40 Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia (2020): What travelers love

40 Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia (2020): What travelers love

The first time I went to Cartagena, I didn’t like the city. I didn’t know the things to do in Cartagena. I was only expecting to have my feet in the water and a Caribbean-flavoured cocktail in my hand.

What a mistake! In Cartagena, you can forget about walking on the beach in a bathing suit. With no plan B and a small budget, I got bored quickly.

However, there are many tours to enjoy the city if you organize yourself a little bit in advance. Moreover, it is also possible to escape for one or more days to the islands of Rosarios.

To help you create your itinerary, I have just written a very complete list of things to do in Cartagena. Take a look at all the activities that interest you to find out how long you should stay there.

Many booking links are to reliable local companies. Don’t hesitate to bookmark this page for your trip to Colombia 😉

There is also a list of events for each day of the week at the end of this article. Read it all the way through!

Must read: Our top-notch Cartagena travel guide

Table of contents: What to do in Cartagena

  1. Entertainment (easy to do)
  2. Museums
  3. Free Walking Tours
  4. Paid Cultural tours
  5. Bikini trips on Rosario Islands
  6. More day trips from Cartagena
  7. Where to escape for a few days?
  8. Things to do during the week
  9. Our guidebook to create your itinerary
  10. Relax while we organize your Colombia adventure

Things to do inside Cartagena

With its many gastronomic restaurants and colorful alleys, Cartagena is the ideal city for lovers who wish to make a comfortable stopover during their stay in Colombia.

However, it is one of the most expensive cities to visit in the country. You’ll need to dip into your pockets if you want to make the most of it.

My little piece of advice, avoid going there during the tourist season.

Let see the best things to do in Cartagena.

Fun and easy things to do in Cartagena

The tourist sites are concentrated in two-quarters of the city, the old town center, and Getsemani. They are only separated by a hundred meters. You can get around on foot. No need for a taxi!

1# Pick the best ice cream in Cartagena

Ice cream cartagena

Let’s start with the most important thing, food! In Cartagena, it can be very hot and there is nothing better than devouring some ice cream to cool down. 3 establishments have a good reputation. It’s up to you to decide between them!

Where to eat ice cream (+)

  • Where: The old town center
  • Duration: Depends on the number of ice creams ingested.
  • Price $
  • More information: Paradiso | Paletteria | Tramonti

2# Book a table for a romantic dinner in Cartagena

Diner romantique que faire à Carthagène

Imagine gourmet dishes served away from prying eyes in a charming patio lit by a subdued light. That’s pretty good, isn’t it? A great opportunity to celebrate your trip. It’s a delicious thing to do in Cartagena.

Best restaurants in Cartagena (+)

  • Where: The old center
  • Duration: Depends on you
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: Service is often slow on the Caribbean coast, so be patient. Book in advance.
  • More information: Alma | Restaurant 1621 | Carmen

VIP Experience: Dinner in Cartagena’s Bay

3# Taste the flavours of the Caribbean

Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia

Caribbean meals things to do in Cartagena

In Cartagena, many renowned chefs use traditional recipes to prepare dishes that make Gordon Ramsay blush. What will be your favorite dishes?

Cartagena's specialities (+)

  • Where: The old center and Getsemani
  • Duration: Depends on you
  • Price: $$
  • Dishes you should order: Ceviche, Posta Negra, Cazuela de Mariscos
  • More information: Eater

4# Sipping delicious cocktails in Cartagena

Cocktail que faire à Carthagène

With this warmth and holiday atmosphere, I advise you to start the evening with a nice cocktail. Some establishments are not lacking in ingenuity to surprise your taste buds. Count 10 Euros for a good cocktail.

