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The 35 Essential Cartagena Restaurants

Find spectacular fruits, fresh seafood, and Middle Eastern- and African-influenced cuisine in the gem of Colombia’s Caribbean coast

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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.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Restaurante Pizzería dal Maestro

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# a 16-148, Cl. 65 #1644, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

At this relaxed, family-friendly pizzeria, 15 minutes north from downtown Cartagena, Italian Pietro Bramato and Colombian Judith Florez combine classic Italian dishes with local tastes. On the menu you can find grigliata di pesce (grilled fish), pasta carbonara, and ensalada maestro (greens with shrimp, avocado, and cherry tomatoes). But the husband-and-wife team also play to Cartagena preferences with a calzone accented with caramelized pineapple, shredded chicken with bechamel-like sauce on pasta and pizza, and fries topped with chorizo. Try the crowd favorite seafood pizza studded with shrimp, squid, clams, mussels, and other seafood. [$$]

A white iron fence and gate sit in front of a restaurant patio topped with steel covering, with a poster on the fence advertising pizza and other Italian dishes
Outside Pizzería dal Maestro
Pizzería dal Maestro [Official Photo]

2. Lila’s Pomarossa

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Cra. 8 ###39-100, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

The union of two families from Bolivia and Austria led to the creation of this elegant restaurant near the edge of the walled city. Located in a historic house with a lovely interior courtyard, Pomarossa incorporates smoking, curing, pickling, and preserving into upscale, tropical dishes. Empanadas, for example, come filled with smoked toyo (shark), Bolivian ají peppers, and suero costeño (similar to sour cream). Don’t miss the live reggae and calypso music that takes over the restaurant on Saturdays. [$$ - $$$]

Thick slices of roasted pork belly sit on a long charcuterie board on top of diced cabbage surrounded by a moat of white sauce with a blurred out bowl of dip in the background and couches beyond
Pork belly
Lila’s Pomarossa [Official Photo]

3. Misia

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Cra. 11 ### 39-21, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Local celebrity chef Leonor Espinosa is known for her fine-dining restaurant Leo in Bogotá (in 2019 it earned No. 8 on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list and No. 49 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list). At her more relaxed Misia, with chalkboard menus and place mats decorated with cartoons, Espinosa gathers traditional and popular recipes from the Colombian Caribbean coast, offering simple breakfasts, fried snacks, and homey plates for dinner. [$$ - $$$]

Cooked shrimp sit with tomato and sprigs of greens on a pile of mashed cassava in a ceramic bowl beside three smaller spots of sauce, all on a wood table
Shrimp with cassava
Misia [Official Photo]

4. Los Fritos de Dora

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San Diego, Cartagena, Cartagena Province
Bolivar, Colombia
312 3887990

Every visitor to Cartagena should taste fritos Cartageneros (traditional fried snacks), and there’s no better place than Plaza de San Diego. Dora Gaviria began offering her famous fritos from a street cart in the square 57 years ago. Today she has mostly handed off frying duty to her son Jorge Luis del Valle and three granddaughters, Andry Paola, Anyela Juliana, and Dora Viviana Ríos. Locals still line up for carimañolas (fried cassava stuffed with meat and vegetables), chicken or beef empanadas, and the iconic arepa de huevo, an arepa stuffed with a combination of egg, meat, chorizo, and/or cheese. Stop by from 5 p.m. to midnight, and be sure to pair your order with a tropical juice or local soda. [$]

A street cart at night, with a series of steel containers holding various fried snacks behind a row of dishes holding different sauces with spoons sticking out. A stand worker and street traffic are visible blurred behind
Fried snacks and sauces
Alejandro Ramírez via Los Fritos de Dora

5. Restaurante El Gobernador

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Calle del Sargento Mayor #6 - 87, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Located on the first floor of Bastión Luxury Hotel, El Gobernador offers a menu designed by award-winning Bogotano chef Jorge Rausch. The chef applies haute French techniques to local ingredients, producing dishes including the risotto-like arroz cremoso with coconut milk, achiote (annatto), and cilantro, sea bass with Gruyere crust, fondue, and “leeks cappuccino.” Don’t skip dessert, when you might find pistachio dacquoise with compote of corozo and cotton candy. The space is divided into a main salon and a quiet mezzanine for more private diners, and there’s an outdoor patio where guests can enjoy lunch. [$$ - $$$$]

A naturally lit dining room, with rustic yet chic tables and chairs, tile flooring place settings, tall domestic-looking wooden doorways with windows to the outside, and a large image of ropes on a ship
The main salon
Restaurante El Gobernador [Official Photo]

