Tcherassi Hotel & Spa is in the historic heart of Cartagena, next to the leafy Plaza Fernandez de Madrid and a couple of blocks from the sea.
Fly into Rafael Nuñez International, 6km from the hotel (around 20 minutes in a taxi; transfers cost roughly $7 each way). JetBlue has a flight from New York, while American Airlines and United Airlines fly in from Miami; if you’re coming from Europe, you’ll need to connect in the US or Bogotá.
You can hire a car from the airport, but there’s no real reason to – Cartagena’s historic core is very walkable and, in any case, taxis are cheap.
Worth getting out of bed for
Start with a dip in the pool, or indulge yourself at the spa, if you prefer. Then set out to explore Cartagena – get your bearings with a stroll along the city wall, and delve into the web of colourful cobbled streets and sleepy, palm-lined squares.
Start with souvenirs: for handwoven hammocks, mochila bags and embroidered blouses, put on your haggling-hat and introduce yourself to the independent traders under the arches at Las Bovedas, formerly the city dungeon. Try St. Dom (3370, Carrera 3) for concept fashion, Casa Chiqui ( 36-127, Carrera 6) for head-turning homeware, and Lucy Jewelry (3-19, Calle Santo Domingo) for exquisite emeralds. Check out some pre-Colonial bling at the Museo del Oro Zenú (Plaza Bolivar), which showcases over 500 gold artifacts and pottery crafted by the indigenous Zenú people. For a night at the opera, you’ll want Teatro Heredia (De La Merced 3638), now restored in all its pastel-pink glory.
Visit the imperious 16th-century San Felipe de Barajas castle for an insight into Cartagena’s colonial history – and try not to get lost in the maze of underground tunnels.
Any visit to Candé (35-30, Carrera 5) should start with a creamy coco limonada – after that it’s up to you whether to go for heaving platters of fresh seafood, or tender medallion steak. Psychedelic murals are plastered on the walls at María (34-60, Calle del Colegio), and the food is dreamy too – go for the squid ink risotto, the grilled octopus, or the sure-fire-hit ceviche. Old-school La Vitrola (33-66, Carrera 2) has found a winning formula – steaks, seafood and live music, all served with no-frills familial affection.
Sunset drinks at Café del Mar (on the city wall by Calle 36) is a Cartagena rite of passage; get there early for the best sea-facing seats. The blistered paintwork and time-worn tiles only add to the atmosphere at townhouse bar Alquimico (34-24, Calle del Colegio), where Cartagena’s coolest come for rooftop cocktails. For a big night out, join the locals at Bazurto Social Club (3042, Carrera 9, Getsemaní), or salsa till sunrise at Cuban-styled Café Havana (on the corner of Calle 10 and Calle 30 in Getsemaní).