23 Best Things To Do in Cartagena Colombia (Updated 2024)

Planning a trip and wondering what is there to do in Cartagena Colombia?

The walled city of Cartagena has drawn visitors from all over for centuries. A quick walk along the streets lined with brightly colored buildings and it’s not hard to see why.

One reason I chose this city as my first stop in Colombia is that many of the best things to do in Cartagena are located within walking distance from the center.

And as one of the most visited cities in Colombia, Cartagena activities range from exploring the historic city to relaxing on the nearby islands.

I’ve detailed the top attractions in Cartagena Colombia while also organizing this list to include what to do in Cartagena at night and things to do nearby.

Let’s discover what to see and do in Cartagena Colombia!

Colorful buildings with brightly colored accents, wood details, and tropical plants line the street in Cartagena, Colombia.

This article may contain affiliate links. This means if you click a link on my website and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.

1. Take a Walking Tour of the Old City

When I arrive to a new city, I love taking a walking tour – free or paid – to get to know the area. It’s a great way to get your bearings, learn some history, and discover areas you want to explore more on your own. 

I took the free walking tour in Cartagena which included passing by The Clock Tower and San Pedro Claver Church while learning about the history of the Cartagena. Plus we passed by the quirky sidewalk embedded with pictures of former Colombian beauty queens, of which Colombians are very proud.

If you prefer a more intimate experience, you should book this Cartagena walking tour which is customized based on your interests. Your guide will also give you recommendations to enhance the rest of your time in the city.

📍 Map Location
📆 Free Walking Tour: 10 am every day
Book a Private Walking Tour of Cartagena

2. Shop Like a Local at the Bazurto Market

Vegetables displayed in plastic bins as people shop at the Bazurto Market in Cartagena.

Like many markets in Colombia, Bazurto is a dizzying maze of vendors selling fresh vegetables, meat, prepared foods, and more. Located just 15 minutes outside of the historic center, this bustling center of commerce stretches for blocks.

I ventured to the Bazurto market on my own. But it was hard to know where to go, so I barely scratched the surface.

To get the most out of your time, book this Bazurto Market tour with a local guide. They will tell you where to go, the best places to eat, and can explain all of the local fruits and other new foods waiting to be discovered.

Tip: Visiting Bazurto Market continues to rank as one of the top 10 things to do in Cartagena. But I recommend leaving your valuables at home and keeping everything in a front pocket or small bag around your body.

3. Rum and Chocolate Tasting: The Perfect Combo

Colombia is known for its exceptional rum and cacao. So why not pair them together while learning about the history and process behind these beloved Colombian treats?

When you book this rum and chocolate tasting, you’ll taste a variety of local rums paired with chocolate while learning about the creations. Then you’ll learn how to craft a balanced rum cocktail and savor it with spectacular views of San Felipe’s castle and la Popa.

Containers filled with chocolate pieces line the counter for tasting at the Choco Museo in Cartagena.

In my opinion (and others), chocolate and rum are a perfect combination.

Planning to visit this historic city? Check out the best places to stay in Cartagena

4. Join a Cartagena Street Food Tour

One of the best ways to get to know Cartagena Colombia is through its street food. Sure you can find carts selling arepas or fresh fruit around nearly every corner…

But if you really want to know where and what to eat, I recommend you book this Cartagena street food tour with a local guide. You’ll go on a culinary adventure through the streets of Cartagena while learning about the city’s vibrant food culture. 

Led by a knowledgeable guide who is passionate about Colombian cuisine, you’ll learn about the ingredients and culinary traditions that make Cartagena street food unique. From fresh ceviche to savory carimañolas, this is a delicious way to experience the city like a local, one bite at a time.

5. Discover All the Street Art in Getsemaní

Explore the colorful culture of Cartagena through the street art in Getsemaní. In my opinion, Cartagena street art rivals that of other Colombian cities like the capital city of Bogota. But the Caribbean and African influences add an incredibly vibrancy to the street art in Cartagena.

If you want to wander the streets on your own, I recommend walking Calle 29 towards Plaza de la Trinidad and taking a detour down Calle de San Juan before wrapping around towards the square. 

But if you want to learn about the artists and the meaning behind the art pieces, I recommend you book your spot on this Getsemaní street art tour which includes coffee and snacks. You’ll be guided to the best street art pieces while learning about the history of them and the city.

6. Take a Day Trip to the Rosario Islands

This group of islands is about an hour from Cartagena by boat. Alternatively you can spend a day at Playa Blanca on Isla Baru, but the skinny stretch beach gets crowded with visitors.

