I plan almost every detail of our trips but sometimes, it’s best to go into a new city blind. Aside from being a popular Caribbean destination, we knew next to nothing about Cartagena, but a few minutes in the historic center (and one meal) was all it took to make us fall in love with the city.
To be honest, we’ve always appreciated Colombian food but it’s never been one of our favorites. Cartagena may have changed all that. Seriously, wow.
I don’t want to hype up the food in Cartagena too much because I want you to be pleasantly surprised like we were. But if you’re spending a few days in this charming Caribbean town, then here are 23 Cartagena restaurants, street food stalls, bars, and cafes that really turned us on to Colombian Caribbean food.
CARTAGENA RESTAURANTS QUICK LINKS
To help you plan your trip to Cartagena, we’ve put together links to top-rated hotels, tours, and other travel-related services here.
Top-rated hotels in the San Diego neighborhood, one of the best areas to stay for first-time visitors to Cartagena.
- Sightseeing Tour: Walled City and Getsemani Shared Walking Tour
- Food Tour: Best Street Food with Local Chef
- Day Trip: Totumo Mud Volcano Experience
- Cooking Classes: Cartagena Cooking Classes
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WHAT IS THE MOST POPULAR FOOD IN CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA?
You can find great food anywhere in Colombia but in Caribbean coastal cities like Cartagena, it seems to be a given. Not only is Cartagena rich in seafood dishes, but its food seems so much more redolent with flavor thanks to the African and Arab cooking traditions that have influenced costeño cuisine.
There are many delicious Caribbean dishes to try in Cartagena but in my opinion, these are the five that you absolutely cannot miss.
Cazuela de Mariscos
Cazuela de mariscos is my favorite Cartagena dish. It refers to a popular Caribbean stew made with different types of seafood cooked in coconut milk. The types of seafood used can vary per cook but it’s typically made with any combination of shrimp, squid, octopus, mussels, fish, crab, and lobster.
When made well, cazuela de mariscos is incredibly delicious and pretty much sums up what the food in this Caribbean city is all about. Do not leave Cartagena without trying it at least once (or twice).
Fresh Whole Fish
Being a coastal city, it’s no surprise that fish is a staple on restaurant menus in Cartagena. Every seafood restaurant serves some type of fish dish – whether grilled, fried, or cooked in curry or coconut milk.
Commonly served species of fish include mojarra, pargo (snapper), sierra, and robalo (snook). They’re usually served whole with a side of coconut rice and patacones (fried green plantain).
Posta negra cartagenera refers to a traditional Cartagena dish consisting of seared sirloin steak coated in a savory-sweet sauce made from panela (unrefined cane sugar), Worcestershire sauce, and sometimes Coca-Cola. It’s a popular Caribbean dish that’s typically reserved for special occasions like New Year’s Eve.
Mote de Queso
Mote de queso refers to a popular Caribbean soup made with yams, costeño cheese, chicharron, and lime juice. Like many Caribbean dishes, it’s typically served with a side of coconut rice and patacones.
Arepa de Huevo
Arepas are a staple food in Colombia but in Caribbean cities like Cartagena, a version filled with egg is popular. It’s commonly sold as street food, either filled with ground meat and egg or just egg (solo huevo).
If you were to have just one street food dish in Cartagena, then it should probably be arepa de huevo.
THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN CARTAGENA
To help organize this list of the best Cartagena restaurants, I’ve arranged them by category. All the restaurants recommended in this guide are located in the walled city and Getsemani. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
This was the meal I was talking about at the start of this article. We had our very first meal in Cartagena at Atahualpa and it completely blew us away. Being a seafood lover, I knew the food in Cartagena would be good but I wasn’t expecting this.
The very first dish I wanted to try in Cartagena was cazuela de mariscos. We had it several times in Cartagena and this version at Atahualpa was my favorite.
Depending on the chef, cazuela de mariscos can vary greatly between restaurants. Some are more seafood-y while others, like this one, are redolent with coconut flavor. The lobster pictured below grabs your attention but the real star of this bowl was the broth. It’s delicious.
If I remember correctly, Atahualpa’s cazuela de mariscos also contains shrimp, squid, mussels, and chunks of fish. It’s served with a side of coconut rice and fried yuca (cassava).
