Headed to Colombia and looking for the best restaurants in Cartagena? You’re in luck – I compiled everything we ate in this charming colonial city. And heads up, it was all absolutely delicious.
The restaurants in Cartagena really surprised me — in the best way possible. I had no clue what a culinary gem this colorful little city is! Cartagena’s really got it all – from no-frills food carts to elegant and sophisticated fine dining with 7-course meals. Complete with all the arepas, empanadas, patacones, and fresh fruit you can imagine.
The food scene here in Cartagena is absolutely exploding! And I’m all for it.
I’ve recently become a bit obsessed with finding the best restaurants/food in the destinations I travel to. Poke and malasadas and loco moco in Hawaii. Coconut ice cream and pad thai in Thailand. Michelin star chilaquiles and churros con chocolate in Mexico City. Pizza and bagels and cheesecake and pastrami in New York City. The list goes on….and on and on and on.
→ Read Next: 33 Charming Things to do in Cartagena!
I guess you can call me a newly-discovered foodie! Does anyone else browse Eater.com for the fun of it?! Can’t just be me!
I mean who doesn’t enjoy eating on vacation? I know I do! With that being said, I’m very particular about what and where I eat – I wanna eat the best things in the area of course!
So when I was traveling to Colombia, I did my fair share of research on the best restaurants in Cartagena! Who knew there was SO. MUCH. GOOD. FOOD?! You can totally plan a trip to Cartagena just for the restaurants and bars alone! I definitely had to prioritize as I unfortunately couldn’t try every spot on my list. That just means I need a return trip, right?! I think yes!
Let’s get to it – here’s my ultimate list of best restaurants in Cartagena… with some street food and cocktails thrown in for good measure!
Best Restaurants in Cartagena
There’s a whole slew of amazing restaurants in Cartagena — this list is only the tip of the iceberg. And I wasn’t even able to make it to all these spots! Too much good food! If you’re only visiting Cartagena for 3 days or so, I’d prioritize Alma, Buena Vida, and Carmen. And all the street food and snacks below. And the fruit and the juices… and at least a few limonadas de cocos.
Buena Vida Marisquería
From the moment I saw this place, I KNEW it’d be one of my favorite restaurants in Cartagena! Why? Besides the fancy Caribbean design and relaxed atmosphere, the food just looked absolutely amazing! Like, you know when you see dishes and just know they’re gonna be good? That was here. Patacones, shrimp tacos, ceviche tostadas, Caribbean lobster…. Mmmm.
Such a colorful and hip restaurant in the center of Cartagena! Everything on the menu looked fantastic – it was super hard to choose. We ended up going with the fried calamari, seafood bisque arepas (made out of pink cornmeal!), and lobster mac n cheese.
All delicious flavors of Cartagena! If you’ve got some room, try the grilled octopus and lemme know how it was – I desperately wanted to try this but I was already stuffed!
And I just loved the colorful design of the space, as well as the plating and fun drinks! The different cocktails come in their own unique glasses – some in a seashell (yes, a shell!), the margaritas come with cute little Mexican hats on them, and some with balls of tamarind as a garnish.
The vibe was so fun; definitely make a reservation for their balcony seating upstairs – I’m so sad we missed out.
This wouldn’t be a complete list of restaurants in Cartagena without mentioning Carmen. It was by far the best meal of our trip after all! And no, I’m not exaggerating. Contemporary Colombian cuisine with a global twist!
Every damn dish was pure perfection. I’m still talking about it to this day – I swear it rivals the tasting menus we’ve had in Mexico City, and that’s saying something since those are in the Top 50 restaurants in the world!
At Carmen, you’ve got the option to order a la carte or indulge in their 7-course tasting menu…. I think you know what we chose! We savored perfectly cooked sea bass with creamy risotto, melt-in-your-mouth chicharron (pork belly), and even a great posta negra Cartagenera. And the grilled octopus… OMG, drool. The portions are a decent size, and we definitely felt full after our meal.
