Lauren Santo Domingo’s personal shopping guide to Cartagena

The Moda Operandi co-founder on the city’s most stylish and authentic artisanal finds

Lauren Santo Domingo relaxes at the Hotel Sofitel Legend Santa Clara
Lauren Santo Domingo relaxes at the Hotel Sofitel Legend Santa Clara | Image: Miguel Winograd

The best time to visit Cartagena is between December and April, and the weather at Christmas and New Year is just perfect. I also like the city in mid-November, because it is a time of local celebrations; beauty pageants, regattas and school holidays all make it feel festive.

Artesanías de Colombia offers a range of goods, including textiles, pottery and furniture
Artesanías de Colombia offers a range of goods, including textiles, pottery and furniture

It’s not a beach resort à la Phuket or St Barths – you won’t find the very chic stores or familiar brands. It feels more like old San Juan in Puerto Rico; it’s all very local and authentic, which makes it a pleasure to wander the picturesque plazas and streets, shopping for artisanal things. I always tell friends to look for woven hammocks and mochilas, the traditional cross-body bags that are now so in fashion.

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Artesanías de Colombia is a wonderful resource, because all of the goods – textiles, potteryfurniture – are sustainable, with most made by Colombian women who support families living in areas ravaged by drug trafficking. 34-49 Carrera 5 (+575-660 0435; artesaniasdecolombia.com.co).

Mercedes Salazar Queen Bee earrings, $338
Mercedes Salazar Queen Bee earrings, $338

For more contemporary finds, head to Casa Chiqui, a souk-like store full of fun beachy things and unique hostess gifts overseen by the incredibly fashionable Chiqui de Echavarría, who I like to call the tropical Daphne Guinness. She has a huge assortment of products from all over the world, and it’s always exciting to see her latest finds. 36-127 Carrera 6 (+575-668 5429; casachiqui.com).

St Dom has a striking selection of clothes and homewares by Colombian designers
St Dom has a striking selection of clothes and homewares by Colombian designers

The daytime vibe is a bit bohemian – always bright and playful – and quite relaxed, so it’s a good idea to head to OndadeMar for the best range of bikinis and stylish cover-ups in town. 3-13 Calle 32 (+575-655 2542; ondademar.com).

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The streets of Cartagena’s old town are primarily cobblestone, so heels are out – as are sequins or anything else too flashy. But for a night out, you’ll need a pair of the lavish costume earrings from Mercedes Salazar, a boutique full of stylish Colombian designs. 31-56 Calle Ricaurte (+575-668 7429; mercedessalazar.com).

The expertly curated concept store St Dom is another favourite; there’s a striking selection of clothes and homewares by Colombian designers and it’s a lovely minimalist space. 33-70 Carrera 3 (+576-635 4380; stdom.co).

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