Offering old-world luxury, exquisite fine dining options and an uber-cool nightlife, Cartagena is fast becoming one of South America’s most vibrant cities – and the undoubted queen of Colombia’s northern coast. From hip cocktail bars to cuban salsa bars, here are our favourite drinking spots in Cartagena’s Walled City.
Cocktail Bar, South American, $$$
Courtesy of Alquímico
With its luxurious, 1920s-style decor, experimental cocktails and ever-popular fairy lit rooftop, Alquímico is fast becoming one of Cartagena‘s most talked about bars. Spread out over three floors of a beautifully restored colonial mansion, you could easily spend your whole evening here. The first floor is dedicated to pre-dinner aperitifs, whilst the second is for pool and dinner, and the last – the famous rooftop – for getting the party started over a couple of al fresco aguardiente cocktails. Don’t miss their Passion Tea cocktail infused with passion fruit rum and black tea syrup. If you’re staying for dinner, their seared octopus served with creole chimichurri is pretty sensational too.
If you’re looking for the rowdy, real Colombian night out experience, then you’ve got to make it to Tu Candela. This place gets the party started with glass-shattering reggaeton, vallenato, merengue and salsa, and even has Colombian girls in tutus and bikini tops shaking their stuff on the bar. Just be warned: don’t turn up if you’re not prepared to let loose on the dancefloor. It’s just not an option here.
With its exposed brick walls, funky industrial lighting and brilliant live music at weekends, ultra-modern Sinko is where all the cool kids in Cartagena are hanging out. This is a great place to come and watch talented mixologists do their thing (with maybe even a trick or two thrown in), followed by a delicious (and surprisingly well-priced) meal out on their plant-filled al-fresco terrace. Don’t miss the seared octopus with yuca mash.
German mixologist and barman Noah Matthies has travelled the world in search of the best cocktails – he knows what it takes to create a cool glass of boozy bliss, and cleverly combines heady spirits with fresh local fruit. Highlights include his fiery paprika-laced margarita and the Gin Basil Smash, a whisky sour formula with an added touch of rosemary. The kitchen offers a small selection of culinary creations such as fresh tomato soup, focaccia bread and seafood bisque. El Baron’s exposed brick wall, beautiful hand-painted tiles and low lighting give this place the perfect level of chic.
This one’s, well, for the beer lovers! It may not be the most glamorous place in town, but if you’re the kind of person that would go for a hoppy IPA over a fruity cocktail any day, then this place might just win you over. The Beer Lovers has an impressive selection of international craft beers, as well as several of Colombia’s best local brews. It doesn’t stay open too late, so start early! The Beer Lovers makes for the perfect cool-down on a sweaty Cartagena afternoon.
This place may no longer be Cartagena’s best-kept secret, but there’s a reason for that: it’s awesome. Black and white photos of music legends hang from the walls, a fairy-lit, dark-wood panelled bar serves potent rum cocktails, and old-school, ten-piece Cuban bands keep the party going till the early hours. Cafe Havana draws a mixed crowd of locals and ex-pats, and it’s not long before the whole place is up on their feet testing out their best salsa moves. An absolute must while in the Getsemani neighbourhood.
Often missed due to its slightly hidden location (it’s right on the edge of the outer walled city in the Getsemani neighbourhood), Casa de la Cerveza is one of Cartagena’s best-kept secrets. Decked out with chic white loungers and low wooden tables, this al fresco lounge right on the old city walls, offers epic views over toward Castillo de San Felipe, the high rises of Bocagrande, and the Caribbean. Think Cafe del Mar, but without the crowds or vendors. Drinks are a little pricey, but you’re paying for the great sunset views and cool vibes. If you’re in a group, the pitcher works out best.