Founded in the 16th century, Cartagena is a port city located on Colombia's Caribbean coast known for its colorful and plentiful colonial architecture, its cobblestone streets, and its effortless lifestyle. Gold and emeralds once brought people to Cartagena's shores, but now the city's contemporary riches - a vibrant culinary scene, beautiful beaches, and a laid-back vibe, are the main draw. With the islands of Rosario & Baru just off the coast, Cartagena is a popular vacation destination for tourists & locals alike.
WHERE TO STAY
1| Casa de Indias / Casa Botero - Renovated by none other than Colombia's famed artist Fernando Botero & his wife (and subsequently again by his daughter), Casa de Indias is a lovely 10-room home turned hotel in the heart of Old Town. Bookings can be via This is Cartagena concierge service.
2| Casablanca B&B - White washed walls coupled with period details and modern amenities make this B&B a perfect place to call home for the weekend. A rooftop pool with ocean breezes is just an added bonus.
3| Airbnb - For those visiting with a group, an Airbnb in the Old Town is one of the best options to get colonial flavor while being close to all the sites and restaurants. It is common for homes to have small pools and roof terraces.
WHERE TO EAT / COFFEE
1| La Cocina de Pepina - A quaint, corner gem in the Getsemani neighborhood loved by the locals serving a variety of traditional coastal dishes. The owner is super friendly and will offer recommendations based on your preferences. The restaurant is tiny so arrive early or expect to wait a bit!
2| Demente - Corner bar & tapas restaurant located on the Plaza de Santisima Trinidad in the hip Getsemani neighborhood. Cocktails are tasty and the extensive menu has something for everyone. As at all tapas place, this is a great place to come with friends and share. The adjacent plaza is constantly buzzing with activity and is a great place to people watch.
3| Da Silvio Trattoria - Cozy neighborhood Italian joint with an extensive list of pizzas and pastas. Quick and friendly service make for an easy and pleasant dining experience.
4| Carmen - Another outpost of the Medellin favorite serving Colombian dishes with a modern twist. They offer both a tasting menu as well as a la carte options and two seating areas, an al fresco patio and an air conditioned salon.
5| Epoca Espresso Bar - Black and white floor tiles, stone walls, and wooden beams make up this airy yet homey cafe. The coffee was some of the best I had in Cartagena and they also have brunch and lunch options to keep you satiated. Good wifi.
6| Abaco - A bookstore/cafe with vaulted, brick arches and tall bookshelves. Order a cold brew and a slice of cake while flipping through a book about Cartagena. The cafe has decent wifi as well if you need to get a bit of work done.
7| Cebicheria el Boliche - A tiny 16-seat restaurant serving up a variety of super fresh ceviches and seafood dishes with coastal Colombian flair and traditions. A great place to go with friends and share a variety of things.
WHAT TO DO
1| Stroll the Old Town. If you want more information on the various sites, take the free walking tour.
2| Walk the city's historic walls.
3| Visit the Castillo San Felipe, the 16th century fortress overlooking the city and coast.
4| Full Day Boat Trip to Rosario Islands & Island of Baru. Private boats can be rented via a variety of sources including This is Cartagena.
5| Beach Day at Playa Blanca - Head down to Bazurto Market docks in the morning and catch a boat to Playa Blanca, one of the nicer beaches closer to Cartagena.
WHAT TO PACK
The Colombian Caribbean climate is very hot and very humid, pretty much year round. The evenings are pleasant, but often during the day you will find yourself hopping from one air conditioned place to another. Bring light, airy clothing and comfortable open-toed shoes. Don't forget swimwear, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a light wrap.