If you were to have just one dish in Colombia, then it should probably be bandeja paisa. It refers to an overflowing platter of rice, beans, chicharron, sausages, avocados, plantains, and more. Originally from the Paisa region, it’s become popular throughout the country and is considered by many to be a national dish of Colombia.
No offense to our friends in Medellin, but the best bandeja paisa I’ve had so far was right here at Atahualpa. Well-seasoned and redolent with flavor, it had rice, red beans, chicharron, chorizo, carne molida (ground meat), avocado, and arepa.
We enjoyed Atahualpa so much that we wound up eating here again, specifically to try these next two dishes.
What you’re looking at below is their bandeja caribeña, a Caribbean version of bandeja paisa. It’s made with a whole fried fish served with patacones, coconut rice, and salad.
After spending a few days in Cartagena, one of the things you’ll notice is that the chefs here cook almost everything perfectly. Soft, succulent, and juicy, this fried mojarra could not have been cooked any better. They offer other preparations of fish as well, including grilled fish, fish curry, and fish cooked with garlic (al ajillo).
If you love octopus dishes like we do, then you’re going to love Cartagena. Virtually every seafood restaurant we visited served some type of octopus dish, and for a good price too.
This one is called pulpo encocado. As its name suggests, it’s served in a savory-sweet coconut sauce with a side of coconut rice and patacones.
We found Atahualpa through our own research but it was also highly recommended to us by our Airbnb host. According to him, it’s one of the best restaurants in Cartagena for traditional dishes.
If local flavors are what you’re after, then look no further than Atahualpa. Not only was it one of our favorite Cartagena restaurants, it was also one of the most fairly priced.
Address: Cra. 7, Centro, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 8AM-11:30PM, daily
What to Order: Cazuela de mariscos, bandeja paisa
2. Buena Vida Marisqueria
Being a coastal city, fresh fish and other tasty seafood dishes aren’t hard to find in Cartagena. There are many restaurants you can visit to get fresh seafood in the walled city, but one of the best is Buena Vida Marisqueria. This terrific seafood restaurant was also recommended to us by our Airbnb host.
Pictured below is an appetizer of empanadas costeras. Ground meat empanadas are among the most popular street foods in Colombia but these were filled with something even better – cazuela de mariscos.
Meat-filled empanadas are common but if you want an empanada that represents local Cartagena cuisine, then I highly recommend trying this one. It’s delicious.
You can’t visit Cartagena without having some type of fish dish at least once. We had many grilled or fried fish dishes in Cartagena but few were as beautifully presented as this one. Called parrillado abierto con mojo de cilantro, it’s a whole grilled fish made with two fillets served over yucca puree, fried garlic, cherry tomatoes, and a creamy cilantro sauce.
If you’re unsure how to eat grilled or fried fish that’s served whole, then this is a good dish to try. Most of the work has already been done for you.
Buena Vida Marisqueria is a TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice recipient located in the heart of the walled city. By many accounts, it’s one of the best restaurants in Cartagena for seafood so it’s definitely worthy of a spot on your itinerary.
Here’s a look at the first floor dining room. Cartagena receives many international tourists so most restaurants in the walled city and Getsemani are as polished as this one. Buena Vida has rooftop seating as well.
Buena Vida Marisqueria
Address: Centro histórico, Cl. del Porvenir #Esquina, Cartagena de Indias, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 8AM-11:30PM, Fri-Mon / 11:30AM-11:30PM, Tue-Thurs
What to Order: Seafood
3. La Mulata
We found La Mulata on our own, but it was also suggested to us by our Airbnb host. On top of that, it was recommended to us by an Instagram follower as well. With so many endorsements, a good meal at La Mulata was pretty much guaranteed.
La Mulata is another great seafood restaurant that offers fresh fish, ceviche, and other dishes. I went with the daily special – arroz de mariscos – and it came with this tasty bowl of sancocho de pescado. Sancocho is a popular Colombian soup made with vegetables, tubers, and different types of meat or fish.
This was the arroz de mariscos. Arroz de camaron is a permanent item on their menu but when you’re presented with a similar dish made with more seafood, then you go for that one. Spritzed with lime juice, it was delicious.
