Cartagena is famed for being home to some of the most beautiful colonial-style buildings in all of Colombia. It also happens to have some great restaurants and bars and a vibrant nightlife. Here’s a list of the best bars in town.
Cocktail Bar, South American, $$$
Courtesy of Alquímico
Three stories of tropical cool and the best mixologists in town make Alquímico one of the hottest bars in Cartagena at the moment. It’s situated in a restored colonial mansion and sports a rooftop terrace as well as a second-floor lounge with vintage couches. There are different DJs downstairs and on the roof, so the vibe goes from chill to energetic as the party moves upstairs. Located near the Torre del Reloj in the Old City, Alquímico draws a well-dressed but eclectic crowd.
With a wraparound balcony overlooking the crowds in Plaza de la Trinidad, Restaurante Palenqueras is the best place to take in Getsemani’s most action-packed public space from a high vantage point. Colorful murals adorn the Afro-Colombian-themed bar and lounge, giving it a hip bohemian vibe. Drink specials focus on local fruit-based cocktails, and it also serves fresh fish specials and small plates meant for sharing. It’s a great place to start the evening before heading to a disco.
Mirador Gastro Bar occupies the fourth-floor rooftop of the Hotel Torre del Reloj and offers splendid views out over the Plaza de Los Coches and the Bocagrande skyline beyond. Latin beats pump out of the sound system and are accompanied by videos on large flat screens. An excellent place to take in the sunset over a cocktail or a cold beer, the Mirador also serves some light fare for snacking. It also frequently hosts live DJs and themed parties that get the crowds up and dancing.
Down to earth, La Caponera Café Bar is located in Getsemani across from the Centro de Convenciones Cartagena de Indias. The outside seating is great for people-watching, while inside, retro-cool furnishings are cramped but cozy. Classic salsa and other Latin beats are on steady rotation here, and the sidewalk area often turns into a dance floor, especially later in the night. Drinks are inexpensive by Cartagena standards, and it’s a great place to rub shoulders with the city’s creative crowd.
With a motto like “make your hangover worth it,” you know a night at the Townhouse Rooftop is going to be action-packed. Two plunge pools come with a handful of tables here, while live DJs blast dance tracks out into the humid night air. Located on the top floor of the Townhouse Boutique Hotel, the bar’s award-winning bartenders are known for their crafty cocktails. It’s a great place to splurge on a bottle with a group of friends or show up solo and meet new buddies in the bar area.
Sitting kitty-corner from the pleasant Plaza San Diego, Cuba 1940 is an homage to the glory days of old Havana. Its outside seating is some of the best in the city, but inside, you get to enjoy the live Latin jazz band up close and personal. Small plates meant for sharing are available, but many come just for the mojitos and the 1940s-era atmosphere.
Attracting a young pre-nightclub crowd, Tasca Maria Bar is the most fun and friendly of the many bars along Media Luna in Getsemani. Even though it’s located on the city’s hostel row, it attracts a lot of Cartagena residents who come to chat and dance with the visiting backpackers. Expect tons of reggaeton and champeta, which often get the patrons up and dancing. Inexpensive drinks and good two-for-one happy-hour specials make Tasca Maria a great place to spend some quality time.
One of the more upscale bars on Calle Media Luna – the center of Getsemani’s nocturnal action – is Tertulia de Getsemaní, which is decked out like a classic Cuban cigar lounge. Live salsa and Latin jazz bands take the tiny stage from Wednesday to Saturday nights, and the music spills out into the street. With exposed brick and a high ceiling, the interior fills up quickly on live music nights, so be sure to show up early for a table. On the weekends and during the high season, there is often a small cover charge here.
Located in the La Matuna area, which is between the Old City and Getsemani, Planeta Champeta is an artsy homage to Cartagena’s home-grown musical style. It’s decorated with graffiti-style murals and is a popular hangout with the local Champetú collective, which brings street artists and champeta music together and hosts the annual Aerosol Graffiti Festival. Different events take place during the week, but there is almost always a local band playing on Friday and Saturday nights. During the late afternoon, the outside patio is a great place to grab a cold beer and meet some new friends.
