3 Days In Cartagena: The Perfect Itinerary For Your First Visit
Cartagena Itinerary: best things to do use and eat in 3 days
Rampant plazas,palenqueras, fruit vendors, music,street art — this is Cartagena. And this is your perfect Cartagena itinerary to see it all in just 3 days.
Cartagena is definitely the place to be! This Caribbean city is vibrating with a unique kind of excitement not found anywhere else. When creating your cartagena itinerary, you’ll want to make sure you include all the city’s different rhythms: checking out its restored Colonial mansions, savoring some amazing fusion cuisine, and even joining in one of the many beauty pageants or festivals. At night when the shows end, head over to the techno dance clubs for a bit more of that wild Latin American flavour – who knows, you might just dance ‘til dawn!
When is the best time to visit Cartagena?
From December to April is relatively dry, when it doesn’t rain very often. This is the best time to go. The city is noted for hosting one of the most lavish New Year’s celebrations. Many tourists come here to spend the holidays and get away from the cold winters. Traveling throughout these months is nice because the humidity isn’t too bad and the skies are clear.
Is Cartagena safe to travel to?
Cartagena is located on the southern rim of the Caribbean Sea, and it’s very much like any other Caribbean destination. Hot. Relatively safe. Laid back.
Cartagena feels like a different world, far away from anything having to do with cartels, kidnappings, and narcotics.
The tourist infrastructure is getting more and more developed every year.
However, it caters more to Latin America than the US or Europe. It will be enough to get around if you know the most basic Spanish phrases! You definitely not be disappointed in Cartagena’s Latin and Afro-Caribbean food and culture!
Seafood is the name of the game in Cartagena! Take advantage of the freshest seafood and try it: steamed, grilled, cooked in coconut sauce or simmered in a sancocho – the local Colombian stew.
Find the best street food and authentic atmosphere in:
- Parque Fernández de Madrid or
- Parque de San Diego.
You can’t leave Cartagena without trying arepas with egg, cheese, or chicken.
What to pack for Cartagena?
Cartagena is in the Caribbean, and the average high temperature all year is around 30C (86F). Pack clothes that are light and airy, like linen, shorts, tank tops, and shirts and dresses with short sleeves. You will need swimsuits and sandals for the seaside, and sneakers are the best shoes for the cobblestone roads. Sunscreen is essential. Here is a complete packing guide that will answer all of your what to wear in Cartagena questions. Whatever your Cartagena travel itinerary may loom like, these packing tips will work!
Where to stay in Cartagena?
In Cartagena, particularly in the Old Town, places to stay are much more expensive than in other parts of Colombia. Outside of the old city is the best place to find cheap places to stay.
How to Get Around Cartagena?
There are plenty of taxis, very clean, safe and cheap.
Horse-drawn carriages often come with an informative driver and How much are the horse carriages taxi in Cartagena? A horse carriage ride in Cartagena spans from 35,000 to 45,000 pesos.
If you stay in the walled city, you can and should walk everywhere! you can walk to almost everything you’ll need to see and do.
Many people in town will inform you to stay away from the bus because it goes through some sketchy parts of town.
Perfect 3 day Cartagena itinerary
Breakfast at The Epoca Café Arzobizpado
Fuel up! The Epoca Café Arzobizpado is a great place to start your trip. It has tiled floors and wooden ceilings. Try a specialty coffee and the classic calendar breakfast of rice, beans, and pork.Exploring Cartagena is an experience like no other!
Historic Walled District
The city’s historic walled district looks like a scene from a movie, with its 300-year-old Spanish colonial buildings scattered along the brick streets. The vibrant colors of deep blue, dusty rose, burnt orange and ochre make the city even more lively. Plus, cartagena has plenty of shade and sea breezes to cool you down during your cartagena itinerary. Rent a horse-drawn carriage to get around town and take in all the beautiful sights – even the coachman will give you tips on what to see while lightening up your ride with some friendly banter. Nothing beats cruising around Cartagena at sunset with flickering candlelight illuminating your path!
