Things to consider before your trip:
- Weather: Cartagena has a tropical climate, so pack light, breathable clothing and don't forget sunscreen and a hat.
- Language: While Spanish is the official language, many locals in tourist areas speak English. Learning a few basic Spanish phrases can enhance your experience.
- Safety: Exercise caution with your belongings in crowded places and avoid poorly lit areas at night. Cartagena is generally safe, but like any city, it's essential to stay aware of your surroundings.
- Currency: The official currency is the Colombian Peso (COP), and most establishments accept credit cards. However, it's advisable to carry some cash for smaller shops and vendors.
Where to eat in Cartagena
With its vibrant colors, lively streets, and warm hospitality, Cartagena is a food lover's paradise. From traditional Colombian dishes to international flavors, this city has it all. We'll take you on a gastronomic journey through some of the best places to eat in Cartagena, ensuring that your taste buds are thoroughly satisfied.
When in Cartagena, one simply must try the fresh and flavorful ceviche. La Cevicheria, a charming seafood restaurant, is a local favorite for this iconic dish. Located in the heart of the historic city, the restaurant offers a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere. Be sure to sample their signature ceviche with a variety of fish and shrimp marinated in lime juice, mixed with onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. Pair it with a cold beer or a refreshing cocktail for the ultimate dining experience.
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For an authentic taste of Colombian cuisine, head to La Mulata, a hidden gem tucked away in the Getsemani neighborhood. This rustic eatery serves up classic dishes such as Bandeja Paisa, a hearty platter of beans, rice, fried egg, pork, sausage, and Arepas, a delicious cornmeal patties stuffed with cheese or meat. Don't miss their tantalizing sancocho, a traditional Colombian soup brimming with tender meat, potatoes, and vegetables.
If you're seeking a more upscale dining experience, Restaurante Carmen is the place to go. With its elegant ambiance and innovative menu, this restaurant offers a fusion of traditional Colombian flavors with a contemporary twist. Their carefully curated dishes are not only visually appealing but also bursting with delightful tastes and textures. From succulent grilled meats to delectable vegetarian options, Restaurante Carmen caters to all palates.
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No culinary exploration is complete without indulging in some sweet treats. Pasteleria Mila is a delightful pastry shop that boasts a delectable selection of Colombian pastries and desserts. From fluffy milhojas layered with caramelized sugar to guava-filled empanadas, each bite is a delight to the senses. Make sure to try the local favorite, Torta de Coco, a mouthwatering coconut cake that perfectly captures the essence of Cartagena.
For an intimate and memorable dining experience, Don Juan is a top choice. This award-winning restaurant prides itself on using locally-sourced ingredients to create innovative dishes that highlight the region's culinary heritage. From seafood delicacies to mouthwatering steaks, each plate at Don Juan tells a story and celebrates Colombia's diverse flavors.
La Cocina de Pepina
For a taste of Cartagena's home-cooked goodness, head to La Cocina de Pepina. This quaint and cozy restaurant offers an authentic experience, serving up traditional dishes with love and care. The menu changes daily, ensuring that you get to taste a variety of authentic Colombian flavors. Don't forget to try their famous coconut rice and fried fish - a true coastal delight.
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Places to visit in Cartagena
Step back in time as you wander through the enchanting streets of Cartagena's Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The walled city (Ciudad Amurallada) is a treasure trove of colonial architecture, cobbled streets, and colorful buildings adorned with bougainvillea. Visit the iconic Clock Tower, a symbol of the city, and explore the grand Plaza de los Coches, surrounded by charming restaurants and shops.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas:
A short distance from the Old Town, you'll find one of the most significant fortresses in the Americas – Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. This imposing 16th-century Spanish fortress stands as a testament to Cartagena's strategic importance in protecting its riches from pirate attacks. Climb to the top for panoramic views of the city and the sea beyond.
Fashion tip: For this visit, prioritize comfort with your clothing choice. Opt for breathable shorts or a skirt, as the castle's interior can get quite warm. Ensure your feet stay happy and energized by wearing a pair of supportive sneakers that will help you make the most of your exploration without feeling tired.
For a taste of modern Cartagena, head to Bocagrande, a lively neighborhood lined with skyscrapers, hotels, and beautiful beaches. Take a stroll along the promenade, enjoy the soft sand beneath your feet, and indulge in water sports like jet skiing or paddleboarding.
Islas del Rosario:
Just off the coast of Cartagena, lies the mesmerizing Islas del Rosario, an archipelago of 27 coral islands. Hop on a boat tour to explore the crystal-clear waters, go snorkeling or scuba diving to witness the vibrant marine life, and relax on the pristine white sand beaches.
Sustainable tip: For this tour, embrace sustainability by avoiding single-use plastic bottles and opt for a refillable stainless steel or glass water bottle. It's the perfect accessory to keep yourself hydrated while protecting the sea from unnecessary plastic waste.
Immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture by visiting Getsemani, a bohemian neighborhood filled with street art, hip cafes, and lively plazas. Join in the rhythmic beats of salsa and champeta, dance with the locals, and savor the delicious street food offerings.
Don't miss the opportunity to try the city's mouthwatering ceviche, sumptuous arepas, and tantalizing seafood dishes. Sample local delicacies at the bustling Bazurto Market for an authentic taste of Cartagena's culinary wonders.
