Having called Cartagena home on and off for the past year and a half, I’ve found myself gravitating to the same few spots for a good meal, great view, or sweet tooth-satisfying dessert. It’s safe to say these are my all-time favorite places in Cartagena. They’re the places that have played a significant role in bringing me back to Cartagena again and again…and again.
1. La Brioche
I discovered this French-style café restaurant on my first day in Cartagena and it has continued to be my go-to spot for a cup of coffee and the most delectable almond and chocolate croissant. I’m there so often that chances are I’m probably doing just that as you read this. Though I usually go for the croissant-coffee duo, La Brioche also has an incredible breakfast and lunch menu full of local classics as well as international favorites like hamburgers, pizza, and pancakes.
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2. Espiritu Santo
This menú del día-slinging restaurant impressed me almost immediately. The atmosphere is what travel dreams are made of. Despite its massive size, it’s usually packed to the brim with locals and travelers alike dining on plates so big you’ll be in awe of yourself for finishing it all. The menu at Espiritu Santo includes all of the typical local dishes from grilled fish, sancocho, and shrimp to sides of yucca, coconut rice, and plátano tentación. Besides the steady din of Spanish conversation and forks scraping plates clean, the best part has got to be the price. You’ll never pay more than 22,000 pesos for a meal, and that includes a main, side dish, side salad, and choice of rice.
3. Portal de los Dulces
For a drive-by sweet treat, I’m a regular customer at the Portal de los Dulces. This special spot is located in the arcaded walkway that lines the Plaza de los Coches. The women who work each sugar-laden stall are carrying on a tradition that’s been passed down through at least three generations already. One bite of a cocada de coco or dulce de leche medallion and you’ll be as grateful as I am for their steadfast commitment to tradition.
4. San Diego
San Diego was love at first sight for me. It’s a picturesque neighborhood in the walled city’s northeast corner that is absolutely bursting with color, from the brightly painted facades to the flowers climbing up walls and spilling over balconies. It’s also home to some great restaurants, places like La Cevicheria, La Tumbamuertos Burger Bar, and Marzola Parilla Argentina to name a few of my personal favorites. When I’m not there for dinner or to stroll its dreamy streets, I love stopping by one of the food carts in the Plaza de San Diego to grab a carimañola and chow down on a plaza bench while I soak in San Diego’s hypnotic atmosphere.
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5. The Bay
Once the sun sets, the temperature’s cooled off a bit, and I find myself with an urge to get some fresh air or to go for a run, I love bee-lining it for either the Manga or the Castillogrande pedestrian paths. When I’m feeling especially ambitious, I start in one and run to the other. The views are spectacular and the breeze is heavenly. While there’s usually quite a crowd of walkers, runners, bikers, and roller skaters to share the path with, it’s always a refreshing experience to get out and enjoy the bay by night, lit up by the modern high rises and with the subtle sounds of the water lapping its shores under a starry night sky.
Amber Dunlap is the Editor Content writer at Juanballena.com. Follow her on Instagram @amber_dun