Street Wise: A Stop-by-Stop Guide to Calle del Arsenal, Cartagena

Explore the best of Getsemaní and the beautiful, colorful architecture of bustling Cartagena
Explore the best of Getsemaní and the beautiful, colorful architecture of bustling Cartagena | © Oliver Wintzen / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Leon Beckenham
3 December 2021
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Bars that showcase Colombia‘s rum culture and restaurants run by celebrity chefs line the cobbled sides of hip Getsemaní’s coolest stretch.

Just outside the ancient walls of Cartagena’s exquisite Old Town, the once-seedy barrio of Getsemaní has blossomed into a hip, artsy neighborhood that’s caught the eye of savvier travelers. Here, colorful, crumbling colonial architecture is crowned with cascading flowers or emblazoned with street art. Musicians liven up leafy plazas with impromptu performances. Come nightfall, the throb of cumbia (Colombian folk music) spills from numerous dance bars. You’ll find all of this and more along Calle del Arsenal, so join us on a stroll along this vibrant slice of Colombian-Caribbean streetlife.

Selina Cartagena

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Courtesy of Selina Cartagena / Expedia.com
Even among the veritable rainbow of buildings in Cartagena, the striking facade of this restored mansion leaps out. Step inside and the color scheme continues, combining jazzy graphics with a tropical boho vibe. You can pick a budget-friendly mixed dorm or treat yourself to a private room and ensuite. Beat the heat with a dip in one of the hotel’s two pools. Come evening, get in the mood with coconut-infused cocktails and Afro-Caribbean tunes at the rooftop bar. Don’t worry, a sunrise yoga session the next day will help clear your head.

Marea

Restaurant, Seafood
marea cartagena
© Marea, Cartagena
Opened by the Rausch brothers – Latin America’s biggest celebrity-chef siblings – Marea joined their impressive portfolio of restaurants in 2012. While they’ve brought their magic touch to the refined menu of international cuisine, it’s the waterfront setting that really steals the show. As you’d imagine, the market-fresh seafood here is standout, especially when prepared in traditional Colombian specialties such as the sublime arroz marea. Regular live music also cranks up the romance.

El Arsenal: The Rum Box

Gastropub, Caribbean, $$$
El Arsenal: The Rum Box
© El Arsenal: The Rum Box
One glance at the entrance of this gastrobar and you know it’s going to be fun. It was opened by the mayor’s son, Abraham Dau, in 2017 with the aim of showcasing Colombia’s rum culture. It’s home to the world’s largest collection of Colombian rums, which can be enjoyed straight, in an expertly-mixed cocktail, or paired with some chocolate on the side. There’s a great dining menu, too, full of spicy Caribbean flavors and local ingredients – their ceviche might just be the best in town.

Pasaje Leclerc

Bazaar
Hats street selling in Cartagena de Indias
© Anamaria Mejia / Alamy Stock Photo
Connecting Calle de Arsenal with parallel Calle Larga, Pasaje Leclerc is an old tucked-away bazaar that most visitors overlook. But take time to browse the crowded stalls and – being away from the main tourist hotspots – you can find some real bargains, especially if you’re in the market for some Colombian handicrafts. Don’t be shy of a haggle: most stallholders will oblige a small discount.

Mister Babilla

Bar, Pub Grub, $$$
typical colorful facade of houses in district Getsemani of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, South America
© Juergen Ritterbach / Alamy Stock Photo
Housed in an architectural slice of colonial Cartagena, this popular bar-restaurant is a great spot for good food, strong booze and unpretentious fun. It draws a healthy mix of up-for-it locals and curious tourists for sizzling steak, cold beer and a dance floor that gets increasingly packed through the evening. Expect some full-on rumba expertly executed by the native costeños, some of whom will take to table tops by the end of the night.

Terraza Municipal

Market, Street Food
Happy girl eating Mexican fast food quesadilla. Streetfood
© frantic / Alamy Stock Photo

If you’d rather tuck into some street food, then the Terraza Municipal is where several of the finest food trucks in Cartagena congregate, offering everything from pizza and sushi to tacos. It’s a big open waterfront plaza where crowds of locals meet friends and families to chat, eat, drink and – when the mood takes them – dance. Dusk here is particularly magical, with spectacular sunsets and lots of garland lighting. Festivities often go on into the night.

Discoteca Farándula

Nightclub, Cocktails, Beer, Wine
While you’re spoilt for choice for nightclubs along this stretch, none offer up as much ritz and glitz as Discoteca Farándula. They roll out Ibiza-esque levels of clubbing pizzazz, from the dynamic lit-up dance floor to metallic rococo seating and caged dancers dangling from the ceiling. Expect a glammed-up crowd who aren’t afraid to strut their stuff. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Casa Lola

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Courtesy of Casa Lola / Expedia.com
If you’re looking for somewhere that really bottles the magic of historic Cartagena, it has to be Casa Lola. It occupies two beautifully restored 17th- and 19th-century buildings, lined with an ornate facade teeming with plant life and interiors that leave you cooing with delight. Rooms combine eclectic decor with comfort where it matters, like 500-thread-count sheets, pillow menus and garden views from many. There are lots of cozy nooks, including a snug mezzanine library – but the real highlight is a rooftop terrace where you can recline poolside, crafted cocktail in hand.

Casa de la Cerveza

Bar, South American, $$$
Cartagena Colombia,Center,centre,Getsemani,Casa de la Cerveza,restaurant restaurants food dining cafe,al fresco,sidewalk outside tables dining street
© Jeffrey Isaac Greenberg 13+ / Alamy Stock Photo
Set atop ancient ramparts at the end of Calle de Arsenal, this “casa de la cerveza” certainly delivers on its name with a long list of national and international beers to choose from. The menu is largely centered around flame-cooked steaks and seafood, as well as plenty of traditional Colombian fare. It’s a fine spot to soak up some Caribbean sunshine, but head there at night and you’re treated to a spectacular view of the twinkling Cartagena cityscape across the water.

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