One of the most beautiful, romantic and colorful cities in the world, Cartagena is full of history, friendly Colombians and, of course, tourists.

Between the walled city, markets, tours, restaurants, shopping and the nearby beaches of the Islas del Rosario, you’ll marvel at the beauty of Cartagena for days on end.

We tell you everything !

things to do in cartagena de indias

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Things to do in Cartagena de Indias – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Visit the Old Center

Every building within the walled city of Cartagena is like that of a Latin fairy tale. The walls of the buildings are brightly colored in reds, yellows, blues and oranges.

Flowers are tied through windows and doors in the style of colonial architecture, with cobblestone streets and statues in the plazas …

All this creates the reputation of Cartagena. It is easy to spend a day simply walking and taking pictures of the walled city of Cartagena.

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Things to do in Cartagena : Visit the Old Center – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Visit the Bovedas

In the old city of Cartagena, Las Bóvedas were structures attached to the walls.

Originally built as dungeons for prisoners during the civil wars in the 19th century, these structures were brutal prisons because at high tide the ocean water entered the cells that covered the poor prisoners.

Today, dungeon cells are one of the most popular things to do in Cartagena because they house shops and boutiques selling traditional Colombian products.

bovedas cartagena photo © cfranvb
Things to do In Cartagena : Visit the Bovedas – Photo © CFranVB

Visit the Castillo San Felipe

One of the best things to do in Cartagena is to visit the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas built by the Spanish in 1536 and later expanded in 1657.

The castle is located on the hill of San Lazaro, in a perfect position to protect the city from land and sea.

One of the most interesting parts of the tour of the castle is to discover the many catacombs tunnels underneath the castle. A real fortress for battle.

Visit the Covento de la Popa

The Convent de la Popa is the highest point of the city, and is home to a call due to its shape resembling the aft deck of a ship.

With a height of 145 meters, the Popa is one of the most important reference points when arriving in Cartagena.

Sailors named the mountain this way because it resembled a ship.

Testing food and shopping in the historical Center

The squares in the Historical Center are excellent for tasting local drinks, relaxing while watching people pass by, or enjoying the entertainment offered by street artists.

You can walk around the shops that are full of souvenirs for your shopping.

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Things to do in Cartagena : Testin Food – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Visit Bazurto Market

The Bazurto market is often described as a place just for adventurous travelers.

This bustling market just 15 minutes from downtown Cartagena is huge. It is chaotic. It is noisy. It is extremely dirty and lacks the typical tourist traveler.

Do you want to get in touch with the locals? Then this extremely large market full of dirty twists and turns is the place to go.

You can find everything from fresh fish and fruit to spices and real Colombian culture in this chaotic market.

However, if you don’t feel comfortable taking on an experience like this alone, many tour agencies offer guided tours of Bazurto market, some of them in conjunction with the street food tour.

Visit the Beaches

During the day, the many beaches of Cartagena will fascinate you with their hectic life or their tranquility if they are far from the city.

The Islas del Rosario are one of the most popular destinations from Cartagena with its crystal clear waters, majestic corals and white sand beaches.

Located 45 minutes away by speedboat, the Rosario Islands are a group of 30 islands that offer quiet accommodation and a multitude of activities for all tastes.

cartagena beaches islas del rosario colombia
Things to Do in Cartagena : Visit the Beaches – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Have a sunset at Cafe del Mar

On the edge of the wall surrounding the Old City, Cafe del Mar is one of the best places in Cartagena to have a drink and enjoy the view.

The bar is located at the top of the far end of the old wall, with beautiful sunsets.

The view from the bar overlooks the beautiful endless sea with a view of history in front of you.

Have a drink and enjoy the view in this perfectly located Cartagena hot spot.

cartagena cafe del mar colombia
Things to do in Cartagena : Sunset in Cafe del Mar – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Sunset on a catamaran

You will enjoy the relaxing yet exciting catamaran ride in the Bay of Cartagena de Indias.

Accompanied by good music while enjoying a cocktail of Sangria, Cava or a soft drink and a delicious appetizer in a magical atmosphere during the sunset on the catamaran and the lighting of the lights of the spectacular skyline of the city of Cartagena.

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Things to do in Cartagena : Sunset on a Catamaran – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Take a horse drawn carriage tour

Cartagena at night is very different from that of the day.

