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Widely regarded as the “Queen of the Caribbean Coast,” the Northern port city of Cartagena de Indias is well known for its immaculately preserved old town, the historic quarter earning UNESCO recognition as a heritage site of extreme cultural significance. A former jewel in the crown of the Spanish empire, strolling through the incredibly preserved old city, is like stepping back to the 17th century. Peppered among these stunning Hispanic colonial-era buildings, are some of the most architecturally exceptional luxury villas. LVH offers stunning properties that place guests in the very heart of this charming town. Weave through serpentine cobblestone alleys and indulge in the sensorial pleasure of terrasses teeming with aromatic Bougainvillea flowers. Large church towers soar through the tightly-packed old town with playful bombastic architecture, and lush tropical vegetation making visitors feel they’re vacationing in technicolor.
The dedicated Luxury Vacation Home LVH team ensures the ultimate in service and satisfaction are provided to every guest throughout their entire stay in Cartagena. LVH can arrange for private chefs, private jets, exotic cars, luxury yachts, and anything else guests require to make their Cartagena vacation stay remarkable.
Cartagena luxury villa rentals can be arranged through LVH to accommodate families, large groups and are ideal for hosting family and friends. Vacationers seeking the best Cartagena luxury villas have a stellar selection from which to choose when booking their accommodations with LVH.
Discover the range of old quarters and neighborhoods that await guests in Colombia’s top travel destination, Cartagena de Indias. Here are four of them:
It has been said that the best way to discover Cartagena’s historical center is to not follow any guidebook at all! Guests should simply allow themselves to get lost through the charming narrow meandering streets, admiring the brightly-colored facades, the soaring 16th century church steeples, hidden plazas and perfectly preserved remparts bordering the seaside. Must-see sights include Puerta del Reloj or Clock gate that acts as the main entrance into the fortified center, the tree-shaded squares of Plaza de la Aduana, Plaza de Bolivar, and the iconic yellow Cartagena Cathedral. Staying in this area during a holiday is magical when putting down roots at Villa Adriana. This property is nothing short of breathtaking. With room for up to 32 guests, this could be the vacation of a lifetime or the setting for an exclusive soiree or an intimate, romantic wedding. Everything about this home is luscious. The estate was once a colonial mansion, The internal patio pool area provides a remarkable serene oasis – like having a private grotto. There is a private elevator to help guests navigate the sprawling interior. A rooftop swimming pool with solarium completes this dream property.
El Laguito and Bocagrande are parts of town on the sliver of land extending south from Centro. Identifiable by its newer residential buildings,the area provides the city’s most iconic beaches. The long coastline allows for plenty of recreational activity. The sand of Bocagrande beaches have a distinct grey hue to them by virtue of the volcanic sand of the area, giving the water a unique texture.
Just outside of the old city fortifications, Barrio Getsemani is the youthful culture hub of the city, chock full of dining options, buzzing cafes, and live music. With the colorful Holy Trinity square in the very heart of the neighborhood, Getsemani is a place of spontaneity and congregation with dancing, and live music happening nightly. Known for its dazzling murals and street art, Barrio Getsemani is an incubator of the rich cultural heritage of Cartagena showcasing Spanish, African, Indigenous and Italian influences.
Occupying 16 blocks just north of Centro, this tranquil and bohemian neighbourhood is home to more upscale dining establishments, with the area’s positioning making it one of the city’s greatest sunset gazing points. From international, to local to fusion fare, San Diego is the spot to combine sumptuous bites with stunning views. At Las Bovedas, a former dungeon now serving as a souvenir and craft fair, university students stroll enjoying unobstructed seaside views as the sun sets beyond the horizon.
A former fishing village, the culinary arts flourish in Cartagena, from local street vendors and stalls serving the sweetest fruits ever tasted to high end dining experiences that have wooed the likes of Anthony Bourdain, among others. Check out these six eateries:
Undoubtedly a dining highlight of Cartagena, this emblematic seafood restaurant is found in a charming 400-year-old Spanish colonial home. The beautifully-lit interiors decorated with antiques speak to a long and proud culinary tradition, making diners feel part of a living museum. With a classy and authentic spirit likened to 1950s Havana, amongst the stand-out dishes is grouper served with a delectable in-house tamarind fish and chili sauce. In addition to specializing in Caribbean seafood fare, guests may enjoy great cuts of beef, carpaccio and pasta dishes in the company of the contagious beats of a salsa, or merengue orchestra.
