Founded in the 16th century, Cartagena boasts a deep and rich history that has perfectly blended with the modern world.
The cobblestone streets transport you back in time, whilst the vibrantly painted colonial buildings add a more modern twist to the city. Look across the bay and you’ll be reminded of Miami by the ever-growing skyscrapers and the golden-sand city beach.
No matter what street you walk down within the city walls, it’s guaranteed to be picturesque and likely flourishing with flowers. It’s no wonder Cartagena has become an Instagram hotspot!
If you’re visiting Cartagena soon, you’ve come to the right place. After reading this guide, you’ll know which areas to stay in, where to find the best restaurants and how to get around this captivating city in Colombia.
Also, check out our list of the best activities in Cartagena!
Is Cartagena worth visiting?
Cartagena is a heaven for foodies. After admiring the street art in the Getsemani neighbourhood, there are plenty of spots to satisfy your hunger. The fresh seafood and fusion restaurants are delicious and unforgettable.
The excitement isn’t restricted to just Cartagena. The city is a great jumping-off point to the paradise islands in the Caribbean sea, such as Isla Grande.
Looking for a great holiday destination, a place to rest from your travels or simply somewhere to enjoy amazing food? You should visit Cartagena.
How long should you spend in Cartagena?
How long you should stay in Cartagena is completely dependent on why you’re visiting Colombia.
If you’re looking to enjoy a relaxing holiday by the beach, then you could spend your whole holiday here.
For those travelling around Colombia, three days is a nice amount of time. Cartagena is a great place to rejuvenate, enjoy the sunshine and eat great food.
Is Cartagena safe?
Like any big city, Cartagena has some places that you might want to avoid. Missing these out from your itinerary isn’t going to be a big loss.
These spots tend to be towards the outskirts of the city. The city centre, where most tourists visit, is mostly safe. Here, you’ll see plenty of police officers on the street, making sure that everything is fine.
Pickpocketing, bag and phone snatching, and mugging do happen in Cartagena, but there are things that you can do to reduce the chances of this happening:
- Don’t flash your valuables about. Keep them out of sight so you won’t be targeted.
- Keep your phone away from the road so that someone can’t drive by and snatch it from your hands.
- Check with your accommodation if the area you’re staying in is safe to wander around after dark. When in doubt, don’t walk around late at night.
Where to stay in Cartagena
Cartagena is a tourist hotspot, which means that you have a huge choice of amazing accommodation.
Most of the city’s action is centred within its city walls, so you’re probably going to want to stay here, or in one of the nearby neighbourhoods.
To help you pick the best place to stay, here are our top 3 areas to stay in Cartagena:
Location #1: Inside the city walls — the best place to stay in Cartagena
Best for: almost everything. Inside Cartagena’s city walls is one of the best places to stay.
Who is it for: those looking for one of the safest areas to stay in Cartagena. Or if you’d like to say that you’ve stayed the night inside a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Don’t miss: the colourful streets, vibrant energy and delicious restaurants. This is where you’ll find most of the popular bars.
Biggest downside: this is one of the safest areas in Cartagena but you should still be aware of your belongings and not walk down empty streets alone.
Accommodation in Centro
You can find some of the best accommodation within the city walls. It’s one of the top places to be, so it makes sense that this is where you’ll find great hotels, Airbnbs and even hostels.
Private rooms here start at around $26 per night.
If you want the best location in the city, San Lazaro Art Hotel actually looks out onto the San Felipe Castle.
Location #2: Getsemani — a more youthful and creative side of Cartagena
Best for: a youthful hipster vibe. As the years go by, Getsemani is becoming ever more popular as people look for creative and alternative places to stay. But it still feels less touristy than inside the city walls.
Who is it for: Getsemani is a popular spot amongst backpackers and young couples due to its nightlife, but it’s really somewhere for everyone.
Don’t miss: impressive and colourful street art. Make sure to grab a coffee in one of the quirky cafes.
Biggest downside: you’re outside the city walls, so you’ll have to walk to reach the most popular restaurants and bars in Cartagena.
Accommodation in Getsemani
Staying outside of the city walls means that you can often score better deals when it comes to accommodation. You’re also not far from the centre, so you’re not really missing out.
Private rooms in Getsemani start at around $20 per night.
Location #3: Bocagrande — ideal for families and beach-lovers
Best for: relaxing on the beach, listening to the sound of waves and luxury resorts.
Who is it for: beach-lovers and families. If you’re looking to spend a few days in a resort, chilling on the beach, then Bocagrande is perfect. You’ll only be a few steps from the golden sand. Plus, it’s not a long walk to reach the city walls.
Don’t miss: peeking into the gated communities. This is where some of Colombia’s richest live. There are also lots of fancy malls.
Biggest downside: you miss out on the vibrant energy that buzzes around inside the city walls. This is where you live and breathe Cartagena’s culture.
Accommodation in Bocagrande
If you’re after an all-inclusive resort or hotel then you should look at Bocagrande.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, though. You can find nice hotel rooms starting at around $30 per night.
Best restaurants in Cartagena
Cartagena is a food lover’s heaven. It’s a popular tourist destination, so plenty of restaurants have flooded the city to satisfy everyone’s desires.
And they definitely do! Whatever type of cuisine you’re feeling, Cartagena will have it. It boasts spectacular fusion restaurants, Italian and Asian restaurants, coffee shops and street food.
A lot of the restaurants do tend to be on the pricier side, but often the quality of the food justifies the price.
Here are our 3 favourite places to eat in Cartagena:
Mistura Cartagena — top-quality food that won’t disappoint
Mistura Cartagena is a Peruvian fusion restaurant and sushi bar offering an unforgettable experience. The interior of the restaurant is vibrant and welcoming, whilst the staff make you feel like nothing is too much to ask.
