Was it the tropical climate? The beauty found within Walled City? The hustle and haggling found on the streets? Or maybe it was shades of color that represented Cartagena. Whatever it was, I was instantly attracted to Cartagena the moment I arrived to this city located on Colombia’s Caribbean side. For each day I was staying in this city, I was looking forward to exploring, eating and getting turned around in Walled City as I tried to discover the best local artisans that I could find! I am looking forward to my next visit to this inviting city but for now, here is a mini guide to Cartagena.
I checked in to the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena for the first three nights of my stay in Cartagena and I can honestly say, the service was excellent! The staff were very gracious and helpful. But, if you do opt for this hotel, I would recommend not staying on the first floor and only selecting a room on floors 2 and above. Luckily for me, I was able to switch my room.
But a place that you should definitely stay at, without a doubt, is Hotel Casa San Agustin and you will understand more of the reasons why here.
I did an extensive amount of research for this trip when it came to where to eat and what to do and I feel like it paid off. From restaurants offering a wonderful gastronomic experience to ones that had live music and entertainment while you enjoyed your meal. From coffee in the am to cocktails in the pm, I was not going to miss a single moment when it came to food in Cartagena.
Do book a reservation at Celele, located in the Gestemani neighborhood, to enjoy the Caribbean infused flavors that this restaurant has to offer!
Another restaurant that offers up both a beautiful ambiance as well as a great menu selection is Mar Y Zielo.
But if you’re looking for dinner that offers live entertainment, make your way to Cande. You’ll definitely want to stay longer then needed to enjoy the live band while the performers dance their way around the restaurant. Carmen Cartagena is another restaurant that shouldn’t be missed as well as Alma located inside of Hotel Casa San Agustin.
Follow up your dinner with some after dinner cocktails at either El Baron or Alquimico. Alquimico will provide you with more of a cocktail experience as each floor has it’s own menu of cocktails. And for a rooftop bar with live music, there is always Mirador Gastro Bar.
Now, after all of that eating and drinking from the previous nights, coffee should be a requirement the morning after and one thing Colombia has to offer is great coffee! So do yourself a favor and head to Epoca Espresso Bar for well made coffee and pastries or breakfast. Alma also offers a really great breakfast menu as well!
When I shop in other countries, I am usually looking for local artisans rather than stumbling into gift shops with no purpose other than to sell! On my first day in Cartagena, I discovered Territorio, a beautiful boutique that offered up a nice selection of handmade hats and jewelry as well as home decor items. Unfortunately for me, the hats that were giving me all of the Jacquemus vibes did not fit but, I did walk away with a few bracelets.
There was also Artesanias de Colombia that have beautiful home goods as well as hats and bags. I actually bought a very cute mortar and pestle that was sadly left behind at the hotel due to being rushed off for my taxi to the airport…it still pains me even as I write this. But, I did purchase the most beautiful, handmade earrings from a local artist at Art of Iiigrana. He does not have Instagram or a website but if you are planning a trip, please pay him a visit! He is so generous and kind and the jewelry is really beautiful and unique!
A trip to Cartagena would be completing in vain if you did not head over to one of the several islands located around this city. Now, you must chose wisely when it comes to selecting your island experience. I know I wanted less of a party island and more of a relaxing island. I did not want to be bothered by street vendors as well so, I partnered with the Sofitel and they helped me with booking a day pass for Hotel San Pedro Majagua which was about a 45 minute boat ride from Cartagena. What I enjoyed was that there weren’t a lot of people on the island and it felt very remote but of course, a few upgrades here and there would have been nice but overall, it was a really nice experience.
Bendita Beach was one that was on my list as well…a newly discovered beach in Isla Grande that hopefully I can experience next time. Now, if partying is your thing, I’ve heard that Blue Apple Beach is where it’s at!
Do explore the Graffiti in the Barrio Getsemani. Check out local artists in their element and support if you can!
Now, if you want to understand the true history of the Afro Latin culture in Colombia, you must pay a visit to San Basillio De Palenque to immerse yourself in the history. I booked a great tour through Airbnb with their host from the organization Black Legacy Experiences. Again, if i’m visiting a country, my goal is to always support a local community as best as I can.
Cartagena is truly a wonderful place to visit and explore and I can honestly say I was really able to see and enjoy this city during my four day stay! I hope that the opportunity to visit Cartagena comes your way, if it hasn’t already!