We just got back from the most romantic city in Colombia, la ciudad heroica, Cartagena!
It's a city that is drenched in color and personality. It is dreamy. Here's your mini guide, brought to you from a Colombian who loves to eat, take photos, and drink coffee.
1. Go to Getsemani.
Getsemani is a neighborhood just outside of the walled city. It used to be a violent, dangerous area, but has transformed into a gorgeous picture of Cartagena. Vibrant, genuine, and full of art. It's where you want to go to get a real feel of the city. Don't forget to buy some incredibly priced (and stunning) art at Getsemani Vivo, get a haircut from this super nice barber who's right by the plaza de Trinidad (he literally cuts the hair on the street. He recently got a barbershop pole right outside of it so you won't miss it.)
Go to Beiyu for an incredible variety of juices, açai bowls, and breakfasts.
Check out cafe del mural for one of the most truthful cafes I've ever been to- it was so charming in the sense of everything was on the table, not pretentious, just Colombian at it's best with some delicious coffee.
Do not miss the street art and murals- there is beauty literally everywhere and they all tell a story.
2. Visit the beach.
The beaches near Cartagena are mostly rocky beaches, so it's best to go the islands nearby. We went to Bendita beach, one of the most untouched beaches in Cartagena. So, so stunning. If you have a lot of time, go to Tayrona natural park. It's in Santa Marta, which is about two hours away from Cartagena. I would drive to Santa Marta, go to Tayrona, stay a night on the beach (there's small hotels and places to stay.) The natural beauty is incredible.
3. Walk the wall.
We walked the entire wall surrounding the city and it was full of life, color, and beach views all around. We stopped by small places to eat when we got tired, like cafe epoca, and continued our trek until we got to the huge plaza where the city gates are. It's also beautiful at night, and if you're going with your partner make sure to hang out a bit by the openings inside of the wall, where local couples talk, sit, and make out (it's tradition.)
4. Las Bovedas
These are dungeons from the 1700's that used to house prisoners and armor for the military. Now they are shops, with food being sold on the outside and a very nice man with a jeep full of coffee, roasting on site, serving up granizados that will make you forget about the humidity.
5. Castillo de San Felipe
This is a fortress built by the Spanish in 1536. The views are breathtaking, the history seeps through every crevice. Some advice: Read as much as you can about this castle, the history, and any stories you can find. There's not a ton of info on site, so being knowledgeable before you go will help bring the history to life once you get there.
Foods you MUST eat:
Arepa de huevo for breakfast with fresh mandarin juice from the street.
Or empanadas if you're looking for some meat with your breakfast.
Mango biche for a snack before lunch.
El "ejecutivo", a traditional Colombian lunch that comes with soup, huge meal, dessert, and juice, for less than $9.
Cocadas to go with your coffee, also known as tinto (both found on the street)
Almojabanas for dinner. Colombians have small dinners.
Go to La Mulata for lunch and have their fried fish of the day.
Don't miss cafe San Alberto, Colombia's most decorated coffee.
There is SO much more but I believe in keeping some things hidden so you can find them for yourself ;) That's what exploring is all about!
Things we missed that we need to come back for:
The gold museum. We went in for like five minutes before leaving for the airport, and I am so sad we didn't stay longer.
Dancing on a chiva. A chiva is a traditional Colombian party bus and I haven't been on one yet. Yes, I know. I'm revoking my Colombian card as I'm typing.
Café Havana. Though it has become a bit touristy, café Havana is still the place to go for salsa. And I missed it. Another excuse to come back.
Where we stayed:
Aposentos de San Pedro was a dream. Well priced, incredible service, free breakfast and wifi, cool and clean rooms, and located inside of the walled city. I honestly couldn't have asked for anything better. I got a bit sick during my stay and they had a doctor on call for me just in case and brought me medicine. Like, that's amazing service.
Cartagena is a magical city and I was reminded of how gorgeous Colombia is during my stay. It's one of the best cities for solo travel because of it's safety and walkability, and it is full of history and life. It's also very well priced (my roundtrip tickets from ATL were $300.) Let me know if you're planning to go and feel free to shoot me a message with more questions!
For what to wear in Cartagena, click here.
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