Cartagena, Colombia

A few posts ago I shared our trip to Bogotá and from there, we went on to Cartagena for the main event, Lauren and Marce’s wedding! These two cities are so different from each other, one land-locked big city, and one coastal Caribbean town.

Our first two nights were spent near the highrises and large-scale hotels dotting the coast. We enjoyed two more nights on Hilton Honors before moving into The Walled City for Friday and Saturday nights. We had amazing water views and a huge balcony, and the property had a huge pool and deck right by the beach, though we spent our time away from it all.

Lauren’s wedding and festivities were all at the El Marqués boutique hotel, located near one of the entrances in the Walled City. Our party took all of the guest rooms, each one unique and surrounding the courtyard. Dripping with hanging ivy, the courtyard was a great spot for a morning breakfast or any other meal on the patio. It housed the wedding reception and plenty of other moments that weekend. It was so relaxing and all of the food we had there was amazing. Additionally, the staff were super friendly and the rooms were mildly bohemian and spa-like.

The Walled City is part of downtown, with seven miles of stone walls surrounding (once for protection) the colorful buildings that line the narrow streets, complete with inner courtyards, dipping pools, balconies, and plenty of charm. Here you’ll find enough tourists, though for good reason, as the restaurants, shops and hotels match the amazing scenery. Be sure to spend an evening walking the wall at sunset, or sitting and watching it descend over the ocean.

On our first full day, the entire group took a day trip to Island Gente de Mar, a private island about 30 minutes away by boat. The day was perfect, with options for beachside massages, snorkeling and other activities, or simply lounging by the crystal water. Lunch, which was included, was an authentic Caribbean lunch. Drinks were served on the beach (price not included), and the breeze made the shade under the palms a cool escape.

Thursday night we took a party bus around the city, another popular tourist attraction, with a lively band, rum served on the bus, and a stop to walk on the wall with the native dancers and other bus riders. I wish I had some better pictures from this night, but it was dark and the humidity had taken over, but none of us cared! If you have a group, this is a great activity, or you can make friends and join another bus.

We went to several amazing restaurants, but two of my favorites were a coffee shop I stumbled on, and the spot for our girls’ lunch on Friday. Época is a modern coffee shop with a quaint seating area, with a coffee and booze bar lining one wall of the room. Like most of the coffee I had in Colombia, it was so rich and delicious, but the arepa I had was equally enjoyable. The coffee kept me coming back a few more times throughout our few days there.

Candé was selected by Lauren for her ladies lunch on Friday, and it was adorable. It’s tucked into a narrow building that leads to a courtyard with flowing water, with simple decor and an elegant mood. We split several appetizers and entrees, trying a little bit of everything, including ceviche, lobster, shrimp, and sides of rice and plantains.

There are so many good restaurants, bars and shops throughout the city, both inside the wall and out, though we didn’t explore much outside of it. We also had an arepa one morning at this amazing hole-in-the-wall spot that I couldn’t even direct you to, but honestly, lots of reviews claim several of the street carts or similar holes-in-the-wall as the best spot. Just find a place with a more local flair, in other words, nothing fancy, and try one that costs a few pesos and eat as you admire the colorful buildings.

Sunday was our final day and we took advantage of a late flight to explore more of the city. Johnny and I walked around the shops, picking up some souvenirs and an ice cream bar at a shop we had passed several times. We also walked to the fort, Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, and hiked to the top for more city views and history.

The shops dot the city and I came across a few interesting boutiques, including an interiors store, Casa Chiqui, that sells everything from furniture to dishes, as well as clothes and jewelry. I also bought a handmade beaded bracelet from Territorio, a shop that carried baskets, jewelry and other home decor. You can find high-end shops and market-like destinations, and street vendors around the square. There are plenty of price ranges and options to find something with which to remember your trip!

By the time we were leaving, we swore we would be making a trip back and I truly hope we do someday. If you make it to this beautiful city, be sure to enjoy some of these things!

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