Best Places to stay in Cartagena by OllieM
We recently visited Cartagena, Colombia to attend a friends wedding. My wife and I had an amazing experience along with a group of friends. This post will talk about the best places to stay in Cartagena as well as restaurants and shops.
We flew direct on Spirit and had a great experience. We arrived on Thursday day and checked in our hotel. Sol De Alba was a beautiful remodeled boutique hotel in the heart of the Historical District of Cartagena. We were a large group all arriving at once and the staff handled all the baggage and check-ins very well. We were very impressed with the Hotel Lobby and Rooms. Included in this post are pictures of the hotel. The rooms were perfect size and had updated modern tv, shower, beds and closets. All the wood work and design of this hotel is modern yet still has the Historical feel. The doors and windows were very thick which helped keep the noise out at night. Cartagena is a party town and can be very loud till 4AM so its was very important for us to stay in a room not directly on the street and to have solid windows that absorb sound. Sol De Alba Hotel met all our needs and more. The rooftop had a bar and pool we enjoyed daily. The views from the top are so nice and the vibe was perfect for a Mojito or a cold beer. We had a prewedding party at the rooftop with an authentic Colombian Band and all our friends dancing and drinking the evening away. One of my favorite parts of the trip.
Exploring The Historical District of Cartagena
The next morning we began exploring the historical city which is known as the walled city. It is surrounded by a wall and fort that protected the town from invaders. You will want to bring good sneakers with you as the sidewalks have many holes and raised curbs that are dangerous. You have to constantly watch your step. The sidewalks between buildings are also narrow so you have to move into the street when other people pass by. Be very mindful of cars when you do this. After a bit you learn to navigate and enjoy the city. We explored the many coffee shops, boutiques and restaurants they had to offer. You can also walk along the top of the wall surrounding the city which allows you to see beautiful views of the ocean and the new modern city across the way. I purchased a Straw hat from the a local street vendor because it was very sunny. You can bargain with them on prices which is always fun. So many vendors on every corner offering, locally handmade bags, hats, trinkets and fashion.
Best places to eat in Cartagena
The city is known for its great seafood dishes, traditional Colombian food such as Empanadas and Plantains. Our favorite through was the French cafes. Particularly La Brioche Cafe which we discovered on our last day there and wished we knew about it sooner. They have the best Lattes and Croissants. My wife and I enjoyed brunch there She had an avocado toast and I had an egg and cheese on brioche bun. Yum! Pictures of this dinning experience included in this post. For dinner we were recommended by our hotel staff to go to Juan Del Mar Restaurante located in Plaza de San Diego. This restaurant specializes in seafood but has many culinary offers. We went with a group and ordered lots of dishes so we could all share and taste the different flavors. We enjoyed, a thin crust wood oven baked pizza, octopus, veggie pasta, salmon, bruschetta and a delicious fruity Ice tea like I never had before. I highly recommend this restaurant vibe, service and variety and flavors. We loved it so much we dinned there again on another day.
Shopping in Cartagena
My wife wanted to a little shopping so we went to the boutique district with high end and artistic stores near the center of the wall. They have unique hand made bags with whine stones she fell in love with. We also got one for our daughter as a gift since she stayed home with grandma and di not attend this affair with us. We then hit a brand new local mall called La Serrezuela. We heard about that it had brand name stores just like in the states. We didn’t really care to see a mall as we have many back home but were curious as we heard it was a new development there and the locals were raving about its beauty and weddings that take place there. It was beautiful and had many restaurants, shops and was a great place to cool off in the ac after all day in the heat of the city.
Night Time Party in Cartagena
Cartagena is literally the city that never sleeps. I thought New York or Israel was a party city until I got here. Seven days a week this is a party town from Sundown to Sun up. The city has a great day time vibe and comes alive for night life around 10PM. Parties are mostly at rooftops of hotels or clubs. If you go to a high point at any hotel you can see parties on rooftops everywhere in the city. There are all small parties only a few bigger clubs but mostly small bars everywhere so bar hopping is the best. There are a few town squares as well that have dinning and nightlife but the real parties are the rooftops. We enjoy it very much and stayed up till 3 am every night. The streets are filled with locals and tourists and you feel safe as police presence there.
The Islands of Cartagena
The best things to do in Cartagena is take a boat the Islands. You can take a private charter or join a group boat tour to get to the Islands. You don’t really have to plan ahead there are people and storefronts everywhere offering you a package. Its Like a mini Bora Bora of Colombia. You take a boat to an Island not to far off the mainland and have opportunity to snorkel, see dolphins, enjoy the beach and bars on the Island. You can even get hotel rooms on bungalows over the water to stay the night if you want. Its very romantic and you can see the stars at night like nowhere else. This was one of the highlights of our trip.
The wedding Event
We enjoyed our friends wedding very much and the venue at Casa Santos de Piedra was to die for. With a rooftop reception and indoor party. The building had the historic feel with a modern touch. The ceiling was historical wood design. They served an amazing food buffet with vegetarian and meat dishes. They had something for everyone. It was a large size hall perfect for 50-100 people. DJ Papito kept the party alive till 3 AM. We were glad to see our friends get married and were so happy we were able to witness it in such a beautiful place. I recommend getting married here as there are many venues to choose from. There are new venues like Centro Comercial La Serrezuela as well as historical ones like the one we attended. We even saw someone having a reception at the top of the historical wall surrounding the city so beautiful.
Pictures and videos of our adventures in Cartagena below.
See our OllieM rating at the end of this post and check out more reviews here.
OllieM Rating Cartagena, Colombia:
Historical City: 5*
Clean in some areas not so clean on others.
*Pot holes everywhere watch your step lol
Overall Amazing place
Sole De Alba Hotel: 5*
Clean, Newly Remodeled, Great Service,
Good food, Amazing Rooftop Bar, Safe
Restaurants Mentioned :5*
Flavors, Unique Dishes, Quality Service, Great Value
Good Vibe, Some English Speaking but not all.
Shopping Street Vendors: 5*
Fair and Easy to Bargain
Night Life: 5*
Close Proximity, Safe, Affordable