5 Perfect Days in Cartagena

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Advisor - Susannah Malek
Curated By

Susannah Malek

  • Arts & Culture

  • Beaches

  • Boutique Travel

  • Colombia

  • Cartagena

  • Local Culture

  • Local Food

  • Entertainment

Old house in Cartagena.
Curator’s statement

Cartagena, located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is a city that captivates visitors with its rich history, vibrant culture and stunning architecture. For the discerning traveler, it's a perfect blend of an immersive cultural experience coupled with a relaxing respite to the warm crystal clear waters of the Caribbean.

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Day 1: Walk around Old Town

tops of old ornate buildings beyond stone wall

Settle into your hotel then take a walking tour of old town Cartagena. Given its strategic location, Cartagena has rich and varied history. In recognition of its cultural and historical significance, Cartagena's Old Town, with its well-preserved colonial architecture and fortifications, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984. Informative tour guides are plentiful here, ask your travel advisor or hotel concierge to arrange a walking tour.

Stop for award winning coffee at Café San Alberto Cartagena — Plaza Santo Domingo, or the eclectic book shop and café Abaco Libros y Cafe before making your way back to the hotel to freshen up.

Head on over to La Cevicheria for some of the freshest seafood in town. Afterwards, do not miss a cocktail at Alquimico which regularly appears in the Top 50 Bars in the World list. You will want to linger in the stunning main level bar but don’t miss the rooftop bar with a live DJ. Tip: Highly recommend an early visit here to get a spot upstairs.

Day 2: Explore the neighborhood of Getsemani

A colorful wall in Cartagena.

Spend the afternoon touring the neighborhood of Getsemani. In more recent years, this vibrant neighborhood has undergone a revitalization and has become a thriving cultural and artistic center. Its streets are adorned with colorful murals, and the area has become a hotbed for local artists and musicians. The neighborhood is known for its lively atmosphere, with bustling squares, vibrant street life, and an array of restaurants, bars and cafes. Keep an eye out for nods to the famous novelist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose works include One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.

Make sure to make a reservation at Restaurant Celele, an unassuming but special spot. Celele's menu showcases the diverse ingredients and culinary traditions of Colombia, with a focus on locally sourced, sustainable ingredients. From exquisite seafood creations to perfectly grilled meats and vibrant vegetarian options, each plate tells a story of passion and creativity.

Afterwards head on over to Café Havana for an after-dinner treat! The interior exudes an authentic Cuban vibe and they offer an extensive list of Cuban rum in addition to other creative cocktails.

Day 3: Time to shop

Women with colorful outfits in Cartagena.

There are wonderful Colombian designers that are represented (often at much higher prices) in the US luxury fashion establishments.

In Old Town, check out St. Dom (represents multiple designers including Johanna Ortiz), Agua Bendita and Silvia Tcherassi.

For beautiful linen pieces, Malvi Castaneda is not to be missed.

Casa Chiqui is wonderful for local and exotic crafts and antiques. Just a few doors down, stock up on local handicrafts, such as beautifully made traditional mochila bags, single origin Colombian coffees and chocolates at Centro Artesano.

If you’re in the market for famed Colombian emeralds, it is suggested to get a recommendation from your concierge for reputable dealers.

Make sure you catch the sunset! One of the top sunset bars in Cartagena is Café del Mar. Located atop the historic walls of the old city, Café del Mar offers panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea and the city's stunning skyline. It is incredibly popular so make sure to arrive early.

After all this shopping and walking you may be ready for a superb dining experience at Alma Restaurante in Casa San Agustin. Still up for a nightcap? El Baron is your place.

Day 4: R&R

Sitting area in the trees.

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and make your way to the beach for a couple of days of rest and relaxation. Be transported by boat or helicopter to your beachside or treetop bungalow for an afternoon of taking in the ocean breezes, water lapping at your feet while reading, swimming, napping or whatever pleases you most.

Day 5: Relax at your resort

umbrellas at beach club

Round out your five perfect days in Cartagena by extending you stay as you will not be ready to go home! Try these things to do at the beach resort to punctuate or add to complete and total relaxation:

  • Rosario Islands Tour

  • Spa Treatments

  • Snorkel or Dive excursion

  • Bioluminescence Night Tour

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Diana Morale ’s guide, Three Days to Discover Cartagena.

Advisor - Susannah Malek

Travel Advisor

Susannah Malek

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Cartagena.