Favorite Cartagena's bars (+)

  • Where: The old center
  • Duration: Before dinner
  • Price: $
  • Tips: The Alquimíco rooftop and Town House are top-notch
  • More information: Alquímico | La Baron | Town House

5# Admire the sunset in the ocean

Coucher de soleil que faire à Carthagène

If for you, the view of the sunset takes precedence over the quality of your cocktail, then go to the city wall facing the sea. There you can buy beers on the sly or order a bottle of white wine from the Cafe del Mar. An easy thing to do in Cartagena.

Best sunset experiences (+)

  • Where: On the wall, near the Cafe del Mar
  • Duration: For the sunset
  • Price: Free – $$
  • Tips: Arrive at least 30 minutes early if you want to sit down at Cafe del Mar. Another good plan is to enjoy the rooftop of the Movitch. The view of the old town is breathtaking.
  • More information: Cafe del Mar | Movitch

We love: Enjoy the sunset from a Catamaran!

6# So we’re dancing… the Salsa

Things to do in Cartagena

We suggest it for every major city in Colombia. If you come here, you have to learn some salsa steps. It’s MANDATORY. You can take some private or group lessons. Don’t forget to head to Cali if you’re a salsa fan.

Where to learn salsa (+)

  • Where: Crazy Salsa School | The old center
  • Duration: 1h
  • Price: $
  • Tips: Beginners group is at 10:00. It’s perfect to start the day on the right foot. Closed on Sundays. Take a trip to Quiebra Canto if you’d rather watch people dance.
  • More information: Crazy Salsa

Experience: Follow La Guia Cartagenera in a fiery salsa party

7# Or Champeta (but it’s even harder)

Champeta things to do in Cartagena
@ Fundacion Gabo

Champeta is a musical style invented on the Caribbean coast and strongly influenced by African culture. Cartagena was a slave port of great importance. Champeta can be danced alone or in pairs. Expect to sweat a lot!

Where to dance champeta (+)

  • Where: Bazurto Social Club | Getsemani
  • Duration: Evening
  • Price: $
  • Tips: Free lessons (but cover) at 10:30 pm from Wednesday to Saturday.
  • More information: Bazurto

8# Show of traditional African dances

Danse sur Plaza Bolivar
@ Young Shanahan

If you think the sunset is not going to be great because of the clouds, change your plans and head for Bolivar Square. Every night, a group of musicians and dancers come to perform for about fifteen minutes. It’s very nice! This is a simple and pleasant thing to do in Cartagena.

More about this activity (+)

  • Where: Place Bolivar | Old city center | Google Map
  • Duration: 15 min
  • Price: Free, but leave a tip 🙂
  • Tips: It’s just before sunset.

9# Enjoy the bohemian atmosphere of Getsemani

Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia

Trinidad Square Cartagena
@Joe Ross

The old center is beautiful but not representative of Colombia. Stroll through the colorful streets of Getsemani if you want to escape the hordes of tourists arriving from the cruises. There is a lot of graffiti to admire and the early evening festive atmosphere is entertaining. It’s a free thing to do in Cartagena.

More about Getsemani (+)

  • Where: Getsemani
  • Duration: 1 – 2 h (or all night)
  • Tips: There are artists dancing in Trinidad Square from 7:00 p.m. Pass by Café Mural.

10# Take colourful pictures of the old city

Photo vieux centre que faire à Carthagène

Visit the old center! It’s a must in the things to do in Cartagena. It’s the must-see of Cartagena. The problem is that everyone does the same thing. A cute alley with 195 people, that’s 194 people too many. Don’t despair, nothing is lost. If you want to take nice pictures, without having pieces of legs lying around, just get up early!

More about this experience (+)

  • Where: The old center
  • Duration: 1 – 2h
  • Price: Free
  • Tips: Be in the old center around 7:00 am and then have breakfast at La Brioche. The streets of the San Diego neighborhood are even more photogenic.

Be a star: Ideal activity for a group of friends or on honeymoon

11# Look for the monkeys in Centenario Park

Centenario Park is located between Getsemani and the old center. It is small and not very well laid out. On the other hand, there is a small colony of monkeys that settled there a few years ago. Probably capuchin explorers and chip lovers.