6. Moshi

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Cl. 38 #8-19, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Moshi is an ode to pan-Asian cuisine interpreted with Colombian ingredients and local seafood. The concept comes from chefs Carmen Ángel and Rob Pevitts, the minds behind Carmen, located next door, and other restaurants scattered around Colombia. They anchor the menu with fusion dishes influenced by Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Bao come filled with fried fish, corn nuts, cabbage, and leche de tigre spiked with sofrito-like hogao sauce, while temaki contain shrimp, salsa rosada (mayo mixed with tomato sauce), red onion pickled in lime, and cilantro. Order a la carte in the restaurant’s modern yet cozy dining room, or opt for the omakase at the chef’s counter, but either way pair your meal with one of Moshi’s signature craft cocktails. [$$$ - $$$$]

A steamed bun filled with a piece of fried fish topped with cabbage slaw and cilantro, sitting beside a slice of cooked lemon on a wooden surface
Rubio bao with fried fish
Moshi [Official Photo]

7. Carmen

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Calle 38 # 8-19, Calle del Santísimo, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Located in the heart of downtown historical Cartagena, Carmen focuses on ingredient-driven cuisine showcasing Colombia’s extensive biodiversity. The space is warm and elegant, with dining rooms set around a beautiful central courtyard. Snag a table outside or in, and order the seven-course tasting menu (a la carte is also available), where chefs Carmen Ángel and Rob Pevitts highlight at least one local ingredient at the core of every dish. Come thirsty; the wine and craft cocktail menus receive the same attention to detail and creativity. [$$$ - $$$$]

An interior courtyard with patio tables and chairs surrounded by large trees and lots of greenery, with green lights adding to the vibrant effect, and inside dining rooms visible to each side wrapping around the courtyard
Carmen’s stunning courtyard
Carmen [Official Photo]

8. La Mulata

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Cl. del Quero #9 58, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Despite its exceedingly hip vibe, this unconventional comfort food spot offers some of the city’s best traditional Colombian food, made with ingredients sourced from small producers. The simple but tasty fare includes seafood served on plantain leaves, ceviches, refreshing agua frescas, and other surprises made with native produce. Opens from breakfast to lunch, La Mulata is a nice option for tourists or locals with flexible work schedules [$$ - $$$]

A pile of ceviche sits on a dish beside a whole fried fish and fried plantain slices in a broth
Sea bass ceviche and fried mojarra
La Mulata / Facebook

9. Townhouse Boutique Hotel and Rooftop

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Cra. 7 ##36-88, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

The Townhouse obligingly opens their rooftop to guests who aren’t staying at the hotel. The bar serves happy hour cocktails to droves of locals just as the sun sets over the domes and churches of Cartagena’s skyline, and the crowd tends to get a second wind from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. If cocktails aren’t your thing, you can count on the bar for a pretty decent selection of wines and beers. Bar eats, like nachos, sliders, and chocolate fudge cake, are designed for sharing, so come with a group or prepare to make friends. [$$]

Trays with various bar foods sit on a long wooden bar along with a spiral-bound menu, several cocktails in different glassware, and a large punch bowl
Bar bights with cocktails and a fishbowl
Townhouse Hotel [Official Photo]

10. Gelateria Paradiso

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Esquina Carrera 5 Calle 36, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

When the temperature rises and the beach calls, head to this gelateria near the water. The shop makes all its products from scratch without preservatives or hydrogenated fats. There are more than 100 different scoops, many of them inspired by Caribbean flavors like lulo, Kola Román (a local soda brand), corozo, sour guava, coconut-lemonade, and soursop. Less-tropical options include basil, white chocolate, and stracciatella, and the shop also offers juices, milkshakes, coffee, tea, and brownies. [$ - $$]

From above, a banana split in a long dish with slice of banana topped with three scoops of ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate syrup drizzle, and a cherry, on a dish beside a long ice cream spoon sitting on a table with various blurred out illustrations
A true banana split
Gelateria Paradiso [Official Photo]

11. El Bistro

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Carrera 7 between, Cl. 35 ##36, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

When Lars Brurein moved El Bistro from Popayán, Colombia, to Cartagena in 2002, he initially offered food from his native Berlin, but gradually shifted toward Caribbean flavors. The kitchen now prepares a mix of cuisines with influences from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, and Colombia. Tropical vegetables, game, and local spices join house-made charcuterie and mustard, along with whole loaves of German breads and European pastries from the panaderia. Brurein sources ingredients from farmers’ markets and his own organic garden, and despite the restaurant’s location in a historic house with a beautiful balcony, El Bistro maintains a relaxed vibe. [$$]

A large broiled shrimp sits on top of a mound of rice and rings of squid with a lime wedge resting on the very top
Shrimp and squid
El Bistro [Official Photo]

