Happy Monday loves, so excited to finally be sharing my Cartagena, Columbia travel guide with everyone today on A Styled Love Affair. This has to be one of my favorite travel adventures since we went to Greece last May. If you might have noticed on my Instastories I surprised Mark on his birthday with a trip to the walled city (probably one of my favorite gifts I have given him in a long time). I can say he was totally surprised and as excited as I was to be going and this was definitely hard to keep secret which I had been keeping to myself for almost over a month. I am not the greatest at keeping secrets especially from Mark so this was a feat in itself but I was so glad that I didn’t end up slipping the beans.
Many have asked why did I choose the walled city for our travel adventure this time around and to be honest it wasn’t easy to decide. I knew that I wanted somewhere neither of us had been, something that was a quick flight and a perfect getaway for a long weekend. I played with the idea of going to a all inclusive, which are such the perfect gift a getaway with nothing to think about and no worries but what new drink to order from the pool bar and where do we lay out today, pool or beach? I knew that I wanted more than just that kind of adventure, and I played with the idea of Cuba but I knew that would take a little more to have to figure out with travel restrictions etc. So I turned to Google and typed away, Best getaways & 10 Romantic travel places for couples, and while flipping through the list Cartagena, Columbia was actually on both lists right towards the top.
The funny thing is I had seen a lot of people traveling to this beautiful city and it just looked so amazing. A few months prior, me and Mark had actually talked about going and had put this into Notes on our phones as part of our bucket list. Well the time had come to cross that baby off the list and gosh can I say I am so happy we did. My wonderful co-worker Natalia who is actually from Columbia, was so nice to give me a full list of amazing places to see, eat & play. Mark and myself took full advantage of our short weekend in this amazing place we left no stone unturned. We traveled during the weekend of Memorial Day and it was absolutely perfect, yes quite busy but it was perfect weather (definitely on the warm side I have to say which is why my hair was up a lot) but overall I can’t complain.
WHERE TO STAY
There are two options when wanting to figure out first where you want to stay in Cartagena, either in the Walled City or Outside of the Walled City. Either option that you do choose is just as good as the other. For my sake I really wanted to stay where the action was at and be able to walk out of my door and be right in the thick of it all. It was the best decision especially when walking around and being hot it was nice to have our hotel right there. If you do decide to stay outside of the walled city there are plenty of options and it is a quick ride into the walled city.
In the Walled City, there are a dozen of hotels to choose from. I do have to say that many of these hotels were built in buildings that use to be either old church’s or homes that have been refurbished into small hotels. They are absolutely stunning inside, we stayed at Casa del Coliseo a 12 room boutique hotel in the heart of the Walled City. It was perfect and was within reach of every restaurant and shop that we visited. We even had a small balcony in our room that looked out into the street which we loved to hangout on, to people watch & take in the sites and sounds of the city.
Whether you choose to stay within the Walled City or outside either option is just fine but if I have to say anything I would definitely recommend to stay within the Walled City. It is within walking distance to everything and super convenient than staying outside.
WHAT TO DO
First and foremost definitely go explore the city, which is the first thing we did on our full day in Cartagena. We woke up super early and walked the oldest part of Cartagena in the Walled City for hours. From every corner it was just more beautiful than the next. From bold bright colors to amazing architecture to the amazing people gathered on the streets. The brightly bold colors of the buildings and the cascading florals on almost every balcony was just absolutely stunning to see. It is the best place to get lost and not have to worry since you are inside the walled city you can always find your way back. If you want to learn more about this city definitely take a tour, which you can book through your hotel very easily. This way you can learn all about this wonderful city and its history.
2. Visit the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
It is a huge castle that peers over the city and is quite remarkable. This castle started being built in 1639 and wasn’t complete till 150 years later. It was unbelievably remarkable.
3. Visit the Coco Museum
We had read about this while researching what to do within the Walled City and it was nice quick trip to learn about chocolate and also we did a quick class which was about 45 mins and made our own chocolate bars. Was super fun and was a nice way to break up the day and get out of the heat for a hour.
4. Take a photo with the Fruit Ladies
These ladies are scattered throughout the city carrying fruit baskets on their heads and they even make a fruit drink for you when you take a photo with them (I was so full I didn’t have the drink but they are absolutely so beautiful. I give them so much credit walking around the city that basket on their heads.
5. Shop till you drop
There are so many cute little shops that have pretty little nick nacks to take home or if you want to do real shopping there are many little boutiques to visit. Or be a tourist and visit the many street vendors that are selling all sorts of beautiful things, from handmade bags to handmade paintings of the city.
6. Take a horse drawn carriage ride around the city
This is one of the best ways to see the city quickly but just a note they are only offered at night. The carriage rides usually start around 5pm since it is so hot during the day and the traffic and foot traffic during the day is not easy to maneuver a horse drawn carriage. We didn’t take a tour but they did look like a lot of fun and is definitely a nice romantic idea to do with your significant other.