Just steps away from San Diego plaza, travelers will recognize La Cevicheria by the charming knickknacks and lamps mounted on the restaurant’s iconic red façade. Specializing in the exalted Peruvian dish ceviche, Chef Jorge Escandon has reinvigorated this classic to reflect a distinct Cartagena twist that may not be reproduced anywhere else. Sustained by an avid commitment to freshness, the restaurant's enviable access to daily catches is what motivates the menu, always changing, and always surprising. With a small, cosy and whimsical interior, La Cevicheria’s decor is a crisp white and marine blue paying homage to the sea to which Cartagena owes so much of it’s culinary legacy.
In the heart of Centro, La Perla is an upscale concept eatery exploring the fusion of Mediterranean food with a Peruvian influence. Creating a truly distinct culinary experience, Chef Jose Dita fuses the most complimentary culinary traditions from two continents. The result? Wide ranging and much celebrated dishes from seafood ravioli, a unique slow-cooked pork dish, to Argentine sausage with Yucca mash and Caribbean style paella. Sophisticated urban interiors make this the spot for leisurely evening meals that meander off into the early hours of morning, guided – of course – by an extensive cocktail list.
Mar y Zielo is celebrated for its remarkably beautiful ambiance, designs, and interiors almost as much as for its food. Housed in the historic Casa de la Escribana in the old town, Mar y Zielo specializes in contemporary cuisine using only the finest local ingredients. This high-end restaurant’s mission is to bring out the fullest flavor of a dish for an unparalleled gastronomic experience. Featuring elegant and luxurious interiors, Mar y Zielo décor will leave no guest indifferent with it’s funky hanging lamps and youthful murals, complete with a lovely terrasse with incredible night time views of the Cartagena Cathedral tower. No strangers to live music, this versatile establishment comes alive at night, dazzling well into the next day.
Vera is hidden away from the bustle of the city, in one of Cartagena’s most exclusive residences, the Tcherassi Hotel and Spa. This high-end restaurant, nestled in the borders between San Diego and Centro, combines spellbindingly classy interiors with meals made from Italy’s best ingredients. From carpaccio, salami, antipasti and formaggio, these staples combine to create the most insatiable and enduring Italian dishes such as Fettucini Maiale, tender beef fillet coupled with cherry and rosemary or the traditional lamb, served with pumpkin and dates. With a super chic and modern dining space stretching into a cool and elegant courtyard complete with a pool, the restaurant’s ambiance has been highly regarded as some of the best, delivering a sublime dining experience where formality and exceptional food are always the order of the day.
Dona Lola, a swanky and romantic establishment offering exquisite Caribbean, Colombian and Spanish inspired fare in the heart of the bohemian Getsemani quarter. An ultra sophisticated dining salon is the venue for some of the most expertly garnished plates in this part of the world, a restaurant where the connection between high art and fine dining is never lost. Even the lush tropical vegetation growing on the facade of this mansion does not do justice to the striking interiors. A place to cavort, indulge and be seen, Getsemani’s Dona Lola provides the premier dining experience for Hispanic and Island dishes prepared with modern flair.
Defined by centuries of intercultural exchange from the likes of Spanish, Caribbean, Indigenous and Italian influences, Cartagena’s cultural life is just as rich as it’s culinary legacy. An ideal accompaniment to the excellence of an LVH curated luxury vacation home, are four cultural sites and activities: \
Situated in the heart of Centro’s historic district overlooking Plaza Bolivar, the Zenu Gold museum is dedicated to the artifacts of the original indigenous inhabitants of the region. An incredible display of the rich cultural legacy of the pre-Columbian people, the museum has countless artifacts by the Zenu, an ancient people known for their intricate goldsmith and jewelry making techniques. There may be no better way to take in the natural splendor of the region, than with its coveted precious objects. The Zenu Gold museum presents an excellent pit-stop for newcomers.
