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Cartagena

Mr. Harper's Travel Guide

The most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of New Granada, Cartagena served for centuries as the main gateway to South America. Its wealthy residents built elaborate mansions and palaces in the historic center, many of which have now been converted into richly atmospheric hotels ...

The most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of New Granada, Cartagena served for centuries as the main gateway to South America. Its wealthy residents built elaborate mansions and palaces in the historic center, many of which have now been converted into richly atmospheric hotels and restaurants. 

Some have compared Cartagena to Venice, but to me, it feels closer to New Orleans. Both draw throngs of tourists but retains their identities as a real cities, with music, shopping, art and culinary scenes of interest to locals as well as to visitors. Several universities draw a youthful energy to the city, and cultural institutions host noteworthy events such as a contemporary art biennale. 

The best way to discover this colorful city is simply to amble along its flower-filled streets, browsing the museums and boutiques and pausing for refreshment from time to time in a shady courtyard café. A driver and guide are recommended for visiting sights farther afield, such as the hilltop La Popa convent and the fortress of San Felipe de Barajas.

bird icon Recommended Luxury Hotels in Cartagena

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.
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Best Restaurants in Cartagena

This fashionable restaurant in the Anandá boutique hotel, with its open kitchen, exposed stone wall and tall ceilings, served perhaps the best meal of the trip. I started with a fresh and complex tiradito (akin to ceviche) of corvina infused with sambal, mango and coconut. My main course of “Pork Two Ways” ranks among the tastiest dishes I’ve ordered in recent memory. The juicy lacquered pork loin was accompanied by a savory 12-hour chicharrón, buttery green beans and creamy sweet-potato purée.

Calle del Cuartel # 36-77 Carrera 5 Cartagena

One of Cartagena’s newest restaurants, Bohemia serves contemporary Peruvian and Colombian cuisine. My innovative corvina tartare came with crunchy rice tinted with squid ink, and an aioli-based sauce. Huge and tender shrimp were served atop a hot “rock” made from coarse-grained salt. We enjoyed lunch in the leafy courtyard, but if the weather is inclement, diners can descend into the restaurant’s wine cellar.

Calle Nuestra Señora del Carmen 33- 41 Hotel El Marqués Cartagena

Tall shelves of wine run the entire length of this cheerful Cartagena classic, an airy white storefront restaurant frequented by locals and tourists alike. The menu includes Peruvian, Spanish and Italian dishes. We focused on the local seafood options such as an appetizer of sweet crab claws in a white wine and butter sauce, and red snapper served in a sauce of shrimp, coconut milk and diced tomatoes. The menu also has several meat-based dishes for those in a more carnivorous mood.

Calle del Colegio 34-60 Local 1 Cartagena
SIMILAR REGIONS TO Worldwide //  South America //  Colombia //  Cartagena

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