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The Tcherassi courtyard combines old and new architectural flourishes.

TCHERASSI HOTEL Calle del Sargento Mayor 6 to 21, Cartagena; 57 (5) 664-4445; . Seven rooms and suites from $350 (breakfast included).

Mention a Colombia trip to most people and they'll tell you to be careful. But the country has seriously cleaned up its safety and security act in recent years and new visitors are rolling in. While some head for the big-city lights of Bogota, others are lured by the sultry Caribbean coastline and especially the old Spanish fort city of Cartagena.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its old-town area is studded with boutique hotels colonizing grand 18th-century homes. Some are little more than comfy B&Bs; others offer an upmarket approach, including the chic new Tcherassi Hotel. Named after and part-designed by celebrated Colombian fashionista Silvia Tcherassi, it's the region's swankiest boutique hotel.

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Location In Cartagena's walled heritage district.

Ambience This reinvention of a centuries-old Spanish colonial home is a tranquil and intimate respite from the bustling streets outside.

Clientele Business and leisure travellers from Bogota and the U.S., plus a professional crowd of designer Europeans.

Design The property combines historic reminders with clever mod flourishes. It's centred on a narrow, white marble courtyard with small pools and a burbling water curtain, and there's an eye-catching vertical garden. Stylish touches include restaurant napkins shaped like dress collars; staff togged in linen outfits with flower detailing; and rooms scattered with fashion-industry mementoes.

Rooms While each room has a different look, they are all set within a framework of evocative heritage architecture – think exposed walls and high, wood-beamed ceilings and a swish, airy feel. Flat-screen TVs and contemporary furnishings dominate, as do glass-walled bathroom areas: Partners need to know each other quite well in the smaller units.

Peau de Soie, the most compact room, has balconies on either side overlooking the courtyard. Near the top end of the scale is Ziberline, which features a bedspread sewn with hundreds of labels from Tcherassi clothing, and a walk-through shower and stand-alone tub.

Amenities Overlooking red-tiled rooftops and a sliver of shimmering coastline, the small pools and easy chairs on the terrace are perfect for a sunbathing session with a cold beverage or three. The concierge arranges tours, but if you're intent on staying put, the hotel also has a small spa.

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Service First-name service and a high level of personal attention.

Food and Drink Aside from its own-baked focaccia, tapas and mains in the lobby-level Vera Italian restaurant include excellent ravioli granchio and bisteca fungi. There's also a 100-bottle wine list with Chilean and Argentine highlights.

Verdict A fashion-lover's haven in the heart of Colombia's historic gem.

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