After long days on the beach and longer nights in the club, visitors to Cartagena might require some retail therapy just for a change of pace. Luckily, Cartagena is a shopper’s paradise.
Not only are there fashion boutiques everywhere, but Cartagena is also a great place to pick up some of Colombia’s famed crafts and products. Here are the top 10 places to get your shopping fix in the city known as the Queen of the Caribbean.
Courtesy of Plaza La Serrezuela
A historic bullfighting ring lovingly restored and transformed into a mall, La Serrezuela is one of the architectural marvels of Cartagena’s historic walled Old City, where visitors spend most of their time. Five floors of boutique shops surround the ancient wooden ring, which now serves as a performance space, while an upscale food court and a series of terraces with views over the city are located on the top floor. Grab a coffee at Café Quindío before stopping by Artensenias de Colombia on the third floor, where they showcase high-quality woven products from communities along the Caribbean coast.
Stock up on T-shirts, hats and shoulder bags at this series of small shops located on the eastern side of the Old City. Built as storage vaults in the 18th century, these dungeon-like spaces were also used to house prisoners during several different battles in that era. Sitting under the shade of an ancient portico, it’s an iconic place to do some shopping. Most of the 23 different shops sell the same Cartagena-oriented souvenirs, but about halfway down the line, you will find Tienda Escuelas Taller, where handmade artisan items including wall hangings and sculptures from local artists are on display.
Chaotic, grimy and bursting with life, the Bazurto Market is not for the faint of heart. But for those looking for deals, nothing can beat it. Located outside of the Old City, this massive local market has both a food section, where fresh fish is brought in by fishermen in the morning and produce is stacked up to the ceiling, and a large clothing and home products area. Find swimming trunks, flip flops, bikinis and everything else you will ever need for a Cartagena vacation all in one place. And all for dirt cheap too – especially if your bargaining skills are top notch.
From full-color coffee table books brimming with the vibrant sights of Cartagena to English language novels – Albaco is your one-stop shop for books in Cartagena. The hip bookstore also has an onsite café, so you can sip, browse and hang out for a while. Buy that Gabriel Garcia Márquez novel you always meant to read or check out a full guidebook to Colombia; Cartagena is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to one of the most biodiverse countries on earth.
Cartagena is the kind of place that makes people want to dress to impress. To check out a selection of some stylish tropical dresses and other women’s fashion, stop by the boutique of Beatriz Camacho. One of Colombia’s top designers, Camacho specializes in the kind of bright, light and flowing styles that match so perfectly with Cartagena’s chic charm.
A proper linen shirt is a must-have for any male visitor to Cartagena, and Cubavera has many to choose from. Stocking everything from classic long-sleeved styles to the Cuban guayabera shirt, with its iconic design down the front, this great boutique has one of the better tropical style selections in town. It also does a variety of linen pants and shorts for those that want to go all in and look like a real Cartagenero.
Don’t let some steep hotel and restaurant prices put you off the Old City. Over on Calle de Las Monedas (Calle 36) there are a wide variety of bargain shopping options, with stores that sell goods including shoes, bikinis, jeans, underwear and more. About halfway down this bustling row lies the Pasaje La Moneda, a two-story shopping center with deals galore. The rest of the three-block stretch is lined with small shops that should cover just about everything else you might look for on vacation.
To hit the mall, head over to beachfront Bocagrande. The Plaza Bocagrande is a four-story modern shopping center with a wide variety of both Colombian and international name-brand shops including Esprit and Tommy Hilfiger. Hungry folks should head right to the food court on the third floor while those looking to catch a flick will be happy to find a cinema multiplex on the fourth.
Right under the passageway of Cartagena’s old port entrance lies a small but interesting mix of vendors with some high-quality items. Indigenous Kogi from the Santa Marta area are usually present here selling their built-to-last beautiful virgin wool shoulder bags, known as mochilas, which also means backpack. Look out for handmade domino sets, musical instruments and used books – the middle aisle of shops is home to a pop-up book store that specializes in local tomes.
This lush city park is not only home to monkeys, iguanas and sloths, its eastern side is also lined with a row of vendors who offer some amazing deals. Many of these kiosks are bookshops, where used volumes of Latin American literature and essays can be purchased, but there are also several craft vendors in the mix as well. Grab deals on key chains, Panama hats and sunglasses.