Long gone are the days when Colombia was on every traveler’s blacklist, synonymous with danger and drug cartels. The world is now finally able to discover the beauty of rejuvenated Colombia which, contrary to popular misconceptions, is among the safest South American countries (if you travel wisely, of course). Colombia is my all-time favorite Latin country to visit for its vibrant local culture, incomparable hospitality and diverse scenery. Along with Medellin, Unesco world heritage site Cartagena de Indias has won my heart. This port town at Colombia’s northern coast is the country’s most visited and popular destination. Tourists from all over the world come to Cartagena to get lost in its romantic walled old city, for its various cultural attractions, its heavenly Caribbean coastline, the buzzing lifestyle… and of course its gastronomy scene, which itself combines Latin, African and Mediterranean influences. Explore Colombia’s Caribbean cuisine at its best in the most picturesque setting with Cartagena’ s top spots!

⇒ The best seafood

La cevicheria cartagena google maps

La cevicheria CartagenaLa Cevicheria is probably the most popular restaurant in Cartagena and the holy grail for – you guessed it- ceviche! Ever since Anthony Bourdain featured this local Old Town eatery in one of his episodes, it’s become the #1 spot on every tourist’s bucket list. Bourdain was probably biased as he’s good friends with the Chef Jorge Escandon, but they hype is justified regardless. This is the best place for fresh Caribbean catches at an affordable price.

No reservations!

La Cevicheria Cartagena

Obligatory mixed ceviche

La Cevicheria Cartagena

REAL SUPREME BASTIMENTO ISLAND WITH LOBSTER – Lobster, snail, shrimp in a coconut milk and oyster sauce curry. Fried plantain crackers on the side

La Cevicheria CartagenaLa Cevicheria is open all day from 1pm, but the best way to enjoy it is for lunch in its outdoor tables. La Cevicheria takes no reservations, so a long wait is almost always expected – come at least thirty minutes before it opens for lunch, i.e. 12:30pm and enjoy the people-watching in this colorful colonial street.

The wait is shorter for indoor dining!

Order ceviche, of course, but also some of their daily specials, seafood stews and rice dishes

La Cevicheria Cartagena

OCTOPUS WITH PEANUT SAUCE – Avocado salad, roasted pepper and coconut rice

  • LA PERLA
    4 – 42 Calle de Ayos
    (+57) 5 6642157
    $$
    ♥♥
La perla cartagena google maps
  • perla cartagena dining room

    Modern dining room

    I know what you’re thinking – you’re in Colombia, why would you want to go to a Peruvian restaurant. But truthfully, there are a lot of similarities in both cuisines, and let us not forget that ceviche is first and foremost from Peru! Peruvian food is all over Colombia, but if you want the best in Cartagena, La Perla is the place. Centrally located just one block from Plaza Santo Domingo, La Perla has a modern-chic dining room decorated in summer-like whites and sea blues, an inviting space for both lunch and dinner. Food-wise La Perla is famed for its seafood dishes, particularly the tiraditos and ceviche, to be paired with a Pisco Sour (or two or three!) of course. You won’t need a reservation for lunch but make sure you call ahead for dinner bookings.

  • perla cartagena air food shot

    Must-orders: Peruvian ceviche & tiraditos

    perla cartagena arroz de mariscos

    Arroz de mariscos

  • For Fine Dining
  • LA VITROLA
    Calle Baloco no. 33-201, Cartagena
    +(57) 5 6600711
    $$$$
    ♥♥♥
  • La Vitrola Cartagena google maps

Although it’s more of a Cuban spot, La Vitrola is probably the most quintessential Cartagena restaurant. This old town staple is known for being the best spot for local celebrity and politician spotting. Along with being the “it” place among the ruling elite, this was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s favorite hangout! The bar and restaurant has a somewhat vintage Cuban ambiance, with great mojitos, a live salsa band and Caribbean seafood that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to 1940s’ Havana! This is a Cartagena classic and a must-stop if you manage to get a reservation (a very hard task – call a few weeks ahead!), more for the history of the place and the live music than for its food. Lunch seatings are a lot easier to come by, but La Vitrola has the best vibe for at night!

Call ASAP to book a table!

  • La Vitrola's Old Town classic architecture

    I love La Vitrola’s Old Town classic architecture

  • RESTAURANTE 1621
    Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena, Calle Del Torno 39-29 Barrio San Diego
    (+57) 5 6504700
  • www.restaurants.accorhotels.com
  • $$$$
    ♥♥♥♥
  • 1621 cartagena google maps

The Sofitel Santa Clara, one of the nicest hotels in Cartagena, is home to Restaurante 1621, a fancy restaurant in the city’s old town for a sophisticated dining experience in a gorgeous historical setting. The hotel used to be a convent and the nun’s ate in what is now the restaurant dining room! No monk food here though, Restaurante 1621 mixes old and new world cuisines, serving high-end Caribbean  dishes prepared with a French gourmet flair. The restaurant serves dinner only, and has the best atmosphere for a romantic dinner al fresco!

