Cartagena, Colombia is such a beautiful, tropical city with so much to do, see and eat. If you’re looking to plan out your trip with the best that this city has to offer, read on for my guide on what to do and see in Cartagena, complete with 7-day travel Itinerary of where to eat and drink, what day trips to take and which islands to visit. If you’re looking for a quick round-up, scroll to the bottom fo this post for a complete list of recommendations.
You can also check out my other posts on what to know before visiting Cartagena and where to stay in Cartagena, Colombia, if you’re interested in learning more about navigating this South American city.
Day 1: Cartagena
Recover from Your Travels With Coffee at El Baron
There’s no better way to recover from a day of traveling than with a good cocktail and a strong espresso, and this is the best place to go for just that. Everything about El Baron was impressive; from the service to the presentation and the drinks themselves. Plus, it’s perfectly located in a square where you can really take in the sites and smells of the city. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in Cartagena.
Walk along the City Walls
Finish up your cocktails and walk along the city walls to familiarize yourself with the area. Large pathways lining the walled city, the city walls are a great place to spend your afternoon exploring and scoping out a good spot to watch the sunset.
Watch the Sunset at Cafe del Mar
Walking along the walls we stumbled upon Cafe del Mar which had come recommended by a number of guides. We ended up grabbing a table and a drink and taking in the beautiful sunset views. The place itself is by all means a tourist trap, but it’s something that I recommend checking out at least once while you’re there.
Have Dinner at Don Juan
Once you’re done enjoying your drinks at Cafe del Mar, head over to Don Juan for a bite to eat. We tried to snag a table at La Vitrola but unfortunately they don’t allow men in without long pants, so we set off to Don Juan just a few streets away. The restaurant itself is beautiful and the food is just as appealing as the decor. If you go here, I highly recommend the octopus and the jumbo shrimp risotto.
Day 2: Cartagena
Explore the City by Foot
Since the streets are so narrow and the city so small, the best way to see everything and take in the culture of the city, is by foot. We had a great time wandering through through the colorful streets, getting lost and stumbling upon hidden gems along the way.
Grab an Espresso at Epoca
A trip to Colombia isn’t complete without trying some authentic Colombian coffee, and Epoca is just the place to do it. Grab an espresso to-go and set off for a walk around the city.
Pop by Townhouse Hotel Rooftop for Drinks
It’s time for a drink break after a morning of walking in the tropical temperatures. The Townhouse Hotel had come highly recommended by friends and it did not disappoint. We walked into the hotel and headed straight for the rooftop bar, which offered beautiful city views and the perfect place to cool down from the heat.
Enjoy the Ambiance at El Balcon
Head over to El Balcon while you wait for a table at La Cevicheria. After learning that the wait at the restaurant would be 40 minutes, we walked around the area to find a spot to grab a drink while we waited. Luckily, just down the street is El Balcon, which conveniently has a happy hour of 2 for 1 drinks, so place your order and enjoy the balcony views of the square below.
Lunch at La Cevicheria
Being the Anthony Bourdain fans that we are, we couldn’t come to Cartagena and not try out La Cevicheria. Although it has turned into somewhat of a tourist trap since the episodes debut, the food is still pretty good and the place itself is worth seeing.
Take in the Views at the Movich Hotel Rooftop
Wander the streets a bit more before heading over to the Movich Hotel to take in the most beautiful sunset views. While the service here isn’t ideal, it’s still a great place to go to get a taste of the architecture of new and old Cartagena. Luckily for us, the sunset was perfect this night.
Grab a Late Dinner at La Mulata
After the sun has set, walk over to La Mulata for some tasty food. It’s very much a local spot so the decor is underwhelming, but the food by far makes up for it. I recommend ordering the Coctel Camarones.
Top Off the Night at El Baron
To top off the night, stop off at El Baron. During our trip, this was our favorite spot to grab a nightcap. With a very unique and extensive cocktail list, you never run out of options and we were on a mission to try as many as possible.
Day 3: Isla Tierra Bomba
Take a day trip to Blue Apple Beach Club
After you’ve spent a few days in the city, take a boat out to one of the islands. On Day 3, we headed to the Blue Apple Beach Club, which was only about a 30 minute boat ride from the Marina Santa Cruz. Located on Isla Tierra Bomba, the Blue Apple Beach Club is the ideal place to take a break from city life and enjoy the beach. Included in the $150 fee was transportation there and back, drinks and a three course lunch. We had such a relaxing day swimming in the blue waters, sipping drinks by by the infinity pool and exploring the island.
