5 Hour Activities


EL BOLICHE CEBICHERÍA
38-17 Calle Cochera del Hobo
+57-310-368-7908
facebook.com/elbolichecebicheria
12:30pm–3pm and 7pm–11pm Mondays to Saturdays

IGLESIA SANTO DOMINGO
Plaza de Santo Domingo
9am–7pm Tuesdays to Saturdays, 12pm–8pm Sundays

PALACE OF THE INQUISITION
3-11 Calle 34, Plaza de Bolívar
+57-5-664-4570
muhca.gov.co
9am–6pm Mondays to Saturdays, 10am–4pm Sundays and holidays

BIGLONZIA ROMERO (freelance guide for Palace of the Inquisition)
+PHONE NUMBER
biliroa@hotmail.com

PORTAL DE LOS DULCES
Plaza de los Coches
; 7:30am–6:30pm Mondays to Fridays

HOTEL MOVICH
4-39 Calle de Vélez Danies
+57-5-664-2995
movichhotels.com

WALK INTO HISTORY

  • Take a deep dive into Cartagena’s dark and dramatic past
  • Discover the finest, freshest ceviche in town
  • Relax with a sunset drink at the city’s most elegant rooftop bar

Fishing has always been central to life here, and El Boliche Cebichería, a fantastic ceviche spot from Oscar Colmenares and Viviana Díaz, is a tribute to Colombia’s astonishingly rich and diverse seafood. The intimate, 10-table café is elegant in its simplicity, putting the focus on wildly colorful, artfully composed plates—like the piquant tamarindo ceviche, a fresh jumble of whitefish, squid, shrimp, and tender conch with just enough spicy-sweet pepper and tamarind sauce to give it a kick. This is hands down one of the best lunches in town. Afterward, wind your way 10 minutes southwest to the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Cartagena’s oldest church (it was rebuilt in 1552 after a fire destroyed the original building). A 20-minute self-guided audio tour offers not only the fascinating history of the church but a peaceful refuge from the midday heat. You’ll learn about the 19th-century tombstones used to pave the floor in front of the altar, and the curiously crooked angle of the bell tower (a trick of the devil, according to local legend). The story of Cartagena is a dramatic and often dark one, and no place exposes that complicated past quite as powerfully as the Palace of the Inquisition, an 18th-century Baroque mansion whose grandeur and beauty are at odds with its altogether chilling contents. You can download a self-guided audio tour or, for a more animated experience, connect with local guide Biglonzia Romero (see below for contact information). This petite, soft-spoken former schoolteacher may seem an unlikely expert in such gruesome history, but she absolutely knows her subject, and will hold you (ahem) captive for an hour with tales of witch hunts, cruel instruments of torture (many still on display in the museum), and the long, hard road to Cartagena’s eventual independence from Spain. You’ll need some fresh air and a mood elevator after this rather harrowing tour, so take a stroll through the nearby Portal de los Dulces, aka the sweets market (which will be familiar to readers of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera). Here in this block of balcony-draped buildings with graceful colonial archways, vendors set up glittering, kaleidoscopic displays of candies, dried tropical fruits, and other exotic treats. (Look for old-fashioned glass jars filled with cocadas de piña, delectable coconut-based candies blended with pineapple.) By now it’s time for sunset, a spectacle not to be missed in Cartagena. Avoid the elbow-to-elbow crowds at the ever-popular Café del Mar and instead head up to the chic rooftop bar at the Hotel Movich—just opposite the Plaza de la Aduana, in the heart of Centro—and watch as the sky melts over the ramparts of the walled city and the Caribbean Sea beyond.

El Boliche Cebichería is located in the San Diego section of Centro, a 30-minute trip from the Conrad without traffic. From there you can easily walk to the other destinations above.

EL BOLICHE CEBICHERÍA
38-17 Calle Cochera del Hobo
+57-310-368-7908
facebook.com/elbolichecebicheria
12:30pm–3pm and 7pm–11pm Mondays to Saturdays

IGLESIA SANTO DOMINGO
Plaza de Santo Domingo
9am–7pm Tuesdays to Saturdays, 12pm–8pm Sundays

PALACE OF THE INQUISITION
3-11 Calle 34, Plaza de Bolívar
+57-5-664-4570
muhca.gov.co
9am–6pm Mondays to Saturdays, 10am–4pm Sundays and holidays

BIGLONZIA ROMERO (freelance guide for Palace of the Inquisition)
+PHONE NUMBER
biliroa@hotmail.com