A stone's throw away from the Gold Zenu exhibit on Santa Claver plaza is the approachable-sized Museum of Modern Art. A journey through time, the gallery specializes in the tender period of the 1950s where social and political upheavals more often saw their expression on the canvas. With an emphasis on some of the nation's most celebrated painters – Alejandro Obregon and Enrique Grau – the museum offers a bite-sized introduction into the colorful world of Colombian art.
The Palace of the Inquisition Museum at Plaza Bolivar provides a fascinating and yet rather morbid experience. Behind a quaint baroque entrance lies the grisly stories of the Inquisition, a reign of terror meant to eliminate heresy and threats to the church starting in the early 17th century. A dark period of history that is no less important in the region, the museum displays instruments of torture but also pre-Columbian furnishings and pottery tracing to the ancient beginnings of settlement in the area.
Pedro Calver’s house
\ The Church of Pedro Calver is one of the most significant historical buildings in the city. Named after Saint Pedro Calver, a notable Jesuit priest known to have been more sympathetic to the plight of Africans traficked through the colonial slave trade network. Thought of as a humanitarian, the church, cloister, and museum are dedicated to commemorating and mythologizing his life’s work. This is no doubt a place of extreme cultural significance, San Pedro’s remains are preserved in the church; the architecture and artifacts on display penetrate deeply into the fascinating and often tragic histories of the city.
Cartagena is no stranger to nightlife, nocturnal and vibrant with all the life and vigor of a Central American metropolis. The nights are hot and the living is easy. Check out these three top recommendations for a night on the town, enjoying cocktails, indulging in live performance or cavorting with strangers in a private booth:
The name of this bar reveals it all, Cuba 1940 envisions the soul, verve and devil-may-care debauchery of the island’s golden era. In the core of the San Diego neighborhood, here’s a place where visitors can expect live salsa music to spill onto the streets, enrapturing whomever happens to stroll by, in a scene reminiscent of those long hot Havana nights. Indulge in excellent Cuban cocktails and casual eats, for a truly cool, and tropical ambiance guests won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Listed among the world’s top 50 bars in 2020, Alquimico is far from just another watering hole. A spectacular highly conceptual cocktail bar spanning three floors in a renovated mansion in the historic district. Owners are self-styled alchemists and apothecaries aiming to awaken the senses with inventive and original concoctions. Each floor corresponds to a different vibe: the ground floor specializes in signature and custom cocktails, the balcony in classics, and then there is a rooftop tiki bar. With a signature cocktail waiting for everyone, this is a classy cocktail bar where guests dress to impress.
A tapas bar that, according to a local historian, blends the lines between reality and the dream world. This local haunt channels the rustic soul of it’s facade-less building, combining it with modern and minimalist design for results truly out of this world. A pleasant bohemian ambiance includes a varied selection of Spanish and Caribbean tapas including patatas bravas, oxtail, fried dumplings and octopus dishes. Channeling youth and spontaneity this trendy Getsemani spot is sure to enthrall the city’s newcomers.
A port-city defined by the meshing of many different cultures, there is no shortage of events, festivals and carnivals annuals or otherwise to commemorate Cartagena's storied and proud history! Visitors might wish to consider attending these four:
Cartagena's annual "festival of stories and ideas" is as magical as the subject is ethereal. Hay is one of the foremost festivals in the Hispanic world, offering an innovative multidisciplinary approach fusing literature, visual arts, music, journalism, and more under an umbrella of dialogue and celebration. For four days between Jan. 29-Feb. 1, the Hispanic world descends on Cartagena for lectures, workshops, film screenings, and performances. With Cartagena having earned its stripes as a significant world-class destination, the Hay Festival has only amplified its international status. Each year the festival presents a new theme and repertoire with headline presentations from the world's most influential storytellers and leaders, including literature award recipients and Nobel Peace prize winners.