Grab Afternoon Drinks at the Bar at Hotel Santa Clara
From the marina, head over to the Hotel Santa Clara Bar El Coro for drinks. We stopped there for drinks with a few friends that we had met on the Blue Apple Beach Club trip. Little did we know, the hotel bar serves up some of the best cocktails that we’ve ever had and the hotel itself is actually a former monastery with monks buried just below the bar. It was by far one of the most unique bar experiences we had all trip.
Dinner at Juan del Mar
Finish up your drinks at Hotel Santa Clara and then head across the street to Juan del Mar for dinner. Since we had such a large lunch, we ended up sharing a seared tuna appetizer and a traditional Peruvian dish. Overall, it was tasty meal.
Day 4: Isla Baru
Spend a Night on One of the Islands
There are a number of beautiful islands just a short trip away from the city of Cartagena. So, on day four we woke up and headed to Hotel Playa Manglares on Isla Baru. Only about an hour drive from the city of Cartagena, Hotel Playa Manglares is a relaxing beachfront resort immersed in nature. You can read more about our experience at Hotel Playa Manglares in this post, but it’s definitely a spot worth visiting!
Day 5: Getsemani
Explore the Town of Getsemani
Located right outside the walled city, Getsemani is a young neighborhood full of hostels, bars and parties. Spend a few nights outside of the city walls to check into Casa Pizarro Boutique Hotel. Wander through the neighborhood streets, grabbing a beer at Plaza de la Trinidad and enjoying the sights and sounds of Getsemani.
Grab a Slice at Basilica Pizza
Although the food selection is limited in Getsemani, we took it as an opportunity to try out a classic dish in a new city. So, we headed to Basilica Pizza right by the hotel (it got good reviews on Yelp) and ordered a Getsemani Pizza. We were pleasantly surprised by how good it was.
Take in the Sights & Sounds of Plaza de la Trinidad
The Plaza de la Trinidad in the neighborhood of Getsemani is quite a sight to be seen. At night, this square really comes alive with a mix of locals and travelers, all there to socialize, drink and take in whatever show or performance is happening that night. I highly recommend checking this place out to get a taste of the local city life in Cartagena.
Grab a Mojito at Hostel Green House Getsemani
On your way back to the hotel, stop at the Hostel Green House Getsemani for $7 2-for-1 mojitos. Conveniently located on the walk back to the hotel, these were some of the best mojitos we had all trip.
Day 6: Cartagena
Cool down with a Colombian Coffee at Epoca
There’s no better way to start your day and cool down from the Colombian heat, than with a Colombian coffee from Epoca.
Enjoy a Seafood Lunch at La Perla
Make your way over to La Perla for lunch. Order the octopus, prawns & chorizo dish with yuca and you won’t be disappointed.
Sip on Some Liquor Store Cocktails at Q’Onde
On your way out to dinner, stop at the liquor store, q’onde gustavito yianena, which in addition to selling liquor, also happens to serve up some great drinks. On this particular night we opted for the two for one mojitos for 15k (about $5 US dollars) – such a steal!
Munch on Colombian/Spanish Fusion Tapas at Caffe Lunatico
Enjoy your 2-for-1 mojitos and then walk on over to Caffe Lunatico for some of the most delicious tapas. Try the grandma’s croquettes, fried green tomatoes, ham and gazpacho.
Day 7: Cartagena
Shop Around in the Squares for Souvenirs
Spend your last few hours in Colombia strolling through the squares and shopping for souvenirs. There are so many beautiful handmade goods in Colombia; from bags to hats and even straw coasters. Just be sure to negotiate your price as the vendors will often start high in the hopes that you’ll take the first offer.
Grab one Last Colombian Coffee at Epoca
Before heading to the airport, grab one last cup of Colombian coffee because let’s face it, a cup of Colombian coffee will never taste as good as it does when you’re in Colombia.
Travel Guide Summary:
What to Do in Cartagena:
- Explore the city by foot
- Watch the Sunset at Cafe del Mar
- Walk along the city walls
- Discover the neighborhood of Getsemani
- Spend a night on one of the islands (recommend the Hotel Playa Manglares)
- Take a day trip to the Blue Apple Beach Club
- Experience the sights & sounds of Plaza de la Trinidad
- Take in the sunset views at the Movich Hotel rooftop
Where to Eat in Cartagena:
Where to Drink in Cartagena:
- Cafe del Mar
- El Balcon
- El Baron
- Epoca (coffee)
- Hostel Green House Getsemani
- Bar El Coro (in Hotel Santa Clara)
- Townhouse Hotel Rooftop