More about this experience (+)

  • Where: Park Centenario | Between Getsemani and the old center
  • Price: Free
  • Tips: Ask the vendors in the park where to find them
  • Information: Google Map

12# Admire Cartagena from La Popa

La popa things to do in Cartagena
@Manuel Castro

This convent is nicknamed “La Popa” because it is located on a hill that looks like the stern of a boat. It is the best place to admire the city of Cartagena.

How to get to la Popa (+)

  • Where: Convento la Popa | 15 min by taxi from the old center
  • Duration: 1 h
  • Price: $$ (Taxi + entrance)
  • Tips: Ask a taxi to take you up to the “Convento” and then wait for you to come down.
  • More information: Lonely Planet

We recommend: Get a ride to different Cartagena places

13# Do a bit of shopping

Shopping que faire à Carthagène
@Alex W

The old center is full of small shops selling colorful swimwear or handicrafts that will fit perfectly into your living room. Make sure you leave some room in your suitcase! Yes, shopping is also one of the things to do in Cartagena.

Best Cartagena's shops (+)

  • Where: The old city center
  • Tips: There are some great cigars at the cava del Puro, delicious sweet pancakes under the arcades in front of the Puerta del Reloj, or OndadeMar for a bikini.
  • More information: Shopping in Cartagena

Museums to visit

Things to do in Cartagena

Don’t come to Cartagena to visit museums. You’ll find a few explanations and all of them in Spanish. There are still two places to visit if you are a fan of history (y que hablas Español).

14# Learn the history of Cartagena at the Naval Museum

Museo Naval que faire à Carthagène
@Joe Ross

During the time of colonialization, pirates have always loved Cartagena. In fact, a large majority of the assaults were ordered by other countries such as France or England (privateers). Discover the defeats and victories of this fortified city.

More about the Museo Naval (+)

  • Where: Museo Naval del Caribe | Old city center
  • Duration: 1 – 2 h
  • Price: $
  • Tips: 9 – 17h. You can pay for a guided tour
  • More information: On their Facebook page

15# Attacking Fort San Felipe

Castillo San Felipe things to do in Cartagena
@JD Lasica

Always with the idea of protecting itself from attackers, Cartagena built many forts, the most imposing being San Felipe. The walk around the fort is nice, but there are better things to do in Cartagena. It might interest you if you have never visited this type of monument before.

More about San Felipe (+)

  • Where: Castillo San Felipe | 5 min by taxi from Getsemani
  • Duration: 1 -2 h
  • Price: $
  • Tips: It’s better in the morning.
  • More information: Explanations

Free walking tours we love

Things to do in Cartagena

Free walking tours are organized by local agencies to help travelers discover their city when they come to visit. These tours are free of charge, however, it is strongly encouraged to leave a tip. There are also some in Medellin and Bogota.

16# Follow the colorful umbrellas in the historic center

Centre historique Carthagène

There are two companies known for doing free walking tours of the historical center of Cartagena. This is a good way to get to know some good tips and discover the history of the city. It’s up to you to see if you prefer yellow or red.

Free walking tours in Cartagena (+)

  • Where: The old center
  • Duration: 2 h
  • Price: Free, but leave a tip:)
  • Tips: Grab a hat! Do it in the morning so you don’t miss the sunset. You have to book online.
  • More information: Beyond Colombia | Free Cartagena

17# Follow the colourful umbrellas in Getsemani

Another option to discover the cultural heritage of Cartagena is a visit to the Getsemani district. Getsemani was at the time a notoriously bad neighborhood of workers and prostitutes, then it gradually turned into a bohemian and artistic district. There is a lot of graffiti to admire.

Tours in Getsemani (+)

  • Where: Getsemani
  • Duration: 2h
  • Price: Free, but leave a tip 🙂
  • Tips: Grab a hat! Do it in the morning so you don’t miss the sunset. You have to book online.
  • More information: Beyond Colombia | Free Cartagena

The best tours & activities

Things to do in Cartagena

Being the most visited city in Colombia, there are plenty of tours and activities to do in Cartagena. Some of them can be quite expensive. Make your choice according to your budget and your desires.

