Series: Planning for 36 Hours in Cartagena, Colombia

Planner’s Travel Series 

About the series: Welcome to our ongoing travel series. These are all posts written by planning students and professionals about what to do in a given city when looking for Brunch/Bite, a Brew, or a good idea on a Budget. To cap it all off, we include a fun planning fact!

By Catherine McManus

About the visit: I recently visited northern Colombia for a short vacation, using Cartagena as a home base. It’s right on the coast and was a major colonial Spanish port – now, it’s a beautiful city for eating, drinking, exploring, and dancing.


Lunch (and an accidental tasting menu) at Carmen

Carmen is the current hot spot in Cartagena (and Medellín) and lived up to the name. Make a reservation well in advance if you want dinner – we could only get in for lunch! Our timing actually turned out perfect – we were on a beautiful patio with plenty of greenery, which was ideal for escaping the afternoon heat without shivering in AC. The server was so friendly (and kind about our intermediate Spanish) drinks were fabulous, the meals were tasty and fun, and the chef even sent out three (!) selections from the tasting menu.


Espresso at Época

Cartagena would be a great city to be a digital nomad, and we saw many – Colombians and visitors – working and chilling at Época. Come in the afternoon for an espresso, stay for a cocktail, and people watch through the big glass windows from your chill escape.


Get lost in Getsemaní

Next to the walled city, also known as El Centro/la ciudad amurallada/the old city, is the Getsemaní neighborhood . Walk through the Parque Del Centenario (keep an eye on the trees for monkeys!) and explore the narrow streets of Getsemaní. Check out the street art – even the buildings not painted with murals or decorated with sculptures are often vivid colors with beautiful flowers or flags. And when you need a break, duck into a small café or restaurant for a limonada.

Fun Planning Fact

A lot of Cartagena used to be underwater

As you can see in the model at the Museo Naval in the above left photo, when the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas was originally constructed as a defensive fort, it was surrounded by water. Now, as you can see in the photo on the right, substantial landfill and construction mean that the fort is no longer in a prime strategic location (which is ok, since it hasn’t been attacked since 1741 when the British tried – unsuccessfully).

Featured Image: High-rises of modern Cartagena taken from inside the historic walled city. Photo Credit: Catherine McManus 

Catherine McManus is a civil engineer and alum of the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She continues her studies at UNC, working on her PhD in Environmental Sciences and Engineering. Her focus is on drinking water and wastewater management infrastructure in low-income communities, especially the effects of the enabling environment on engineering decision-making. In her free time, she likes to hike, bike, and read.

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