Sep 19, 2019 | By Louise Squire
In pursuit of maximalism, where better to draw inspiration from than Cartagena, the Caribbean jewel in Colombia’s crown.
You can’t walk down a street without buying fresh watermelons, crustacean earrings and oversized straw hats – quite simply, the streets of Cartagena are awash with iconic, summer imagery.
On the North coast of Colombia, Cartagena’s rich history contributes to the vibrancy of the city today. Founded on a history of gold, piracy and Latin American dancing (with a Caribbean influence), this is a colourful and flamboyant city is a WGSN favourite to draw inspiration from.
Below are my recommendations for the best places to eat, shop, dance and absorb the vibrant culture.
Sleep & Swim
Wherever you decide to lay down to rest in Cartagena, a swimming pool ready for frequent pit-stops is a must, as the humidity levels soar.
To best absorb the Old Town charm, be sure to stay within the fortress walls. Hotel Casa San Augustin is the best of the boutique-y lot. With 17th Century, white-washed walls, hand-painted tiles and 300 year old frescoes, this hotel holds its history whilst retaining its cool.
On the more pocket-friendly side of town (outside the walls), you can find equally wonderful hostels which give you a glimpse into backpacker life and local vibrancy. I stayed at El Arsenal Hostel Boutique, that has a crisp courtyard pool as well as Caribbean sea-views.
Shop & Do
Cartagena’s streets are brimming with markets and boutiques, specialising in handcrafted goods, gold, chocolate and coffee. Visit the gold museum to appreciate the city’s complicated relationship with the gold, and how it has shaped its history.
Shop at St.Dom, a 300 year old colonial house with exposed brick archways. You will find the best of Colombia’s young design talent in fashion, accessories and artisanal crafts.
As a must, make sure you stop by Mercedes Salazar’s boutique. She is one of Colombia’s most exciting accessories designer, specializing in novelty fruit and creature earrings and bags, a key S/S 19 trend for us at WGSN.
Eat, Drink & Dance Once you’ve decked yourself out in novelty earrings and stuffed every available pocket with chocolate, head to Café Del Mar to watch the sunset. This open-air restaurant is perched on the fortress wall overlooking the Caribbean, serving pretty delectable refreshments accompanied with a live, Colombian, Salsa Band.
Restaurant De Pesca outside the city walls is also the perfect spot for a 360-degree sunset view.
As fish is always freshest by the sea, La Cevicheria is a must if you lust for the tiger’s milk!
After the sun has set, the Cartagena locals head to Plaza de La Trinidad, a bustling square in front of a church with traditional food stalls and performers. Spend the rest of your evening shaking your hips around the town!
Like this author? Keep up with Georgie’s travels here.
Looking for some last minute summer holiday inspiration? Head to WGSN City by City, for our latest travel guides.
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