Enjoy your weekend while we plan your itinerary

18# A private tour in the city of Cartagena

Tour privé que faire à Carthagène

It’s nicer not to share the guide with other tourists. You go at your own pace, you choose what interests you and you can exchange more easily and freely. Contact Beyond Colombia directly if you want to visit the historical center of Cartagena and Getsemani. The tours are only in English or Spanish.

Our favorite private tours (+)

  • Where: Getsemani and the old town
  • Duration: 2 h
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: It’s more pleasant early in the morning.
  • More information: Beyond Colombia

VIP and French Experience: Sion Tour will take care of you

19# Soak up Bazurto’s open market

Food Bazurto Cartagena

For an experience rich in color and flavor, visit at least one market in Colombia. With Cartagena Insider, discover the different facets of the Bazurto market, from the creation of posters, medicinal plants, fresh fruit juices, and a delicious meal. This is one of the great things to do in Cartagena.

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: Bazurto Market | 10 min by car
  • Duration: 4 h
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: Save room for lunch. It’s delicious.

We recommend: Add Bazurto Market to your itinerary (Free cancellation)

20# Bring a recipe home

Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia

Cooking lovers, I have just the thing for you. Depending on your budget, you can choose the number of dishes you wish to prepare (and eat). You can even go shopping at the market with your chef. It’s a unique opportunity to share a moment with the locals.

Our favorite experiences (+)

  • Where: depends on the chosen experience
  • Duration: 2 – 5 h
  • Price: $$ – $$$$
  • More information: Cartagena Connection has a list with several proposals for cooking classes.

VIP Experience: Ask Duran Duran to impress you

21# Crabs, mangroves and net throwing in La Boquilla

La boquilla que faire à Carthagène

La Boquilla is a fishing village surrounded by the city of Cartagena. In a small canoe, your fishing guide will take you into the mangroves with a long pole. The atmosphere there is both peaceful and pleasant. Your guide will teach you the local fishing techniques to catch fish and crabs in this natural environment. Trapping and netting is an art!

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: La Boquilla | 20 min by car from the old center
  • Duration: 3 h
  • Price: $$$
  • Tips: Take things you’re not afraid to get wet.

Add La Boquilla to your itinerary in Colombia (free cancellation)

22# How do you like your coffee?

Coffee tasting things to do in Cartagena

Colombian coffee is known worldwide for its balance and its acid and sweet notes. Participate in a tasting workshop to discover the characteristics of Colombian coffee. Also, find out how the different preparation methods impact the final flavors in the cup. An easy thing to do in Cartagena!

Where to drink your coffee (+)

23# Do you know Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

Things to do in Cartagena

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Marquez is a famous Colombian novelist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, rewarding a singular writing style, a mixture of realism, and a skillful touch of surreality. The writer is much inspired by the Caribbean coast for his books. Discover his story as you wander through the alleys of Cartagena.

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: The old city center
  • Duration: 3h
  • Price: $$$

Ask Duran Duran to save you a spot on this tour

24# Cycling and eating (but not both at the same time)

Bike tour Cartagena

You burn calories, then you get them back, then you burn them again while having your hair in the wind. Free bike Tour organizes this appetizing activity to make you discover the city of Cartagena and its “street food”! A simple, interesting and delicious experience to do in Cartagena.

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: Getsemani and the old city center
  • Duration: 4 h
  • Price: $$

Ask Free bike tour to save you a seat!

25# Where to ride a bike and look for film locations?

Movie and bike tour

Every year there is the Cartagena Film Festival (in March). The city has regularly been in the spotlight with films such as “Cartagena ou l’homme de chevet” and “El amor en los tiempos del Colera”. A sporting apprenticeship 🙂

Our favorite tour (+)

Ask Gerardo to save you a bike!