12. Zaitún Cartagena

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Calle de Ayos, Cl. 35 #34-37 Local #3 Centro Historico, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Chef Álex Quessep created the original Zaitún in neighboring city Barranquilla in order to honor his Colombian-Lebanese roots, placing equal weight on kibbehs and carimañolas. Mary Stella Zapa and her husband Fabián Cerro opened a franchise outpost to bring the unique flavor and warmth of Quessep’s fusion to Cartagena. The menu, orchestrated with Quessep, features seafood, falafel, hummus, stuffed cabbage and stuffed grape leaves, and their take on Cartagena-style sirloin cooked in a sauce of beef stock, cane sugar, vegetables, and clover. The restaurant is warm, if a bit kitschy, and there’s even a great menu of spirits and cocktails. [$$$$]

From above, two small wooden tables with neutral coverings topped with a variety of foods in dishes of various shapes, including falafel, stuffed grape leaves, sirloin, fried plantains and dips
The full dinner spread
Zaitún Cartagena [Official Photo]

13. Donjuán Cartagena

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Calle del Colegio # 34-60 Local 1, Centro Histórico, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Chefs Juan Felipe Camacho and Alejandro Ramírez combine the gastronomic approach of a classic bistro with the traditional flavors of a Caribbean kitchen. The results are very fresh fish and seafood, classic Colombian cuts of meat, and plenty of local vegetables and fruits. The chefs offer dishes like crudo de róbalo (raw sea bass with cilantro, tapioca, and lulo), or pork ribs over a stew of lentils and arracacha (a local starchy root vegetable), while tropical desserts round out the neo-bistro experience. [$$ - $$$]

Two rows of tables set with white tablecloths and place settings, one row backed up against a tufted patterned banquet, in a tall room with shelves of wine lining one wall and lots of greenery visible out windows covering another wall
The dining room at Donjuán
Donjuán [Official Photo]

14. Época Espresso Bar - Arzobispado

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Calle de Arzopispado, Carrera 5 #34-52, Centro Historico, Cartagena de Indias
Bolívar, Colombia

With two cafes located in the heart of the walled city, Época aims to capture the intensity and aroma of specialty beans from coffee-growing regions like Quindío, Risaralda, Santander, and Sierra Nevada. To complement the coffee, they also offer a variety of eggs and omelets, pancakes, French toast, Mexican and Colombian dishes, and pastries. Meanwhile, inventive cocktails feature aromatic infusions of cardamom, rosemary, coffee, or cacao, as well as syrups made from beets or cantaloupe. It’s the perfect place to get some work done, meet friends, or take a quick break from walking around the city. [$ - $$]

From above, a long marble table with blue linens topped with butcher paper down the middle, and a number of dishes including egg preparations, a sandwich with condiments, and a stuffed fried item
Breakfast at Epoca
Época Espresso Bar [Official Photo]

15. María

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Local 2 Historical center Calle del Colegio #34-60, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

This vibrant restaurant buzzes both day and night for chef Alejandro Ramírez’s seasonal, sea-focused cooking. Ramírez opened María seven years ago, working with local farmers to fill his short, contemporary menu with high-quality dishes. He especially emphasizes seafood, basing his menu around the daily catch available from fishermen in the nearby village of La Boquilla. The rest of the menu changes three times per year to follow seasonal produce, while the cocktail menu incorporates tropical fruits with craft techniques like smoking and homemade bitters. [$$ - $$$]

A dining room marked by chandeliers with pineapple-shaped lights, a large illustration of a tiger in a jungle on one wall, wooden patio chairs with woven backs, a patterned banquet along one wall, and a large bar with a mirror on the back bar
The dining room at María
María [Official Photo]

16. Mar Y Zielo

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Cra. 5 ##34-63, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

At this gastrobar ensconced in a beautiful old house, Peruvian chef Mariano Cerna satisfies the most demanding palates in the world with a fusion between his Peruvian heritage, Colombian ingredients, and contemporary techniques. He serves sophisticated preparations of lobster, duck, crab, and chicharron, among other specialties. The space contains a main dining room, terrace, and two bars, but wherever you sit, don’t miss the ceviche del viajero (fresh fish marinated in a leche de tigre of aromatic herbs, unripe mango pickles, and cilantro sauce). [$$$$]

A wide, short-lipped dish with a large spread of black rice topped with two interlocking swirled tendrils of octopus, surrounded by dots of other seafood, sauce, and herbal garnishes
Rice with octopus, squid, and coriander aioli
Mar Y Zielo [Official Photo]

17. Malagana Cafe & Bar

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31-55 calle tripita y media, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

A family-owned restaurant created by Diana Herrera, her sister María Carolina Herrera, and her mother Magaly Ordosgoitia, Malagana was one of the first major restaurants to open in the now-gentrified Getsemaní neighborhood. Their delicious fish tacos have earned a reputation in town, but the small menu also includes options like ceviche in coconut milk, shrimp and octopus dishes, and refreshing fruit-based cocktails. Malagana’s cute rooftop often echos with the lively sounds of zouk, salsa, compas, kizomba, reggae, and merengue. [$$]

