Cartagena, Colombia, is an incredible place to visit if you’re looking to travel internationally; this port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast is rich in culture, history, and scenic beauty. It offers a lot, from fascinating architecture to exquisite natural landscapes and finger-licking good food.
Of the cities in Colombia, Cartagena offers an incredible mixture of culture and history that leaves you wanting to wander around for days.
Let’s dive deeper into all Cartagena Colombia has to offer – from the top-rated things to do in Cartagena, Colombia to more off-the-beaten-path activities you’ll never forget. Get ready for an unforgettable excursion to this trend-setting city at the forefront of the best of Colombia travel.
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Best Things to Do in Cartagena Colombia
1. Stroll the Streets of the Walled City
The Walled City is the highlight of Cartagena and a beautiful attraction for you to visit. The neighborhood is lined with designer boutiques, lavish hotels, top restaurants, and a splendid market.
Walking around the Walled City, you’ll find great historical architecture from Spanish Colonial times. It’s been well preserved and many buildings have been converted into luxurious hotels with fascinating renovations to give a high-end experience. Many people compare it to Old Havana!
You’ll come across street hawkers and Palequeras (local women dressed in beautiful bright dresses with fruit bowls balanced on their heads). You can take pictures with them and try the Caribbean fruits like papayas and passion fruits they often carry.
It is a great place to buy souvenirs for your trip and enjoy world-class restaurants with Colombian cuisine.
If you want to experience a top-class Colombian restaurant in Cartagena, consider visiting La Cevicheria, a famous place within the Walled City, to enjoy seafood and local dishes with a fine-dining experience.
If you’re on a budget, consider visiting the streets of Getsemani that offer a similar experience with a lower price tag.
2. Visit Getsamani
Getsemani, located right outside Cartagena’s historical center, is an absolute work of art. The streets are worth taking a stroll and enjoying the vividness, creativity, and great local food.
When we say the streets are a piece of art, we mean it. Walking down the neighborhood, you’ll find bright, colorful walls with paintings and murals that speak of Cartagena’s history and culture.
Plus, the streets are always bustling with excellent local music that you can vibe to and some delicious street food that you can have on the go. Getsemani is a beautiful and colorful place with some exceptional artwork and historical architecture. The area should be on your list of unmissable places in Cartagena, Colombia.
3. Go to Cafe Del Mar
Cafe Del Mar is a famous restaurant in Cartagena to enjoy the sunset. The drink variety is great; you may not want to enjoy dinner here, but the view is excellent, though, with a rooftop sitting and orange sunset.
Remember to get to the restaurant early, an hour or so before the sunset, as the famous spot gets crowded close to sunset. Alternatively, you can make a reservation beforehand. Also, be prepared for the prices to be slightly higher than other spots.
4. Castillo San Felipe
The San Felipe Castle is another historic site in Cartagena. Stretching back in time to the Spanish Colonial era, the castle was built to protect the Spanish-Caribbean trade of Cartagena.
The castle has a top-notch sturdy historical architecture with caves inside and is worth exploring. It’s situated on top of a hill and is quite a walk.
Get an English tour guide to have a guided walking tour and enjoy the place, especially if you are a history buff. Visiting Castillo San Felipe is among the top-rated things to do in Cartagena, Colombia.
5. Rent a Boat for the Day to Rosario Islands
Rosario Islands (Islas del Rosario) are an archipelago and undoubtedly one of the most breathtaking islands of Colombia. They are even counted among the Natural National Parks of Colombia, and are some of the best underrated islands in the Caribbean.
Located about 100km from Cartagena, the islands are only accessible by boats, and it takes an hour and a half to get there.
Boat tours are the most common way of traveling to the famous Rosario Islands. The islands are surrounded by crystal clear water and a beautiful coastline that calls for sailing, snorkeling, and rafting excursions.
You get to experience rich Colombian culture on the islands as the locals mainly inhabit the Islas del Rosario. You can choose day tours on the islands or a multi-day trip where you experience the island’s nightlife. Whatever you choose, enjoy the islands with a picturesque view, cocktails, and local food.
6. Cholón Island Party
Cholón Island is the most famous holiday destination in Colombia. The Cholón Island party is every weekend and is bustling with people, from locals to tourists. It is only a 40 min boat ride from the heart of Cartagena and a must-visit place for party lovers.
There is music, people, beers, seafood, and a beautiful sunset in the mangroves at the end. So if a Caribbean party is your thing, don’t miss out on going to Cholón and dancing the day away.