The beaches close at 6pm and a horse-drawn carriage ride is an unforgettable experience for the tour of the historic centre.

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Things to do in Cartagena : Take a horse drawn carriage tour – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

See a Folkloric Show

Palenque’s folk dances and spectacular entertainment provide significant entertainment in many places in the city such as Bolivar Park, Plaza de Santo Domongo, Plaza de los Coches, Plaza de la Trinidad and Parque Fernando Madrid.

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Things to do in Cartagena : See a Folkoric Show – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Visit Getsemani District

What was once a quiet neighborhood full of locals and youth hostels, Getsemani has become an ideal place for nightlife, the arts and a taste for the Colombian spirit.

The neighborhood is full of colorful houses and filled with epic street art.

You can take tours here that are similar to the gastronomic and historical tours.

The neighborhood is full of incredible restaurants and cafes, as well as salsa and champeta clubs.

This is also the neighborhood that is home to Plaza de la Trinidad, a favorite night spot.

Have a Romantic Dinner

There is a great place for romantic dinners and it is the Intriga Tropical restaurant in Laguito, near the Hilton hotel.

This restaurant is well hidden and with its terrace at the edge of the lake, you will have a romantic evening that is very affordable and of delicious quality.

The fish soup is well worth the detour, as well as the seafood dish for two people.

The many restaurants offer typical Cartagena meals and a varied gastronomic offer for all tastes.

The plazas offer both full meals and live music from street artists that are great.

Vallenato groups are the most in demand.

Dance Salsa at Donde Fidel

An essential night activity in Cartagena is dancing in the old city.

Cafe Havana is a crowded place with live Cuban salsa music.

Located on Calle Media Luna in the Getsemani neighborhood, the Cafe Habana salsa bar offers live salsa music groups on Fridays and Saturdays.

Between the Plaza de la Aduana and the Plaza de los Coche is the bar Donde Fidel which has a fabulous sound system and is located right in front of the picturesque clock tower of the walled city.

One of the most popular places to listen to salsa music and have a beer or a drink.

Take a Chiva Tour

One of the traditions is the famous rumba in chiva in a frenetic atmosphere for those seeking strong emotions.

These colorful wooden buses with party lights and loud music run through the streets of Cartagena at night looking for the best places to party.

When backpacking to Colombia, this is a highlight of the party.

As the bus tours the beautiful city of Cartagena at night, feel free to dance on the bus through the streets to the flowing rum and loud music.

Taste Street Food

While you should definitely buy arepas stuffed with cheese and fresh lemonade from the street food vendors, you may want to sign up for a street food.

Cartagena Connections will take you into the world of food and culture while collecting samples of exotic fruits, fried snacks such as empanadas and buñuelos, patacones, Costa Rican cheese, frozen treats and red wine.

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Things to do in Cartagena : Taste Street Food – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Bike Tour

Touring Cartagena de Indias by bike is the best way to visit the city and discover the main historical and cultural sites.

A 2 or 3 hour bike ride in the Historical Center.

Have time to take some pictures, enjoy the surroundings, get to know Cartagena through the view with a very healthy activity.

Take Walking Tour

Enjoy the atmosphere and character of the old city is one of the favorite things to do a walking tour in Cartagena

Stop for a coffee or juice from a local vendor, take pictures with the fruit ladies dressed in Caribbean attire, or just relax and enjoy beautiful Cartagena.

Pick up some of the golden vendors from the streets or even better, grab some fruit cups from the colorful ladies selling them on the streets of the old city.

Known as Palenqueras, these iconic women will accept gold or pineapples, and allow you to take a picture.

Originally from the town of San Basilio de Palenque, they are known for their traditional Caribbean dress and their ability to balance heavy bowls of fruit on their heads.

cartagena de indias colombia
Things to do in Cartagena : Take a Walking Tour – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Taste Palenquera’s fruit

While in the Plaza de los Dulces, be sure to walk through the covered arches in front of the clock tower.

This is known as the Portal de los Dulces and is filled with vendors selling traditional Colombian sweets.

Whether you want to try them or not (they tend to be super candy), it’s still a fun place to walk around and look at all the handmade candy displayed in glass jars.

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Things to do in Cartagena : Tasting Palenquera’s Fruits – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Visit Tierra Bomba

Just a short boat ride from Cartagena is Tierra Bomba Island with its clear water and white sand beaches.