Two tacos, with fried fish barely visible beneath a pile of shredded red cabbage, sit on a bright blue ceramic plate beside a wedge of lime, on a bright formica table.
Fish tacos
Malagana Cafe & Bar [Official Photo]

18. Alquímico

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Calle del Colegio ##34-24, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

The experimental cocktails at this nighttime hot spot push the bounds. Choose from evocatively named options like El Laboratorio, Inquisición, or Basilico Punch, or go for a drink in homage to a particular Colombian city like Cali, Riohacha, Bucaramanga, or Bogotá. The food menu leans fresh, healthy, and tropical, with plenty of chicken, seafood, beef, fish, and vegetarian options. The kitchen also serves a few Colombian classics like arepas, carimañolas, and tortas de choclo (corn cakes). [$$]

From above, a row of beef cuts bound with nori (presumably to rice below) laying on a tropical leaf on a slate charcuterie board with a bowl of dipping sauce and chopsticks
Beef nigiri with dip
Alquímico [Official Photo]

19. Portal de los Dulces

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Cra. 5 #33-15, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Candy shop Portal de los Dulces has become an icon of Cartagena, nearly as famous as the landmark square in which it sits. Nestled in the Plaza de los Coches and framed by beautiful arches, the shop boasts a great view of the Clock Tower to enjoy as you sample traditional regional candies. You’ll find cocadas (coconut macaroons filled with guava or pineapple), cabellito de ángel (shredded papaya cooked in spiced syrup), tamarind balls coated in sugar, muñequitas de leche (milk caramels shaped into small dolls), and casabe filled with ripe plantain puree. [$]

Tables loaded with jars and plastic boxes of sweets sit beneath archways with the sun shining beyond
Candy stalls of Portal de los Dulces
Juliana Duque

20. Cafe Stepping Stone

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#30-40 a, Carrera 10 #30102, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Three Australians opened this cafe in the colorful Getsemaní neighborhood as a stepping stone for local disadvantaged youth, offering young workers opportunities to train social and technical skills. The hippie-chic restaurant embraces the country’s Creole roots while focusing on nutritious fare, with gluten-free and vegan offerings, global touches like falafel and Thai corn fritters, and all-day breakfast that ranges from sweet to savory. [$ - $$]

A pile of dressed greens sits on a plate beside a series of fritters beneath a poached egg with a creamy white sauce spread on the plate around the items, sitting on a wood table beside tableware, another blurred out dish, and condiments
Thai corn fritters
Cafe Stepping Stone [Official Photo]

21. Restaurante Celele

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Calle del Espíritu Santo, Cra. 10c ##29-200, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Open just over a year, Celele is one of the most successful restaurants in town, earning the Miele One to Watch Award for 2019 on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Star chefs Jaime Rodríguez and Sebastián Pinzón researched the area for four years before opening their restaurant, using the business as an opportunity to showcase handicrafts from local indigenous and rural communities. They serve a contemporary tasting menu and daily a la carte options, including traditional stew with slices of cured duck, pineapple vinegar, sweet ají peppers, and sour oranges over casabe. For dessert, try the traditional mingui, a puree of cooked plantain and pumpkin served with whipped coconut cream, granola made with local seeds and nuts, and coconut lemonade sorbet. [$$ - $$$]

From above, two dishes sit on a wood tray with a long wooden spoon, one with a corn bun beneath shards of greens dotted with white flowers, the other a pipe-like object on a decorative plate
Smoked chicken stew
Restaurante Celele [Official Photo]

22. Harry's Restaurant

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a 31-81, Cra. 3 #31-19, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Set in the beautiful interior courtyard of the glamorous Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa, this is the only restaurant from renowned Colombian chef Harry Sasson located outside the Colombian capital. The menu resembles the one at the famous Harry’s Bar in Bogotá, combining meaty options from a New York steakhouse with the generous share plates of a tapas restaurant. Traditional regional dishes include arepa de huevo, posta Cartagenera (stewed meat in cane-sugar sauce), rice with crab or shrimp, fried plantains, and many other local favorites. [$$$ - $$$$]

Large patio tables with woven chairs sit in an interior courtyard surrounded by tall hotel buildings draped with hanging plants that run several floors
Harry’s in the Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa
Harry’s Restaurant [Official Photo]

23. Caffé Lunático

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Calle Espíritu Santo #29-184, Cartagena de Indias
Bolívar, Colombia

This cute Getsemaní bar and tapas place, decorated with tchotchkes and twinkle lights, offers a wide array of Spanish dishes, including cochinillo (suckling pig) and pulpo, as well as small plates inspired by local flavors, like cassava gnocchi with chicharron and pico de gallo. There’s also a cheeseburger with manchego cheese and caramelized onion preserve, and a vegetarian burger with pumpkin and lentils. Lunático also serves brunch every day, with an open mimosa bar to boot. [$$ - $$$]

