Cartagena was a lovely surprise. The contrast of the old town to the new town is incredible. The old town has a very strong personality and reminded us of strolling through the cobbled back streets of a small Spanish town. The streets are lined with crumbled old apartments that have once all been painted in bright colours, and now appear to have a sort of faded grandeur about them. Throughout the town there is also remarkable street art which really added to the eccentric character of the old town.
At night we enjoyed visiting the plaza for a few 2-4-1 cocktails, as we sat and drank these we were entertained by salsa dancers and impersonators. One thing we must mention about Cartagena is the food - it is genuinely incredible! We used TripAdvisor to look for cheap and cheerful eats and were nicely surprised by the amount of delicious food we could eat for only 1 $ sign on the app. Trip Advisor has been so great for us as you can alter not only the type of food you’re looking for but also guides you on the price.
In comparison the new town housed towering skyscrapers along long sandy beaches, the setting genuinely reminded us of the Miami skyline. We didn't spend much of our time in the new town due to staying in the buzz of the old town. We did decide to visit an island for the day (Isla de la Tierra Bomba) where we ate fresh fish by the sea and enjoyed the views of the city whilst escaping to the peace of the beach. You can take boat trips during the day to the several islands. "Cholon" is a go-to island because they cook lobster everywhere and you can haggle it down to a fiver. It can be a little bit of a tourist trap, but it is a great afternoon out. Playa Blanca is also a really lovely beach where you can stay for a day.
One thing we really wanted to do in Cartagena was visit the volcanic mud baths we had constantly heard people talking about. Sadly we both caught a bug so weren't able to go, however, our two friends Alice and Emily were lucky enough to visit and said it was a bizarre but refreshing experience. Although there is no base to the thick mud you were able to stand upright without sinking, there were locals on hand to give you mud massages and they said they came out feeling rejuvenated. So if you don't have the cash to splash on a spa day, this could be the perfect day out!
Overall we would highly recommend spending a while in Cartagena, there is such a diverse range of characters and it is an amazing place to grab a beer and sit and watch the world go by. We spent five nights here and didn't get bored one bit. We were even lucky enough for our visit to land on Halloween. To celebrate we went to Eivissa nightclub which looked over the plaza, if you’re looking for a night out we would highly recommend going! San Felipe Castle is another great sight-seeing spot to check off your list… best to go early AM when it’s not too hot or around sunset!
Where to go:
Book La Vitrola for dinner as soon as possible. It's a Cartagena staple and the best experience in town, it has a fun cuban-style band that plays and turns into a party, so book as late as you're willing to eat... maybe 9:30-10pm.
Pezetarian - sushi bar, super cheap and amazing value for money
923 Tapas & Vinos - delicious tapas made by an incredible chef who was very friendly and passionate about his food
Cafe Trinidad - delicious pizza and happy hour cocktails
Cafe Stepping Stone - amazing breakfast and incredible milkshakes - must try the avocado and poached egg on toast
Velvet Brownieseria - great brownies
Cafe Del Mar - unbeatable bar for a sunset drink, unreal view of the entire city
La Movida - amazing restaurant, go late at 10pm and stay for the live music and salsa dancing
La Havana for an authentic night out, although entry is quite pricey
Quiebra Canto – Really tiny but classic salsa spot
We stayed at Republica hostel, the breakfast was delicious and the atmosphere was great, also in a very good location - would definitely recommend!