La Mulata specializes in seafood but they do offer a handful of other dishes as well, most notably this posta negra cartagenera. As described, it’s a local Cartagena dish made with seared sirloin steak coated in a rich savory-sweet sauce.
I prefer the seafood dishes in Cartagena but posta negra is something you should try as well, to get a well-rounded taste of the local cuisine.
La Mulata is located in a quieter part of the walled city.
La Mulata has a focused menu and a lovely Caribbean-style interior.
Address: Cl. del Quero #9 58, Centro, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 11:30AM-10PM, Tue-Sat / 11:30AM-6PM, Sun (closed Mondays)
What to Order: Seafood, posta negra cartagenera
4. Restaurante Espiritu Santo
If you were to create a list of the best restaurants in Cartagena based purely on local popularity, then Restaurante Espiritu Santo has to be tops on that list. It’s a large restaurant that’s packed at almost any time of the day, mostly with locals.
Pictured below is a hearty bowl of mote de queso. It may look bland and boring but this dull-looking soup is loaded with flavor, especially when served with chicharron.
We enjoyed the sancocho de pescado at La Mulata so we wanted a full order this time. At Espiritu Santo, you get it with plantains, patacones, coconut rice, and a chunk of fried fish that you eat in the soup. Delicious!
We arrived early, right before they opened, so we were seated right away. Open only for lunch, Restaurante Espiritu Santo is very popular so you may have to wait a bit at peak lunch times. We went to their restaurant in the walled city but they do have another branch in Getsemani.
As described, Espiritu Santo has a huge dining room that’s almost always packed with locals. If you’re looking for cheap eats and local flavors, then this restaurant is one of the best places you can visit in Cartagena.
Restaurante Espiritu Santo
Address: Cl. 35 #6-69, Centro, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 11:30AM-3:30PM, daily
What to Order: Sancocho, mote de queso
5. Tomillo Cevicheria y Mar
Tomillo Cevicheria y Mar is perhaps one of the best restaurants in Cartagena you’ve never heard of. Tucked away in an alley just off Plaza de San Diego, it’s another great place to enjoy a fresh seafood meal in Cartagena.
Fans of octopus dishes may want to try the pulpo a la parrilla. It consists of grilled octopus tentacles served with potatoes, chimichurri, and corozo sauce. Corozo is a type of berry that’s grown in the Caribbean region of Colombia.
Cazuela de mariscos became my favorite Colombian costeña dish so I made sure to have it for my final meal in Cartagena. Tomillo’s isn’t as creamy and coconut-y as Atahualpa’s version but it’s just as delicious. It’s redolent with seafood flavor, which other people may prefer.
Speaking of corozo berries, we had been looking for corozo juice so we were happy to find it here. There’s no shortage of fresh fruit juices in Cartagena but if you want one that’s unique to the region, then I suggest trying this.
Tomillo Cevichera y Mar is located along Calle Cochera del Hobo, just off Plaza de San Diego. It’s a tiny restaurant that’s easy to miss.
Here’s a look at Tomillo’s tiny dining room. This is pretty much the entire restaurant. I wouldn’t call it a fine dining restaurant but it’s a great place to have an intimate romantic meal in Cartagena.
Tomillo specializes in ceviches and seafood but they do offer other Colombian dishes like empanadas, arepas de huevo, and posta cartagenera as well.
Tomillo Cevicheria y Mar
Address: Cra. 8 #38 – 26, San Diego, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
What to Order: Cazuela de mariscos, pulpo a la parrilla
6. Arrabal Gastrobar
There are many great Cartagena restaurants, but Arrabal Gastrobar may have been our favorite. This hidden gem in Getsemani wowed us with their food, starting with this fantastic pulpo a la brasa. It consists of grilled octopus served in a creamy sauce made from potatoes, toasted macadamias, candied portobello mushrooms, and chimichurri.
We were spoiled rotten with terrific octopus dishes in Cartagena but this one may have been the best. It was different and amazingly delicious.
Arrabal offers two seafood rice dishes on their menu – arroz con tinta de calamar and arroz a la palenquera. Both are flavored with squid ink but the latter is cheaper and may be the more interesting of the two.
