Colombia is renowned for its rich history, vibrant nightlife, and abundant natural beauty, and few cities exemplify these qualities as well as Cartagena. Located on the banks of the Caribbean Sea, this bustling northern outpost dates back to 1533, serving as a major port city for the Spanish Empire during the Age of Exploration—and while the city may be approaching a half-millennium in age, Cartagena is anything but antiquated, offering a wealth of modern accommodations scattered all throughout its borders.
Located in the heart of Cartagena’s centuries-old walled city, the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara stands as a shining example of the city’s seamless blend of old and new. While the property itself is packed full of modern amenities and plush drinking and dining venues, the building itself dates back centuries, constructed in 1621 to serve as a convent for members of the Order of Saint Clare. Over the years, the storied walls have taken on new life as a hospital, medical school, and even prison before becoming the Santa Clara that’s known today—and there’s a lot more to discover around the property than just its lengthy history.
In terms of drinking and dining, the property is outfitted with five distinct concepts for guests to enjoy. Though each one comes with its own unique charm, Jardín Santa Clara is a paradise for visiting nature lovers in particular, offering an opportunity to dine in the property’s lush colonial garden. Equipped with a centuries-old well accented by native orchids and ferns, this open-air venue offers an opportunity for diners to sample fresh seafood while being serenaded by native Colombian birdsong and the unmistakable chirp of the coquí, a small frog that’s native to Puerto Rico.
Meanwhile, serious wine aficionados would be remiss in skipping out on dinner at 1621 Restaurant, a refined dining venue located just past the garden. Centuries ago, this storied hall served as the dining quarters for the complex’s resident nuns, and in the modern era, it offers an opportunity for guests to sample refined French cuisine crafted with locally-sourced ingredients all created at the behest of Chef Robinson Herrera. In addition to top-tier cuisine, the property excels in the delicate art of wine pairings, offering a diverse array of selections orchestrated by Head Sommelier Ana Maria Buitrago.
After a long night of fine dining and wine, a little peace and quiet is essential—and fortunately, the Sofitel SPA is the perfect place to unwind, complete with seven separate massage spaces, a gym, and a hammam. After a relaxing facial or couples massage, guests are welcome to take a seat just a couple steps away by the hotel pool. This sprawling outdoor hangout spot currently serves as the largest pool in the city of Cartagena, with the neighboring open-air Botika bar opening just in time to catch a stellar sunset.
Though the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara is certainly one of the city’s most palatial accommodations, no trip to Cartagena is complete without exploring the surrounding neighborhood. The hotel’s location grants guests immediate access to the historic walled city, a fascinating district that was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1984. For a little insight into the wealth of landmarks and attractions packed into the area, a tour with Nexperience is an essential activity, while charming bars like Beer Lovers Cartagena and El Barón provide some welcome relief from the sun during the early afternoon.
While there’s no shortage of spectacular destinations to be found across Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Cartagena offers an experience that’s equally as exciting as it is fascinating. In between the nightclubs and fresh local seafood, there’s a wealth of centuries-old landmarks and structures just waiting to be discovered—and in terms of luxury, the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara certainly tops the list. As you plan your next trip to this storied city, don’t miss out on this timeless gem.