Cartagena is very much exhaustively written about so I’m not planning to repeat anything that’s already been covered. Rather, it’s more like what I liked in particular when I went earlier this year. I seem to have been a bit of a late starter. When I went two and a half years ago I really didn’t think it was all that good and I even thought it didn’t deserve its magical reputation! This time it was truly amazing. Simply amazing. It was perhaps more amazing than usual, more magical than usual because of the Christmas lights, live music everywhere and locals all coming out to chill out in the old city.
From my trip, I learnt that:
- If you have a choice, go for Christmas time all the way up to the first week of January. It’s true, Cartagena is crazy during this time. It’s awfully crowded, which means difficulty in getting cabs, making dinner reservations and going to clubs. But it’s still worth it for the vibe. The whole city will be dancing.
- You can use Uber X! Although easy, stay in the Old City/Getsemani is a must. I was trying to save and made the mistake so don’t want you to repeat my pain.
- Go dancing in Cafe Havana, it’s worth the COP 25,000 cover. A live band will come on at 11.15pm and play for 40 minutes or so. You will be sweating like a pig (if you dance) so during the break, go to the main plaza in Getsemani, Plaza De La Santisima Trinidad (Turn left upon exiting club and walk straight), for some fresh air and watch locals hang out in open air while their speakers are blasting from their homes. Go back for the second half of the band, then go back to the plaza, and then go back to the club for the second band at 1am. Repeat this process until the club closes at 4am.
- If you like Champeta (the music from Cartagena!), Basurto is the place to be. It’s less touristy than Havana but also has live bands so you will get some authentic sensual dancing immersion with the locals.
- I loved El Baron the new cocktail bar in San Pedro square. It was our HQ! The perfect sanctuary from the heat and you can do all the people-watching you want. Most importantly the drinks are so special and the food is perfect for the foreigner who doesn’t want to have fried red snapper, patacón and coconut rice everyday. Love the novelty – I had a cocktail made with Reyka the Icelandic vodka.
- Crepes and Waffles saved us. It’s pretty much the only viable place to keep your guts healthy with lots of fresh veggies options. Its salad bar is also the best. Way better than the new comers like Gokela. I wonder why everyone is raving about a fast food joint that is more expensive than C & W.
- If you like running, you can do the old city wall, then passing El Cabrero, go all the way up North to the airport and beyond, to Playas De Santa Veronica. The promenade in Brocagrande is being fixed at the moment which leaves little space to run in that area.