Unlike the arroz con tinta de calamar which is made with just squid, this arroz a la palenquera contains a variety of seafood like shrimp, mussels, octopus, and squid. It’s made with so much seafood that it’s impossible to grab a spoonful without biting into a chunk of squid or shrimp! Good seafood is a given in Cartagena but this may have been the best seafood dish from our trip.
It looks delicious in this picture but it looked even better when it first arrived at our table. I couldn’t take a picture before our server mixed all the ingredients together but the dish arrived with a cup of black rice in the middle and the seafood all around it.
Arrabal Gastrobar is tucked away along Calle de San Juan in Getsemani. Like Tomillo, it’s easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it.
There is so much great food to be had in this city but I highly recommend making time for this amazing Cartagena restaurant.
We were the only people there for lunch but I believe Arrabal gets busier at night. There’s a small stage for live music on the second floor.
Address: Cl. de San Juan #25-56, Getsemaní, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 12NN-10PM, Tue-Thurs / 12NN-10:30PM, Fri-Sat (closed Sun-Mon)
What to Order: Pulpo a la brasa, arroz a la palenquera
7. Sierpe Cocina Caribe
Arrabal Gastrobar may have been our favorite seafood restaurant in Cartagena, but Sierpe Cocina Caribe wasn’t far behind. Great seafood isn’t hard to find in Cartagena but coincidentally, two of our best seafood meals came from restaurants in Getsemani.
Everything we ordered at Sierpe was fantastic, starting with this dip de cangrejo. It’s a crab and gratinated cheese dip served with corn tortillas.
Personally, this pulpo achiotado was my favorite octopus dish in Cartagena. It wasn’t as unique or well-presented as the octopus dish at Arrabal but it tasted incredible. This is the one dish that really turned me on to Colombian Caribbean cuisine.
I’m a big fan of crab dishes and this arroz de jaiba did not disappoint. As delicious as it is pretty, it consists of blue crab (jaiba) and vegetables served with coconut rice.
Sierpe Cocina Caribe is a TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice awardee located along a street of the same name in Getsemani – Calle de la Sierpe.
Like many of the best restaurants in Cartagena, Sierpe Cocina Caribe has a simple but well-designed interior.
Sierpe Cocina Caribe
Address: Cl. de la Sierpe # 29 -09, Getsemaní, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 12:30-3PM, 6-10PM, Mon-Thurs / 12:30-11PM, Fri-Sun
What to Order: Pulpo achiotado, dip de cangrejo, arroz de jaiba
8. Restaurante 1595
Restaurante Espiritu Santo is a great Cartagena restaurant to visit for traditional flavors at affordable prices. Restaurante 1595 is another. Like Espiritu Santo, it’s located in the walled city and is frequented mostly by locals.
Every entree at Restaurante 1595 comes with a bowl of soup. Today, it was sopa de res or beef soup.
Pictured below is the Filete 1595. It’s a tasty fish dish served in a creamy seafood sauce with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and rice. This plate of food, with the bowl of soup, cost us just COP 15,500 (roughly USD 3.16).
A few dishes like the Filete 1595 are available everyday but the restaurant offers two or three daily specials as well. We had lunch there on a Tuesday so I had what they call the Inquisidor. It consists of a beef roll coated in gratinated cheese and served with vegetables, rice, and mashed potatoes.
Even cheaper than the Filete 1595, this plate of food, with a bowl of soup, went for just COP 13,500. At today’s exchange rate, that’s just USD 2.76!
Can you spot the restaurant? Hidden in plain sight, Restaurante 1595 is through that first door on the left. You’d probably walk right past it if you weren’t looking for it.
Like Restaurante Espiritu Santo, Restaurante 1595 is open only for lunch. It doesn’t offer much in the way of ambiance but it does offer great food at cheap prices.
Address: Cl. 36 #7-122, Centro, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 11:30AM-3PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays)
What to Order: Filete 1595, daily specials
9. Capitan Submarino Ostreria y Bar
Do you like oysters? If you do, then you need to have a drink with a platter of oysters at Capitan Submarino. It’s an ostreria and bar that offers inventive cocktails and oysters on the half shell, along with other dishes like ceviches, empanadas, burgers, and Cuban sandwiches.