If you want to visit the best beaches, check out these Rosario Island boat tours. From a snorkeling island hopping experience to a Cartagena party boat, there’s something for everyone.

7. Spend the Night on Isla Grande

A bright turquoise house with a skeleton fish painted on the side and a tin roof, typical for the island.
A house in the community of Orika.

If you’re seeking a more peaceful experience, spend a couple of days exploring Isla Grande. While this is the largest of the islands, there are no cars…

Instead, walking paths with hand-painted signs set the scene for the slow pace of life you’d expect on a Caribbean island.

In my opinion, Isla Grande is home to some of the best beaches in Cartagena.

8. Ride Horses on the Beach

If you’re seeking a bit of tranquility away from the city, this Cartagena activity is for you. Imagine the rhythmic sound of hooves against the sand, the salty breeze against your skin, and the vast expanse of the Caribbean Sea stretching before you.

You’ll be whisked away to a remote beach in Cartagena when you book this horseback riding adventure on the beach (all experience levels welcome). The best part is this excursion is customizable. You can pick the start time and they will personalize your experience whether you’re a beginner or experienced horseback rider.

Plus for a small fee you can opt to spend extra time on the beach soaking up the sun and sea. You’ll feel a sense of freedom as you connect with nature and experience the beauty of the region.

9. Walk Along the Walls and Watch the Sunset in Cartagena

People stroll along the expansive rock walls that line the coastline, protecting the walled city, Cartagena.

The walls surrounding Cartagena are the most complete in South America and some of the most well preserved of the walled cities of the world.

You can start your walk along the walls at any time during the day, but I recommend late afternoon into the sunset. Everyone says you must have a drink at Cafe del Mar but in reality, the entire fortified wall offers great views…

Instead I recommend starting at the northwest corner just past Cafe del Mar and wind around to the west in time for the setting sun.

You’ll find lots of people hanging out on the wall near Boquetillo Santiago and a little further south at Boquetillo Charleston. And of course, snacks and refreshments can be purchased from street vendors.

Various people sit on the wall to watch the sunset in Cartagena.

10. Take Sunset Cruise

Watching the sunset in Cartagena is something I think you should plan to do every night. So I’ve included several places to watch the sunset and I think you should do them all.

If you prefer to be out on the water for ultimate views, book this Sunset Cruise on a spacious catamaran. The price is really reasonable and best of all, there are enough places for everyone to have a great view.

On this sunset boat tour, Cartagena skyline is lit up with lights from the buildings. Above, the sky is hues of orange, pink, and purple from the sunset.

Setting sail from the port, you’ll be greeted by panoramic views of the city’s skyline adorned with colorful colonial buildings. As the sun dips below the horizon over the ocean, golden hues take over the sky and the city lights up for a second spectacular view.

11. Explore San Felipe Castle + Sunset

After the old city and Getsemani were fortified, the Spanish strategically built this castle on San Lázaro Hill to defend the walls and the only open entrance into the city.

Built in 1657, San Felipe is 40 meters tall at the highest point. After the French overtook the castle in 1697, it was recaptured by the Spanish and rebuilt to fortify its structure.

It’s a 15-minute walk to the castle from the historic center. The top of the San Felipe Castle is another place to watch the Cartagena sunset overlooking the water with views of Bocagrande in the distance. Then, it’s a quick walk back into Getsemani, through the entrance to the city that the castle was built to defend.

📍 Map Location
📆 Hours: 8 am to 6 pm, every day
💵 Cost: 33,000 pesos Adults; 14,000 Children; 29,000 Colombians

Things to Do in Cartagena at Night

When the sun sets in Cartagena, the heat steps aside and city comes alive. I’ve included these things to do in Cartagena at night whether you want to bar hop or dance the night away.

12. Learn How to Salsa Dance

If you want to dance the night away but aren’t quite ready to hit the dance floor, there’s no better way to start the night in Cartagena than with a salsa dancing class to get you in the rhythm.

While sipping on wine, beer, or Colombian rum you’ll learn all the twists and turns from the top dancing genres in Cartagena – Salsa, Bachata, and Champeta.

If this sounds like your idea of fun, you should definitely book your spot at this rooftop dancing class with views of San Felipe Fort and the sunset. After you learn all the moves, your instructors will bring them all together into a choreographed dance for each genre. 

The dancing will be filmed so that you can continue practicing your moves at home. As a bonus, you’ll also go home with a few Cartagena slang words to add to your Spanish vocabulary.

13. Hang out at Plaza Trinidad

After the sun goes down, walk to Plaza Trinidad where you’ll find a variety of people at the square in front of the church. This is a place to converse with old friends, meet new friends, or play a game of checkers.

