Cartagena de Indias should be mandatory on everybody’s travel list. With a vast variety of things to do and see, it’s one of the most popular towns in Colombia.
Get lost roaming the streets of colonial architecture and coloured walls. Spend the day on one of the Caribbean beaches and try new foods with flavours that embody the vibrancy and culture of Colombia.
Bonus: Your trip also won’t break the bank as Colombia is listed as one of the most affordable tropical destinations.
There is an energy that pulsates through the streets of Cartagena. This, along with an endless list of the best things to do in Cartagena, results in a sensory overload that can be overwhelming, in the best of ways.
We have created the list below as a perfect guide to Cartagena to ensure that you see, taste and experience it all. Without getting overwhelmed by trying to fit it all in.
Top Things to do in Cartagena
Table of Contents
Now, let’s dive into the top 10 activities to do in this beautiful city.
1. Take a Walking Tour in the Walled City
Cartagena’s Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage site and is located within the Walled City. Whether you opt for a free or private walking tour, it’s a great way to explore the city.
The history of all the major tourist attractions will be explained to you as you roam the colonial streets. This includes the Torre del Rojel (Clock Tower) and the Santa Domingo Square.
2. Take a boat day trip to the Rosario islands
The turquoise-watered Rosario islands surround Cartagena. There is no better way to discover these beach islands than on a catamaran tour. Spending the day snorkeling and swimming at the Caribbean beaches is another one of the fun things you can do near Cartagena.
Travel tip: Many of these beaches don’t have lifeguards or intense safety measures. So always remember to stay vigilant on the beaches.
3. Explore the streets of Getsemani in search of its famous street art
Getsemani is a unique neighborhood in Cartagena. It has a cool, hipster vibe boasting a large display of local graffiti and street art. This art reflects the rich culture, history and politics of Colombia and is an apt display of the beauty and diversity found in South America.
Make sure to take your camera with you as you will have a vast collection of pictures for your Cartagena memory box.
4. Visit the San Felipe Castle
This is one of the most famous landmarks in Colombia and is a sightseeing highlight for many tourists visiting Cartagena. The castle is surrounded by a huge fort which was once built to keep the city safe from conquerors and pirates. You will learn this and many more interesting facts about the San Felipe Castle on your visit.
5. Watch the sunset
As if Cartagena wasn’t perfect enough, it also shows off a beautiful sunset almost every night. Finding the ultimate spot on the edge of the walled city to watch the sunset is one of the best things to do in Cartagena.
Walk up the city walls and either grab a drink from the famous Cafe del Mar or take up your own and find a spot to enjoy the sunset. It can get pretty crowded along the city walls so make sure you go early.
6. Visit the Bazurto Market
The Bazurto Market is 15 minutes away from the Walled City and is a real taste of local life. It’s chaotic and crowded as locals barter loudly for the different foods that represent all the exotic flavours of Colombia.
If you are up to finding out what it feels like to be a local in Cartagena then brave this market alone. However, the market is gaining popularity as a tourist attraction so you can also opt to go with a tour guide.
7. Experience the nightlife on a Chiva Party Bus
One cannot simply visit Cartagena and not experience the nightlife. From salsa dancing to Spanish music, the way the people of Colombia express themselves gives South America that dynamic energy that keeps you coming back.
Hop on an open air Chiva Bus and dance the night away as you are taken from bar to bar experiencing all the different aspects of Cartagena nightlife. You can buy drinks on the bus and occasionally a local band might even hop on to serenade the group. You can either pre-book your night tour or wait at any of the many stops and hop on.
Top Food Experiences in Cartagena
Now that we have explored most of the city let’s dive into the best places to satisfy your taste buds.
8. Experiencing the Street Food of Cartagena is a must
If you are a foodie then Cartagena is the perfect place for you to visit. The restaurant scene is starting to expand and see international acclaim. However, street food from local vendors in Cartagena is undoubtedly the best local food experience you will have in the city.
Explore the streets and it won’t take long until you are graced with the unique and tasty flavours of arepas and fresh tropical fruit being sold by the Palenqueras.
9. Best restaurant in Cartagena: Donjuán Cartagena
Where better to get seafood than in a coastal town, right? Donjuán offers the best seafood dishes as they take on traditional Caribbean flavours with a modern twist.
They also have a variety of other delicious modern Colombian dishes and I would recommend ordering a few plates for the table, giving everyone a chance to taste all the unique flavours.
10. Best coffee shop in Cartagena: Epoca Espresso Bar
We all know that the best coffee comes from Colombia so we made it our mission to find the spot serving the freshest beans. With so many quaint and quirky coffee shops, it was hard to narrow it down to Epoca Espresso Bar being number one.
This place is a real winner and the best coffee that we had had in Colombia. Their delicious fresh pastries and unique breakfasts also put them in the lead.
Final Thoughts on the Best Things to Do in Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena is truly a gem of a town and you cannot go to Colombia without experiencing it. The people, culture, colours and history make it a town rich in a variety of different activities that will satisfy the needs of all types of travelers.
Cartagena has a way of getting under your skin and you will be planning your next trip back before you have even left.