Book in advance!

  • 1621_restaurant cartagena

    Best for romantic al fresco dining!

        • CARMEN
          Calle 38 # 8-19, Calle del Santísimo
          +57 5 6645116
        • www,carmencartagena.com
        • $$$$
          ♥♥♥♥
        • Carmen cartagena google maps
        • Carmen Cartagena

          Al fresco dining

          On my first trip to Medellin, I was blown away by my meal at Carmen. So naturally, I had to come back to their Cartagena outpost. Carmen is a trendy, contemporary restaurant for the ultimate dining experience:  the decor is stunning (the Cartagena location has a super cute, greenery filled patio if it’s warm enough for al-fresco dining), the service is stellar, but the star of the show is the food.

          All dishes are as pretty as this Langos Maiz

          All dishes are as pretty as this Langos Maiz

        • Duo Cangrejo carmen cartagenaDuo CangrejoFoto-NoMeLlamesCazuela-Carmen Cartagena“No me llames Cazuela” dish – funny name, gorgeous plating, delicious taste!
          Carmen Cartagena

          Even the Carmen Salad is delish

          Carmen Cartagena

          Pez Negro entree

          My favorite fish entree - DE BAHÍA SOLANO

          My favorite fish entree – DE BAHÍA SOLANO

          Carmen Cartagena

          Carmen offers a creative and very refined take on regional flavors. I’d define it as a modern interpretation of Colombian fusion with influences and techniques from high-end cuisines. Every dish is an explosion of flavors (and stunningly plated), the highlights being their appetizers and their fish entrées.

        • Reservations are a must.

        • Great wine list and cocktails as well. It’s pricey but the quality is such that no gringo will complain about the pricing! Open for lunch and dinner but best for date night!
        • Carmen Cartagena

          Amazing chocolate dessert

        Carmen-Patio_02_ok

        Try to sit in their outdoor patio if it’s warm enough

        DONJUAN
        Historical Center Calle del Colegio, # 34-60 Local 1
        +57 (317) 501 14 15
        www.donjuancartagena.com
        $$$$
        ♥♥♥

      • Don juan cartage google maps
    • Donjuán is an upscale Spanish restaurant for a refined Mediterranean twist on traditional Caribbean fare (so think lots of fish and seafood dishes with Basque ingredients). The chef cooked in no less than three of San Sebastian’s three Michelin star restaurants, so he knows what he’s doing! The restaurant’s owner also happens to be one of Colombia’s top mixologists, so along with the tasty tapas you’ll want to go there for their handcrafted cocktails. If it’s your first time, must-orders include the grilled ctopus and the signature tiraditos.
    • Call for reservations – Closed Sundays

    • don juan cartagena salmon web

      Salmon Tiradito

      don juan cartagena octopus web

      Pulpo a la brasa

      The airy stylish space and the international vibe (and the hefty prices!) will make you feel like you’re in LA or NYC rather than Colombia, but Donjuán is still a delicious option if you manage to book a table. The restaurant serves lunch on weekdays and dinner every  night except Sundays.

    • Stylish dining room

      Stylish dining room

      MARIA 
      Historical Center Calle del Colegio, # 34-60 Local 2
      +57 (5) 660 53 80
      www.mariacartagena.com
      $$$$
      ♥♥♥

      maria cartagena google maps

María is the slightly more casual, baby sister restaurant of neighboring Donjuán. Another great city-center option for contemporary Colombian cuisine with a lively, modern vibe. It’s known for its trendy interior with flamboyant details like a giant chandelier of mini white pineapples and colorful furnishings. The highlights at María, though, are the seafood dishes and crafted cocktails from master mixologists. It’s an elegant eating option but with an unpretentious (seasonally changing) menu and friendly service, although prices are on the expensive side. This is a great place for large groups, but make sure to book ahead of time!

Closed Sundays

maria cartagena

Vibrant dining room great for groups (and how cool is that chandelier!)

  • Marea cartagena googlemaps
  • Marea is a modern seafood restaurant by the locally famous Rausch brothers. It’s a great restaurant for its sophisticated menu, but mostly for its location overlooking the harbor and walled city. It’s all about the scenery and ambiance, with delicious French-Colombian dishes as a bonus. Only con is the inconsistent service. Good for group dinners or date nights (book in advance online or by calling).
  • Open every day.

