There’s something majestic about Cartagena; an alluring draw of old and new that’s captivated even the most fashionable crowd, and kept them coming back for more. The charm lives in the colonial old city with its colorful streets and the energetic cast of characters that lines them. The fruteras elegantly balancing bowls of tropical fruits on their heads.
The mochila and art vendors selling their country’s beloved souvenirs. Street musicians serenading tourists with sounds of their guacharacas and güiras. And then there are the proud viejitos perched on wooden chairs outside their homes quietly observing the city they’ve never left. Why would they? Cartagena has heart and a depth that you can only understand when you’ve experienced it for yourself.
Below, a city guide for where to stay, eat, drink, shop and island-hop in Cartagena.
Where to Stay
Where to Eat
Where to Drink and Dance
Café del Mar
Start your night out with a walk along the historic old city walls and stumble upon Café del Mar for a cold bottle of Agila.
This tiny, crowded nightclub across from Café del Mar, is the ideal spot to end your night among Cartagena’s most beautiful crowd.
If you’ve come to Cartagena to dance, the city’s nostalgic salsa bar, Café Havana never disappoints. Let your hair down and accept a dance from a local, you’ll return home a pro.
The best cocktails you’ll have in Cartagena will be at El Barón. This tiny speakeasy is known for its expertly-crafted cocktails that fuse local flavors with a refined selection of spirits. Begin the night getting to know your neighbors of tourists and locals at this cozy bar in Plaza San Pedro Claver.
Alquímico is a three-story bar that was once an old shoe store. Neighboring Don Juán and María, it’s the perfect place to grab a bespoke cocktail. For some fresh air, head up to the roof and take a seat at the communal picnic tables.
Where to Shop
Your visit to Cartagena would be incomplete without a visit to the islands. Skip the crowded tour boats and rent a private boat (complete with a captain and co-captain) for a day out on the islands. Have your crew take you to visit Cartagena’s neighboring islands, Baru, Islas del Rosario, and Cholon.
You can anchor up at the many beach clubs for swimming and lunch (the freshest you’ll have, to be sure). For bigger groups or for an overnight stay on the islands, rent a private house, like Isla Rosa. The house comes with a full staff and chef to ensure you don’t have to do any of the thinking. You’re on vacation, relax.