There’s also some street food in the square such as a messy hot dog loaded with fried potato straws (it’s a Colombian thing).

After dark people gather in Trinity Square, located in the Getsemani neighborhood.

14. Experience Cartagena Nightlife

If you want to dive into the rhythm of the night, make your way to the neighborhood of Getsemaní, where lively music spills out from its salsa clubs. 

For salsa dancing, I recommend the always popular Café Havana or the more intimate and old school bar in centro, Donde Fidel.

Whether you’re dancing the night away to the sultry beats of salsa or learning Champeta, the region’s signature dance, the nightlife in Cartagena won’t disappoint.

Safety Tip – Reminder to take common precautions if you plan to go out at night in Cartagena. I always recommend taking a taxi or Uber home at night, try to go out with friends you trust, and be mindful of how much you drink.

If you feel more comfortable with a local guide, I recommend booking this Cartagena Party Tour (only available Wednesday and Thursday nights beginning at 9 pm).

15. Simply Wander the Streets in the Walled City

Cartagena is the type of city where you can simply wander. I loved waking up and getting out the door to catch the early morning light before the city woke up.

Take your time to observe the details –  colonial balconies draped in tropical plants, gas lanterns, and colorful doors with distinguished door knockers.

As you wander, there is no route to take and that’s part of the magic.

A metal lion's face door knocker on a turquoise door in Cartagena, Colombia.
A metal lizard door knocker hung on a red door in Cartagena.
A metal sea creature door knocker on a weather turquoise door in Cartagena.

16. Book a Photography Session in Cartagena

Capture the magic of the city with a photo shoot against the backdrop of Cartagena’s picturesque streets and colonial architecture.

Whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple, or with family and friends, this professional photography session is a great way to preserve your memories of this enchanting city.

With the beauty of Cartagena as your canvas, your photographer will compose images that reflect the essence of the city. Strike a pose against vibrant murals, ornate doorways, and flower-filled balconies, all while receiving expert guidance on how to pose.

17. Explore Cartagena by Bike with a Local Guide

If you want to explore Cartagena off the beaten path, then I highly recommend this Cartagena bike tour which includes eating lunch at one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite Cartagena restaurants.

You’ll start in the residential neighborhood of Magna before exploring the vibrant area of Getsemaní (street art included). The bike ride also passes by several landmarks in the city before ending at the Bazurto Market. 

At the market your guide Gio will show you around the bustling stalls and take you to lunch at Cecilia Restaurant to try the local food.

18. Shop for Sweets at Portal de los Dulces

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love shopping (and tasting the sweets) at Portal de los Dulces. Located under the arches near Torre del Reloj, you’ll find several stands selling traditional sweets. 

I recommend trying any of the coconut items but don’t miss the cocadas –  a traditional Cartagena sweet treat. Another favorite of mine is caballitos which is made from papaya fruit.

19. Taste the Exotic Fruits of Colombia

If you have a sweet tooth but prefer sugar of the natural variety, you’ll want to book this experience to taste a the incredible variety of Colombian fruits

You’ll enjoy a tasting of at least 9 of the most exotic, sought after Colombian fruits while they are in season. Foodies will enjoy discovering their modern uses in the kitchen while history lovers will relish in learning about the cultural significance of each fruit.

20. Visit the Museums in Cartagena

Between the historic homes, churches, and fortified monuments, Cartagena itself is a museum. But there are a few traditional museums worth visiting if you’d like to learn more about the area. I’ve detailed my favorite Cartagena museums below.

Cartagena Gold Museum

At the Gold Museum in Cartagena, a display highlights the gold found in Uraba and Choco - two states in Colombia.

At this small museum, the history of gold is illustrated through each significant region of Colombia with gold and ceramic artifacts on display. It should take you about 30 minutes to see everything and it pales in comparison to the large gold museum in Bogota. But if you can’t make it there, this is a good introduction to gold in Colombia.

📍 Map Location
📆 Hours: Mon-Fri 9 am – 5 pm, Sat 9 am – 1 pm
💵 Cost: Free

Modern Art Museum

Two modern art pieces on display at the Modern Art Museum in Cartagena, Colomabia.

The small modern art museum in Cartagena features impressive Colombian art in a relaxed setting. The stone building provides an interesting backdrop and relief from the brutal sun, though it lacks the air conditioning needed to properly preserve these pieces.