Plus, the space is super chic and timeless, set in an intimate colonial house. We chose to sit indoors (the AC was calling our name), but if you can tolerate the heat better than we can, the outdoor terrace is absolutely gorgeous. Those tiles are super swoonworthy!!! That lush, open-air courtyard – exactly what my dreams are made of!
Carmen was by far the most expensive Cartagena restaurant of our trip, but I’d gladly pay again for the meal! Definitely make a reservation (especially if you wanna come for dinner) as this place gets busy! We chose to have lunch here since we knew it’d be nice to get outta the sun for a bit.
Easily one of my favorite restaurants in Cartagena for both food and presentation alike! There’s a reason everyone raves about it! Make your reservation now!
Another one of my favorite restaurants here in Cartagena! Have a leafy green lunch at Alma, inside the insta-popular Casa San Agustin Hotel. The restaurant is open to the public for both lunch and dinner, and guests of the hotel have the option for breakfast there as well!
I admit I initially wanted to have lunch here so I could check out the pool…. But I swear the meal itself was worthy without all the glitz and glam of the hotel. Not staying at Casa San Agustin but still wanna check out the property? Make a reservation for the restaurant, haha.
You’ll need to pass by the pool area to get to the bathroom…. No harm in taking a quick peek and a few photos, right?! No one seemed upset by my presence – I definitely overstayed my welcome, soaking up the atmosphere and taking photos from plenty of angles, haha.
Besides being one of the most instagrammable places in Cartagena, the food was spot on! Everything we ordered was delicious – lobster empanadas, avocado ceviche, grilled octopus, all of it! I so wish we tried the coconut dessert but we were way too full.
Now onto the drinks! I loved my vodka watermelon cocktail and my husband raved about his lime gin and tonic – super refreshing on a hot day. We couldn’t believe just how extensive the gin and tonic menu was (it nearly took up an entire page if I remember correctly)!
We opted to sit outside (it was our first day in Cartagena and didn’t realize just how humid it was), but the courtyard was gorgeous with its striped umbrellas and greenery hanging from the balconies. Sophisticated, posh, and upscale! Come early and grab a table by the pool! Although you’ll definitely wanna make sure you eat in the shade.
If you wanna eat inside, don’t worry. The dining room is absolutely gorgeous, with tons of natural light and bespoke chandeliers. This is easily the best restaurant in Cartagena if you’re looking to take some insta-worthy food photos, and love chic and timeless vibes.
Wondering which restaurants in Cartagena have the best ceviche? La Cevicheria is easily the most popular! Why?! Because Anthony Bourdain said so!
I’m so sad we missed this place (it was randomly closed the day we planned on going). The Peruvian ceviche, lobster paella, and grilled seafood tower for two sound absolutely delicious though!
So follow in the footsteps of Bourdain and have a meal (or two!) here at La Cevicheria. The spot was actually featured in his Colombia episode of No Reservations in 2008, which makes perfect sense because it’s got everything that Tony looks for in a restaurant! Delicious food, laid back decor, a friendly chef, and of course interesting local dishes!
What was once a little-known spot is now super famous after all its publicity. So yup, that translates to lots of hungry customers! If there’s a long line (which there usually is), El Boliche Cebicheria is quite the contender so head there if you’re in a time crunch. But make sure to come back to La Cevicheria before leaving the city. Promise me that!
Craving some authentic Caribbean seafood while you’re knocking off all the things to do in Cartagena?! Head on over to La Mulata — the food is simple with soulful flavors in a fun space. Locals typically come here on their lunch break, so when we slipped in for a quick dinner, it was practically empty!
You’ll find a simple menu of soulful Caribbean dishes, with lots and lots of seafood, and I loved my fish of the day with rice and plantains. Simple but so delicious and cooked absolutely perfectly. We both ordered the same dish – it sounded so tasty!
