13 Bucket List Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia

Last Updated on March 9, 2023 by Natalie

This post is all about things to do in Cartagena.

best things to do in Cartagena

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Colorful colonial buildings line the streets as a whiff of empanada greets your nose and music echoes all around you. Welcome to Cartagena.

Cartagena is undoubtedly the most beautiful city in Colombia.

With its picturesque buildings, nearby islands, and ample exquisite culinary options, it’s no wonder why Cartagena is the most popular city in the country.

I’ve compiled a list of 13 things to do in Cartagena that you can’t miss.

Don’t forget to print this FREE Cartagena Checklist for your trip!

Packing for your trip to Colombia? Click here for my Colombia packing guide.

Where to Stay in Cartagena

There are so many beautiful and affordable accommodation options in Cartagena. I personally stayed at Life is Good Hostel, and would definitely recommend it for backpackers or budget travelers.

Life is Good Hostel

Here are a few more options if you’re looking for a hotel experience:

$ – Casa Movida Hostel or Life is Good Hostel (read my review here)

$$ – Sophia Hotel

$$$ – Movich Hotel

My Cartagena Essentials

When I traveled to Cartagena at the end of April and it was BLAZING hot.

My essentials were light dresses, lots of sunscreen, and my favorite anti-theft travel backpack.

Check out my Ultimate Colombia Packing list for more essentials for your trip.

Best Things to do in Cartagena

One can enjoy Cartagena by doing all the touristy things or by just simply walking around admiring the architecture and feasting on spinach and cheese empanadas (my fav!)

Here are 13 bucket-list things to do in Cartagena, Colombia.

1. Explore the Old Town

Waltz through the streets of Cartagena’s historic old city. Closed in with walls and decked out with colonial architecture, the old town is visually stunning.

2. Monumento Torre del Reloj “Clock Tower”

The original main entrance to the historic city is certainly a statement piece. You can find the famous clock tower between Plaza de Independencia and Plaza de Los Coches.

things to do in Cartagena

3. Plaza de la Aduana

After you’ve passed through under the clock tower, turn left to be greeted by the largest open space in Cartagena; Plaza de la Aduana.

While there are several plazas and parks in Cartagena, I thought this one was the most beautiful.

Also, it’s worth mentioning the bank of Colombia is located here, so it’s a secure spot to use the ATMs located inside.

things to do in Cartagena

4. Take a Free Walking Tour

Free walking tours are my favorite way of getting to know a city.

I signed up the day before my tour here.

Of course, with walking tours, you’re always expected to tip at the end of the tour. In Colombia, it’s customary to tip around $10 for a 2-3 hour tour (40,000 COP cash only).

5. Book a Boat Excursion

I was skeptical about booking this boat excursion because it was quite pricey, but it was highly recommended to me.

So, I decided to try it out and it ended up being one of my favorite days in Cartagena! This boat excursion is well worth the price.

6. Eat at La Cocina de Pepina

Recommended by the locals in the neighborhood of Getsemani, this little restaurant is a must-try.

I had the Posta dish, which is a traditional dish that Cartagena is famous for. During my 1-month in Cartagena, this restaurant was the best. I still catch myself drooling over the rich and saucy Posta.

things to do in Cartagena

7. Party at Alquimico Bar

Rated one of the best clubs in South America, partying at Alquimico is a must!

Featuring 3-levels, including a swanky rooftop, you’re guaranteed to have a fantastic night out.

Try to arrive before 10 pm on weekends to avoid the line (you’ll be waiting for hours!)

8. Visit the Getsemani Neighborhood

Venture outside the old city walls to the more authentic (and artistic) side of Cartagena.

In the neighborhood of Getsemani, you’ll see streets lined with food vendors, music, and art murals.

I personally think that the food is better on this side of town!

best things to do in Cartagena

9. Abaco Library Cafe

For a tasty cup of coffee and a studious scene, check out Abaco Library.

There isn’t any wifi at this cafe so prepare to..read!

things to do in Cartagena

10. Visit a Nearby Island

The Rosario Islands make for a great escape from the city. I visited Isla Grande and the beaches were spectacular. Other island getaways close to Cartagena include San Andres or Baru,

best things to do in Cartagena

11. San Felipe Castle

San Felipe Castle was built in 1536 and has been an iconic Cartagena landmark ever since. Seeing this fortress is one of the top things to do in the city.

12. Visit a Rooftop

Cartagena is famous for its rooftop views.

Cafe Del Mar offers one of the best views in the city. However, if you can’t score a spot at the famous cafe, there are many other rooftop options.

Movich Hotel, Sophia Hotel, and Townhouse Boutique Hotel rooftops all offer gorgeous city views.

I took this photo at Sophia Hotel.

things to do in Cartagena

13. Eat Street Food

The street food scene in Cartagena is seriously tasty. Try an empanada or an arepa from a food stall in Getsemani or inside the old city.

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