Cartagena can be hard to pin down. Inside the turrets and Spanish fortifications of the walled city, architecture preserves Cartagena’s colonial past, while nearby islands offer Caribbean beaches and tropical breezes. Streets buzz with local traffic, the sandy promenades of Bocagrande do their best impression of Miami for tourists, and hipsters opening shops in the gentrified Getsemaní neighborhood offer their own vision. The city can be hectic and festive, but it can also be elegant, romantic, and quiet, with a versatile gastronomic scene to reflect its many moods.
The traditional culinary repertoire is built on stews like mote de queso (cheesy soup made from a tuber called ñame), fresh seafood, and colorful tropical fruits like lulo (local citrus) and corozo (palm fruit). But Colombians are increasingly celebrating Cartagena’s snacks, candies, and beverages, as well as its Middle Eastern and African influences. Chefs from across the country have joined locals to take advantage of plentiful meat and fish, and obscure plants and flowers. They bring new artisanal cheeses and creative fermented produce, but they also take inspiration from classic Colombian dishes, reinventing arepas, empanadas, pasteles (a type of tamal), and casabe (toasted indigenous cassava flatbread).
Whether you’re peeling back layers of history in the walled city or sunbathing on the beaches of Bocagrande, you’re never far from an exciting meal. Here are the city’s defining dining experiences.
Editor’s Note: Eater is not updating international maps at this time given disruptions to global travel during the COVID-19 crisis.
Prices per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less 15,000 pesos (Less than $4.30 USD)
$$ = 15,000 - 40,000 pesos ($4.30 - $11.60 USD)
$$$ = 40,000 - 90,000 pesos ($11.60 - $26.10 USD)
$$$$ = More than 90,000 pesos ($26.10 USD and up)
Juliana Duque is a Colombia-based food editor and writer, and author of Sabor de casa: doce maneras de hacer cocina colombiana y la historia de sus protagonistas.Read More