The oysters at Capitan Submarino aren’t the biggest but who cares? They cost just COP 39,000 per dozen (roughly USD 7.96) and they taste great.
Capitan Submarino is located in one of the busiest parts of the walled city, just off Fernandez Madrid Park.
I loved the interior of Capitan Submarino. Inviting and unintimidating, it’s conducive to enjoying a few cocktails or beers and a platter (or two) of fresh oysters.
Address: Cra. 7 #3655, Centro, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 12NN-3PM, 6-10PM, Mon-Thurs / 12:30-11PM, Fri-Sat / 2-10PM, Sunday
What to Order: Oysters
10. Quero Arepa
Arepa is an important dish in Colombian cuisine. It’s essentially a type of bread made with ground maize dough. Like tortillas to Mexico or rice to most Asian countries, it’s a staple dish that’s often eaten as a snack or side dish to larger Colombian meals.
We’ll get to it later but arepas de huevo (with egg) are especially popular along the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Quero Arepa offers many Colombian dishes but as their name suggests, they specialize in sandwiches made with arepas. They offer almost two dozen arepa sandwiches filled with a variety of different ingredients, including vegetarian options.
Pictured below is the Sirena. It’s generously filled with shrimp smothered in a housemade sauce with garlic and vegetables.
They call this one Toto la Momposina. It’s filled with Colombian chorizo sausages and cheese.
Tucked away in Barrio San Diego, Quero Arepa is a TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice recipient with a near-perfect 4.5 star rating.
Address: Calle Quero Calle 37 ##9130, Cartagena de Indias, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 11AM-9:30PM, daily
What to Order: Arepa sandwiches
11. La Estrella
La Estrella was one of our favorite places in Cartagena, not necessarily because of the food, but because of its fun atmosphere. Located in the walled city and frequented mostly by locals, La Estrella is a restaurant/bar that serves inexpensive Colombian food and drinks.
La Estrella is open from early in the morning until late at night but they only serve food until 3:30PM. I went with a fish dish that came with this starter of sopa de res. Just look at that hefty chunk of beef bone!
For just COP 29,000 (roughly USD 5.92), my mojarra rojo en sumo coco (red mojarra in coconut milk) came with a whole mojarra fish, a bowl of beef bone soup, patacones, rice, and a side salad. Talk about a great deal!
As described, mojarra is one of the most common types of fresh fish you’ll find in Cartagena and something you should try at least once.
This wasn’t the best bowl of cazuela de maricos we had in Cartagena but it was one of the least expensive, not to mention the most overflowing. The seafood was practically spilling out of the bowl.
The food is decent at La Estrella but what we really liked about this restaurant is its relaxed local vibe and cheap beers. Colombian Aguila beers went for just COP 5,000-6,000 a bottle, which was one of the cheapest we found in Cartagena.
If you visit La Estrella after 3:30PM, then you can have beers, shots of hard liquor, and snacks.
Address: 152 Cra. 6 #36 Cartagena, Bolivar Colombia Calle de la Universidad; esquina con calle del Sargento Mayor, Cartagena Colombia
What to Order: Colombian seafood and meat dishes, alcoholic drinks
CAFES / DESSERT SHOPS
12. La Esquina del Pandebono
Located in an often-treaded part of the walled city, I’m sure you’ll walk by this local bakery and cafe often during your stay in Cartagena. Popular with both locals and tourists alike, I dare you to walk by and not pick up a few of their breads and pastries.
As their name suggests, their bread and butter is pandebono but they offer many other types of bread and pastries as well like almojabana, pandeyuca, and pasteles.
We made many stops at La Esquina del Pandebono, including a to-go bag before going to the airport. The salchiqueso was a standout as was the pastel de carne. For truly local flavors, you may want to try the pastel de ajiaco or pastel de posta cartagenera.
Everything we had at La Esquina del Pandebono was delicious so I’m not surprised why this bakery is so popular. Whatever you get, do enjoy it with some hot chocolate or coffee.