I later learned that the owner buys fish at 4am in the morning so you really know you’re getting the freshest of the fresh! Definitely not frozen over here! Super reasonable prices too! If you haven’t tried Posta Negra Cartagenera, this is a great spot for it as well.
They even gave us a complimentary plate of plantain chips before devouring our main meal. Way more fun than a bread basket in my opinion!
Sit on the beautiful outdoor patio in the back and make sure to wash down your fish with a refreshing coconut lemonade. Yum!
El Arsenal: The Rum Box
Rum lover? You need to make a reservation at El Arsenal. It showcases the largest collection of Colombian rums in the world! There’s also a rum and chocolate tasting you can book beforehand – I so wish we had time to do this; my husband would have just loved it!
So yes, while it easily makes it on the list of best cocktail bars in Cartagena, it’s so much more than that! The food is spectacular too! I mean, how can you resist tasty tuna and passion fruit ceviche, grilled sea bass with creole mashed potatoes, and pork belly plantain baskets. I heard their chocolate cakes are some of the best, too!
The restaurant is located right outside the walled city in the hip and happening neighborhood of Getsemani. Let’s just say there’s a reason this restaurant in Cartagena is #1 on Tripadvisor. And it’s relatively new – just created and opened in 2017 by Abraham Dau!
Cuzco Cocina Peruana
People claim Cocina Peruana has the best seafood in all of Cartagena – you be the judge! With that being said, the langostino risotto (lobster risotto) is a definite favorite here, so I recommend ordering that! Do note the portions are super large so plan to share a few dishes. Expect high-quality food and an excellent presentation! You’ll definitely wanna make a reservation here.
This spot is so cute – make sure to sit outside in the little courtyard. That breeze in the garden is perfect on a hot day, and the live music makes for such a fun time! Classy without breaking the bank.
Need to cool off? Sip a seasonal sangria (they’ve got “summer”, “spring”, and “winter” varieties). I’m dying to try the strawberry lychee one (how good does that sound?!).
We had breakfast here every morning and absolutely loved the ambiance. This is the restaurant that was part of our hotel, the beautiful restored colonial Ananda Boutique Hotel (where we stayed!!!). Just look at these photos!
It’s small and unassuming from the outside, but the food and decor are absolutely excellent. Oh, and the service was absolutely impeccable!
You’ve got the option of dining inside (alongside the glorious AC) or outdoors in the beautiful courtyard. My top pick – the courtyard. Always the courtyard! You can eat under the stars if you’re coming here for dinner which sounds oh so romantic!
Dining on the weekend? You’ll get to listen to the live saxophone! Super tasteful without being too loud or annoying. Easily one of the most romantic restaurants in Cartagena.
Now, what to order?! The ceviche trio, pulpitos a la plancha (grilled octopus), Posta Cartagenera, and the seafood linguini. Don’t miss out on the sweet Caribbean yucca cake for dessert – so scrumptious!
Psst: If you’re not staying here, sneak a peek of the pool in the back – it’s absolutely gorgeous! Highly recommend staying here if you’re looking for a chic, yet colonial-esque place to stay. And if you ask nicely, I bet the staff will let you check out the view from the roof (there’s another pool up there as well).
Mar y Zielo Gastro Bar
Foodies – rejoice! You’ll wanna check this spot out. Come here to try all kinds of gourmet Caribbean dishes, especially seafood-forward dishes with an innovative use of local ingredients. Think white fish with a spicy coconut emulsion, sour guava and grapefruit sorbet, and cheesy yucca torpedoes with an eggplant salad foam on the side. Talk about interesting combos!
Croquettes, coconut milk ceviche, and large bowls of chicharon, pulpo, and shrimps are popular menu items! Don’t miss the deep fried pork belly cooked in a pineapple reduction sauce.
Sit on the outdoor rooftop terrace – it’s beautiful! You’ll wanna make a reservation in advance since this place gets booked up. Fine dining at its best! Kinda fancy-shmancy, but it all works with the bottles of wine on the wall and pink cushiony rattan chairs.