  • marea by rausch web

    Dining with a view – www.mareabyrausch.com

    marea by rausch food web

    Sophisticated dishes – www.mareabyrausch.com

  • ALMA
    Calle de la Universidad No. 36-44
    +57 5 6810050
    www.almacolombia.com
    $$$$
    ♥♥
  • Alma Cartagena google map

Alma is yet another fancy-ish fish restaurant with great dishes from the sea, but best for its bar and most of all for its beautiful location. Situated in Hotel Casa San Augustin, the romantic decor, high ceilings, and live music in the courtyard makes Alma a dining oasis. If you can’t make dinner, come for their (pricey) great cocktails in a relaxing setting.

Pool-side dining

Pool-side dining in the courtyard

alma cartagena cazuela de mariscos

Order their Cazuela de Mariscos

EL SANTISIMO
Calle Del Torno #39-76
+57 5 6601531
www.elsantisimo.com
$$$$
♥♥

El Santisimo google map

El Santisimo is a great option if you’re sick of seafood or looking for a more straightforward approach to typical Cartagena cuisine. They might try to push for their prix-fixe but go for their à-la-carte menu, and make the most of their open bar / unlimited wine deals if you’re in the mood for a boozy night! And make sure you order their obatala, a slow-cooked beef served with coconut rice and plantains.

Make a booking online.

    • www.tripadvisor.com

      Dining Room

      www.tripadvisor.com

      Obatala

    • For Casual Dining or Lunch 
    • LA COCINA DE PEPINA
      Callejón Vargas 9A-06, between Arsenal y Calle Larga, Getsemaní
      +57 5 6642944
      $$
      ♥♥♥♥
  • La cocina de pepina google map
  • La cocina de pepina cartagena entranceLa Cocina de Pepina is probably my favorite restaurant in Cartagena, and one of the most popular in Cartagena amongst both locals and visitors (Gabriel García Marquez was a regular!). This is a must-visit for an authentic local experience that will make you discover a whole array of new flavors. It’s a small, very casual, no-frills space in the hipster Getsemaní area.
  • Very casual dining space

    Very casual dining space

    The setting is welcoming but nothing special and this is not the place for trendy mixologist concoctions – the sole purpose of coming to La Cocina de Pepina is for its unique food. La Cocina de Pepina serves incredibly creative takes on hearty, traditional Colombian dishes. This includes comfort food and saucy creations with fun names! Do not leave without trying their signature Cabeza de Gato (cat face!) or the city’s finest Mote de Queso, a soup made from local Colombian cheese! No stay in Cartagena is complete without a memorable dining experience at La Cocina de Pepina. The restaurant is always busy, so reservations are a must (call ahead).

  • La Cocina de Pepina Cartagena

    Camarones en Aguacat

    La cocina de pepina cartagena cabeza de gatos

    Signature Cabeza de Gato – DELICIOUS!

    La cocina de pepina cartagena cheese soup

    Other signature dish & must-order Mote de Queso: super decadent and interesting cheese soup!

    La Cocina de Pepina Cartagena

    Overcooked beef entree but delicious regardless

La mulata cartagena google maps
  • La mulata cartagena foodLa Mulata is a casual eatery for affordable local food and fresh juices. Although it’s open for both lunch and dinner, La Mulata is a staple almuerzo spot in Cartagena, where local workers and tourists alike come for the great value for money. They have an unbeatable prix-fixe lunch, one of the best in town. Hearty seafood, pork, beef or chicken dishes are served, Caribbean style (think cazuelas style with plantains and rice). Do not leave without trying their signature Limonada de Coco!
  • La mulata cartagena food 3CAFFE LUNATICO
    Calle Espíritu Santo #29-184, Getsemaní
    +57 5 6601735
    $$
    ♥♥♥
Caffe lunatico google maps
    • Caffé Lunático is a popular food destination for travelers and hip Getsemaní locals alike. This casual eatery with a chill,  bohemian vibe has an all-day kitchen breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner, but I like it best in the mornings for their super affordable menú del día for lunch. The lunch deal is one of the best in Cartagena for Catalan-inspired dishes and tapas, or traditional Colombian recipes.
    • Closed on Sundays

    • 3caffe-lunatico cartagena 2 caffe-lunatico cartagena 2 caffe-lunatico cartagena
    • For Breakfast / Bakery
      • LA ESQUINA DEL PAN DE BONO
        Carrera 6, Calle San Agustin Chiquita, Esquina
        +57 (314) 5028444
        $
        ♥♥
      • Cash only 

      • esquina pan bono cartagena juice

        Fresh made-to-order juices

        Cash only For a quick breakfast or a fresh snack, a quick hop by La Esquina de Bono is the way to go. The space is quite dingy, but this is the local reference point for a quality bakery in Cartagena. Workers, students and tourists line up to buy their freshly baked goods and their made-to-order juices. Must orders are empanadas, pan de queso, and of course their pan de bono! They even have a selection of gluten-free breads (made with corn or yucca flour).

        esquina pan bono cartagena

        La Esquina!