The pasteles are delicious but my favorites are the breads. What you’re looking at below is the almojabana or Colombian cheese bread made with cornmeal and cuajada cheese. Cheesy and bouncy in texture, it’s absolutely delicious, especially when paired with their hot chocolate.
Pandebono is another type of Colombian cheese bread, but this time made with cassava starch. It has a similar texture and is just as delicious as the almojabana.
Of the three types of Colombian bread pictured here, this pandeyuca may be the most interesting. It’s an extremely airy bread (almost hollow) that’s also made with cassava starch and cheese.
La Esquina del Pandebono is located on the corner opposite Buena Vida Marisqueria. Esquina in Spanish means “corner.”
La Esquina del Pandebono
Address: Calle San Agustin #35 – 78, Centro, Cartagena de Indias, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 6AM-9PM, daily
What to Order: Colombian bread, pastries
13. Mila Pasteleria
Our Airbnb host recommended many restaurants, bars, and cafes to us. Based on the way he described them, you could tell what his favorite places were and he couldn’t have been more glowing in his endorsement of Mila Pasteleria. According to him, it’s a local institution and a must-visit in Cartagena.
Mila offers an extensive menu of breakfast dishes, Colombian soups, snacks, and entrees but we were here for their coffee and desserts. We spied this exquisite-looking strawberry and blueberry cake at the next table so we asked for the same.
Our host was right. The cakes and pastries here are delicious.
The strawberry cake was pretty but this milhoja de arequipe airbrushed with gold is downright beautiful. Milhoja refers to mille-feuille while arequipe is the Colombian term for dulce de leche or cajeta.
What better way to wash down your cakes than Colombian coffee? To be honest, I didn’t think Colombian coffee would be significantly better but I was wrong. Coffee is amazing everywhere in Colombia.
We had every intention of going back to Mila Pasteleria for breakfast but unfortunately, we never made it. There’s just too much good food in this city that we couldn’t find the time.
Aside from being a local favorite, Mila Pasteleria is a TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice awardee so you may want to have more than just dessert here.
Address: Cl. de la Iglesia #35-76, Centro, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 8AM-10PM, Mon-Sat / 9AM-9PM, Sun
What to Order: Desserts, breakfast
14. Caffe Lunatico
If you want great coffee with a view, then you may want to visit Caffe Lunatico in Getsemani. It’s a popular restaurant cafe that makes it to almost every “where to eat” list in Cartagena.
We had just eaten lunch when we went to Caffe Lunatico so we only had coffee and this delicious creme brulee, but they are a Spanish tapas bar so you may want to come here for more than just dessert.
Caffe Lunatico is more than a restaurant. Aside from offering savory food, desserts, cocktails, and coffee, they also organize guided food tours and conduct cooking classes. On certain nights of the week, they even offer salsa dancing classes!
There’s a larger dining room at the end of this hallway but sitting here offers the best views.
You’ll have a view of the old city’s walls and Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas in the distance. You can also see the Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa from here.
The kitchen where they conduct cooking classes is located in the room to the right, on one side of the hallway.
Address: Av. Pedregal#29-225, segundo piso, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 10AM-10:30PM, Mon-Sat / 9AM-10PM, Sun
What to Order: Tapas and desserts
15. Golden Coffee
Like I said, the coffee is good everywhere in Colombia so it doesn’t really matter where you go. However, I do recommend buying a cup from this cute mobile coffee bar called Golden Coffee. It’s built into a red Willys jeep and can be found parked on the same spot along Carrera 7 in the walled city.
Manufactured by the US military in the 1940s, the Willys jeep has become an icon of Colombia.
I thought that the Golden Coffee jeep is permanently parked in the same spot but they actually drive it here every morning. It was here on most days but I did see it set up in other places once or twice during our stay.
It isn’t everyday you get to enjoy great Colombian coffee from the back of a shiny red jeep!
Address: Along Carrera 7 (near SV Hostal Badillo)
Operating Hours: 8AM-11PM, daily
What to Order: Coffee
We were lucky to have a Goyurt shop down the street from our Airbnb so we’d sometimes pick something up here before heading back to our place.
Goyurt is a popular frozen yogurt shop with branches throughout Colombia, including two within the walled city of Cartagena. They offer cups of frozen yogurt, popsicles, parfaits, and smoothies.
