What to visit in Cartagena in three days

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From its colonial past to its hip neighborhood, the flavors and rhythms of one of the most visited destinations in Colombia.

DAY ONE

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12 p.m.

LA COCINA DE PEPINA

Cartagena's in neighborhood, Getsemaní is a hangout for tourists and locals, who drink Águila beer on its narrow streets. At La Cocina de Pepina, you should try corozo (a local fruit) juice, Caribbean soup made with fish and shrimp and the posta cartagenera (a beef-based dish) with sweet and sour sauce.

Calle 25 No. 9-06

 

2 p.m.

CITY TOUR

In about two hours, the guided tour takes visitors to such neighborhoods as Bocagrande, Getsemaní, Manga and the Convento de La Popa, which has a 360-degree view of the city. The Castillo de San Felipe, with its proud Colombian flag, is a unique attraction!

 

5 p.m.

ICE CREAM HEAVEN

Flavors like flor de Jamaica, green mango, and sour guava are quite popular at Paradiso, the most famous artisanal ice cream shop in the city. The space, decorated with pastel colors and flower-patterned wallpaper, has even been visited by authority figures: “Obama ordered the chocolate ice cream,” says Erika Barraza, the master ice cream maker.

Calle de la Estrella/Calle el Cuartel

 

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8 p.m.

CARMEN

Opened four years ago, this affiliate of Carmen Medellín has two settings and an open kitchen. It’s located inside the boutique hotel Anandá. There, chef Jaime Galindo utilizes fresh, local ingredients to create inventive dishes, like the sliced ceviche with the smoke from burnt coconut. Reservations are recommended.

Calle del Cuartel 36-77

 

DAY TWO

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9 a.m.

ISLAS DEL ROSARIO

This archipelago composed of 28 islands is located an hour from the Cartagena coast by speedboat. The biggest one, Isla Grande, is home to the hotel San Pedro Majagua, where you can go kayaking, scuba diving in the warm waters or for long walks. You can also rent a bicycle and explore the trails that lead to the island's village.

 

4 p.m.

THE WALL

After enjoying the beach, one good idea is to visit this wall, a 6.8-mile [11 km] structure that was erected during the colonial period to shield the main port in the Americas. If you're looking for a more chill activity, with some cocktails and smooth house music, head to the Café del Mar.

Baluarte de Santo Domingo

 

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8 p.m.

RESTAURANTE 1621

The famous hotel Santa Clara (Sofitel), installed in the old convent of the same name built in the 17th century, has a suite decorated with personal items and works by Fernando Botero. Meanwhile, the hotel’s catacombs inspired Gabriel García Márquez. Their coconut lemonade and Restaurante 1621 complement Santa Clara’s good reputation.

Calle del Torno 39-29

 

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10 p.m.

ALQUÍMICO

“We don't do mixology. We do alchemy,” says Mauricio Escorcia, the bartender at this establishment. Opened in March 2016, here creativity is the law. Want an example? The unbeatable Passion Tea: passion fruit infusion, syrup of black tea, lime, berries and artisanal bitters, with hibiscus flower flambé.

Calle del Colegio 34-24

 

DAY THREE

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9 a.m.

SUGAR!

Bogotá-born Camila Vargas has been baking sweets “to bring joy to the heart and rejuvenate the spirit” ever since she was little. These days, her dessert shop is famous in Cartagena: her pastel-colored cardboard boxes create cravings. After all, who wouldn't want to try her chocolate cake with truffles?

Calle de la Iglesia 35-76

 

1 p.m.

LUNCH + COFFEE

It doesn't matter if you go for lunch at the ceviche house El Boliche or La Mulata: your coffee should be enjoyed at the Ábaco bookstore. Its book-covered walls constitute a refuge for local intellectuals and outsiders — especially during the music, literature and film festivals. With a jazz soundtrack, the shop serves cold brew coffee which is prepared over a period of 18 hours.

Calle de La Iglesia con Calle de La Mantilla

 

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8 p.m.

PLAZA DE LA TRINIDAD + RUMBA

Back in Getsemaní, the neighborhood shows its best facet at night. One good option of bar/restaurant is Demente, located across from the plaza, with a great menu of burgers and beers. The night must end at a Cartagena institution: Café Havana, where the rumba makes for the perfect farewell to the city.

Calles del Guerrero & de la Media Luna