7. Stay a Night at Playa Blanca
Playa Blanca is arguably among the best beaches in Cartagena, Colombia, and the Caribbean sea. With clean white sand and gorgeous crystal clear waters presenting a picturesque view, Playa Blanca is located on the Barú peninsula and is only an hour away from Cartagena.
Take a boat or a four-wheeler to reach the place and enjoy sightseeing. Then, lay on the beach and drink some of the best cocktails and beers Playa Blanca offers. In addition, there are bars, seafood restaurants, Colombian fares, and massages. Stay there for the night and enjoy the peaceful beach and pink sunset.
8. Horse Carriage Ride of the City
The horse carriage ride is a fantastic way to explore the colorful city of Cartagena. The old city is vast, and this is a fun way to explore the busy streets while visiting the landmarks.
Riding a horse carriage is romantic if you are with your partner and also fills the dual purpose of getting to know the entirety of the area. The chauffeur highlights and explains the history of some important buildings in the neighborhood.
9. Bolivar Park
A beautiful and majestic location in the heart of Cartagena is Bolivar Park. If you’re asking yourself if Cartagena is safe, you don’t have to worry about safety in this area, as it’s located in one of the safest neighborhoods in Cartagena.
Parque de Bolivar offers mesmerizing water fountains, large lush green trees, and large rock seats for visitors to sit back and enjoy the view. There are also terraces around the park where you can sit and gulp down some refreshing drinks if you seek more than just a view.
You can find many essential sites to visit near the park like Inquisition Palace, Museum of Gold, Proclamation Palace, and the Cathedral – these are some of the attractions in Cartagena you won’t want to skip.
10. Visit Plaza Santo Domingo
Named after the church on one of its corners, Plaza Santo Domingo is the most famous square in the old city of Cartagena. The plaza square has restaurants and bars in the old colonial architectural style, with traditional balconies and ancient designs.
Towards the center of the Plaza, it’s easy to spot the famous statue of ‘Gorda’ by Colombian artist Fernando Botero.
Choose from a myriad of restaurants to enjoy the food and vibe of the place, with local music playing in the background. While there are plenty of restaurants and bars nearby, try to venture a few blocks further if you’re looking to eat on a budget.
11. Totumo Mud Volcano
About an hour’s drive from Cartagena is the Totumo mud volcano, a popular spot for visitors looking for a day trip from Cartagena. The site holds a giant old volcano where you can take a mud bath 6-feet in.
It’s an overall fun experience to be there if you’re with a group of friends. The area gets crowdy in the afternoon, so it’s best to get there early.
12. Go Scuba Diving
Cartagena offers some of the best scuba diving locations in the clear waters of the Caribbean Sea. Explore the bottom of the crystal clear waters easily, whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced diver.
Surrounding the Rosario Islands, there is a lot to experience underwater. Go on the scuba diving or snorkeling adventure and admire the biodiversity beneath the waters, from coral reefs to different schools of fish and much more.
13. El Patio
Cartagena offers excellent nightlife, besides the sightseeing you can do during the day. El Patio, situated in the Getsemani, is one great place to enjoy your night. It is a prominent courtyard-styled place with architecture mimicking the ancient colonial buildings with balconies and umbrellas hanging from the top.
El Patio has got deals on drinks, a nice ambiance, music, and delicious food ranging from fast food to salads. El Patio is a short walk from the old city or Getsemani and offers excellent value.
14. Donde Fidel
Donde Fidel is the famous salsa club in Cartagena. At night, the place burst with loud music and couples dancing the famous salsa dances. The club also has a lovely seating arrangement both outside and inside, so if you’re really not into dancing and just want to do some people-watching, this is your place.
15. Cafe Havana
If it’s named after Havana, it has to be good… right? Among the coolest and most famous nightlife spots is cafe Havana, so much so that it was also visited by Hillary Clinton when she visited Cartagena. The cafe is located opposite El Patio and is famous for its salsa dances and traditional Colombian vibes.
At Cafe Havana, you’ll find drinks, great music, and an ambiance full of energy to dance the night away. Enjoying the vibes of Cafe Havana, the self-declared world-famous bar, as it’s one of the best things to do in Cartagena, Colombia.
Cartagena is a city where you’ll never run out of things to do or see. Whether you’re with your family, partner, friends, or traveling solo, you’ll have a good time here. You can go salsa dancing, clubbing, visit museums, go to the beach, go hiking, stop at different spots to eat, and much more. However you plan to spend your time in Cartagena, it’s bound to be unforgettable.
This post originally appeared on Hello Sensible.
About the Author
Marjolein is the founder of Radical FIRE and Spark Nomad. She has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. Radical FIRE is a personal finance blog that helps you live your dream life through making more money and investing, while Spark Nomad shares all about travel.