The roots of cinema run deep in Cartagena. For more than six decades all of Latin America has been converging annually in the Colombian Northern port city, for a who’s who of the year's greatest and brightest cinematic releases. The continent’s oldest film festival has given Cartagena a strong aura of cultural repute for the larger part of a century now. Truly a must experience for those lucky enough to visit the city in March, the festival has it all – from a star-studded red carpet, to the international prestige featuring the world’s finest films with an emphasis on Latin America.
There is a natural alignment between the grace and majesty of classical music and the architectural romanticism of Cartagena’s iconic Hispanic colonial architecture. Experiencing Bach or Mozart in the pristine acoustics of the city’s many churches, in the dramatic setting of San Felipe castle or perched on the awe-inspiring Popa Hill make this a remarkable venue for the convergence of Colombia, and the world's most skilled classical musicians. An event not to be missed and held every January, Cartagena has imbued this wondrous classical music festival with a prestigious allure dazzling more visitors each year.
Declared by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the oral and intangible Heritage of Humanity, the annual Barranquilla festival is the largest Colombian carnival and the second largest in the world. Every year in the coastal working class city of Baranquilla the city stops for four days in a joyous folkloric street party replete with dancing, music, traditional dress, extravagant costumes, colorful floats and masked parades. The raucous celebration has been a tradition for hundreds of years each February. Carnival provides the fastest immersion into Colombian culture and folklore, embarking on a kaleidoscopic journey of Colombian, Spanish, African & Indigenous beats that provide the city’s heartbeat. Just a two-hour drive from Cartagena, be sure to venture out to Barranquilla for an adventure of a lifetime.
Abounding with life and spontaneity, below LVH proposes these five carefully researched activities to compliment a stay in one of LVH’s luxurious Cartagena vacation villa properties:
Just as enticing as it sounds, this museum is a dream come true for chocoholics. Learn about the elaborate history and exoticism of the cocoa bean, or partake in one of the many interactive and entertaining chocolate making workshops! Located in historic San Diego, this museum is part of a network of chocolate museums in Central America. From bean to bar embark on the fascinating trajectory of the plant that has defined the Central Americas. Dessert lovers can indulge their love at the museum’s cafe and buffet. Museo del Cacao is a surefire hit with youngsters.
With one fascinating museum after another within the historic city center, visitors will undoubtedly be overwhelmed with endless options. Many museums listed such as the Gold Zenu, Modern art, Inquisition and the chocolate museum are all located a short walk from one another and in some cases are metres apart. Visitors will find making multiple museum visits in a day completely feasible, and a preferable way to spend long hot afternoons. With plenty of tree-shaded plazas, inviting cool tropical bars and eateries at every corner, Cartagena is the ultimate city for museum hopping.
For those who crave guidance, are on a tight schedule, or would simply like additional information, the walking tour of Cartagena’s historic center is highly recommended. Travel through time, and take in the breadth of history and architecture. Remark on the delightful contrasts between colonial buildings from the 16th up to the 18th centuries while admiring the immaculately preserved wall stretches at Baluarte San Francisco Javier. A professionally curated tour ensures guests don’t miss any of the essential spots!
Regarded as the single greatest fortress ever built by the Spanish empire, the castle sits upon San Lazaro hill. The impregnable 16th century fortress that has never been conquered dominates the Cartagena skyline as one of its most iconic landmarks. With a complex network of underground tunnels, the castle is chock full of fascinating history. Visitors might be wise to join a guided tour to take it all in. Beyond the historical significance a lovely view unfurls from the fortress, making it an ideal afternoon outing.
A mere hour boat ride away from the walled city, this remote archipelago off the coast of Cartagena provides a great getaway when the heat or the urban bustle proves too much. Ranging from small islands to tiny, guests can choose how much privacy and seclusion they’d like in taking in the crystalline turquoise waters, and pristine white beaches. From kayaking in mangroves, visiting the natural aquarium on Isla de Parajales, enjoying the freshest seafood on the planet, or merely getting lost in the infinite blue horizon, guests set the pace. An idyllic remote paradise is a short distance from Cartagena, and would prove to be an irresistible must-visit day trip.