The food boasts brilliant blends of flavour, all of which is beautifully presented. You’ll not want the meal to end. It’s on the pricier side, but you do receive spectacular quality and incredible food.
Epoca Espresso Bar — delicious coffee and tasty food
Epoca Espresso bar is the perfect place for breakfast or lunch. You can pop in to enjoy one of their perfectly roasted and high-quality coffees. Or fill your stomach with some mouth-watering food.
Looking for breakfast or brunch? Pick from dishes such as acai bowls, avocado on toast and shakshuka. For lunch, we recommend trying the devil chicken bowl. The choice is yours, there’s plenty to pick from on their extensive menu.
The best arepa spot in Cartagena (or Colombia?)
There isn’t a name for this spot, it’s simply a cart selling some of the best arepas that you will try in Colombia. You can find it outside of the Townhouse Boutique Hotel. It’s pretty hard to miss as there’s always a queue of people wanting to get a taste.
We don’t know what they do to make them so good, but for only 6,000 COP ($1.50), you’ll want more than one. They have a choice of both meat and vegetarian arepas that are so fresh and delicious. A must try in Cartagena!
How to get around Cartagena
Cartagena is a pretty big city, but you’re probably going to be staying in or around the city walls. This is where most of the attractions and things to do are anyway.
This means that getting from place to place in Cartagena shouldn’t take too long.
Here are the main ways of exploring Cartagena:
If you ask us, Cartagena is best discovered by foot. City walls, Getsemani and other nearby neighbourhoods are all within walking distance of each other.
So although it’s likely to be pretty hot in Cartagena, your own two feet are the best way to explore the city.
Plus, some of the streets within the city walls are pedestrianised, so you have no choice but to walk.
If the heat is too much, you have luggage or just don’t fancy walking, then you’ll never struggle to find a taxi.
The little yellow cars are everywhere, making them super easy to flag down on the street. Make sure to haggle on the price every time, though. Cartagena is a tourist destination where taxi drivers like to charge ‘tourist prices’!
The base fee starts at 7,000 COP ($1.80) and journeys between the neighbourhoods shouldn’t cost more than 15,000 COP ($3.80).
Using Uber in Cartagena
Uber often offers cheaper rates than taxis and can be more convenient.
The only problem is that Uber is actually illegal in Colombia. This doesn’t stop them from operating, though. To keep up appearances, you might have to sit in the front seat, and may not be able to get in the Uber right outside the airport or bus terminal.
How to get to Cartagena
|from 100,000 COP ($25)
|Bogota to Cartagena
|from 3,000 COP ($0.60)
|Cartagena Airport to Cartagena
|from 87,000 COP ($22)
|Medellin to Cartagena
|from 50,000 COP ($12.60)
|Palomino to Cartagena
|from 40,000 COP ($10.10)
+ transfer costs
|Santa Marta to Cartagena
Now that you’ve finished reading this guide, you’re almost ready for your adventure in Cartagena. The next step is to create your personalised itinerary with our top picks of things to do in Cartagena. Simply choose your favourite activities and places to visit, and you’re all set to make lasting memories in Cartagena.
Cartagena is a popular international tourist destination in Colombia. This means that it’s flooded with hotels, particularly luxury resorts.
Finding a cheap place to stay here can be a bit harder due to the high demand, but there are many great options to choose from.
Here are our favourite places to stay in Cartagena:
San Lazaro Art Hotel - Treating Yourself
How often do you get to stay in a hotel that overlooks a castle? With floor to ceiling windows in most rooms, you’ll never want to close your curtains and stop looking at San Felipe de Barajas Castle.
The rooftop pool, terrace restaurant and bar also offer the same incredible view. All of the rooms offer ultimate comfort, with huge beds and modern bathrooms.
- Rooftop pool
- Incredible views from the restaurant and terrace
- Amazing staff
- Great breakfast included
Double rooms available from $80 per night
Posada La Fe - Mid Range
Cartagena can get hot, so having a pool to take a dip in is the perfect touch. All of the modern and spacious rooms have air conditioning too.
The staff go above and beyond to make sure that your stay is nothing short of perfect. By the end of your stay, you’ll feel like you’re leaving family. The location is also hard to beat!
- Exceptional staff
- Light and airy rooms with air conditioning
- Swimming pool
- Delicious breakfast included
Double rooms between $40-$80 per night
Hotel Santa Cecilia B&B - Mid Range
Offering a light and neutral colour palette, Santa Cecilia oozes relaxation. The large beds guarantee a great night’s sleep too.
The location is great, with some rooms offering balcony views over the city. Just across the road, you’ll find a selection of food trucks, a nice place to grab some delicious food and chill out.
- Friendly and welcoming staff
- Calm and relaxing rooms
- Great location
- A large and delicious breakfast included
Double rooms between $40-$80 per night
Ayenda Casa Roman - Budget Friendly
Ayenda is a chain of hotels found in Colombia, and Casa Roman in Cartagena is one of the best. Being close to the main boulevard and the beach makes this an ideal location to stay.
The modern rooms and terrace with hammocks are perfect for relaxing after a busy day. Helpful staff and a delicious breakfast will help to set you up right for the day ahead.
- Large and modern rooms
- Terrace with hammocks
- Great location
- Superb breakfast included
Double rooms between $20-$40 per night
We are sorry that this post didn't meet your expectations.
Your feedback is very valueable to us
What was missing in this post? (TIP: If you want us to reply to your feedback, you can leave your email in this text box.)