Cartagena, once a sleepy town of just 100 farmers, has today become one of South America’s most vibrant colonial cities and the undoubted queen of Colombia’s northern coast. With exquisite fine-dining options, hip alfresco cafés and buzzing nightlife, Cartagena’s stunning walled city is enticing visitors in search of history, romance and old-world luxury. Read on to discover some of the best boutique hotels that have managed to offer just that.
Constructed in the 17th century, Hotel Quadrifolio is a beautifully preserved colonial mansion in the heart of Cartagena’s walled city. Each bright, stylishly designed room features high beamed ceilings, huge arched windows with light wood shutters and lush green garden views, as well as subtle design touches such as handmade furniture, local artwork and fresh flowers. But the real pièce de résistance? The rooftop terrace. Guests here can soak in a hydromassage tub or relax on a sun lounger as they take in the views of the city and the Caribbean sea below.
Situated just a few steps from Palace of the Inquisition, the Gold Museum and Bolivar Park, the Sophia Hotel boasts one of the best locations in Cartagena’s old city. This great positioning also means some epic views from the ultra-cool terrace, which features a stunning swimming pool, hip chill-out area and poolside bar, a spot which has featured in many an Instagrammer’s feed. Their modern rooms come with rain showers, wicker lounging chairs and huge panoramic windows.
Designed by the world-famous fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi, Mansion Tcherassi Hotel + Spa Cartagena is one of the most striking hotels in the city. Think high ceilings, rich wood floors, beautiful vertical gardens made from over 3,000 local plants and exposed red and white brick throughout. Each room has its own unique flair, but expect freestanding soaking tubs, large walk-in rainfall showers and glitzy, luxury bedding. If this weren’t enough, thanks to a recent extension, guests can now choose from four swimming pools, three restaurants, two spas offering a huge range of body treatments, two terraces, a lounge bar and a juice bar.
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Hotel Casa La Fe’s quaint rooms are centred around a beautiful, jungle-like courtyard, where a fresh à la carte breakfast and a cup of Colombian’s premium coffee are served each morning. Highlights include a rooftop plunge pool, a lookout point with panoramic views of Cartagena’s old town, classically designed rooms featuring tiled floors and handcrafted furniture, and free bike hire to explore the city. From $138 per room, Casa La Fe remains one of the cheapest boutique options in the walled city.
Considered by many to be the top hotel in Cartagena, Casa San Agustin is as luxurious as it gets. Resembling a lavish palace more than a hotel, common spaces – including a games room, colonial-style library and several meeting rooms – are filled with crystal chandeliers, beautiful tapestry hanging from the walls and lush green plants. The rooms are no different: marble-floored bathrooms, huge walk-in rain showers, four-poster canopy beds and in-room iPads are all part of the deal here. The chic swimming pool (partly covered by Cartagena’s former aqueduct), the onsite spa and the atmospheric Alma restaurant and bar are spectacular too.
Housed in a 17th-century former mansion just around the corner from Plaza de Bolivar, Alfiz Hotel Boutique combines history and colonial charm with modern touches such as a Jacuzzi sundeck, open-air swimming pool and concierge service. Their eight themed rooms, with antique artefacts, paintings and luxurious furnishings, tell the story of Cartagena’s fascinating history, from being ransacked by pirates and ruled by the Spanish conquistadors to the rise of independence and the birth of the Republic. Rooms start at $145 per night including breakfast, making the Alfiz Hotel a luxury option without the hefty price tag.
Visited by the likes of John Lennon and Robert De Niro, El Marqués Hotel Boutique has captivated the attention of the rich and famous since the 1970s. Retaining many original 17th-century colonial features, such as thick stone archways and walls, beamed ceilings and beautiful wooden floors, the atmospheric common spaces here look as they would have done over 300 years ago. Guest can relax in the beautiful courtyard swimming pool, enjoy a treatment in the spa or dine at Bohemia, the onsite world-class restaurant serving Colombian–Southern European fusion dishes.
Located in the ultra-cool, artsy Getsemaní neighbourhood, part of Cartagena’s outer walled city, the 10-room Casa Lola offers colonial luxury but with a much-welcomed dose of quirky character and personality. On the outside, a pretty, traditional colonial house sits unassumingly on Calle del Guerrero, but, on the inside, Casa Lola oozes modern, experimental and bold design. Highlights include a multilevel roof terrace with signature pools that wind their way through the hotel, lush tropical gardens and stunning views across the city. Prices, which include an American breakfast, are very reasonable too.