Surrounded by impenetrable walls, Cartegena’s outer shell tells tales of a chequered past,  once besieged by attacks from marauding pirates and opportunistic buccaneers looking to snatch a slice of the jewel of the Caribbean for themselves. A treasure trove of literary whisperings, romantic breezes and soft guitar chords, Cartagena has managed to maintain the right dose of allure: despite being a world away from the previous violence that has tarnished Colombia as a travel destination, this reputation has thus far managed to protect its cobbled streets from the onslaught of mass tourism.  Long one of the more exotic destinations for a heady weekend escape from the U.S, Lan’s recent addition of direct daily flights from Miami, along with internal routes linking 22 of Colombia’s cities, are set to open the destination up even further. Yet Cartagena remains a web of hidden gems, and Dehouche pick our favourite spots to soak it all up.

La Vitrola– Where the Colombians still go to be and be seen. The sepia coloured photos that line the walls and low slung ceiling fans add to the sense of glamour in this old-school, Havana-inspired restaurant. Right round the corner from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s place, he has been known to swing by for spicy shredded beef and live Cuban son music when in town. Calle Baloco 2-01, El Centro, Tel. +57 5 664 8243.

La Cevicheria- Tucked down the side street that leads onto Hotel Santa Clara, La Cevicheria encapsulates the rustic charm that underlies Cartagena. Wine bottles are filled with home-made chilli sauce,  the freshest seafood served on hand painted ceramic plates and the signature dish, ceviche de pulp con mani (octopus ceviche with peanuts) is best enjoyed with a long mojito in the late afternoon sun.  Calle Stuart 7-14, Old Town, +57 5 660 1492

Club de Pesca- Open since 1956, Club de Pesca still retains its position as one of the city’s top spots for seafood. Set right by the bay at the San Sebastian fort, you can watch the smart set roll in on their yachts to pull up a table for live jazz and crisp white wine as the sun sets.

Fuerte de San Sebastian del Pastelillo, Manga, Tel. +57 5 660 5863.

Don Juan– After cutting his teeth while pinching tips from Michelin starred restaurant in San Sebastian and at Cartagena’s 8-18, chef Juan Felipe Camacho opened Don Juan in 2009 to considerable local anticipation.  The octopus carpaccio, grilled lobster tail and seafood risotto have earned Juan a firm following among Cartegena’s elite.  And the name? Unsure of what to call the restaurant, Juan telephoned his mother for advice, she replied “No te preocupes, tú tienes un don, Juan”. (Don’t worry, you have a gift, Juan) 34-60 Calle del Colegio, Old Town +57 5 664 3857

Café Havana- While Cartagena’s old town is the spot for taking enviably romantic photos and soaking up the history, it is outside the walls where the real Cartagena continues.  A little like spteeping out of Disney World back into noisy, dirty brilliant reality, Getsemani hides a number of hidden gems, our favourite of which is music bar La Havana, where the mojitos flow almost as fast as the salsa rhythms and you may be tricked into thinking you have stumbled across an impromptu concert from Cuban legends Buena Vista Social Club. Calle Media Luna con Calle del Guerrero Getsemani 1372, Tel. +57 310 6102324

Based in Latin America, Dehouche are always ahead of the curve when it comes to knowing the best spots.  Get in touch to book an exotic break to Colombia.


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