If you're seeking a tranquil escape from the bustling city, head to Playa Blanca, a heavenly beach with crystal-clear waters and powdery white sand. Relax under swaying palm trees, savor freshly caught seafood at beachfront restaurants, and bask in the beauty of this idyllic paradise.
Rosario Islands National Park:
Venture further into the Rosario Islands National Park, a marine reserve that encompasses not only the Islas del Rosario but also surrounding waters teeming with marine life. Explore mangroves, go snorkeling in coral reefs, and enjoy the natural wonders of this protected area.
Where to shop
Cartagena offers a diverse and exciting shopping scene, where you can find everything from local handicrafts and artisanal products to high-end fashion and designer boutiques. Here are some of the best places to shop in Cartagena:
Located within the historic walled city, Las Bóvedas is a series of archways that were originally built as dungeons but have now been transformed into a bustling shopping area. Here, you'll find numerous shops selling a wide range of souvenirs, handicrafts, artwork, and traditional Colombian goods. It's an excellent place to pick up unique gifts and mementos to take home.
Mercado de Bazurto:
For an authentic local market experience, head to Mercado de Bazurto. This bustling market is a hive of activity, offering a vast array of fresh produce, spices, clothing, and household items. It's a vibrant and lively place to immerse yourself in the local culture and pick up some fresh fruits or local ingredients.
Portal de los Dulces:
For those with a sweet tooth, Portal de los Dulces is a must-visit spot. Located near the Clock Tower in the Old Town, this charming corridor is lined with colorful stalls selling an assortment of traditional Colombian sweets and candies. Treat yourself to coconut treats, fruit jellies, and other delectable confections.
Colombia is renowned for its emeralds, and Cartagena is an excellent place to shop for these precious gemstones. While exploring the Old Town, you'll come across various jewelry shops offering a wide selection of emeralds set in beautiful designs. Be sure to purchase from reputable and certified dealers.
La Serrezuela is a luxury shopping center housed in a restored historical building in the Old Town. Here, you'll find high-end boutiques, fashion stores, gourmet food shops, and upscale restaurants, making it an ideal place to indulge in luxury shopping and dining experiences. Don't miss the chance to visit the third floor and admire the original architecture of this historical building.
Getsemani Artisan Market:
In the trendy Getsemani neighborhood, you'll discover a vibrant artisan market where local craftsmen and artists showcase their handmade products. From colorful textiles and jewelry to unique artworks and souvenirs, this market is a treasure trove of authentic Colombian creations.
Shopping in Cartagena is a delightful experience, offering a mix of modern malls, traditional markets, and charming boutiques. Whether you're hunting for souvenirs, local handicrafts, or luxury items, the city caters to all shopping preferences. Explore the historic streets, support local artisans, and take home cherished keepsakes from this enchanting coastal city.
Cartagena, with its storied history and vibrant days, effortlessly transforms into a lively and captivating city at night. As the sun dips below the horizon, the city awakens to an electrifying nightlife that beckons locals and visitors alike. Get ready to immerse yourself in the rhythms of salsa, merengue, and champeta, as we unveil some of the best places to experience Cartagena's sizzling nightlife.
Café del Mar:
For a magical start to your evening, head to Café del Mar, located on the city walls facing the Caribbean Sea. This iconic bar offers breathtaking sunset views, making it an ideal spot to enjoy cocktails while witnessing the sky paint itself in vibrant hues. As the night progresses, the atmosphere transforms with the beats of electronic and Latin music, setting the stage for a lively night ahead.
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As the sun sets, Getsemani, the bohemian heart of Cartagena, comes alive with music and dance. The vibrant streets of this artistic neighborhood are lined with bars and clubs, each offering a unique experience. Dive into the local culture at Bazurto Social Club, where the beats of champeta and cumbia will have you dancing until the early hours. Alternatively, head to Café Havana, a legendary salsa club that exudes the spirit of Latin dance and attracts both seasoned dancers and beginners.
Plaza Santo Domingo:
Plaza Santo Domingo, located in the heart of the Old Town, is a lively square that transforms into an open-air nightlife hub after dark. Here, you can find a diverse range of restaurants, bars, and street performers. Enjoy a leisurely dinner at one of the many outdoor eateries while being serenaded by local musicians. Once you've finished your meal, the square becomes a hub for salsa dancing, creating an authentic and unforgettable experience.
For an all-out party experience, make your way to Mister Babilla, one of the most famous nightclubs in Cartagena. This multi-level venue features different music genres on each floor, ensuring that there's something for everyone. Dance the night away to reggaeton, hip-hop, and Latin hits in this high-energy hotspot.
Demente Tapas Bar:
If you're in the mood for a more relaxed yet vibrant atmosphere, Demente Tapas Bar in Getsemani is the place to be. Offering a delightful selection of tapas and creative cocktails, this bar provides the perfect ambiance for socializing and enjoying the company of friends or making new ones.
Cartagena is a city of history, color, and enchantment, where the old and the new coexist harmoniously. With its rich cultural heritage, stunning beaches, and delectable cuisine, Cartagena promises an unforgettable experience for every visitor. So, pack your bags and embark on an adventure that will leave you with cherished memories of this charming coastal gem. Discover Cartagena, and let its magic embrace you!
The Jetlagmode team