We don’t know how, but Cartagena magically manages to preserve its history while encouraging new ideas. Time-honored traditions and creativity blend seamlessly here. It would take a lifetime to explore all of the city’s hidden gems. But just in case you only have a weekend, we’ve selected a few of our favorites. Narrowing down the list was no easy task. Getting there, on the other hand, is a breeze. You can find direct flights from MIA, FLL and JFK.
First, follow the smell of freshly baked bread until you get to La Brioche. They have two locations: one in Bocagrande and another in Old Town. This bakery is owned by a couple with roots in France and Colombia so you’ll find a tasty mix of European and Latin American influences. Yes, pain aux coco is a thing.
If you’re after fresh fruit, find one of the palenqueras. You can’t miss them, they’re the iconic women in colorful, traditional dresses. Once you’ve got a fistful of mango to munch on, start exploring the Old City. There’s no wrong way to go, seriously. Getting lost is encouraged. Every alley you go down will have street art, incredible architecture and endless Instagram opportunities.
After a few hours of walking, you’ll want to search for a spot to escape the heat. We recommend you head to La Palatteria, a popsicle shop full of cool flavors that are unique to Colombia like Lulo and Tamarind. (Those are types of fruit, by the way.)
It’s important to pace yourself because once the party starts it can go all night long. Take some time to rest and watch the sunset.
You won’t have any trouble finding a great place to eat dinner. The city is filled wall-to-wall with amazing restaurants. Here are a couple that satisfied our craving for something new:
Interno is probably one of Cartagena’s most one-of-a-kind restaurants. Without a doubt, it’s the only one a guard has to unlock from the inside. Located inside of a women’s prison, all of the food is cooked and served by inmates in an effort to empower them and reintegrate them into society. We loved the ceviche, but order whatever catches your eye because the whole menu is great. Don’t just take our word for it; Interno is advised by a Michelin star chef.
Wherever you decide to go, you’ve got to order seafood. Costeños (people from the coast) know what they’re doing. Don Juan is another highly recommend restaurant whose menu includes options like chargrilled octopus with bacon, and langoustine risotto with mascarpone. If you choose to eat here, you can humblebrag to your friends about eating at the same restaurant as the president of Colombia.
The city really starts to wake up once the sun goes down. Be sure to check out the rooftop bar at Alquimico before heading out to the clubs. They infuse their spirits in-house. (Peep the giant glass jars in the photo above.) You can’t go wrong with a mojito or guaro.
If you’re ready to dance and rub shoulders with Colombia’s most sophisticated crowd, make moves to La Jugada. Dress to impress because this nightclub has an unofficial dress code.