12 hours in cartagena

12 Hours in Cartagena

Kristen G
by Kristen Gilbert

January 14, 2019

3 minute read

Dive head-first into the local culture of Cartagena on a trip to Colombia. This is one of the happiest places on Earth, where a lust for life is a national pastime. Get in the game with time to explore this electric port city, alive with energy on the glittering Caribbean coast. If you find yourself with 12 hours to spend visiting Cartagena, here are a few can’t miss hot spots to make your trip complete.

Try the rum

2 12 Hours in Cartagena

If you enjoy a sip of rum, go to El Arsenal: The Rum Box, where you’ll find every single rum made in Colombia. Boasting premium knowledge on pairings, particularly those of the chocolate variety, this is the place to take in a little history while sampling some of the best rum you’ve ever had.

Revel in earthly delights

3 12 Hours in Cartagena

Cartagena is a host country to chefs that have come from all over to work in this burgeoning culinary capital of Colombia. From coveted ceviche to complex but simple flavors that bring out the essence of local food, Cartagena is a wonderland for foodies. Go off the beaten tourist track and sit outside at La Cevicheria, where the very best ceviche is served inside this small café hidden from the crowds. Or, head to DonJuan where the politicians eat fried steak and octopus, and sea bass, a favorite of the president. And for the best arepas in the city, head to Quero Arepa for Colombian-style pieces of heaven that melt apart.

Café Havana

4 12 Hours in Cartagena

Trip the light fantastic at Café Havana, the hotspot where Hemingway’s Cuba comes alive amongst pulsating jazz and red hot salsa dancing. Get here just in time for the Latin jazz bands for an earful of the good stuff. Café Havana is famous for its music that pumps through the rafters; its salsa is old school and its setting is nostalgic. For a no-dancing-required experience, head over to the promenade and order a mojito with a healthy side of the local atmosphere to soak in.

Street food

5 12 Hours in Cartagena

You’ll have worked up quite an appetite with all that dancing, so seek out a sidewalk vat of hot oil. There are few things more satisfying than Cartagena’s fritos, street snacks deliciously fried and heavenly greasy. Try arepas de huevo (corn masa, fried, opened up, stuffed with a fried egg, and fried again), cheese-filled yucca, and papas rellenas – potato balls stuffed with farmer’s cheese.

Start the day with something happy

6 12 Hours in Cartagena

Visit Pastelería Mila. At this sophisticated favorite in the heart of Old Town, in quaint surroundings, try the caprese quiche, lemon pie, and other offerings like pistachio muffins and banana split cupcakes. If a quick coffee is more your speed in the morning, head over to Epoca Espresso Bar for some of the best cappuccino in Cartagena – by a long shot.

There’s so much to love about elegant Cartagena. You could spend days wandering the streets, moving effortlessly between past and present, taking in the culture, the tantalizing food, and the steamy atmosphere. It’s one of those special places on earth that takes hold of you and refuses to let go.

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