A cafe exterior, with a grayscale illustration of a contortionist on the outside wall, two-top patio tables filled with guests under a large window into the restaurant, and a door shaded by foliage spilling over from the floor above
Outside Caffé Lunático
Caffé Lunático [Official Photo]

24. El Barón

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Cra. 4 #31-7, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Cartagena didn’t have many decent cocktails bars in 2013, so the owners of El Barón opened this haven to classic drinks and cutting-edge mixology trends. They put clear effort into everything they do, from the ice cubes to the glassware to the decorations, but most of all the cocktails. Go for something fruity like the Pintor de Anécdotas with rye, oloroso sherry, banana-strawberry shrub, and blackberry-soy reduction, or feel the cooling tingle of the Arquitecto de Inviernos with eucalyptus-infused vodka, Fernet-Branca, aloe vera, and citric acid. The tapas menu shows off that dedication as well, with spicy fried chicken, lamb kofta, ceviche, shrimp rolls, and pork samosas. Located in the beautiful plaza of San Pedro Claver, the bar is the best place to relax with a drink after a nice walk around the walled city. [$$]

A waiter carries a tray of cocktails in various glassware, some topped with sprigs of rosemary, in front of a bar topped with tools and ingredients where another blurred server works in the background
Cocktails at El Barón
El Barón [Official Photo]

25. La Laguna Azul

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Local 1C-37, Centro Comercial Getsemaní, Media Luna 8B #8B-74, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia
(5) 6604639

Named for the ’80s classic The Blue Lagoon (with decoration to match), this small, low-key restaurant offers about 10 fresh, tasty ceviches, alongside a variety of cocteles. Like ceviche, cocteles combine raw seafood with lime juice, but they’re enriched further with tomato sauce, salsa rosada, spicy salsa, or avocado drizzled with olive oil. [$$]

26. Café del Mural

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#29- a, Cl. de San Juan #29100, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Café del Mural finds middle ground between low-quality, sugar-happy coffee chains and snobbish specialty cafes, making great brews approachable to anyone. Owner and founder David Arzayus excitedly embraces customer preferences of all types and caters to, as he puts it, “the real coffee world instead of the perfect one.” Attached to the cafe, Arzayus has created a coffee-focused lab, where the staff constantly experiment with an array of machines (letting out heavenly aromas into the cafe), and they even offer educational tastings. [$ - $$]

A cafe exterior covered in vines, with blue iron gates in a red facade, with a bike parked in front and small hand written chalk signs advertising cafe offerings
Outside Café del Mural
Juliana Duque

27. La Cocina de Pepina

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Cl. 25 #10B-6, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Anyone who can’t afford a coastal getaway will find a taste of seaside comfort food here. Although founder María Josefina Yancés has handed over her small restaurant to her nephew Christian Sepúlveda, the kitchen carries on her extensive work with traditional local foodways, paying tribute to biological and cultural diversity in the Caribbean. Typical ingredients include cassava, plantain, eggplant, chiles, beef, pork, hens, ducks, and plenty of fish from rivers and the sea. Look for mote de queso, boronía (eggplant and sweet plantain puree), pasteles and hallacas (types of tamales), gallina monteriana (chicken stew from Montería), or viuda de carne salada (salt-cured meat with garnishes). Seating is first-come, first-served. [$$]

A large cooked shrimp sits in a chunky pool of vegetables in a bowl on a paper covering decorated with plant illustrations
Shrimp in avocado sauce
La Cocina de Pepina [Official Photo]

28. Kazabe Restaurante

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Cra. 1 #6, Cartagena, Distrito Turístico Y Cultural
Bolívar, Colombia

Created by passionate chef Charlie Otero, Kazabe is a heartfelt tribute to the traditional cooking of the Bolívar region (where Cartagena is located). The restaurant celebrates rich Colombian ingredients and the country’s privileged geographic location with ceviche, carimañolas, rice and eggplant tamales, and mains featuring pork, fish, shrimp, and hen. To finish, there are tropical desserts like pie de mongo mongo (pie filled with unripe fruit conserve), cassava and coconut cake with anise seeds, and unripe mango cheesecake. [$$ - $$$]

A restaurant interior with light wood floors, bent wood chairs and tables, a coffee table with two large-backed chairs, a large central pillar decorated like the walls in grayscale close-ups of hands and other body parts
Inside Kazabe
Kazabe Restaurante [Official Photo]