26# Make your own chocolate and take it away

Things to do in Cartagena

Museo del chocolate

If you’re looking for a gourmet experience to do in Cartagena, this is for you. Chocolate is like a toothbrush, it can’t be shared, except maybe with your favorite granny. In Cartagena, there’s the Chocolate Museum for family fun. Let’s go, put on your apron!

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: The historic center
  • Duration: 2 h
  • Price: $$
  • More information: Choco Museo

27# With a bit of rum, it’s even better

Rhum dégustation Que faire à Carthagène

Luckily there is a rum for Colombians who don’t like Aguardiente, a local alcoholic beverage that is drunk in shots between two sips of beer to get it through. There are five known rums in Colombia, and one of them has received many awards. So, any ideas?

Rum tasting (+)

  • Where: El Arsenal | Getsemani
  • Duration: 1 – 2h
  • Price: $$$
  • Tips: The food is also very good!
  • More information: El Arsenal Rumbox

28# Like Cousteau before you, visit the seabed

Scuba diving

The advantage of diving in the Caribbean Sea is that it’s warm enough to avoid putting on a full suit. Many boats have been sunk off Cartagena. It’s perfect for playing hide-and-seek with sharks.

Our favorite tour (+)

29# Like our friends the birds, fly over Cartagena

Cartagena view from the sky

Climb aboard a paratrike – a kind of three-wheeled motorcycle with a sail and a propeller – to admire the city of Cartagena and the Caribbean coast. Surprisingly, it flies very well :D.

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: Nearby La Boquilla | 20 min by taxi from the old center
  • Duration: 15 min
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: There’s also skydiving if you’re looking for more adrenaline.

Ask Fly Cartagena to save you a seat!

Things to do outside of Cartagena

Unlike Santa Marta, there is not much to do around Cartagena, apart from sunbathing on the paradise islands of San Bernardo or Rosario.

Venturing on the islas of Rosario

Things to do in Cartagena

The vast majority of the Rosario Islands are only 1 hour from Cartagena and it can be an interesting expedition if you don’t plan to visit the rest of the Caribbean coast in your Colombian itinerary.

The problem with these islands is that they can be invaded by tourists. Avoid going there on weekends and choose your tour carefully.

Let’s take a closer look.

30# The most famous beach is Isla Baru (Playa Blanca)

Isla Baru is connected to the mainland by a bridge. It is therefore possible (and recommended) to get there by road! The beach is beautiful, but there are too many people. Don’t book a tour, walk to the end of the beach and spend the night in a small hut so you can enjoy Playa Blanca at the end of the day with fewer people.

How to get to Playa Blanca (+)

  • Where: Playa Blanca | 45 min by car
  • Duration: 1 – 2 days
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: Take the shuttle that leaves from Mamallena.

32# You can also sail around the islands on a sailboat

Catamaran things to do in Cartagena

It’s a simple and pleasant way to avoid tourists. The crew of the catamaran is taking care of its guests and offers juice at will. It’s the perfect plan to take a break between two snorkeling sessions. Lunch is included, but don’t eat too much as you risk sinking.

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: Las Islas de Rosario |Departure from the port near the old center
  • Duration: 8 h
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: Tee shirt, cap, and bikini!

Reserve your place to be aboard the catamaran (limited places)!

33# It’s even better if you rent your own boat

Location Bateau que faire à Carthagène

This is THE thing to do in Cartagena if you are traveling with a group of friends or family. Rent a boat (with captain) to explore the islands. Don’t forget to have some cold beers!

How to rent your boat (+)

  • Where: The boat’s waiting for you at the port, near the old town.
  • Duration: 8 h
  • Price: $$$$
  • Tips: go party on Isla Cholon for a little while if it’s the weekend.

34# Drink cocktails at a beach club

Things to do en Cartagena, Colombia

Beach club things to do in Cartagena

There are many resort hotels that organize “day passes” for those who wish to rest on a paradise island and do nothing during the day. It’s not very exciting but the scenery is splendid.