7. Visit the beach
While planning our trip I knew since we weren’t staying in a location with beach access and the local beach I had read and heard weren’t that nice. I was keen on visiting one of the many beautiful beaches outside the city. After much research and also talking to hotel staff, we nailed down where we wanted to go for our beach day which was ISLA GRANDE GENTE DEL MAR, a secluded beach with a small onsite hotel which was not even fully occupied so it felt like the island was all to ourselves plus the guests that traveled with us. I do recommend to plan your excursion with your hotel as soon as you check in because it sells out fast and they only do one excursion to the islands per day. So when we planned the day before we were very lucky because it was almost sold out. For simply $100 for two people it was quite a steal. We had a ban pick us up at our hotel and provide transportation to the port which was actually walkable but was nice gesture. We paid for our excursion at the port and transportation fee and waited for about 10 mins and left the port around 930, the ride was about 45 mins to the secluded island. Since it was our last day we took full advantage to veg out drink and eat, the hotel actually provides a lovely lunch for the guests for the day which was included in the excursion package. From about 10-2:45 we had the island to roam free and do what we pleased. While on the island you could go on snorkeling trip for about $40 extra per person or paddle boarding. If I can suggest one thing maybe bring swim shoes since the water is a little rocky in areas but all in all was so nice. It was the perfect ending to our trip.
WHERE TO EAT
This has to be one of my favorite parts of my post, simply because this has to be one of the first trips in a long time where we ate our hearts out to the fullest. I can say with all honesty that I could not get enough of every dish I consumed. Every single one better than the last it was hard to even narrow down to one favorite. I do suggest that when you arrive you book reservations asap since many places are fully booked and Sunday’s most are closed. Whether you want to visit for lunch or dinner you will not be disappointed at all.
1. La Cevicheria
Now this is the one staple restaurant you need to visit while visiting or staying in Cartagena. I do have to say it is quite the hot spot, luckily Mark and I got there right before it got super busy. We were able to sit outside which was great for people watching (only downside was the street vendors would interrupt while you were eating but when you said you were ok they would leave you alone). This place was amazing and I say amazing, the vast menu of ceviche was so hard to choose from but we did narrow down to two options of starters and a main dish we shared. We did also try their signature sangria of the day which changes day to day and was so delicious and refreshing especially from the hot day. If any stop you need to go to eat whether lunch or dinner definitely make sure you put this place on the list.
A cute Boutique and quaint restaurant with such beautiful scenery and again another vast menu with classic Colombian delicacies. From the pineapple chandeliers to the denim place settings, I was in love as soon I walked in. Great part it is open for both lunch and dinner
Right around the corner from our hotel it was the first dinner location on our list and my goodness we were not disappointed at all. From the beautiful décor to the delicious sangria special it was a winner for me. Of course you need to try to the ceviche which again I asked which was the favorite and it was not disappointing at all. We actually came back later on in the weekend to have drinks outside. It was first class service from start to finish.
Situated in the Santa Clara hotel and right across from La Cevicheria, it was another recommendation from both the hotel staff and my friend Natalia. Step your way into luxury when you arrive to 1621, from the amazing hotel lobby outside you just know that this will be a amazing dinner. From the vast wine list to the delicious platters you will not leave hungry at all. If you are not ready to leave you can visit the hotel bar and listen to a live band while watching everyone dance the night away.
5. Marzola Parrila Steakhouse
We visited this cool restaurant for lunch while getting lost around town and I am so glad we stumbled upon it. The inside scenery alone was so mesmerizing a mixture of old school to rocker cool. I loved the amazing bottle cap wall paper that covered all the walls throughout the restaurant with photos of old school musicians like Frank Sinatra. The menu which was on a bottle itself was very simple and at the end of the day everything was grilled. The grilled steak my husband got and the grilled chicken I received had to have been the best and juiciest I have ever had in my life. You will definitely get a kick out of visiting this place.
I have saved my favorite for last and I know I said I couldn’t pick just one to have been my favorite but this by far blew me away. The atmosphere which is a smaller restaurant with a cute chic NYC boutique feel really knows how to deliver excellent service and even more amazing food. Since being back I have told everyone I was almost licking my plate it was that amazing. Of course I got the ceviche La Playa to start with their signature fruity cocktail and I knew that from the beginning it was going to be a amazing dinner. For my course I choose the pork and Mark got the steak and while I am not a huge pork eater oh my gosh was I so glad I got it. It was absolutely amazing, I could have had another dish to go it was that good. No good mean goes without a good end so be sure to try the deserts, we got the Tropical which was a mixture of sorbets with crumbles and one other desert that I am sorry I can’t remember. Either way you wont be disappointed by this restaurant hot spot at all. It was absolutely amazing and so glad we saved this for our last night. Again make reservations as soon as you arrive.
Please know these were places that had been recommended to us plus places we had wanted to try from what we had read from reviews. Know that there are so many amazing options and so many great restaurants I wish I could have visited them all.
DAY TWO EXPLORING CARTAGENA
Loves I hope you enjoyed today’s post hopefully not to overwhelming but there is so many amazing things to do and see and places to eat within this amazing city. I want to be able to share it all with you. Whether this is on your bucket list to visit (which I don’t want to be bias really should be), I absolutely know that anyone who visits will love this quaint little city within the walls.
Hope everyone has a lovely day
Thank you for following or just reading along