This past weekend I got to escape to Cartagena, Colombia. I fell in love with this charming, classic, and charismatic city as soon as we landed. Every street is filled with beautiful flowers, colorful painted walls, funky doors, and vibrant energy.
My parents are originally from Bogota so Colombian culture is a part of me! For many years, Colombia has had a bad reputation and the country has been making a huge effort to change that. I am really happy to see that Colombia is now an up-and-coming destination for travelers from around the world!
I spent most of my trip in the old, walled city of Cartagena. My parents tell me that the old city in Cartagena used to be very dirty and unappealing to tourists. Today, it’s probably the most popular part of the city – and I suggest spending as much time as you can there!
There are tons of gorgeous boutique hotels in the walled city. We rented an apartment on AirBnB which was in a great location near the Plaza Madrid! Rooftop of the apartment is in the picture above and the lower level pool is below.
I spent 3 full days in Cartagena and listed the best things we did below:
There is a lot of African influence in Cartagena because of the slaves that were brought to work here many years ago. It is very apparent in the dance, foods, and music you see around the city.
On our first night, we came across a group of dancers performing on the street. You can see them every night from 4 – 8pm at the Plaza Bolivar. Definitely worth checking out the awesome drum beats and seeing their amazing dance moves.
Cartagena is great place to dance! One of my favorite things to do while traveling is hear live, local music. In Cartagena, you can find live music on every corner and dance Salsa every night (which made me fall in love with this city even more).
Cartagena does have beaches but they have a reputation for not being the nicest. If you do want to visit a beach, Islas de Rosario and Playa Blanca are the most recommended. If you plan on visiting the islands, you must get on a boat before 10am, that is the latest times they leave because of water gets rough afterwards and boats will not take you out.
Instead of heading to the beach, we opted to rent bikes and explore on wheels. We started at the Hotel Santa Teresa. Check out the gorgeous orchids on display as soon as you enter the hotel and the vintage spiral staircase in the middle of the breakfast terrace.
From there we followed the walls of the city, getting lost in every alley and corner throughout.
Outside the walls of the old city is an awesome up-and-coming neighborhood called Getsemani. We rode our bikes through this area which is filled with beautiful graffiti, art on every wall, hostels, cool bars, and restaurants. Definitely worth spending more time in this area.
If you are into history, stop by the Castillo Dan Felipe de Barajas. This old fortress is about a 20-minute walk from the old city. Beware: street vendors outside the castle will try to sell you everything from water, hats, to jewelry. I definitely recommend getting water because it is very hot while exploring the castle but don’t feel pressured to buy anything else from them!
There is a fee to enter and for the guided tour (we did not take the guided tour). Andres is hiding from the hot noon sun in one of the cool castle passages.
I am not such a history buff but I do think the castle is worth visiting for the amazing view of the city.
Not only does this city have an incredible energy, the food is absolutely amazing. One of my favorite things about traveling in South America is the variety of fresh fruits you can find everywhere.
And there is nothing more refreshing then a coconut water straight from the fruit. You can ask the street vendor to open the coconut for you after you finish the water and enjoy the meat inside (don’t be afraid to negotiate on the prices!)
For dinner one night we went to Carmen, a small restaurant located in the Ananda Boutique Hotel. This place was…WOW. The presentation, service, and taste of every dish was incredible. One of the best meals I have ever had.
A couple other amazing places were Espiritu Santo and La Cocina de Pepina. Both had the most amazing fresh fish and dishes I had never heard of like Cabesa de Gato – translated to Head of Cat. Before you freak out, this is actually a local dish that blends plantain, onion, butter all rolled up into a delicious ball.
And we can’t forget about my favorite meal: dessert
The hot and humid weather in Cartagena is perfect for enjoying a popsicle from the famous La Paletteria!
And my favorite place of the entire trip? It happens to be the last stop we made before heading to the airport. While wondering along the streets, we stumbled on a coffee shop that was hidden behind an old, rustic door.
The inside of Pasteleria Mila is so cool with its modern decor that juxtaposes the classic architecture.
They win my award for most delicious of the weekend. Here is a before and after shot of the perfect chocolate cake. YUM:
Cartagena has a lot to offer and for me the most beautiful thing was enjoying the friendly people, delicious food and colorful streets. Such an easy getaway from Miami! The city is enchanting and definitely worth exploring for a long weekend.
- JetBlue offers a direct flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Cartagena which makes it very easy weekend getaway from South Florida.
- Rent bikes from Fonseca at Ciclo Sport 512 – Very friendly and helpful!
- Must eat: Carmen, Espiritu Santo, La Cocina de Pepina, La Paletteria, and Pasteleria Mila
- I did not make it to the beaches but if you have the time I think it is worth to spend a day there
- Negotiate the price on everything!