If you want to experience a bit of history, a cartagena itinerary should include a trip along the 400-year old stone walls encircling the city.
Explore the walled city. On foot.
Getting lost in a beautiful city like Cartagena is a great way to enjoy it. Spend a couple of hours wandering the narrow streets of the Old City that are covered with bougainvillea-covered balconies. Make sure to also walk around the colonial center’s historic walls, which give excellent views of the Caribbean.
Palenque ladies of El Centro peddle a dazzling array of treats, all in nature’s packaging for maximum freshness. Bananas? Check. Mangos? Yup! Papayas, guamas, ciruelas–you name it. But that’s not all; the showstopping pièce de résistance is undeniably the níspero. Imagine yourself biting into this delectable kiwi-lookalike and being met with the near-magical taste of chocolate, caramelized sugar and blackberry–yes, please! Add it to your cartagena itinerary – you won’t regret it!
La Gorda Gertrudis in Plaza Santo Domingo
From there, stop by the famous sculpture La Gorda Gertrudis in Plaza Santo Domingo. It was made by the well-known Colombian artist Fernando Botero, whose work often looks at “the beauty in volumes.”
Drink limonada de coco
Make sure to get a lemonade de coco when the weather gets hot. It has a great taste and will help you stay cool in the hot, humid weather of Cartagena.
Delicious flavors of Colombia
A cartagena itinerary is incomplete without a few hours tasting the delicious flavors of Colombia. From Caribbean, to European to African and Asian spices, Cartagena’s culinary scene is quite the journey to the senses. The lively fun doesn’t stop there though! Come nightfall, singing and laughter bounce off the walls of clubs and bars all over town. Donde Fidel and La Vitrola are two places you won’t want to miss for their music! Whether you’re sipping on a Club Colombia beer at Donde Fidel or throwing back an aguardiente with locals at La Vitrola, this cartagena itinerary will have your feet tapping along to merengue and salsa classics in no time.
To hide from the afternoon heat, head to…the mall. Hidden between the old buildings, and I swear I’d never find it on my own, the serrulezes is a modern mall with many Colombian accents!
The newly built wedding area looks like an amphitheater. There are stylish coconut water spots. And the food court has a big terrace overlooking the city, as well as crazy good restaurants.
Check out the local stores. Colombian designers are fantastic, especially for given prices!
Pro tip: try refreshing local cocktails (alcoholic, but you’re on vacation, aren’t you?) at called Coralito ( Coralito tinic, Coralito Collada, Coralito anana) Amazi city view included!
Cartagena’s best handicraft stores are worth checking out too.
The Bóvedas shops for artisan souvenirs, straw hats and jewels.
Located in the old dungeons, these are now some of the coolest handicraft spots to get your souvenirs at.
If you’re in Cartagena and want to enjoy a scary yet educational cartagena itinerary at the same time, then wander no further than the three grand museums within one block of each other. Start with Museo de Arte Moderno for some surrealist Colombian art by Dario Morales. Then, amble across the plaza to the Gold Museum in an exquisite old mansion, coming face to face with jewelry supposed to have escaped from Conquistadors! And finally, arm yourself with courage and head over to Palacio de la Inquisición (read: a place where mortals like us don’t belong), where rusty instruments of torture laid witness on how Catholic Church tried but failed to snuff out heresy in New World. Amazing? Yes, definitely!
Ceviche at Bourdain’s favorite spot.
There is one restaurant you can’t miss when traveling to Cartagena. It’s the famous La Cevicheria. Located next to Santa Clara hotel in one of the busiest plazas, it’s a perfect people watching spot as well. People come to Cartagena to eat at Cevicerria. It’s an essential part of our Cartagena travel itinerary.
While definitely a must try, La Cevicheria is a very busy spot- there might be a wait for a table. The infinite harassment from street vendors, musicians and beggars is not great either. Getting a table inside, as attractive as the plaza might look, is a good idea!
