3 Days In Cartagena:
The Ultimate Guide
Cartagena is the queen of the Caribbeans, a city full of charm and history.
With Cartagena, it was love at first sight. It took us less than five minutes to fall under the spell of its beauty. The city is a real gem, a mix of vibrant Caribbean character and charming colonial elegance, encapsulated in a beautifully preserved historic citadel. The narrow streets between the fortified walls are a collection of perfectly restored and maintained colonial houses. Balconies overflowing with flowers and plants, doors with unique designs and each house painted in a different colour, making up a rainbow of style. Every corner of Cartagena exudes history, character and charm.
It's as if time stopped and the history of the city was preserved with dedication and care. Cartagena is composed of different areas which look dramatically different. The old town, protected by the original city wall, which is the heart of the historic town. Getsemaní, the cool, hipster neighbourhood a ten-minute walk from the Clock Tower Square, packed with vibrant bars and restaurants and home of the famous Havana Cafe. The harbour, from where you can reach the Islas del Rosario and enjoy the spectacular Caribbean setting. The new and shiny Bocagrande, with its waterfront skyscrapers, which resemble Miami beach.
While staying in Cartagena you have to indulge in everything the city has to offer. From incredible restaurants and bars to great shopping, from salsa dancing to romantic sunsets over the Pacific ocean.
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Where to sleep in Cartagena
The first boutique hotel in Cartagena, formally known as Hotel Agua, is a very special place where the comfort and ease of being at an old friend’s home meet the sophistication of a five-star hotel. When the heavy wooden door opens, the friendly face of Luis welcomes you. Stepping inside you leave the hustle and bustle of the busy old town behind, entering a peaceful open-air courtyard.
Originally created by one of the most famous interior designers in Cartagena, Amarla has recently been renewed, with the aim of maintaining the charming soul of the hotel while adding an exotic feel to reflect the Caribbean style and vibrant character of its location. The soul of Amarla has been re-ignited, made possible by the staff and their dedication to providing each guest with the most comfortable stay. During your time there, your every necessity is taken care of with a genuine smile.
With only six rooms, the hotel keeps the intimate feeling of a home away from home. The ground floor is dedicated to lounging and eating. Built as an open-air courtyard, with two majestic palm trees occupying centre stage and reaching all the way up to the rooftop pool. The natural light showers the lounge throughout the day, creating a relaxing environment where you can read a book, have a coffee or grab a delicious meal prepared by the lovely Estela.
On the second floor, you can find the six tastefully decorated rooms, with a view over the small courtyard through a balcony typical of the colonial houses of Colombia, blooming with exotic flowers. The last floor is where the magic happens, with a rooftop pool overlooking the tower of the Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría, a new tropical garden perfect for a relaxing cocktail, a spa and an open-air cinema. A perfect space where you can escape the heat of the day, with plenty of options to keep you entertained.
Situated in one of the main streets of Cartagena old town, it’s location is perfect to explore the beauty that is Cartagena. Some of the best restaurants are just around the corner and it’s just a short walk to the main square.
Where to eat and drink in Cartagena
Lunch at Epoca $
Classy, sleek and modern, with NY style bar interior design. Epoca is the perfect spot to have lunch or breakfast in the old town. The menu spans from waffles to avocado on toast and they serve all types of Colombian coffee which you can also purchase. The ideal place where to escape the blazing heat of the sunny days in Cartagena.
Without a doubt one the best ceviches we ate while in South America. This establishment opened at the beginning of the 90s and is still one of the most famous restaurants in Cartagena, which at night becomes a salsa dance floor. The ceviche is served in a small portion in a paper ‘cup’, ideal also for take away. Everything in the dish is super fresh and so incredibly tasty.
Dinner at Zaitun $$
A popular restaurant in one of the liveliest streets of the old town, offering local dishes and some Turkish specialities. During our visit, a local band was playing Carribean tunes making the atmosphere very festive. We definitely recommend the hummus and the grilled octopus.
The best, sophisticated tapas in Cartagena are served at Demente in Getsemaní. The restaurant itself is a piece of art, a mix of underground coolness with South American hints. Every single dish was perfectly cooked and presented, using local produce cooked in the original style.
Few tables set under the stars, in between tall palm trees and fairy lights. The beauty of Bohemia's setting amazed us thanks to its romantic details and the food was not any less remarkable. The menu offers mainly seafood and meat dishes, prepared in Caribbean style.
Ice cream at Tramonti Gelateria $
The gelato prepared at Tramonti Gelateria is definitely one of the best I ever had, not only outside of Italy. Prepared in an authentic way, with Italian machines and local ingredients, it’s of the perfect creamy consistency and very rich in flavour. My personal favourite is pistachio!
Drinks at Alquimico $$
A sophisticated cocktail bar on two floors, where you can have a drink or eat small bites. The interior design features plants, couches and bar stations on both floors. The cocktails are carefully presented and delicious.
Top 5 things to do in Cartagena
Spend a day walking through the streets of the old town to admire the remarkable beauty of historic Cartagena. Each street, each corner, each house will charm you with their unique features. Enjoy a slow lunch and coffee or a gelato (or both!) and peek inside the shops at the colourful art and crafts.
Take a day trip to the paradise beaches of Isla del Rosario. This archipelago of islands just off Cartagena can be reached with a speed boat in less than an hour. At the harbour, you will find several tours offering a different day trip to the different islands and beach clubs. We recommend visiting Bora Bora Beach Club for the white sand beach, comfortable sunbeds and festive atmosphere.
Visit the Gold Museum to learn more about pre-colonial Colombian art and marvel at original gold pieces.
Get loose dancing salsa at the rhythm of the live band at Cafe Havana. A mandatory experience when in Cartagena is a night at this historic dance club, where locals and tourists mix in the Caribbean heat, dancing the night away.