As Colombia’s fourth-largest city, located in between the tourist hot spots of Cartagena and Santa Marta, Barranquilla often gets overlooked by visitors. Thought of as an unattractive port town, this gem on the Caribbean coast is actually home to incredible people and some beautiful sights. Here’s our guide of the best things to do and see in this charming city.
Museo del Caribe
The best museum in Barranquilla by far, come to El Museo del Caribe for a fascinating insight into the history and culture of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, quite unlike that of any other part of the country. Providing a fun and interactive experience, this museum is split into different levels and rooms, each displaying different elements of the culture. A special area dedicated to writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez contains an exposition of his best work and is a great place to sit down and read one of his short stories or novels.
Opening times: Mon-Thurs 8am-5pm, Fri-Sun 8am-6pm
Address: Cl. 36 #46 – 66, Barranquilla, Atlántico, Colombia, +57 5 3720581
Carnival of Barranquilla
Latin America’s second-biggest carnival after Rio de Janeiro’s, Barranquilla’s carnival is a huge blow-out event celebrated four days before Ash Wednesday, although in reality the excitement and preparation begin many months before. During the carnival, the whole city explodes into a riot of color, social barriers relax and the rich and poor, the old and young come together and have one enormous party.
La Troja is the ultimate Barranquillero experience. Described perfectly as ‘an attack on the senses’, the place is loud, bright and crowded, and it provides an incredible amount of fun. Playing purely salsa, if you’re looking for an authentic barranquillero night out, this is the place to come. The crowd is mixed, meaning you’re just as likely to find a group of young ex-pats here as a solitary salsa-dancing senior. It’s an ‘anything goes’ type of place, which sums up the relaxed and friendly vibe of the city perfectly.
Opening hours: Thurs 3pm-3am, Fri-Sat 1:00pm-4am
Castillo de Salgar
Located outside of the city, next to the sea in Salgar, the Castillo de Salgar is a beautifully restored old castle. It serves as a private events function space but it’s also home to a fantastic restaurant, serving up a mix of cuisines. Escape the city and head to the castle to soak up its beauty at sunset, when its yellow walls reflect the setting sun. A perfect spot to come and avoid the urban crowds, eat a slap-up meal and enjoy some breathtaking views.
Address: Salgar, Atlántico, Colombia
While many people think of Barranquilla as a busy city, they often ignore the fact that it’s actually right next to the sea. At the Hotel Pradomar you can soak up some of Barranquilla’s constant sunshine while relaxing on a sun lounger, dipping your toes in the sea and sipping on a perfectly mixed coconut cocktail. At night there are fantastic parties held at the hotel’s club, Kilimangaro.
Address: Calle 2, Puerto Colombia, Atlántico, Colombia, +57 5 3096011
Barranquilla is home to some of the best surf breaks in Colombia. Head to the coast and get your board out – great waves and warm waters make Barranquilla an ideal location to get your surf on. Colombia Surf Spot is the place to catch all the latest information about surfing in and around Barranquilla. If you’re looking for surf lessons, the Hotel Pradomar have some brilliant teachers.
To get a real feel for Barranquilla there’s no better way than heading down to the Paseo Bolivar in the center of the city. Chaotic, busy and filled with people, this what Barranquilla is all about. Be careful with your belongings and don’t hang around after dark, but don’t be afraid to check out the market and various affordable goods on offer. The Paseo Bolivar is also a great place to try a tasty arepa con queso or drink coconut water straight out the shell – you can’t get more Barranquillero than this.
Find second-hand bargains at Oscar de la 30
Very much an undiscovered gem in the city, past the busy Paseo Bolivar in the centre of Barranquilla lies carrera 30, home to the fantastic second-hand shop Oscar de la 30. The place sits in a whole street of shops offering up second-hand clothing at absolutely bargainous prices. Hunt for long enough and you’ll find brands such as MaxMara, Calvin Klein and DKNY among the towering mountains of clothes. It may take a day’s work, but it’s worth the effort if you’re a fashion fan.
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 6:30am-6:30pm
Sample local food at NarcoBollo
If you can only visit one place to try typical costeño cuisine, NarcoBollo is the place to go. Home of the finest fritos in the city, come to NarcoBollo to taste the best arepas, empanadas and deditos around. Lunches with meat, rice, beans and plantain are also served, as well as a selection of brilliant soups – some claim that they serve the finest ajiaco soup in the city.
Opening hours: daily 7:00am – 9pm
Address: Carrera 43 #8-4, Atlántico, Colombia
Visit where the river meets the sea at Bocas de Cenizas
Traveling out from the small neighborhood of Las Flores, you can catch a rickety old train to witness the special point where the river meets the sea. Passing small huts and gatherings of people along the way, you will eventually reach huge rocks, which afford the best view if you’re brave enough to climb them. A total oasis of calm, the place is well worth the trip. Arrive at Las Flores for lunch beforehand and you’ll be able to sample some of the finest fish on the coast, too.
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