Peru and Mexico might steal much of the spotlight when it comes to great food in South America, but Colombia’s coming up hard on their heels with a sophisticated selection of top-end restaurants and scintillating street food specials.
It’s all thanks to an abundance of fantastic local ingredients combined with some adventurous chefs doing their bit to rescue the country’s culinary traditions.
Cartagena may not be Colombia’s cuisine capital (that title goes to Bogota with 5 of Latin America’s top 50 restaurants) it is, however, a Caribbean powerhouse when it comes to eating out.
With more restaurants per square foot than any other city in Colombia and a healthy selection of local street food vendors to choose from, Cartagena’s historic center, has to be one of the foodie highlights of any trip to South America.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of a trip to Cartagena is eating your way through its edible highlights, all of them lined up conveniently on each street corner.
From the freaky fruits and the scintillating ceviche stands showcasing the city’s seafood riches to the naughty-but-nice deep-fried treats being guzzled by the locals with sour cream and chilli sauce on strategic street corners, each of Cartagena’s more traditional fast-food dispensers represents an important piece of the Cartagena’s collective memory.
Many of the city’s best restaurants – Celele, El Boliche and La Cocina de Pepina, don’t stray far from a truly local celebration of Cartagena kitchen-spiration, rescuing some of the Colombian Caribbean’s finest culinary creations and putting them on a plate for their customers.
This Is Cartagena has curated the city’s top foodie finds to make it easier for hungry visitors to find their favourite taste sensations.
If you’re looking for a tasty escape in the Caribbean’s most delicious destination you’re come to the right place.
Read on for some insider tips or contact one of our talented travel team to get served Cartagena on a plate.
The locals love their food fried and dripping in sauce with fresh juice served in a plastic bag on the side.
If you’re familiar with the frito, you’ll know it’s one of Cartagena’s signature street snacks – crispy, golden-fried pockets of corn flour typically filled with ground beef and other delicious ingredients and covered in sour cream, guacamole and hot sauce.
Other street food delights include freaky fruits you've probably never seen before, lip-smacking ceviches and fresh coconut water served as it should be.
Most street corners have a tried and tested expert in their field, someone who's been serving up their speciality for years and this entertaining and educational tour takes you to the black belt masters in deep fat frying.Read More Send an Inquiry
For street food addicts looking for an extravaganza of food fried hard and vallenato played loud, head to Cartagena towards the end of January to savour the annual fried food festival dedicated to this Caribbean delicacy.
The festival a competition between dozens of frito wizards going head-to-head. With competition so fierce, you’re guaranteed to find something delectable including some winning surf and turf (fish and meat) combinations.
The Festival del Frito takes place in the build-up to Fiestas de la Candelaria, the celebrations surrounding Cartagena’s patron saint, and also includes upbeat cultural presentations, music and dancing. Any excuse to fill your boots and have a party in Cartagena!Read More Plan a Trip
Take a short cut to cooking like a local and enlist in one of the many cooking class options available in the city.
Learn how to cook some Colombian culinary classics, with a deliciously comforting hecho en casa feel, in a 3-hour cooking class at one of the city’s top restaurants.
As well as making three delicious dishes from scratch, you’ll also pay homage to Colombia’s fabulous fruit culture by making a tropical fruit juice or mojito.
Read More Send an Inquiry
The dynamic duo responsible for Cartagena's most innovative restaurant, Celele, have been doing a veritable PhD-level investigation into the culinary traditions of the Caribbean coast and it comes out in the beautiful delights being plated in their award-winning eatery.
Jaime Rodriguez and Sebastian Pinzon pour their love for Colombian food into the menu at this small but perfectly formed restaurant in hip and happening Getsemani.
They have created are a number of superior dining experiences at their award-winning restaurant (the restaurant was recently lauded as one to watch by the World's Best), from the a la carte menu to some extraordinary fixed tasting menus and the city's most extravagant cooking class option.
For that particular treat you really will learn from the city's top chefs. They'll teach you how to conjure up three incredible dishes using traditional Colombian ingredients and recipes that reflect the region’s rich cultural heritage and biodiversity in a truly diverse and innovative cooking class.
Whatever your budget, you really must experience the sophisticated taste sensations coming out of the kitchen at Celele.Celele Cooking Classes Celele Restaurant
This low-key restaurant on one of the backstreets of Getsemani is a cultural and culinary institution. If you're looking to taste traditional cooking from Colombia's Caribbean coast, this is most definitely the place.
Eating at Ms Pepina's culinary temple, La Cocina de Pepina, dedicated to the traditions and flavours of the Caribbean coast, is an exuberant memorial to its fun-loving founder.
Prepare yourself for a riotous explosion of saucy sensations, filled with colour, fun and mucha recocha (fun and frolics).
Nobel Laureate, Gabriel García Marquez, used to be a regular and loved the Cabeza de Gato (cat faces) - balls of mashed plantain, yam or yucca with onion, garlic and served with a spicy, sweet chilli sauce. Other ultra-local treats include the fiambre de res, a kind of carpaccio criollo and the city's finest Mote de Queso, a soup made from the local cheese.
For dessert try the Mongo Mongo, a rich mix of six tropical fruits that takes three-days to cook.Read More
This tasty tour allows you to sail through the best ceviche offering in Cartagena with a leisurely stroll through the historic center's fresh fish treats.
Delight your tastebuds and set yourself up with all the foodie insider info you need to make the most of your stay. It's a great opener to a three- or four-day trip to Cartagena and not over-filling.
This three-hour activity focuses on some of the local faves and sets you up perfectly to explore the city's top ceviche joints on your own during the rest of your stay.
We recommend hitting El Boliche, La Cocina de Pepina and La Perla as well as the more traditional joints included on this culinary adventure.Read More Send an Inquiry
While Peru and Chile fight over who invented Pisco, Brazilians down their beloved cachaca, Argentines are so proud of their red wine, Colombia loves its rum, some of the best in the world, no less.
You can sample the nectar of the Colombian Gods with a premium rum tasting that walks you through the history and brewing processes of the country's most prized alcoholic exports.
There’s no better-tasting way to slide into a Caribbean groove. Especially when it's combined with another premium Colombian export - choc-o-lat-e. The two combine wonderfully.
If you're looking to go free-style, for rum try the specials being brewed on-site at Alquimico. They've created the city's most exciting cocktail menu with their artisanal distillery.
For a pure chocolate hit head to Choco Museum.Rum & Chocolate Tasting Top Rum Hangouts
After opening up your appetite in Cartagena take a tour of the tasty treats on offer in the rest of the country with a mouth-watering journey through the country’s most delicious regions—Bogota, the Coffee Zone and Colombia's Caribbean coast.
From scintillating ceviche and freaky fruits to farm-fresh produce and game-changing cuisine, Colombia is fast establishing itself as one of the Latin America’s most exciting and dynamic food destinations.
In collaboration with some of Colombia’s most revered gastronomical experts, This Is Colombia, has hand-crafted this unique gourmand trail which exhibits the best of Colombia’s cultural intricacies on a plate.Read More Send an Inquiry
We hope this guide has got your gastric juices flowing and you're now ready for a tasty trip of a lifetime to Colombia's Caribbean gem, Cartagena.
For a little help cooking up your perfect recipe for holiday bliss, reach out to one of our talented travel team to organize your trip.
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