📍 Map Location
📆 Hours: Mon-Fri 9 am-12 pm and 3 pm-7 pm, Sat 10 am-1 pm, Sun 4 pm-9 pm
💵 Cost: 8,000 pesos

House of Rafael Núñez

Located just outside of the walled city, this house is the former residence of Rafael Nunez, who served as president of Colombia multiple times. There is a lot of history in this house where he died. And while most of it is explained in Spanish, the house and some of its furnishings are a reminder of the rich history of the area. I stumbled upon this building when I was exploring the streets around Cartagena. While I wouldn’t go out of your way to visit, it is fairly close and something to do for the history buffs.

An interior view of the office at the Rafael Nunez House, complete with a desk, portrait, and rolled hammock hanging in the corner.
A canopy bed draped in white located in a bedroom at the House of Rafael Nunez.

📍 Map Location
📆 Hours: Tues-Fri 9 am – 5 pm, Sat-Sun 10 am – 4 pm
💵 Cost: Free

Things to Do Near Cartagena

Once you’ve explored the city and nearby islands, check out these things to do near Cartagena.

21. Take a Day Trip to Palenque

If you’re interested in the African history and culture that has infused this part of Colombia, then you absolutely need to book this private informative tour to Palenque led by guides from the area.

You’ll travel to San Basilio de Palenque to learn about the Palenqueros’ fight for freedom and the cultural traditions that have been passed down through generations.

The tour includes round trip transportation in an air conditioned vehicle to visit the Afro-Colombian heritage museum, experience the music and dance that are an integral part of daily life in the village, and eat a traditional lunch.

22. Go on a Hike: Monkeys and Birds, oh my!

Just an hour from Cartagena is a dry rainforest that’s home to a variety of incredible species that have managed to adapt to the rainless climate.

During the hike you will see a variety of butterflies, birds, and monkeys, including the Cotton Top Tamarin, a charismatic monkey that is roughly the size of a squirrel.

To discover this amazing ecosystem, book this guided hiking tour with a knowledgeable guide who is passionate about the environment. It includes a typical Colombian lunch and round trip transportation.

23. Soak in a Mud Bath at El Totumo Volcano

Located about an hour away from the city, El Totumo is an active mud volcano. The mud is full of minerals which are said to have therapeutic properties. 

You can get to El Totumo on your own but you’ll need to pay for a taxi to wait for you beore returning to the city. If you prefer to have everything taken care of for you, book this El Totumo Volcano tour which includes lunch at a beach bar on the way home.

What to Expect: After a gentle climb up the steps, you’ll slip into a warm bath of mud at the volcano’s center. After you’re coated with the silky-smooth mud, you can opt to have a massage for an extra fee or simply be and feel your tension melt away.

To rinse off, make your way to the nearby lagoon where women will help remove the mud (again for a small fee).

Other articles about Cartagena, Colombia you should read

Image of turquoise ocean and sand with a long dock, with the words Ultimate Guide to Cartagena Colombia Beaches on top.
An image of Palm Trees with the words Isla Grande, Colombia to save to Pinterest.

Ready to visit? You’ll definitely want to check out this Cartagena packing list to ensure you have everything you need.

Final Thoughts on What to Do in Cartagena

As you can see, there are many things to do in Cartagena Colombia. The only problem you have now is deciding what to do during your visit!

FAQ: Things to Do in Cartagena Colombia

What is Cartagena Colombia best known for?

Cartagena Colombia is known for colonial architecture among its cobblestone streets, salsa dancing, and stunning sunsets.

Is Cartagena worth visiting?

Cartagena is absolutely worth visiting. It’s a charming historical city with a lively Caribbean flair, an emerging street art scene, and stunning islands nearby to visit.

How many days in Cartagena is enough?

​3-5 days in Cartagena is sufficient to see everything there is to do, explore the city, and take a day trip to the nearby Rosario Islands.

Why is Cartagena so famous?

Cartagena has a long history as a seaside port town with a rich culture. It’s famous for its colorful buildings, salsa dancing, and seaside locations.

Is 3 days enough for Cartagena Colombia?

​Yes. 3 days in Cartagena Colombia is enough time to explore the city and take a day trip to the nearby Rosario Islands.

Is it safe to go out in Cartagena at night?

Cartagena is generally safe at night. However, you should take precautions as you would in any city. If you plan to go out at night in Cartagena it’s ideal to stay with a group of people, watch how much your drinking, and order a taxi or Uber to get home.

Is Cartagena a walkable city?

Yes. Walking through the cobblestone streets is one of the must do things in Cartagena. Whether you prefer the brightly colored historical buildings in the old town or the walk along Cartagena’s fortified walls along the oceanfront, I recommend walking both at least once.