    ⇒ For Drinks

Cafe del Mar is the bar on every tourist’s bucket list for sunset drinks. Located on the ancient city wall of the historic center, this is where families, couples, and large groups gather for late afternoon drinks that might or might not lead to a wild night. There is a simple food menu, and the bar is open until 3am, but Cafe del Mar is best for sunset drinks exclusively. The touristy hype is a bit overrated, but overpriced drinks and cheesy DJ aside, the relaxed setting and view make it worth-while for a pre-dinner Club Colombia beer.

Large groups recommended to book a table!

 

  • Cafe del mar CartagenaCasual sunset drinksCafe del mar CartagenaLocated right at the city wallsCAFE HAVANA
    Calle de la Media Luna & Calle de Guerrero, Esquina, Getsemaní
    +57 (314) 556 3905
    www.cafehavanacartagena.com
    $$
    ♥♥
  • Cafe Havana cartagena google maps
Cafe Havana Cartagena

Obligatory Mojito @ Cafe Havana

Located right outside of the walls of the old town in hipster Getsemaní, Cafe Havana is the late-night hotspot for what will feel like a wild night in – you guessed it – Havana! The Cuban bar is as cliché as it gets, with Cuban decor details at every corner, mojitos flowing, men in white fedoras and an animated live salsa band. It’s undeniably a great ambiance, but the $25,000 pesos admission charge and the crazy crowd on busy nights will make it feel like a tourist trap…

Closed Monday & Tuesday

cafe havana cartagena web

  • DEMENTE

    Plaza de la Trinidad, Getsemaní
    +57 5 6604226
    $$
    ♥♥♥Demente cartagena google map

Demente is a fun spot for the ultimate Getsemaní bar experience. It’s open 7 nights a week, on evenings only, and although it serves pizza & Spanish tapas, Demente is best for its bar scene. The trendy space is located in the heart of the coolest district of Cartagena in a 18th century ruin, giving it an intimate speakeasy vibe. Demente keeps it simple, in its menu, in its laid-back atmosphere, and its pricing. Join the cool kids for a local Dictador rum drink or beer on tap!

Open after 6pm only!

Demente cartagena

Cool Getsemani entrance

  • ⇒ Street Food / Snacks

Exploring Colombian cuisine would not be complete without its snacks and street food. All over the streets of Cartagena are colorful fruit vendors, ice cream shops, and of course the obligatory arepa carts!  

  • PORTAL DE LOS DULCES
  • $
    ♥♥
  • Portal de los dulces cartagenaportal de los dulces cartagena placeOff the Plaza de los Coches, right as you enter the Old City’s main square, stands the sweetly named Portal de los Dulces, or “gateway of sweets.” Under the covered arcade, locals sell jars of handmade delicacies, including the local cocadas, a (very sweet) chewy coconut candy. Look for the cocadas de guayaba, sweetened with guava juice for a bit less of a tooth ache. It’s not the most refined treat, and you will definitely be on a sugar high, but a it’s a must-try.
  • portal de los dulces cartagena sweets

LA PALETTERIA
Calle de Ayos Number 03-86 | Local 2
+57 5 6661579
www.lapaletteria.co

$
♥♥

  • Take a sweet break from Cartagena’s scorching heat with La Paletteria‘s unique dipped popsicles. These are like traditional paletas gone wild, with a large variety of flavors available, but go for the local ones!
  • la paleteria cartagena ice cream
  • AREPAS AND EMPANADAS
  • stuffed meat arepas

    Stuffed mean arepas

    If there is one food that is part of every Colombian’s daily diet, it’s most definately arepas. Second would be empanadas. Arepas are often eaten for breakfast, or as a snack any time of the day. They can be fried, stuffed, or topped with cheese, and are sold at every street corner around Colombia. Colombian empanadas are deep-fried (and some of the tastiest in South America) and to be eaten with a lot of green and red hot sauce! No stay in Colombia is complete without a daily dose of arepas and empanadas, it doesn’t get any more local than this!

  • arepas cartagena

    These arepas are sold all over the streets of Cartagena

  • Mercado street food colombia cartagena

    Delicious fried beef empanadas with salsa verde

     

    Mercado street food colombia cartagena

    My favorite type of arepas – sweet corn flour with cream cheese

    Mercado street food colombia cartagena

    This Ajibasco is the bomb and only in Cartagena!

  • LOCAL FRUITS

My favorite part about wandering the streets of Colombia are the all tropical fruit markets and vendors! Colombia has the freshest fruits, including mangoes and papaya at every corner.

Mercado street food colombia cartagena

Cartagena fruit vendor in traditional clothing (pic if you buy!)

Mercado street food colombia cartagena

How pretty are these different varieties of mangoes?

BUEN PROVECHO!