Have lunch in one of Cartagena’s leafy plazas and try some seafood and patacones from the area. Spend the afternoon going to museums in the city. They are well-kept and have air conditioning, which is nice after a morning of walking around outside. The Naval Museum shows the history of pirate attacks and sea wars around the city. The Inquisition Palace is where the Spanish burned at the stake women they thought were witches. The Zen Museum looks at the cosmologies of Colombia’s ancient and indigenous coastal communities.
Nothing beats walking west on the wide plaza, Caribbean waters on your right and restored medieval streets on your left. And while you’re there, why not stop by Café del Mar for a Colombian piña colada? Enjoy it while taking in the breathtaking views of Cartagena’s rusty cannons that once defended this beautiful city.
If you like the woo stuff, you have to check out Cartagena’s “dark” witchy history. Palacio de la Inquisición dates 5 centuries back. Founded by Conquistador Pedro de Heredia,it was the final location of the New World Inquisition. Hundreds of witches were tortured and put to death there.
Castillo de San Felipe
If you’re looking for something to add to your cartagena itinerary, the Castillo de San Felipe certainly deserves a spot – it is not only huge and beautiful, but full of secret tunnels that will thrill any adventure-seeking kid. And keep in mind, if this old city has few reasons to leave – there’s no better way than to have an early start and climb the Castillo de San Felipe before the sun broils everything. So make sure you build it into your plan and explore these hidden tunnels with or without a guide – trust us, your kids won’t complain.
Sunset, of course!
Cartagena is the city of sunsets. And the city rooftops. You will see plenty of signs “We have a rooftop terrace” as you walk around the city.
Where is the best place to see the sunset in Cartagena?
Here are my favorite rooftop terraces in Cartagena:
- Movich hotel terrace – a super hyped place, but you can’t beat the 360 views. Locals say it’s the best rooftop view in all of Cartagena!
- Café del Mar – loud, party vibe and you most likely will wait in line to get in. Tip: Get an Aguila from a seller near the north wall and find a spot to sit if you want to do something quieter.
- Santa Catalina: my personal favorite rooftop in Cartagena. Super chilled, tropical with the wannabe mini infinity pool that reflects the lights and the sunset colors. Cozy tables and lounge chairs for privacy and a decent menu seal the deal.
- The townhouse: this is another popular sunset spot. Almost feels like it’s a fancy locals’ sunset spot. The music is loud but stylish, the cocktail menu is excellent, and the views are breathtaking.
Pro tip: check out the Townhouse for Sunday brunch at the veranda. And if you are into late-night entertainment, they have a burlesque show and other fun things for “members only”. To be a member, you need to follow them on Instagram:) Make sure you include sunset watching in your Cartagena itinerary.
Dinner in style.
Cartagena is home to some great restaurant including Michelin star ones.
Here are the most famous and loved by tourists and locals alike:
Cartagena food, local music, and classic colonial architecture. Every night, there are live shows of Colombian music to go along with the fresh seafood and organic wines. It’s a great place to end the day with friends.
Go to the fresh green courtyard of Carmen Restaurant’s pretty courtyard is a great place to end the day. With some great food as well! uthentically Caribbean, but it has playful modern twists and creative details that make it taste great.
Located inside the Santa Clara hotel, el Jardin is an upscale restaurant with a beautiful courtyard seating and traditional food with a twist.
Take it easy.
Morning and Afternoon
The beach resorts in Cartagena are pleasant, but the best Caribbean beaches are just a quick boat ride away.
These beaches have white sand, clear turquoise water, and tall coconut palms that provide shade. There are several tours to the Islas Rosarios or Punta Arenas, including Culture Trip’s unique eight-day trip. Most of these tours, that need to be booked a day or two ago, will start taking you to a beach club for lunch and bring you back in the middle of the afternoon.
Don’t want to leave the walled city? Cartagena’s historical center is full of great spas.Some of them are located inside the hotels.
For more awesome things to do in Cartagena , read this blog