When the sun sinks low, attention in Cartagena shifts to the potential of the night ahead. When we were living in Cartagena with our two small kids and amazing nannies, we had lots of nights to take in the evening crowd. People seem to be “dressed” any night of the week, in beautiful linen, sharp guaraveras, sundresses, or something fancy, depending on what they had planned. The men always wore pants (shorts are a dead give-away for tourists), and the women were always just gorgeous.
Whether the night started with drinks at El Barón, a sophisticated cocktail bar (one of the best in town) located in front of the San Pedro’s church (another breathtaking spot), or at El Balcón, which is in Plaza San Diego and has a very entertaining balcony view, it is certainly a good opening for the night.
Between every stop, walking the cobblestoned streets provides yet another view of Cartagena. Gone are many of the street vendors (except in the heavily touristed areas), and in their place are the smartly dressed diners. Many of the renovated homes and shops have cool lighting that seems to make them glow and it is tempting to knock on the door and see if anyone is home. Music permeates the air, whether from live bands in the plazas, or from various clubs as the dance floors heat up.
I loved our nights listening to live music at La Vitrola or listening to the smooth sophistication of the nearby tables at Don Juan. Last time we visited we had an amazing meal at a restaurant that is re-opening as the Lounge Bar. The space is amazing and it seemed like Frank Sinatra might wander through at any moment and the tropical breeze on the balcony was divine. We were all dolled up for a friend’s annual party and the waitstaff treated us like royalty. Definitely a good place to check out - I’m sure they will have a smashing opening party.
Whenever we have friends in Cartagena for the first time, we always end an evening at Club Havana. The gritty Getsemani neighborhood reminds you that you are among locals, and the live music is a draw like nowhere else. And, if you needed to be impressed by anything else, the little old men dancing the salsa like they are walking down the street are amazing to watch (or dance with!) It is usually noisy, between all the people and the brass instruments, but it is a great place to feel transported, both in time and place. Regardless of how you feel about your dancing, this is a place to get out there and be part of the action. One of the best things about Club Havana: you get the feeling the place hasn’t changed a bit in 100 years.