I would totally come here just for the desserts. Caramelized cheese ice cream with hazelnut butter, crispy roasted banana cake with mango sorbet, and chocolate cream with coconut mousse – doesn’t it all sound just wonderful?! I’m salivating just reading the menu!
A hamburger restaurant in Cartagena? Why am I sending you here?!
If you’re looking for a taste of home and craving something crazy casual, head on over to La Pepita. Burgers and fries in a very casual spot with a fun atmosphere – what more could you want? It’s a great place to grab a quick bite and have a few drinks.
Kinda reminds me of an American-style diner! Perfect when you’re missing your typical Saturday night hang out spot! And feel like shoving some fries into your mouth for lunch, haha.
La Pepita’s got an insanely laid-back vibe, and it’s definitely not an upscale restaurant in Cartagena like some others on this list. It’s all about balance, right?
There’s usually live music playing Saturday night, but I feel like this spot is best for a casual lunch while strolling through the old walled city. It looks like the restaurant’s gone kinda downhill over the last few years, so check out recent reviews before you go.
I know I keep saying this, and probably sound like a broken record by now, but the food at La Perla is DELICIOUS – and is one of the best places to eat in Cartagena! Forgive me, we like to eat!
Everything is fresh with the perfect amount of spice, making La Perla one of the best Peruvian restaurants in Cartagena.
The pulpo (octopus), empanadas (!!!), and pork loin in mushroom sauce comes highly recommended. The squid and Peruvian ceviche oysters come in a cold soup-like broth that sounds amazing as well! Don’t miss the three milk cake with arequipe cream for dessert.
What (and where) to Drink in Cartagena
Besides all the fabulous food and restaurants in Cartagena, there’s quite a few drinks you’ve gotta try as well! Don’t underestimate the power of a cold juice or latte frio on a hot day – they practically saved us when we were melting in the strong sun.
Here’s my favorite beverages!
Limonada de coco
First up, we’ve got limonada de coco, which is basically a coconut and limeade smoothie. Sounds delicious, right? It is! Super refreshing and absolutely heavenly on a hot Cartagena day!
This frothy and rich drink is a blended concoction of coconut milk, lime juice, crushed ice, and a whole lotta sugar. No wonder it’s so tasty!
I was surprised by how creamy it is – I was kinda expecting it to have the flavor profile and thin consistency of your typical American lemonade. It kinda tastes a bit like drinking key lime pie, so if you’re a fan of that sweet and sour combination, you’ll love sipping on some limonadas de coco.
Limonada de hierbabuena
Care for a mint lemonade?! Limonadas de hierbabuena are just as delicious and refreshing as limonadas de coco, but not as frothy and sour. I had quite a few during our few days in Cartagena, but one of my favorites was at Carmen!
This might even be the national beverage in Colombia, so you know you gotta try at least one!
Pisco sours and gin and tonics
We saw both pisco sours and gin and tonics on so many Cartagena restaurant menus. And honestly, I had no idea they were both such a big thing here!
So… with that being said – definitely try your fair share! And with the heat, you’ll wanna relax and cool off at as many bars and restaurants as you can!
- Pisco Sour: Being Peru’s national cocktail (and with Peru not terribly far from Colombia), the pisco sour is HUGE over here in Cartagena. And there’s lots of variations to the “sour” classic – made with mango, ginger, and cucumber to name a few. You can find pisco sours almost everywhere in Cartagena, but here’s a few popular spots: La Perla, Gran Inka Cartagena, and Cuzco Cocina Peruana.
- Gin and Tonics: Who knew how popular gin and tonics are over here in Cartagena, so take advantage if you’re a fan! Alma had one of the most extensive gin and tonic menus we saw in all of Colombia. Agua del Mar has a great variety as well. My husband had plenty, and most of them came in HUGE goblets.