Those missing a proper pint need go no farther than the Plaza de Los Coches, where the two-story The Clock Pub awaits. An outside seating section provides great views over the plaza, while live rock bands take to the stage upstairs most nights of the week. It serves several different European beers on draft, as well as Colombian craft-brew offerings, such as those by the Bogotá Beer Company. Giant hamburgers and other pub fare are also served until late at night.
Tucked away on Callejón Ancho in Getsemani, Club Carpinteros is a neighborhood bar with a small dance floor in the back. This club is primarily a weekend venue, with a DJ taking over and turning up the volume. On Sundays, it throws a salsa party that attracts a diverse crowd and keeps everyone sweating on the dance floor until late into the night.
From the outside to the inside, Bazurto Social Club oozes onda caribeña (Caribbean vibes) and is a local gem well worth visiting. With a live band playing champeta hits, Bazurto is an unpretentious spot with cheap drinks and a fantastic crowd. It also has an on-site kitchen that serves up tasty bites until midnight.
Café del Mar has an awe-inspiring location on top of the Baluarte de Santo Domingo, the westernmost point of Cartagena’s 17th-century fortifications. Beautiful views out over the Caribbean Sea become even more spectacular at sunset, and the place fills up nightly for this spectacle. It’s not a cheap option, but it’s worth splashing out for the experience of enjoying a delicious cocktail and yummy snack while taking in the setting sun.
Folks looking for an evening filled with live salsa while visiting Colombia’s Caribbean coast should look no further than Café Havana. Located in Getsemani, this haunt hosted Hillary Clinton when she was in town. As an upscale Cuban-style bar, it attracts a keen salsa-dancing crowd. But those who lack rhythm don’t need to worry; it’s just as much fun to grab a drink and watch other people demonstrate their expert salsa skills.
Part of a popular Colombian chain of bars that started in Cali, Bourbon St Cartagena, which opened in 2013, is a fun Mardi Gras-inspired drinking spot situated right in the city’s historic center. Located in a renovated two-story colonial house, it peers over one of Cartagena’s busiest squares, Plaza Santo Domingo. As well as perfectly mixed cocktails, draft beers and a great selection of wines, Bourbon St offers American-style food, such as burgers, ribs and cakes.
Donde Fidel is one of Cartagena’s most famous bars, located right in the heart of the historic walled city on Plaza de Los Coches. Here, bar-hoppers will find a fun mix of residents and tourists swaying to classic salsa. The walls are covered with photos of the bar’s namesake, Fidel, posing with famous salsa musicians from all over the world. With three rooms, it has plenty of room for dancing. Donde Fidel also has some choice outside seating on one of the city’s liveliest plazas.
A bar that only really gets going after midnight, Mister Babilla is a popular stop on many chiva (party-bus) tours. Having been around for more than 25 years, Mister Babilla is a well-loved local bar that isn’t particularly fancy but provides guests with great DJs and strong, simple drinks – the perfect combination for a straightforward, low-key night out.
An established and popular place, Leon De Baviera is a German bar that provides the city with a soccer fix, showing all the Premier League games, meaning soccer fans will never have to miss a match. The drinks menu is basic, mainly featuring beer, along with some Jägermeister mixed drinks; however, the Paulaner beers are the real stars of the show. While you enjoy the brews, you can dine on German favorites, such as bratwurst, currywurst, spätzle, sauerkraut or a grilled meat platter.
Located in the Hotel Santa Clara Cartagena, among the city’s best places to stay, El Coro Lounge Bar is the height of drinking sophistication. Come here to experience some of the finest cocktails Cartagena has to offer in a stunning setting. Live music during the week keeps customers entertained while they take in the sheer elegance and beauty of the hotel’s grand design. It’s not a budget option, but the bar provides a great setting for special occasions.
A long-standing and popular establishment, Quiebra-Canto is located in Getsemani, just across from Parque del Centenario. Frequented by a diverse crowd, this is a go-to dancing spot for salsa lovers, who can twirl to live music most nights of the week. Classy but bohemian, its second-floor location, complete with a wraparound balcony, offers sweeping views of Cartagena’s famous clock tower and the illuminated domed churches of the Old City.