With the film adaptation of Gabriel García Márquez's epic novel Love in the Time of Cholera hitting European screens soon, Cartagena, the city on Colombia's Caribbean coast where Márquez set his story, is ready to play a starring role of its own. By day, the narrow streets in the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are abuzz with tourists. After dusk, a party vibe increasingly attracts a jet-set crowd. And, come dawn, stylish night owls head to the boutique hotels popping up in restored colonial houses around the city. For luxury with old-world Colombian charm, here are three hotels to check out.
The name means "four-leafed clover," and the hotel that carries it was conceived to cater to a corporate clientele no doubt eager for some of that good luck to rub off on them. The property, built around 1856, is on the Calle del Cuartel, a street that was once home to a Who's Who of local independence heroes. The hotel's eight suites were designed by top Colombian architect Miguel Soto Casas, and the elegant, airy interiors, gourmet food and museum-worthy paraphernalia Spanish colonial tables, armoires from Timor, and African war shields will likely appeal to guests as much as the two conference rooms. If you're not a captain of industry, check in on a Friday night, when the suits clear out, and revel in the peace and quiet. Rooms from $300. www.hotelquadrifolio.com
This boho-chic retreat opened only three years ago, but it has already hosted fashionistas, politicos and stars, including Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem. Owners Thierry Forte and Liliana Acosta have furnished the five suites and three rooms with doors from Morocco, lamps from Syria and carpets from Iran. But the décor isn't arbitrary: "It fits in perfectly with the original Spanish Andalusian architecture of the house, which was built in the 17th century," says Forte. There's a rooftop pool, and a spa is set to open in 2009. Rooms from $180. www.lapassionhotel.com
A stone's throw from the city ramparts and the Plaza de la Merced, where Spanish firing squads used to silence their enemies, this hotel has two trump cards: its stunning rooftop view of the sea, and the lavish penthouse apartment on the fourth floor, complete with king-size bed, dining room, living room, kitchen, Jacuzzi and two bathrooms. And if you've had one too many arepas (hearty cornmeal cakes) for breakfast, the management will even lend you a bicycle to work off the calories. Rooms from $265. www.lamercedhotel.com
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