You’ll find fresh jugo (juice) on every street corner in town, and even more on drink menus in basically every single restaurant in Cartagena. I think I drank 3-4 fresh juices every day (guilty!).
And all kinds. Fresa (strawberry), maracuya (passionfruit), mango, naranja (orange), lulo (little orange). The list goes on. Fruit juice in the US just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Looking for something super Colombian? Try jugo de tomate de árbol (tree tomato juice) or jugo de lulo (little orange – our all-time favorite).
Nope – this ain’t your typical Coca-Cola! Kola Roman is a Colombian soft drink that was invented in the city of Cartagena itself back in 1865. It’s super sugary and super sweet, so we could only handle a few sips each! I recommend sharing a bottle before investing in more, haha (we threw half our bottle out…).
And get this – it’s actually one of the oldest sodas in the world (invented 20 years before Coca Cola)! You can find bottles in convenience stores around the city – we tried it in Getsemani on the main street, Calle Tripita y Media, hence the flags!
Psst: If you’re interested in trying out different soda flavors from around the world (sounds fun, right?), head to the Coca-Cola-Store in Las Vegas. We recently had a flight of 16 different flavors, and while some of them were downright disgusting, plenty were surprisingly refreshing and fun!
Craft cocktails and rooftop bars
I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how many bars serving up craft cocktails there are in Cartagena! Here’s our favorite few:
Alquímico is really something special. First off, it’s set within a beautiful mansion in the heart of Caragena. AND there’s three bars across three floors – each with different cocktail menus. Whoa! The first floor covers all the classics, the second floor focuses on the colors of Cartagena, and the rooftop offers drinks inspired by the country’s wildlife. How cool is that?!
Makes sense Alquímico was on The World’s 50 Best Bars in 2020.
While we enjoyed our drinks on the 2nd floor, I’m so bummed that we couldn’t head to the roof (there was a private event up there). Totally felt like we were in a hip, chic bar in the middle of a big city.
Looking for more inventive cocktails? Head to El Baron in the courtyard of the charming and historic Plaza of San Pedro Claver. The indoor space is tiny yet beautiful (lets call it cozy and intimate), and the mixologists are some of the best in the city. There’s some super adventurous drinks on the menu, including one called “Pure” with caramelized onion syrup and tobacco smoke – kinda wild, right?!
Their signature cocktail, The Gin Basil Smash, is both zingy and refreshing. Feel like a negroni? El Baron’s got a bunch. I think I wanna try the Press Box (with mezcal and aperol) and the Mojito Providencia (featuring rum and spearmint syrup) next time!
Even the mocktails sound delicious (which is super important since too many cocktails on a crazy hot day is never a good idea)! Gotta keep yourself hydrated!
Drinks at sunset?! Yes, please! Hotel Movich Cartagena is easily the best spot in town for sunset! Aim to get there around an hour or so before the sun goes down, as this spot gets crowded, and for good reason.
The views are absolutely to die for. The rooftop terrace overlooks not only the iconic Santa Ana Cathedral, but the church of San Pedro Claver as well. Plus, there’s the modern skyscrapers of Bocagrande behind it all. Views from every angle – I promise! Take your camera, you’ll want it.
Do note Hotel Movich is super popular for private parties (people get married here, the views are that good!), so I suggest heading there on your first night to find out when the rooftop will be open to the public.
Cafe Del Mar Cartagena
Located right on the city walls, Cafe del Mar is wildly popular for tourists. You can’t beat the location (the sun setting over the ocean to one side, and the colonial city down below on the other), but expect to pay triple the price for a cocktail or beer. It’s always very (very) crowded, so come with some time to spare.
If you want the best seats in the house (right along the wall with uninterrupted views of the sea), make a reservation in advance. If not, be ready for long lines (although the line moves quickly). Psst – I would only come here for a drink; I heard the food wasn’t the greatest.