29. Ely Café

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Cl. 7 #2-50, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Ely may be located at the heart of the touristy Bocagrande neighborhood, close to the main hotels and the beach, but the all-day cafe caters to plenty of Cartageneros too. Locals come to meet friends and neighbors for breakfast, post-lunch coffee, or just a break from the afternoon heat. The casual cafe boasts eclectic music, books to pass the day, and exceedingly friendly energy. Breakfast dishes range from light to self-indulgent, while daytime options include salads, bowls, hearty sandwiches, cakes and pastries, pressed juices, liquor from the well-provisioned bar, and local coffee and tea. [$ - $$]

From above, a number of breakfast dishes including a waffle topped with whipped cream and fruit slices, avocado toast with scrambled eggs, a bowl of granola and fruit, and french fries
Breakfast spread
Ely Café [Official Photo]

30. M Cocina Árabe

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Cl. 6 #3-24, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

In Bocagrande, one of Cartagena’s main tourist drags, you’ll find this pleasant Lebanese-inspired restaurant, outfitted with chic, gilded decorations. Mónica Espinosa opened the restaurant a decade ago, serving recipes she learned from her mother-in-law (whose family is from Lebanon). Diners especially love Espinosa’s kibbehs, tabbouleh, rice with almonds, stuffed grape leaves, “pharaoh’s beef loin,” fatay (empanadas filled with spiced ground beef), labneh, and lentil soup. [$$ - $$$]

A round segmented dish with dips, falafel, and stuffed grape leaves in the various trays, with other dishes blurred in the background
Combo platter
M Cocina Arabe [Official Photo]

31. Kiosco El Bony

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Cra. 1, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

Owned by ex-Olympic boxer Bonifacio Ávila and run by his wife Rosa Aurora Castaño (along with their children and grandchildren), this iconic kiosk has been serving hungry diners since 1975. Castaño focuses on traditional Cartagena classics like seafood cazuela (stew), fried fish, and arepa de huevo, accompanied by coconut rice, fried unripe plantains, and tropical salads. The drinks menu features fresh fruit juices alongside classic cocktails like the coco loco, pina colada, and margarita. [$$ - $$$]

An outdoor table is topped with several including fried fish, fried plantains and cocktails, with diners blurred in the background sitting at outdoor tables
An array of comfort dishes
Kiosko El Bony [Official Photo]

32. Restaurante Dunia

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166, Cra. 4 #5, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

If you’re after a substantial weekend breakfast, Dunia’s chicharron with bollo limpio (steamed corn cake) and suero costeño easily fits the bill. The cafe also offers fried doughy snacks, including arepas de huevo, empanadas, fried dumplings, and palitos de queso (cheese sticks fried or baked in pastry dough), all paired with tropical fruit juices. [$ - $$]

Pork rinds stacked in a metal tray
Chicharrónes
Dunia / Facebook

33. Fenix Hotel and Beach Club

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Cartagena Province
Bolivar, Colombia

Getting to this magical spot takes 15 minutes by boat from Cartagena, but the trip is worth it for a slice of tropical paradise. The island resort serves tourists and local sunbathers with a broad menu for any appetite. There are light dishes such as ceviches, tiraditos, and refreshing cocktails, as well as hearty mains like paella, its cousin fideua from Valencia, and a vegan version of the rice feast, too. Along with salads, soups, and tacos, other must-try dishes include whole fried fish with coconut rice and patacones (fried plantains), and a great posta negra Cartagenera (a saucy Colombian-style beef dish). [$$ - $$$]

An aerial view of a beach at sunset, with trees stretching into the distance, huts and beds covering the beach, and people visiting below
The beach club at the Fenix Hotel
Fenix Hotel and Beach Club [Official Photo]

34. Chicharrones de Turbaco

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Turbaco-Cartagena, Turbaco
Bolívar, Colombia

Located less than an hour away from downtown Cartagena in the nearby city of Turbaco, this popular and festive restaurant is worth a quick day trip for the house specialty, chicharron. On a busy day, the staff may cook 10 to 15 pigs to fill all the orders. They fry the meat in the pigs’ own fat and serve it with boiled cassava, steamed tender corn cakes, or fried plantains, along with suero costeño and queso costeño (fresh salty cheese). Fish sancocho (soup) and fried fish are popular alternatives for the pork-averse. [$$ - $$$]

A hunk of meat sits on a white paper plate next to a mound of boiled cassava, a corn husk for steaming, and silverware
Chicharrones with cassava
Chicharrones de Turbaco [Official Photo]

35. Blue Apple Beach House

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Playa Mamon #1-1, Bocachica, Isla Tierra Bomba, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolivar, Colombia

