Cartagena: foodie guide

Vera Smirnova 0 Comments

Colombian cuisine is a fusion of various South American,  Caribbean and European recipes.  It is less spicy than Mexican cuisine and you will see (and taste) a lot of seafood everywhere. Even for those who prefer meat over fish, I'd suggest to try freshly caught and wonderfully cooked fish and you might love it! Most of the dishes are quite simple: fish or meat with a side of rice and fried plantain.
Our top pick:
El Balcon
They have a very skilled cook and friendly waiters. And Michelada "El Balcon" made with local beer is definitely worth trying. Note that this restaurant is on the second floor, right over a burger place. The entrance to the second floor is not very noticeable, you have to walk around the corner and then climb a stairwell.

For an amazing steak experience visit some Argentinian restaurant (parrilla), there are quite few of them in Cartagena.

Our top pick:

Quebracho Parilla Argentina
We do not recommend Marzola Parrilla Argentina. The building looks cool, very nicely decorated and definitely worth a look and some photographs, but the service and quality of steaks could stand to see some improvement.

For a more diverse seafood menu visit some Peruvian restaurant. Our top picks: Peru Mar and Cuzco Cocina Peruana, both are close to the Plaza Santo Domingo.

Local food recommendations:

Colombian Ajiaco (Chicken and Potato Soup made with local spices and herbs) is delicious and hearty.
Arepas: fried cornbread filled with boiled eggs or cheese that simply melt in your mouth! We didn't see them served in restaurants, but after 7 pm they are cooked everywhere on the streets, so you can get them hot right off the skillet.
Fruits: There is a fruit/vegetable market in the center of Cartagena and also a lots of street fruit vendors that move from one corner to another, pushing carts filled with fresh colorful treasures. If you haven't tried a grenadilla yet - do yourself a favor! It is fragrant, juicy and has subtle sweet and sour taste.

Cartagena fruit vendors (Photo by Vera Smirnova)


Every time we hear "Colombia" we think "Coffee," right? Hot, aromatic Colombian coffee is sold literally  everywhere at any time of the day or night. Yes, you can get a caffeine boost even well after midnight! There are street vendors who sell coffee "on the go". A basket with a thermos in one hand, paper cups in other - they are seen almost at any corner in the city. If you'd like to get some coffee, just look around and you'll probably see one. Their coffee is surprisingly good and their servings are quite small, so you can enjoy hot coffee any time you like.

Cartagena street coffee vendor (Photo by Vera Smirnova)

In Cartagena there are also  traditional coffee shops with a hipster atmosphere, air conditioner, wi-fi, and oftentimes in-house roasted coffee.

Photo by Vera Smirnova

Our top picks:

Café San Alberto

Juan Valdez

Epoca Espresso Bar - Arzobispado


The best option to start the day the Colombian way is to visit one of the little cafes and get a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and some pastries. And if in France people would reach for a croissant, in Colombia the signature pastry is called "pan de bono," or "cheese bread". It is made of  corn flour, crumbled cheese, eggs and a bit of starch. Light and puffy with an aromatic, cheesy taste, pandebonos are super delicious! It's best to eat them warm.

Our top pick:

La Esquina del Pandebono