Goyurt offers many delicious popsicle flavors but if you want something local, then I suggest trying the arequipe.
Goyurt’s popsicles are delicious but we enjoyed their frozen yogurt even more. You can get them in four sizes with sauces and toppings of your choice. Nothing beats the Cartagena heat better than a cup of Goyurt frozen yogurt!
Goyurt has two branches in Cartagena – this one on the corner of Calle Cochera del Hobo and Calle 38 and another one along Calle 35.
Address: Corner of Calle Cochera del Hobo and Calle 38, San Diego, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 10AM-11:30PM, Sun-Thurs / 10AM-12:30AM, Fri-Sat
What to Order: Frozen yogurt
17. Gelateria Tramonti
Do you know what else you can do to beat the heat in Cartagena? Indulge in a cup of gelato. You can do just that at Gelateria Tramonti, a terrific gelato shop located in the heart of the walled city.
Thick and oh so creamy, Tramonti offers many delicious flavors of Italian gelato. We went with the pistachio, Colombian coffee, and zarzamora con queso (blueberry cheesecake).
Gelateria Tramonti is located along Calle 35, near the corner of Carrera 5.
Address: Centro Histórico, Calle de Ayos # 4-50, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 9AM-1AM, Mon-Sat / 9AM-12MN, Sun
What to Order: Gelato
STREET FOOD STALLS
18. Los Fritos de Dora
Anyone who knows me well knows that nothing excites me quite like good street food. Do a search for the best street food stalls in Cartagena and you’re likely to land on a page heaping praises on Los Fritos de Dora.
This humble street food stall at Plaza San Diego has been selling some of the best fritos (fritters) in Cartagena for almost sixty years now. From the moment they open at 4:30PM, the cart is swarmed by locals and tourists looking for good food at next-to-nothing prices.
We wanted to try everything at Los Fritos de Dora so we must have eaten here on four or five different occasions. We started off with the carimañolas which are football-shaped yuca fritters stuffed with either meat or cheese. I suggest trying both.
When a Colombian college friend of mine saw that we were in Cartagena, she excitedly messaged me and told me to try arepas de huevo. A popular street food in the Caribbean region of Colombia, it refers to a type of arepa stuffed with ground meat and eggs (or just eggs).
We tried arepas de huevo from many street vendors in Cartagena and Los Fritos de Dora was head and shoulders better than the rest. The texture of their arepas was just different.
You can get arepas de huevo with just eggs but I preferred the version with both eggs and meat. If I remember correctly, this tasty fried parcel set us back just COP 2,900 (around USD 0.59).
These papas con huevo y carne are fantastic as well. You seriously need to try everything from this stall.
Los Fritos de Dora
Address: Plaze de San Diego, Cartagena de Indias, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar
Operating Hours: 4:30PM-12MN, daily
What to Order: Fritos
19. Fritos la Mona
Los Fritos de Dora may have been our favorite fritos stall in Cartagena but Fritos la Mona is no slouch either. Located in a more central part of the walled city, this humble street food stall has its own small army of fritos devotees.
Pictured below is their own tasty version of papas con huevo y carne.
Their arepas de huevo are delicious as well. Like Los Fritos de Dora, Fritos la Mona is popular so they’re constantly churning out a steady stream of fritos.
Fritos la Mona
Address: Cra. 7 #36-2 a 36-122, Cartagena de Indias, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 4PM-12MN, daily
What to Order: Fritos
20. Cocteleria El Buen Sabor
I’ve always had my doubts about seafood sold as street food but these cocteles made me a believer. Made with different types of seafood dressed with ketchup, mayonnaise, hot sauce, lime juice, onions, and cilantro, cocteles are a popular and shockingly delicious type of Cartagena street food.
Cocteles de camaron is the most common but you can get it with octopus, crab (jaiba), sea snails (caracoles) squid, and clams (chipi chipi) as well. We tried four different kinds and we enjoyed them all. They’re especially delicious when paired with saltine crackers.
On the way to Getsemani from the clock tower, you’ll walk by this cluster of four or five stands selling cocteles. It probably doesn’t matter where you go but we went to the stall called Cocteleria el Buen Sabor.