PORTAL DE LOS DULCES
Plaza de los Coches
; 7:30am–6:30pm Mondays to Fridays

HOTEL MOVICH
4-39 Calle de Vélez Danies
+57-5-664-2995
movichhotels.com

LA VITROLA
33-201 Calle Baloco
+57-5-660-0711
12pm–3pm and 7pm–12:30am daily

CAFÉ HAVANA
Calle de la Media Luna and Calle de Guerrero
+57-314-556-3905
cafehavanacartagena.com
8:30pm–4am Wednesdays to Sundays

BAZURTO SOCIAL CLUB
30-42 Carrera 9
+57-5-664-3124
bazurtosocialclub.com

LET THE SALSA AND MOJITOS FLOW

  • Join the beau monde at Cartagena’s sexiest, sultriest Cuban restaurant
  • Hit the floor at the city’s hottest salsa clubs
  • Pick up some steamy champeta dance moves from the locals

That fantasy you’ve been harboring about some elegantly old-school, tropical-chic time capsule where potted palms sway under bamboo ceiling fans, the mojitos flow freely, and the house band never stops? It actually exists, and it’s as charmingly retro as you could have wished. It’s a restaurant/lounge/jazz bar called La Vitrola, and it’s been the haunt of Cartagena’s beau monde for over a decade now. You’ll definitely need a reservation (ask the concierge), and you’ll absolutely want to dress up (trade those Havaiana flip-flops for some strappy Sylvia Tcherassi sandals). But once you step through that magical cut-out colonial doorway and into the film-set interior, you’ll realize why you came—ostensibly for the grilled steak and aged rum, but really to join the local celebs, politicians, and assorted A-listers dancing to the six-piece Cuban band burning it up by the bar. After you’ve warmed up with some salsa steps and a few more mojitos, take a taxi over to trendy Getsemaní, just outside the walled city, and hit the floor at Café Havana (aka La Havana), a rightly celebrated institution that gets going after 11 p.m. That’s when the impressive, 15- to 20-piece house band turns things up a few notches, and the all-ages crowd—seriously, the clientele ranges from 18 to 85—pushes the tables back to create some semblance of a dance floor, which can feel like a Tokyo subway car at rush hour but with better rhythm and way more Panama hats. If you still have energy after an hour or two at Café Havana, make your way around the corner to Bazurto Social Club to pick up some sultry Afro-Colombian champeta dance moves. The decor is loud, the live band even louder, and the dance floor is appropriately steamy. Cool down with a house-specialty “machacao” cocktail—a tall, chilled glass full of grapefruit, lime, and lemon juice; mint; sugar; a splash of soda; and plenty of rum.

La Vitrola is on the western edge of Centro, a block from the Baluarte de Santo Domingo, and approximately 30 minutes from the Conrad by taxi. From there it’s a 15-minute walk or a 10-minute cab ride to Cafe Havana and Bazurto Social Club in Getsemaní.

LA VITROLA
33-201 Calle Baloco
+57-5-660-0711
12pm–3pm and 7pm–12:30am daily

CAFÉ HAVANA
Calle de la Media Luna and Calle de Guerrero
+57-314-556-3905
cafehavanacartagena.com
8:30pm–4am Wednesdays to Sundays

BAZURTO SOCIAL CLUB
30-42 Carrera 9
+57-5-664-3124
bazurtosocialclub.com

SET SAIL FOR THE ISLANDS

  • Cast off for a dreamy coral-reef archipelago
  • Tour the nearby Islas del Rosario by private boat
  • Snorkel, swim, kayak, and paddleboard in tranquil turquoise waters

Just 60 miles off Cartagena’s coast lie the Islas del Rosario, a coral-reef archipelago made up of 26 islands, many of them uninhabited. It’s well worth zipping out on a half-day (or all-day) trip to explore them—and the Conrad concierge can help arrange a luxurious, no-fuss excursion by private boat. Avoid the closer, more tourist-packed beach stops like Baru, and instead have your captain set a course for the more remote (and far more charming) Isla Majagua, typically a 45-to-60-minute boat ride from Cartagena. As protected national parkland, the island is sparsely populated—there’s a tiny rustic village, a few eco-hotels, and a handful of secluded villas belonging to wealthy Colombians. As you step off the boat you’ll be greeted with a glass of fresh-squeezed citrus juice, then you can indulge in your choice of island activities: scuba dive in the teeming turquoise waters, snorkel above the coral reef, trace the coastline on a stand-up paddleboard, or head out in a canoe or kayak for a gentle ride among the mangrove trees in Isla Majagua’s tranquil lagoon. Of course you could also opt for none of the above, and just snag a chaise on the island’s small sandy beach to while away the hours before lunch. The latter is served at a breezy alfresco café shaded by towering tropical trees that are home to all manner of exotic birds and darting lizards—and which, it turns out, make entertaining and ever-curious dining companions.

The Conrad concierge can arrange for half-day or full-day private-boat excursions to the islands (Isla Majagua is just one of many itinerary options).