Colombia's coastal city of Cartagena is a Caribbean paradise, where travelers can roam the many colorful streets of Old Town and Getsemaní. Enjoy life in the city, and opt to take city breaks to surrounding beaches, historical towns, and markets. Learn more about Cartagena's culture and why you should visit on your next trip to South America.
If you're interested in discovering local life in Cartagena, a trip to Mercado Bazurto is essential. This market is home to a meat, fish, vegetable, and fruit selection that's representative of Colombia's unique flavor and tropical cuisine. Locals also prepare lunch and breakfast here, where you can feast on boiled yuca, fried fish, and fresh juice.
San Basilio de Palenque
San Basilio de Palenque is home to the first free African village in all of the Americas. Afro-Colombian heritage is on full display here, as locals have preserved many of the customs traditional to their African ancestors. The hot temperatures and dusty streets that make up Palenque host many talented musicians and dancers, all featuring music passed down from generations.
See the Street Art
In Getsemaní, Cartagena's most bohemian neighborhood, almost every street is dotted with colorful murals. Get lost in the winding roads, where locals are always out and about, playing games and chatting beneath the shade.
Malagana Café & Bar
While in Getsemaní, visit Malagana Café & Bar. Sisters Diana and Maria co-own the restaurant, named after their father's hometown in Colombia. Fresh juices, authentic Colombian ceviche and Cartagena's own limonada de coco are all featured on the menu. Cocktails are best enjoyed on Malagana's rooftop, where potted plants line the walls.
To soak up the sun, visit Playa Blanca on Isla Barú. Spend the day sipping piña coladas and swimming in the clear ocean water. Keep on the lookout for an occasional cow passing along the beach, and make sure to stay for Playa Blanca's breathtaking sunset.
Colombia is home to an endless array of tropical fruits. Walking the streets of Getsamaní and Old Town is the perfect opportunity to sample local varieties, as street vendors sell to-go sizes along the bustling sidewalks. Sample everything from maracuja (passion fruit) to mora, a local fruit similar in taste to blackberries.
If you're on the search for the perfect souvenir, roam the shops in Old Town. St. DOM is one of the best, where you can find local jewelry and mochillas made by Colombian designers.
Enjoy Outdoor Showers
What's more tropical than showering outdoors? If you're looking for more authentic accommodations in Cartagena, consider a stay at Les Lizard B&B in Getsemaní, where you feel more like family than a guest. The courtyard spaces are perfect to enjoy afternoon tea and coffee, while the outdoor showers are a perfect reprieve from the Cartagena heat.
Marvel at the Colorful Houses
Every turn in Cartagena provides the perfect photo opportunity. Houses here are lathered in colorful paint, creating a candy-coated city, full of life and vivacity. Keep your phone ready, because you'll never know when you pass the perfect façade.
Cocktails and Eat Ceviche
Sometimes the best meals don't take place within restaurant doors, and this statement rings true in Cartagena. The city awakens at night, and a trove of vendors fill the streets, offering a variety of local dishes. You can order anything from beers to ceviche, and there are no restrictions on where and how you consume it.