Cartagena Travel Guide: Best Tips on Nightlife, Where to Stay, and What to Do

Get to know Cartagena with our guide to its hottest spots and best neighborhoods.

Situated on Colombia’s Caribbean coastline, Cartagena combines historic old-world charm, glitzy modernity, and beautiful natural surroundings.  These are some of the best spots in the city to eat, drink, dance, and splash around in the warm Caribbean surf.

What to do

Get lost in the Old Town. A visit to Cartagena should start in the historic Old Town district. Wonderfully preserved, charmingly colorful and eclectic, the Old Town is perhaps the best example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the Americas. 

After a morning of wandering the Old Town’s cobblestone alleys that spill out into beautiful plazas bordered by towering churches and historic mansions, you’ll be smitten with this city.

Island hop. A quick boat ride from Cartagena lies Islas del Rosario, an archipelago made up of 30 islands. To explore the islas, you can rent your own boat or hop aboard one of the many sunset cocktail cruises that ply the gentle waters off Cartagena’s coast. Most tours stop by main islands, like the white sand Isla Baru and the lively party island of Cholón.

Dance the night away. A day spent strolling around the Old Town or island hopping under the blazing tropical tends to work up a thirst come nighttime. Hit the strip in the Bocagrande area for Miami-style clubs and bars fronting sandy beaches. Or, make your way to the up-and-coming Getsemani neighborhood. In this hip barrio, you can grab tapas and cocktails at Demente and get your salsa on at the famous Café Havana before enjoying the late-night scene at Bazurto Social Club.

Where to stay

Old Town. The costliest option in Cartagena, the Old Town also known as the Walled City of Cartagena offers some of the city’s swankiest boutique hotels. While the price tag is higher in the Old Town than it is for comparable accommodations elsewhere in the city, you’ll find yourself in the middle of all the action.

Bocagrande. Flashier and younger than the Old Town, Bocagrande is home to modern, glitzy hotels and casino resort-type establishments. The best accommodations are located along the palm tree promenade that borders the neighborhood’s sandy beaches. 

Getsemani. Probably the city’s coolest neighborhood, Getsemani sits just outside the Old Town’s walls. With a distinct, eclectic style of colorful murals and graffiti intermingled with food carts, trendy restaurants, hostels, and boutique hotels, Getsemani is a fantastic but fairly expensive option. 

Manga. Our favorite barrio for staying in Cartagena, Manga offers a quieter, more residential-feeling experience. Despite its calmer vibe, Manga is just a short walk from the action in Getsemani and Old Town.

Lifeafar offers furnished luxury apartments in some of the most popular parts of Cartagena like Manga and Bocagrande. Book a Lifeafar Cartagena apartment to make sure you have a stylish, modern home-away-from-home. Then follow us on Instagram for more travel inspiration and ideas.

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