Cartagena, Colombia

One Day in Cartagena, Colombia (from a Local Expert)

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Cartagena is a popular destination in Colombia and is known for its lively atmosphere, colorful surroundings, beautiful beaches, and mouth-watering food. If you only have one day in Cartagena Colombia, don’t worry! You can still explore and enjoy many of the city’s attractions. To fully experience Cartagena’s rich culture, hidden gems, and popular attractions, use our comprehensive itinerary during your 24 hours in Cartagena, Colombia.

How to Spend One Day in Cartagena, Colombia from a Local’s Perspective

Advice on how to visit Cartagena, Colombia in one day from a local’s perspective. Go beyond the best things to do in Cartagena, Colombia and discover the local favorites.

Morning

Castillo de San Felipe De Barajas (San Felipe castle)
Castillo de San Felipe De Barajas (San Felipe castle)

Start your day with a delicious breakfast at Café Epoca. Located in the heart of Cartagena’s Walled City, Café Epoca serves all your favorite breakfast items including egg dishes and Colombian-style sandwiches. This is the perfect spot to get energized before taking on the sights of Cartagena!

If you prefer a quicker, on-the-go breakfast spot, go to Arepa de Huevo. This is much more similar to a corn empanada than standard arepas and they typically contain eggs and ground beef. You can find these delicious treats from vendors on the street all over the city – some of the best ones can be found in Donde Magola near the entrance to downtown and on the nearby corner.

To avoid crowds and heat, and right after full-field your belly, it is recommended that you start your visit at the Castillo San Felipe Fortress, a large Spanish colonial fortification that was built in 1657 to protect the city from pirate attacks. This imposing stronghold features over 400 cannons and canons, as well as amazing views of the Walled City below. Take some time to explore the grounds and get lost in its history!

Afterwards, turn right to enter the Walled City walking along the tallest sections of the wall. When you reach the seaside wall corner, you will see Las Bovedas. These are a series of stone archways that were once used to house ammunition and supplies.

Continue your day with a visit to Teatro Adolfo Mejía aka the Teatro Heredia, an 18th-century theater and museum showcasing Cartagena’s theatrical past. On the left side of the theatre, you will come across the Ábaco Book Store. It is a charming place where you can go through various books or take a break with a cup of coffee or a drink.

Take a walk through the plaza, admire its colonial architecture, and marvel at its vibrant murals.

Next up are Plaza Santo Domingo and Parque Bolivar, two of the most picturesque city parks in Cartagena. Stroll along the cobblestone streets while you take in views of the iconic churches and colorful facades. While in the plaza, visit the Cathedral of Cartagena and admire its Baroque architecture and exquisite sculptures.

Close your morning during your one day in Cartagena, Colombia by heading over to Saint Peter Claver Church and Plaza de la Aduana for some stunning views of the city’s port from atop a clock tower.

Afternoon

Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena, Colombia

At this point, it is time to take a break and enjoy some of the delicious local cuisine. It is highly recommended to try La Cevicheria, La Mulata, El Espiritu Santo, and Zaitún Gastro Bar. Seafood is a must-try, and a local favorite is the cazuela de mariscos, a seafood stew. You can also try any seafood rice, fish, or shrimp dish as they are often fresh and delicious. Don’t forget to order a plate that comes with a side of coconut rice.

To stroll around Cartagena in the afternoon, continue walking to the historic neighborhood of Getsemani. This area is bustling with street art, dance performances, and delicious food stalls. There are many interesting examples of street art located around Plaza de la Trinidad, accompanied by a beautiful, historical church.

One must not miss during your 24 hours in Cartagena a stroll down Callejón Angosto, which is just a block away from the plaza, to capture some beautiful pictures of the colorful umbrellas that adorn the street.

Instagrammer here? The vibrant flag pennants that hang over Calle San Andres also serve as an excellent backdrop for a photo.

You can choose to soak up the sun and relax at one of the stunning Caribbean beaches in Cartagena. The perfect setting for a beach day is the stunning El Muelle in the Laguito area, located on the south side of Cartagena. Avoiding also the high prices and overcrowded vendors found in the main Bocagrande beaches.

At this location on the beach, you can use the chairs and shade provided if you order drinks and/or food. They offer great seafood, so if you have limited time to explore the Walled City and Getsemaní, consider having lunch here and then enjoying the beach!

During your one day in Cartagena, make sure to catch the sunset over the Caribbean, which typically occurs around 6:30 pm. El Muelle is such a great option for a stunning view of the sunset as the sun sets directly in front of the sea. Or, other two great locations for watching the sunset are the rooftop bar at Hotel Movich, which offers amazing views of the city and bay and is located near Parque Bolívar, and the famous Café del Mar, which is located atop the wall near Plaza Santo Domingo.

Evening

Donde Fidel
Donde Fidel

Before enjoying the night in Cartagena, you should first find a place to have dinner. If you didn’t go to La Cevicheria for lunch, it would be a great option for dinner.

You should visit Alma, an outstanding restaurant in the city. Another fantastic option is Marea, which is run by Colombia’s renowned Rausch Brothers and offers a stunning night view of the city from its deck. Please note that you must make reservations beforehand at both restaurants.

Don’t miss out on the amazing outdoor tables outside of Donde Fidel, a local salsa spot near the Clocktower, after dinner. It’s a great place to have a drink and watch people salsa dancing (try out salsa dancing with the locals yourself).

To keep your salsa dancing rhythm going, you can visit either Café Havana located on Calle Media Luna in Getsemaní, or Crazy Salsa, which is just inside the Walled City from the Clocktower. Or check out the Mister Babilla or Tu Candela dance clubs for a variety of music.

Alternatively, if you prefer a more laid-back environment, El Arsenal Rum Box and Al Quimico serve excellent cocktails.

Tips for One Day in Cartagena, Colombia

How to Get to Cartagena, Colombia

If you’re flying to Cartagena, Colombia, the closest airport is Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG). From the airport, you can take a taxi or a private airport shuttle to town. The ride should take around 25 minutes depending on the traffic.

How to Get around Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia is a great city to explore on foot as many of the best sites are within walking distance from each other. Indeed, there is no need for cars or public transport when you want to visit the main squares, churches, plazas, markets, and museums. Not to mention that the city is also very safe and well-maintained so you can wander around at any time of the day without worrying about your safety.

The Best Time to Visit Cartagena, Colombia

The best time to visit Cartagena, Colombia is between December and April. This period offers the most pleasant temperatures with sunny days and cool breezes from the Caribbean Sea.

Where to Stay in Cartagena, Colombia

The best neighborhoods to explore in Cartagena, Colombia are Getsemaní, San Diego, and Centro. When it comes to accommodation in Cartagena, Colombia, there is no shortage of options. Whether you are looking for luxury resorts and hotels, budget-friendly hostels or private vacation rentals, Cartagena has something for everyone.

Decameron Baru is a top luxury hotel in Cartagena known for its privacy and all-inclusive packages. If you’re on a budget, Casa Sweety is a great hotel choice in Cartagena. And Media Luna is the best hostel option in Cartagena. You should definitely check out Coralina Isla Boutique if you’re interested in glamping. It’s located in the Archipelago de las Islas natural park in Cartagena de Indias.

Happy Traveling!

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