3 days in Cartagena

By Emily Eisenberg

DO
EAT
STAY
PACK

Colorful Cartagena, this is the perfect place for a couple day trip with girlfriends, guy friends or a romantic get-away. It's expansive colonial architecture, delicious food, and vibrant night scene make it a place worth visiting. The best way to explore is to wander through the gated old city...and yes, it is safe.

What to DO

Day exploring 

  • Roam around the walled old quarters, leave time to get lost and enjoy the colonial architecture, unique doorways, fashionable boutiques, and street food vendors along the way. Spend most of your time just doing this, and you will be entertained! 
  • Visit Castillo San Felipe de Barajas which is a short walk from the Old Quarters, and has excellent views of the old city.
  • Full day trip to the Rosario Islands and/or Baru for a day on the beach. There are a ton of islands, and you don't need to book this in advance, it's best to go where your hotel has a deal and can help book your boat transport to and from. The snorkeling is mediocre/murky, so skip this and just enjoy beach life. 
Colorful Old Town
Colorful Old Town
Rosario Islands
Rosario Islands

Night out

  • Alquímico: An awesome 3-story bar with delicious drinks and great atmosphere. Place to sit and start the night. 
  • Cafe Havana: Cuban, latin vibes for some salsa dancing! 
  • La Movida: A wild dance club for late night. Potential line and cover for guys. 
Alquímico
Alquímico
Alquímico
Alquímico

What to EAT

Breakfast

  • Bohemia: Hotel next door to Don Juan, and this place is worth a visit. It's interior courtyard has a hidden jungle garden vibe, a pool, and a working well you can sit around. Stumbled upon this place, and really loved it. Great place for a breakfast to start the day in the old city.
  • Casa Lola: A boutique hotel right outside the walled city. Breakfast is served in an open courtyard, with running water through the grounds. Okay food, its the atmosphere that makes this worth the visit. Make sure to walk up to the rooftop pool for a great view of the city.

Lunch

  • Street vendors: Just eat as you roam at as many street vendors as you can. Make sure its either cooked and/or peeled pending what you choose! Caution for your stomach: Avoid the water, so no "washed" fruit, ice cubes, tap water etc. 
  • La Cevicheria: Casual lunch spot with upscale food. Anthony Bourdain put this place on the map. A go to for fresh Ceviche, and an awesome atmosphere.  

Dinner

  • La Vitrola: Fancy #1 dinner spot. You need to book this in advance, either email or have your hotel call for you. It’s more on the pricey end, but worth it for it's old school Colombia/Cuba vibes, live music, and delicious food. 
  • Don Juan: Another fancy dinner spot with an awesome atmosphere and food. 
  • Juan Del Mar: Casual dinner spot. Pizza with fun live music where you can sit outside in the midst of the old town streets. 
La Vitrola
La Vitrola
Peeling street fruit
Peeling street fruit

Where to STAY

Casa Lola: Affordable boutique hotel 5 min walking distance to old city

  • Rooftop pool with expansive views of the city, and a perfect spot to watch the sunset
  • Great location, right outside the walled city in the fun and upcoming Getsemani district, which is essentially the lower east side NY of Cartagena
  • Extremely helpful concierge that booked dinner, full day excursion to Rosario Islands, and airport transit
  • Impeccably decorated interior
Casa Lola rooftop pool
Casa Lola rooftop pool
Sunset from Casa Lola Roof
Sunset from Casa Lola Roof

What to PACK

This is a main city that is known for it's trendy fashion scene.

Bags/luggage

  • Carry-on rolling bag: Cartagena is not roughing it, the streets are paved for wheeling your bag
  • Beach bag: Big enough that you can pack all your items for a day on the beach
  • Day cross-body bag: Big enough to hold your day items as you tour around and with zipper because of pick pocketing
  • Going out purse: something small for night, just for wallet and phone

Outfits: 

  • Day roaming for old city: Leave the tourist khaki's behind and channel your inner influencer for fun, comfortable outfits that will mix nicely with the colorful streets of Cartagena. The photo-ops are endless.
  • Dinner/Going out outfit: The latin vibe calls for fun flowing outfits with lots of color. Dress up for nighttime.
  • Beaching: Coverup and bathing suit for the beach day

Shoes:

  • Walking shoes: Prepare for endless walking through old city during the day, so make sure your shoes have support and are comfortable
  • Flat night shoes: Skip any high heals as it will be a mess with all the cobblestone streets, but a nicer pair of shoes or sandal is needed for dinner out
  • Beach sandals: If you're doing Rosario Islands, a pair of beach sandals that can get wet

Accessories

  • Sunglasses
  • Hat: a fun thing to buy on the street if you don't bring
  • No fancy jewelry, do fun and colorful options - can also just wait to buy once there

Tech

  • A legit camera
  • Waterproof camera
  • Selfie stick: yes, its dorky, but i'm so glad I had one!

Toiletries

  • Sun block: it is oddly expensive to buy there, so bring with you
  • Bug spray: the Islands are a little buggy
  • Hand Sanitizer: as you want to eat the street food, sanitize your hands as you go

 

What to PACK

This is a main city that is known for it's trendy fashion scene.

Bags/luggage

  • Carry-on rolling bag: Cartagena is not roughing it, the streets are paved for wheeling your bag
  • Beach bag: Big enough that you can pack all your items for a day on the beach
  • Day cross-body bag: Big enough to hold your day items as you tour around and with zipper because of pick pocketing
  • Going out purse: something small for night, just for wallet and phone

Outfits: 

  • Day roaming for old city: Leave the tourist khaki's behind and channel your inner influencer for fun, comfortable outfits that will mix nicely with the colorful streets of Cartagena. The photo-ops are endless.
  • Dinner/Going out outfit: The latin vibe calls for fun flowing outfits with lots of color. Dress up for nighttime.
  • Beaching: Coverup and bathing suit for the beach day

Shoes:

  • Walking shoes: Prepare for endless walking through old city during the day, so make sure your shoes have support and are comfortable
  • Flat night shoes: Skip any high heals as it will be a mess with all the cobblestone streets, but a nicer pair of shoes or sandal is needed for dinner out
  • Beach sandals: If you're doing Rosario Islands, a pair of beach sandals that can get wet

Accessories

  • Sunglasses
  • Hat: a fun thing to buy on the street if you don't bring
  • No fancy jewelry, do fun and colorful options - can also just wait to buy once there

Tech

  • A legit camera
  • Waterproof camera
  • Selfie stick: yes, its dorky, but i'm so glad I had one!

Toiletries

  • Sun block: it is oddly expensive to buy there, so bring with you
  • Bug spray: the Islands are a little buggy
  • Hand Sanitizer: as you want to eat the street food, sanitize your hands as you go

 

outfit
Outfits