Cocteleria El Buen Sabor
Address: Av. Venezuela, Centro, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
What to Order: Cocteles
What We Paid: COP 9,000-34,000, depending on the size of the cup
21. Portal del los Dulces
We recently spent almost a year in Mexico where we tried many different types of dulces tipicos (typical sweets), mainly from Puebla and Michoacan. As good as the sweets are in Mexico, Colombian dulces tipicos may be even better.
In Cartagena, the most famous area to buy dulces tipicos is Plaza de los Coches. Situated near the clock tower, it’s home to a row of candy stalls selling a variety of sweet treats like cocadas, alegrias, panderitos, and muñequitos de leche.
We bought a sampler pack because we wanted to try as many as we could. Everything was delicious but the clear winners were the cocadas or baked coconut candies.
Made with coconut shreds flavored with different ingredients, Colombian cocadas are absolutely delicious and something I ate almost everyday in Cartagena.
I didn’t taste a cocada I didn’t like in Cartagena but personally, my favorites were the ones flavored with panela and pineapple. They’re so good!
Portal del los Dulces
Address: Cra. 5 #33-15, Centro, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 11AM-8PM, daily
What to Order: Dulces tipicos
22. Donde Fidel Salsa Bar
Our Airbnb host recommended a few of his favorite bars to us. In his words, Donde Fidel Salsa Bar is very touristy but a must-do for first-time visitors to Cartagena.
Touristy or not, Donde Fidel is loads of fun and a great place to grab a beer while listening to salsa music.
Donde Fidel Salsa Bar is located near the clock tower, at Plaza de los Coches. It may be touristy but it’s one of the most fun and vibrant areas of the walled city.
We went to Donde Fidel twice and we enjoyed sitting outside and drinking Aguila beers while watching people dance to salsa music. I don’t know if they ever play live music but that would be awesome.
Donde Fidel Salsa Bar
Address: Portal de los Dulces, Cra. 4, Centro, Cartagena de Indias, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 2PM-2AM, daily
What to Order: Alcoholic drinks
23. Cafe del Mar
Cafe del Mar is another touristy bar that’s a must-do for first-time visitors to Cartagena. Open from 4:30PM, the bar is perched on the western end of the fortifying wall and offers spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea and sunset.
However, unlike Donde Fidel that offers reasonably priced Aguila beers at COP 8,000, the drinks at Cafe del Mar are decidedly more expensive. The same Aguila beer will run you COP 15,000 here.
The view from Cafe del Mar does come at a price, but there’s a much cheaper alternative. Keep scrolling to learn more.
Cafe del Mar
Address: Baluarte de Santo Domingo, Centro, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Operating Hours: 4:30PM-2AM, daily
What to Order: Alcoholic drinks
One of the many things we love about Cartagena is that you’re legally allowed to drink beer anywhere, not just at bars and restaurants. You can drink a beer while walking around town so you’ll find vendors at parks and street corners selling cold beers and other alcoholic drinks.
Take a stroll along the wall and you’ll find several vendors here selling beer for just COP 6,000 a can. Here’s me showing off a can of Aguila beer within shouting distance of Cafe del Mar. Same beer, same view, at less than half the price.
To help you navigate to these restaurants in Cartagena, I’ve pinned them all on the map below. Click on the link for a live version of the map.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA
Our Airbnb host was invaluable in helping us put together this guide to the best restaurants in Cartagena. Finding the best local restaurants is what we try to do on every trip and his recommendations helped us do just that. ¡Muchisimas gracias!
We didn’t go but our host also recommended Carmen, a fine dining restaurant that makes it to virtually every article listing the best restaurants in Cartagena. They have an à la carte menu but they also offer a seven- and eleven-course tasting menu.
He also recommended Restaurante 1621, which in his words is “the most expensive and exquisite restaurant in Cartagena”. It’s located inside Hotel Sofitel so if you’re looking for a truly special meal in Cartagena, then you may want to make reservations there.
In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading this article on some of the best restaurants in Cartagena. If you have any questions, then please feel free to ask us in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading and have an amazing time eating your way through Cartagena. The food, like the city itself, will definitely win you over. ¡Provecho!
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