Connect with Cartagena’s colonial history with a visit to the ancient forts of San Fernando and San Jose.

Both nearby forts on the island of Tierra Bomba and on a nearby islet, respectively.

Visit the Oceanarium

Located on the island of San Martin in the Rosario islands, the Oceanarium Aquarium allows you to see a dolphin show and some species of fish found in the region.

The aquarium is small and an entrance fee is required.

You can admire sharks, turtles, fish and the boat tour will give you a spectacular view of the islands in order to take impressive pictures.

Visit The Guillermo Piñeres Botanical Garden

Only 45 minutes from Cartagena (Turbaco) is one of the most important ecological attractions of the region, the Guillermo Piñeres Botanical Garden.

It has a living collection of more than 300 species of plants from the Colombian Caribbean and one of the few virgin native forests in the region.

The Guillermo Piñeres Botanical Garden has several special collections and about 2 km of trails of beauty and charm.

A very special spring of water flows into the forest all year round.

Visit Los Lagos

Located 20 km from the historic center of Cartagena on the road that leads to the city of Turbaco, Los Lagos is a privileged place to spend a pleasant day, in the rest and fun.

No matter if you want to be with your family, with a group of friends or as a couple, this place offers an unforgettable experience different from the usual tours that are offered.

Visit the Chocolate Museum

The Chocolate Museum is the perfect place for chocolate lovers.

Here children can learn about the process that the cocoa fruit goes through to become chocolate, learn about the cocoa plantations in Colombia and see how the artisan chocolate factory works.

ChocoMuseo has a shop where you can buy things like liquor or beauty products made with cocoa and buy souvenirs.

The ChocoMuseo is located in front of the Plaza Fernández Madrid in the center of the city.

Find sloths and iguanas in the Parque del Bicentenario

Cartagena has many parks, but the one that children will enjoy watching wildlife is the Parque del Bicentenario.

The park is located near the Camellón de los Martires in Getsemani and is an ideal place to rest, as it has beautiful gardens, fountains and cozy shadows to protect you from the sun.

Have a Crepe & Waffle

One of the small outings with children that you should not miss is to go for ice cream at Crepes & Waffle.

There are two places available, one in Bocagrande and the other in the Historic Centre.

Best things to do in Cartagena in 3 days ?

Planning an itinerary is stressful and often requires a lot of research.

You never know how much time to allocate for an activity.

I literally spend hours researching different places to visit and reviewing safety and important travel information when planning our trips.

Therefore, to make things easier for others, I always like to design our complete itinerary in the hope of saving you time and effort.

This is how we spend our three days in Cartagena.

Day 1

  • Explore the Historic Center
  • Crepes & Waffles Ice Cream
  • Horse-drawn carriage ride

Day 2

  • Day trip to Islas del Rosario and aquarium
  • Lunch on the island
  • Dinner at Intrigue Tropical

Day 3

  • San Felipe de Barajas Castle and the Stern
  • Sunset in Cafe del Mar
  • Dinner in Santo Domingo Square
cartagena de indias colombia
Best things to do in Cartagena in 3 days – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Best things to do in Cartagena in 7 days ?

  • And since we spent our seven days in Cartagena.

Day 1

  • Complete City Tour
  • Lunch Crepes & Waffles
  • Sunset in Cafe del Mar

Day 2

  • Day trip to the Rosario Islands and aquarium
  • Lunch on the island
  • Dinner at Trinity Square

Day 3

  • San Basilio de Palenque
  • Typical lunch at Palenque
  • Nightly catamaran ride
  • Dinner at Santo Domingo Square

Day 4

  • Pasadia a la Boquilla, Volcan del Totumo and Mar Rosado
  • Seafood Lunch a la Boquilla or Manzanillo del Mar
  • Horse-drawn carriage ride in the Historical Centre

Day 5

  • Botanical Garden
  • Lunch and visit to the Lakes
  • Dinner at Intrigue Tropical

Day 6

  • Day Tour to Santa Marta
  • Lunch at Popeye a la Cienega
  • Visit of the Quinta de San Pedro de Alejandrino
  • Dinner at Rodadero

Day 7

  • Las Bovedas, Bazurto and San Jacinto
  • Lunch at Bazurto
  • Rumba in chiva

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