Our favorite beach clubs (+)

  • Where: On the Rosarios Islands, an average of 1 hour by boat
  • Duration: Full day
  • Price: $$$
  • Tips: Avoid weekends and high season
  • More information: Carolina Island | Isla del Pirata | Gente de Mar

35# Leave for a few days on Isla Grande

Isla Grande que faire à Carthagène

I’m all for doing it right. Spend several days on the islands to really enjoy the atmosphere there. There are some beautiful (and expensive) establishments to fully appreciate the Rosarios Islands.

Where to stay on Isla Grande (+)

36# Tierra Bomba, it’s just 20 minutes away

Tierra bomba things to do in Cartagena

Well, technically, the island of Tierra Bomba is not part of the Rosario Reserve. Because of its proximity to the coast, the sea is more turbid than turquoise around this island. This is still a good option if you want to relax on your deckchair listening to good music.

Our favorite beach club (+)

  • Where: Tierra Bomba – Blue Apple Beach | 20 min by boat
  • Duration: Full day
  • Price: $$$
  • More information: Blue Apple beach

Things to do without bathing suits

Things to do in Cartagena

You can organize 2 tours that are a bit out of the ordinary to observe nature or to learn more about the African-Colombian mix.

37# San Basilio de Palenque, America’s first free slave village

Cartagena was an important slave port. Thousands of slaves passed through the city. Some – including the African king Benkos – escaped and built San Basilio de Palenque. Even today, African culture is still very much present there. It’s a very interesting cultural tour to do in Cartagena.

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: San Basilio de Palenque | 2h by car
  • Duration: Full day
  • Price: $$$$
  • Tips: There is the festival in Palenque every year in October. A strong and authentic cultural moment.
  • More information: Website

Add the tour of Palenque to your itinerary in Colombia (free cancellation)

38# Thousands of birds on Isla Baru

Hummingbirds Valle de Cocora Salento

The Avario Nacional de Colombia is a huge aviary with more than 2,000 birds and 135 different species.

How to get there (+)

  • Where: Avario Nacional de Colombia | 1h30 by car
  • Duration: Full day
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: There’s a daily shuttle to get there | Don’t miss the 11:30 or 15:30 show
  • More informationAviary’s website

Escape to a secluded beach/island

Trips from Cartagena

If you’re feeling a little adventurous, I know two places that are worth a visit.

39# The paradise islands of San Bernardo

San Bernardo islands colombia

The islands of San Bernardo are beginning to be well-known but there are still fewer people than on the Rosario Islands. Choose between Isla Mucura and Isla Tintipan to feed yourself with coconuts and fresh fish with your feet in the water.

How to get to San Bernardo (+)

40# Rincon del Mar, a little piece of paradise

Rincon del Mar (1)

Colorful little houses on the beach, sparkling blue sea, and fresh lobsters. Once in Rincon del Mar, it is difficult to leave. This is one of our favorites on the coast.

How to get to Rincon (+)

Going out in Cartagena

Except during the high season, there are few events at the beginning of the week (Monday and Tuesday).

I’m putting together a little list of our favorite events in Cartagena. Don’t forget to check on the social networks before going there 😉

Download our Travel Guide (free) for a complete list of events in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, and Cartagena.

Going out in Cartagena on Monday

  • Cocktail party at Alquimico | historic centre

Going out in Cartagena on Tuesday

  • Take a little stroll around Trinidad Square | Getsemani

Going out in Cartagena on Wednesday

Going out in Cartagena on Thursday

Things to do in Cartagena on Friday

Things to do in Cartagena on Saturday

  • All events on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (except pool party)

Things to do in Cartagena on Sunday

Decide where and how to travel to Colombia

Things to do after Cartagena

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers HERE

Get our FREE guidebook to decide where to travel to Colombia

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Things to do in Cartagena (1)
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