Portia Hart lived for many years in France’s Cote d’Azur before opening this 10-room boutique hotel and beach club inspired by the elegant lifestyle at the iconic beachside getaway. The menu at this club restaurant — located on Tierra Bomba Island about 30 minutes away by boat — features Caribbean dishes with a mix of flavors from southern France and the Mediterranean. Italian chef Elena Stoico leads the kitchen with a slow-food philosophy, turning out seasonal dishes from scratch and working with producers located as close as possible. Especially notable, the staff is made up of a mix of professional Colombian chefs and disadvantaged locals who hope to launch careers at the restaurant. [$$ - $$$]

Cheese and vegetables are stacked in a neat little round topped with a little pile of fried items and a sprig of greens, with slices of bread besides, while many other plates of the same dish sit all around blurred out
Vegetable and feta tartare
Blue Apple Beach House [Official Photo]

1. Restaurante Pizzería dal Maestro

# a 16-148, Cl. 65 #1644, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
A white iron fence and gate sit in front of a restaurant patio topped with steel covering, with a poster on the fence advertising pizza and other Italian dishes
Outside Pizzería dal Maestro
Pizzería dal Maestro [Official Photo]

At this relaxed, family-friendly pizzeria, 15 minutes north from downtown Cartagena, Italian Pietro Bramato and Colombian Judith Florez combine classic Italian dishes with local tastes. On the menu you can find grigliata di pesce (grilled fish), pasta carbonara, and ensalada maestro (greens with shrimp, avocado, and cherry tomatoes). But the husband-and-wife team also play to Cartagena preferences with a calzone accented with caramelized pineapple, shredded chicken with bechamel-like sauce on pasta and pizza, and fries topped with chorizo. Try the crowd favorite seafood pizza studded with shrimp, squid, clams, mussels, and other seafood. [$$]

# a 16-148, Cl. 65 #1644, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

2. Lila’s Pomarossa

Cra. 8 ###39-100, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Thick slices of roasted pork belly sit on a long charcuterie board on top of diced cabbage surrounded by a moat of white sauce with a blurred out bowl of dip in the background and couches beyond
Pork belly
Lila’s Pomarossa [Official Photo]

The union of two families from Bolivia and Austria led to the creation of this elegant restaurant near the edge of the walled city. Located in a historic house with a lovely interior courtyard, Pomarossa incorporates smoking, curing, pickling, and preserving into upscale, tropical dishes. Empanadas, for example, come filled with smoked toyo (shark), Bolivian ají peppers, and suero costeño (similar to sour cream). Don’t miss the live reggae and calypso music that takes over the restaurant on Saturdays. [$$ - $$$]

Cra. 8 ###39-100, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

3. Misia

Cra. 11 ### 39-21, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Cooked shrimp sit with tomato and sprigs of greens on a pile of mashed cassava in a ceramic bowl beside three smaller spots of sauce, all on a wood table
Shrimp with cassava
Misia [Official Photo]

Local celebrity chef Leonor Espinosa is known for her fine-dining restaurant Leo in Bogotá (in 2019 it earned No. 8 on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list and No. 49 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list). At her more relaxed Misia, with chalkboard menus and place mats decorated with cartoons, Espinosa gathers traditional and popular recipes from the Colombian Caribbean coast, offering simple breakfasts, fried snacks, and homey plates for dinner. [$$ - $$$]

Cra. 11 ### 39-21, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

4. Los Fritos de Dora

San Diego, Cartagena, Cartagena Province, Bolivar, Colombia
A street cart at night, with a series of steel containers holding various fried snacks behind a row of dishes holding different sauces with spoons sticking out. A stand worker and street traffic are visible blurred behind
Fried snacks and sauces
Alejandro Ramírez via Los Fritos de Dora

Every visitor to Cartagena should taste fritos Cartageneros (traditional fried snacks), and there’s no better place than Plaza de San Diego. Dora Gaviria began offering her famous fritos from a street cart in the square 57 years ago. Today she has mostly handed off frying duty to her son Jorge Luis del Valle and three granddaughters, Andry Paola, Anyela Juliana, and Dora Viviana Ríos. Locals still line up for carimañolas (fried cassava stuffed with meat and vegetables), chicken or beef empanadas, and the iconic arepa de huevo, an arepa stuffed with a combination of egg, meat, chorizo, and/or cheese. Stop by from 5 p.m. to midnight, and be sure to pair your order with a tropical juice or local soda. [$]

San Diego, Cartagena, Cartagena Province
Bolivar, Colombia

5. Restaurante El Gobernador

Calle del Sargento Mayor #6 - 87, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
A naturally lit dining room, with rustic yet chic tables and chairs, tile flooring place settings, tall domestic-looking wooden doorways with windows to the outside, and a large image of ropes on a ship
The main salon
Restaurante El Gobernador [Official Photo]