Mirador Gastro Bar
We came here one night when Hotel Movich was closed for a private party. The vibe was super fun and our drinks were just perfect while waiting for the sun to set. Such epic views of the clock tower and plaza below. Make sure to head up all the way to the rooftop, although the street-level bar looks pretty cool too!
Chill out at a few Coffee Shops
There are a crazy amount of coffee shops in Cartagena, and you’d be silly to miss out on them! We went to a whole bunch, and loved Abaco, Epoca, Cafe La Manchuria, and Cafe San Alberto the best. Libertario Coffee Roasters Cartagena and Caffe Lunatico are popular as well for a reason!
Honestly, there’s nothing better than camping out at a coffee shop sipping on something cold – no matter the time of year.
Abaco Books and Coffee
If you’ve done any research while planning your trip, I bet you’ve come across Abaco! It’s one of the most instagrammable spots in Cartagena after all, and the coffee is delicious! It’s an old school bookstore, with titles in both Spanish and English, and the most GORGEOUS stone archway.
This was my husband’s favorite coffee shop in Cartagena (yes, we went to quite a few to escape the heat!). We even bought a bag of beans to bring home! And some for our friends too (yes, it was that good).
This charming little bookstore is located right near the iconic Cartagena cathedral, so make a pit stop here for some latte frios and photos!
Epoca Espresso Bar
Artisanal coffee set in a trendy venue. One of the best cafes in all of Cartagena, and it’s super pretty too with rustic wooden beams and old stone! I can attest to the fact that the coffee is solid – my husband slurped his caffe frio in a matter of minutes!
We randomly came to escape the midday heat and it was exceptionally busy. You’ll undoubtedly need to wait in line for a table if you want actual food, but everyone claims it’s well worth it.
While they’ve got all the normal espressos and specialty coffees, if you want to try something a bit different, there’s limonada de cafe (coffee lemonade) on the menu! We had previously tried some on our tour of Comuna 13 in Medellin, but it’s worth a taste if you’ve never had it before. Surprisingly pretty decent and flavorful – tart and refreshing with the perfect amount of coffee taste.
Ask to sit upstairs – you’ll get great views of the colonial buildings on the street below! And ohhhh the coffee! Yes please! Epoca’s also got non-dairy milk substitutes, which is especially hard to find in Cartagena.
Street Food in Cartagena
Yes, I know street food isn’t exactly the same as these other restaurants in Cartagena. But hear me out! All of the plentiful street food around each and every corner is one of the main draws of this charming colonial city. Simply put, if you’re not snacking on street food throughout the day, you’re missing out on some of the best flavors of Cartagena.
So, do yourself a favor and make these street foods in Cartagena a high priority!
Fried arepas con huevo
Arepas con huevo are super popular in all of Colombia – they’re practically an institution here in Cartagena! But wait, what are they exactly?! Little pockets of maize flour that are filled with lots of different things! Ground spiced beef, raw eggs, cheese, etc. And then deep fried! Yum! Super caloric but super tasty, and crazy cheap!
What are arepas con huevo? Similar to arepas con queso (cheese), but with eggs inside a fried corn tortilla instead!
We were surprised we didn’t see any empanadas, but the ones we indulged in in Guatape after climbing Piedra del Penol more than made up for it.
Grilled arepas con queso
If there’s one street food you’re gonna try in Cartagena, make sure you indulge in some mouthwatering street arepas. I’ve never had a better arepa in my life. Swear to the Colombian heavens. Probably one of my favorite things I ate on our entire trip to Colombia (and I don’t say that lightly).
We saw multiple vendors around town grilling these up, but had our favorite one right outside Plaza Bolivar. Be careful – each arepa is piping hot and dripping with tons of cheese. Kinda messy, but oh so worth it!
Psst – they’re super filling and very dense; I’m so glad we shared one.
Fresh fruit stands
One of my favorite things about Colombia?! The wide variety of exotic fruits and fresh juices! The fact that they’re all ridiculously cheap is a huge bonus (I’m talking pennies per fruit). The whole country is a paradise for fruit-lovers like me!
Here’s a few you’ll find around town:
- Lulos (little oranges)
- Granadillas (a sweeter passion fruit which we couldn’t get enough of)
- Maracuyas (passionfruit; kinda like a tart mango)
- Uchuvas (south american cherries)
- Mangosteens (a delicious mix of lychee, peach, and pineapple – LOVED them)
- Watermelon (they were so sweet here!)
Granadillas were by far our favorite. You have to crack it open (students take them to school and crack them on their friends’ heads), and the inside is slippery and weird and full of seeds (which you kinda slurp down). Our first hotel had a huge basket of them right by reception so you know I took a few every day.
You’ll also see plenty of cups of mango biche – green, unripe mangos (peeled and cut into strips or thinly sliced) topped with lime and salt. Kinda similar to the fruit cups drizzled with fresh lime juice and sprinkled with tajin we typically have in Mexico City. Sour, salty, and fruity all at the same time – what more could you want?!
Fresh coconuts and coconut water
It’s true – I’m a sucker for fresh coconuts! I’ve had fresh coconut water (and meat!) in Belize, Thailand, San Blas (Panama), Bali, etc…. The list goes on.
Fresh coconut water has a very sweet and nutty taste. It’s naturally refreshing, but can taste a bit sour at first. The water is light in flavor, but sometimes takes some time getting used to.
It’s super, super hydrating with tons of natural electrolytes, so it’s a great option if you find yourself with low energy and on the verge of heat stroke. Ack – if that happens, make sure you rest your body and get plenty and plenty of liquids. No – pisco sours don’t count!
Don’t confuse coconut water with coconut milk or coconut oil – those are completely different things! Coconut water is a clear liquid tapped from young, green coconuts. Once you’re done sipping the water, ask to have your coconut cracked open so you can eat the fresh coconut meat inside – so delicious and such a healthy snack.
Grilled meat on a stick, anyone?! You’re bound to find some grilled meat stands in Cartagena. We mostly saw them at night in the main squares and near the clocktower, as well as in the nearby neighborhood of Getsemani.
And there’s plenty to choose from – chicken, a chorizo sausage mix, beef in a sweet sauce – all topped off with a mini boiled potato. Street bbq if you will!
Snacks in Cartagena
Hungry between meals? If you’re a tiny bit hungry, you don’t need to waste precious time sitting down at one of the restaurants in Cartagena! There’s plenty of snacks to be had from local bakeries, paleterias, and more!
Mmm… pandebonos. What are they?! Imagine fluffy little balls of deliciousness stuffed with cheese.
And yes, they taste as delicious as they sound. They’re typically had as a snack, and whenever we passed by, you know we each had one! Whoops! At less than $2USD, you can’t go wrong.
While you can find them in plenty of bakeries around town, La Esquina del Pandebono is far superior than all the others. The best pandebono in town. The iced coffee wasn’t half bad either!
Once you’ve had your fair share of pandebonos, opt for a bocadillo instead! These are guava-filled pastries and just as tasty. Also known as guayaba (I think… although I can’t find much information online!). Feel free to correct me.
We had ours from the same spot we got the pandebonos from, La Esquina del Pandebono. Definitely ask them to heat the pastry up – soooo delicious. They’ve also got bocaquesos, which are similar to bocadillos but there’s cheese inside as well! Ugh my gluttonous heart!
If you’re wondering WTF a boli is, you’re not alone. I had never heard of them before heading to Colombia! Bolis are basically the Colombian version of an ice pop. Essentially, a frozen fruit popsicle wrapped in plastic that you bite into to eat! Kids love ‘em! They come in a bunch of different fruit flavors, like mango and corozo (tastes like cherries).
Where to get this refreshingly cool snack? In the Getsemani neighborhood! Bolis are said to be sold from a neighbor’s living room window, although we couldn’t find it! Definitely take a food tour if you’re set on trying some. A much needed respite from the intense Colombian heat.
There’s a bunch of palaterias (popsicle shops) around town, which are perfect on a hot day. But the most popular one is La Paletteria, found right in the Walled City (it’s usually packed).
Expect to find popular flavors like chocolate and nutella, as well as more unique Colombian fruits like lulo, granadilla, and maracuya. They remind me a bit of the Mexican paletas we have in Cabo San Lucas and San Pancho!
Portal de los Dulces
Ready for something super unique?! Cartagena has an entire block filled with sweets, how perfect is that?! No, not your typical candy shop, but traditional Colombian sweets. It’s basically one big candy market just bursting with color and vendors.
The candies are all homemade and very, very sweet. We bought a small box for 5 COP (~1.50USD) to try some of them.
A few candies you’ll come across: cocada (balls or patties of syrup and shredded coconut), blocks of guava paste, dulces de leche, and tamarind balls (not my favorite). And if you act interested and ask questions, they’ll probably give you samples!
Mmm… time for something salty! Patacones are fried unripe bananas (plantains) that are typically smashed (kinda like the ones we had in Sayulita far too many times) and are oh so delicious. They’re typically served as side dishes, so make sure to opt for those at least once with your meal!
Extra Cartagena Specialities
Posta Negra Cartagenera
This wouldn’t be a proper “where to eat in Cartagena” post without including Posta Negra Cartagenera! What is it you ask? Essentially, a Colombian style black beef, which is absolutely delicious. It’s usually prepared for special occasions like New Year’s Eve or Christmas, but hey – everyday is special when you’re here in Cartagena!
The beef is cooked in a dark sauce of onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, and panela (kinda like brown sugar). It’s actually kinda reminiscent of Kansas City-style barbecue. The pot roast of Cartagena! Fried plantains and coconut rice are usually served on the side. SUCH a good meal – don’t miss it.
Lunch Set/Menu del Dia
Looking for one of the cheapest meals you can get in Cartagena? Check out the ultra affordable set menu of the day! Most sets come with a rice soup, grilled meat, rice, potatoes, avocados, plantains, and a drink (typically juice or lemonade). All for a mere $3.50-4USD. A bunch of Cartagena restaurants offer them, so be on the lookout!
Traditionally, a set lunch was prepared for workers to get a full high-quality meal at a cheap price so they had the energy to continue working for the day. While they’re found in Spain and other Latin American countries, the Colombian Menú del Día is called Corrientazo. Set meals are still traditionally used in small towns in Colombia, but also now in more touristy areas for ya know, tourists!
So there ya have it – all the delicious restaurants in Cartagena we had the pleasure of dining at! Plus my favorite drinks and street foods! What are you most excited to try?! PLEASE bring me home a few granadillas!
Paul Schellenberg says
Great article! Enjoyed reading it while I was in Cartagena and hope you also got to visit Bogota’s Palequemao amazing fruit and flower market.
Since you spent a lot of time creating such a great story, I needed to point out that your description of exotic fruit has many mistakes and will mislead foodies and other travelers alike.
Lulos ( called lulo in Colombia though in Ecuador the Spanish name translates to Little Oranges. these are not little oranges really and are a completely different plant species, and don’t really taste like regular oranges)
Granadillas and Maracuyas are not passion fruit! though they are in the same Passiflora genus, only one kind (passiflora edulis) is actually our passion fruit, others are “similar to passion fruit” and in Colombia you’ll find many different kinds of fruit from this genus
Uchuvas (perhaps one of Colombia’s fav fruits along with lulos are called “South American cherries” by some, this is a very bad description as they do not look like or taste like cherries at all. each is wrapped in a “paper lantern” Common names in North America are Peruvian groundcherry, goldenberry or Cape gooseberry (very different than a gooseberry!!)
Thanks for all the info! I clearly have lots more to learn about these exotic fruits!