceviche. Take care when ordering the ‘mega’ ceviche option – it comes in a bucket and even the hungriest raw fish fans are unlikely to finish their meal.
Where: Calle Stuart #714, Cartagena
For Colombian food check out Casa de Socorra in the heart of the Getsemaní neighbourhood – Cartagena’s coolest area. Colombian specialities include fried fish with coconut rice, arrepas con queso or huevos (corn bread with cheese or egg) and shrimp ceviche.
Where: Calle Larga, #8B-112, Getsemaní, Cartagena
Photo Credit: fathomaway.com
Experience fine Cuban dining and live music at La Vitrola, which is part jazz club part lounge area. It may be slightly on the touristy side but the food and the atmosphere, which are reminiscent of Old Havana, are among the best in Cartagena.
Where: Centro Cll 33 #2-01 Calle Baloco, Cartagena
Photo Credit: jjscholl.wordpress.com
Non-boozers, check out Juan Valdez café – the Colombian coffee chain that puts Starbucks to shame.
Where: Various locations in Cartagena
Where: Baluarte de Santo Domingo, Cartagena
Salsa lovers check out Café Havana for live music, dancing and drinking – the mojitos are particularly good. Arrive early as the capacity is tight and boogie the night away to infectiously enjoyable Cuban music performed by an in-house band.
Where: Calle Media Luna and Calle del Guerrero, Getsemaní, Cartagena