Located on the first floor of Bastión Luxury Hotel, El Gobernador offers a menu designed by award-winning Bogotano chef Jorge Rausch. The chef applies haute French techniques to local ingredients, producing dishes including the risotto-like arroz cremoso with coconut milk, achiote (annatto), and cilantro, sea bass with Gruyere crust, fondue, and “leeks cappuccino.” Don’t skip dessert, when you might find pistachio dacquoise with compote of corozo and cotton candy. The space is divided into a main salon and a quiet mezzanine for more private diners, and there’s an outdoor patio where guests can enjoy lunch. [$$ - $$$$]

Calle del Sargento Mayor #6 - 87, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

6. Moshi

Cl. 38 #8-19, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
A steamed bun filled with a piece of fried fish topped with cabbage slaw and cilantro, sitting beside a slice of cooked lemon on a wooden surface
Rubio bao with fried fish
Moshi [Official Photo]

Moshi is an ode to pan-Asian cuisine interpreted with Colombian ingredients and local seafood. The concept comes from chefs Carmen Ángel and Rob Pevitts, the minds behind Carmen, located next door, and other restaurants scattered around Colombia. They anchor the menu with fusion dishes influenced by Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Bao come filled with fried fish, corn nuts, cabbage, and leche de tigre spiked with sofrito-like hogao sauce, while temaki contain shrimp, salsa rosada (mayo mixed with tomato sauce), red onion pickled in lime, and cilantro. Order a la carte in the restaurant’s modern yet cozy dining room, or opt for the omakase at the chef’s counter, but either way pair your meal with one of Moshi’s signature craft cocktails. [$$$ - $$$$]

Cl. 38 #8-19, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

7. Carmen

Calle 38 # 8-19, Calle del Santísimo, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
An interior courtyard with patio tables and chairs surrounded by large trees and lots of greenery, with green lights adding to the vibrant effect, and inside dining rooms visible to each side wrapping around the courtyard
Carmen’s stunning courtyard
Carmen [Official Photo]

Located in the heart of downtown historical Cartagena, Carmen focuses on ingredient-driven cuisine showcasing Colombia’s extensive biodiversity. The space is warm and elegant, with dining rooms set around a beautiful central courtyard. Snag a table outside or in, and order the seven-course tasting menu (a la carte is also available), where chefs Carmen Ángel and Rob Pevitts highlight at least one local ingredient at the core of every dish. Come thirsty; the wine and craft cocktail menus receive the same attention to detail and creativity. [$$$ - $$$$]

Calle 38 # 8-19, Calle del Santísimo, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

8. La Mulata

Cl. del Quero #9 58, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
A pile of ceviche sits on a dish beside a whole fried fish and fried plantain slices in a broth
Sea bass ceviche and fried mojarra
La Mulata / Facebook

Despite its exceedingly hip vibe, this unconventional comfort food spot offers some of the city’s best traditional Colombian food, made with ingredients sourced from small producers. The simple but tasty fare includes seafood served on plantain leaves, ceviches, refreshing agua frescas, and other surprises made with native produce. Opens from breakfast to lunch, La Mulata is a nice option for tourists or locals with flexible work schedules [$$ - $$$]

Cl. del Quero #9 58, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

9. Townhouse Boutique Hotel and Rooftop

Cra. 7 ##36-88, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
Trays with various bar foods sit on a long wooden bar along with a spiral-bound menu, several cocktails in different glassware, and a large punch bowl
Bar bights with cocktails and a fishbowl
Townhouse Hotel [Official Photo]

The Townhouse obligingly opens their rooftop to guests who aren’t staying at the hotel. The bar serves happy hour cocktails to droves of locals just as the sun sets over the domes and churches of Cartagena’s skyline, and the crowd tends to get a second wind from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. If cocktails aren’t your thing, you can count on the bar for a pretty decent selection of wines and beers. Bar eats, like nachos, sliders, and chocolate fudge cake, are designed for sharing, so come with a group or prepare to make friends. [$$]

Cra. 7 ##36-88, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

10. Gelateria Paradiso

Esquina Carrera 5 Calle 36, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
From above, a banana split in a long dish with slice of banana topped with three scoops of ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate syrup drizzle, and a cherry, on a dish beside a long ice cream spoon sitting on a table with various blurred out illustrations
A true banana split
Gelateria Paradiso [Official Photo]

When the temperature rises and the beach calls, head to this gelateria near the water. The shop makes all its products from scratch without preservatives or hydrogenated fats. There are more than 100 different scoops, many of them inspired by Caribbean flavors like lulo, Kola Román (a local soda brand), corozo, sour guava, coconut-lemonade, and soursop. Less-tropical options include basil, white chocolate, and stracciatella, and the shop also offers juices, milkshakes, coffee, tea, and brownies. [$ - $$]

Esquina Carrera 5 Calle 36, Provincia de Cartagena
Bolívar, Colombia

11. El Bistro

Carrera 7 between, Cl. 35 ##36, Cartagena, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia