Cartagena Travel Guide

For the past four years we’ve been dating (wow, four already?), Austin and I have gone on at least one trip abroad each year.

We love traveling and it’s something I hope to always make a priority. This year, we ventured to Cartagena, Colombia. It’s been on the travel bucket list for a while now and I could not wait to finally plan our baecation to South America.

There’s so much to say about this city but I’ll do my best to put it all in one blog post. We stayed at two different Air Bnbs during our week-long trip. We crammed in as much as we could while still having time to relax, read, nap (for grandpa Austin), etc.

And now, for the spicy recs!

Food/Coffee:

La Taperia - I smile just thinking about how cute and yummy and fun it was. We went about three or four times during our stay. An older couple owns this tiny tapas restaurant and neither of them speak any English. We all know I had to carry us through this trip since Austin’s Spanish is SUBPAR (love you, babe), but we managed to order the necessities each time. OK, we mainly just came back for the sangria but they were the sweetest couple and the food was quality, too.

Cafe de La Mañana - This is such a great spot for breakfast and it’s extremely affordable. We both ordered avo toast, eggs, coffee and orange juice and left paying less than $15 USD. Wild.

Sushi Masaki - Sushi pizza with crispy rice. Enough said.

Pezetarian - Calling all rice bowl lovers! They serve sushi, salad, ceviche and more but we went with their popular rice bowls, which were fresh as hell. They also have a great responsible food policy along with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Fantastico.

Maria - Please note: locals do not eat dinner early in Cartagena. Many restaurants don’t even open until about 7 p.m. so when arrived here as soon as it opened, we had the place to ourselves until normal people started showing up. It’s a bit fancier/pricier but the food was delicious.

La Cevicheria - We had to stop here for Anthony Bourdain (RIP) and because it was right down the street from our Air Bnb. Overall, not bad but not the best ceviche I’ve ever had.  

Juan del Mar - Seafood on the inside, Italian on the outside. Doesn’t get much better than that. We opted for Italian, AKA pizza, so we were seated in the outside portion but the inside of this place looks amazing. Think hanging foliage and open ceilings. It’s a good option for a quick, casual dinner.

Beiyu - We ventured here for breakfast one morning, located in the neighborhood of Getsemani. It’s super quaint but the menu is pages long - you’ll find everything from açaí bowls to wraps.

Bohemia - This is a STUNNING restaurant located inside a restored house dating back centuries. I loved the food, vibe and staff. 10/10 would recommend.

Epoca Espresso Bar - We got this recommendation from a friend and she did us good because this was another place we frequented throughout the trip. So. much. coffee. Any way you could want it. They also have a pretty extensive food menu and everything we ordered was on point.

Abaco Libros y Cafe - This small cafe is surrounded by a library of books. The coffee is OK, but it makes for a cute photo opp.

Other Activities:

Free Walking Tour (Plaza Santa Teresa): There are various tours but we did the “yellow umbrella” tour. We booked it online and our tour guide took us through the old city as he explained some of the most important history.

Movich Hotel: If you’re looking for a rooftop pool, this is your spot. I’m talking AHHH-mazing views. But make sure you ask the front desk if the pool is open for swimming to the public. They only open it for non-hotel guests on certain days.

Shopping: My favorite store was St. Dom; I was drooling over the clothes, shoes and jewelry that I couldn’t afford. But even the smaller gift shops have the cutest bags and trinkets.

Palenqueras: Say hello to one of the biggest Colombian icons. During our walking tour, we learned the true meaning behind these beautiful ladies and how they came to be a national staple. Palenque is a small village outside the city which used to be ruled entirely by runaway African slaves: Palenqueros and Palenqueras. In the 1600’s, the women began walking by foot into the city every day to sell fruit from hand-woven baskets. Now, they make their money from tourists wanting to pose for the Gram. They are much more than women in pretty dresses - they represent resistance, courage and Afro-Caribbean heritage as direct descendants of the world's first free slaves.

Bazurto Market Tour - If you’re looking for a truly local experience, take a tour of Bazurto. We booked this through Insider Tours benefitting FEM, a nonprofit org. We had two guides, one who spoke Spanish and one English. Our translator was the most down-to-earth student who immersed us in the local ways, from experiencing natural herbs to Champeta music and finishing us off with lunch made by chef Cecilia herself (another Bourdain spot). Be sure to try Plátanos en Tentación, a dish of plantains boiled in their local red soda.

Alquimico - Austin and I stopped off at this rooftop bar after dinner one night. We met the COOLEST bartenders (shoutout Arleis!! If you’re reading this ily) and had the best time getting lit off cocktails and chatting about life.

I could go on and on but chances are, only a select few actually made it this far. If you’re one of them, you is kind, you is smart, you is important. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions. ¡Viva Cartagena!