One Day In Cartagena: How To Spend 24 Hours In Colombia’s Colorful Gem

Only have one day in Cartagena? Cartagena is a captivating city filled with charm, history, color, and vibrant culture. Even if you have only a day to stop by, there are plenty of things and places to discover, including the historic Old Town, Getsemani, the unique cuisine, and so much more.

In this post, I’ll share my ultimate—and thoughtfully planned—Cartagena, Colombia itinerary for a day full of fun and tourism. I include key recommendations and information about the city, such as safety, getting around, and top accommodation choices depending on where you want to stay. Plus, my very own list of the best places to grab a bite and what you should try on each one.

Here is the perfect Cartagena, Colombia itinerary for an unforgettable day in the city.

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Is Cartagena Worth Visiting?

Colorful building in Getsemaní. A must visit neighborhood when spending one day in Cartagena.
Colorful building in Getsemaní

Is Cartagena worth visiting at all? Absolutely! Cartagena is a wonderful city filled with history, culture, and beauty everywhere you look. From its well-preserved colonial architecture in the Old Town to the colorful murals of Getsemani, Cartagena offers a unique blend of the old and new. 

Cartagena has a lively atmosphere that will make you feel right at home, as well as a rich culinary scene that will introduce you to new dishes you’ll want to recreate at home. The scenic coastal views just make this Colombian city a must-visit destination worth exploring. 

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Is One Day In Cartagena Enough?

One day in Cartagena will allow you to see a handful of historic places and get the feel of the city. Although a day is not enough time to see everything, with a well-planned Cartagena, Colombia itinerary like this one, you can explore the main highlights, try local dishes, and enjoy the vibrant nightlife. 

Where To Stay In Cartagena

Leones de Alba Hotel Boutique

I don’t know about you, but when I travel I want to be as comfortable as I’d be in my home, which is why I pay close attention to choosing my accommodation according to my budget and preferences. Where you stay can enhance or ruin your Cartagena experience, which is why I want to share my top accommodations for two of the city’s most famous locations, Old Town and Getsemani, that are beautiful and comfortable:

Old Town

The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as the heart of Cartagena’s historical and architectural splendor. Here you’ll find preserved colonial buildings, charming plazas, and plenty of cultural landmarks. Staying in the Old Town allows you to easily see the best of Cartagena and have a more traditional experience.

Here are some excellent accommodation choices for staying in the Old Town:

  • Sofitel Legend Santa Clara:  This is a luxurious hotel housed in a 17th-century convent that combines historical charm with modern amenities. Thanks to its central location, you can easily explore the city’s main attraction on foot.
  • Leones de Alba Hotel Boutique: This is a charming boutique hotel within walking distance to all the hotspots within the walled city. Besides the cozy rooms, they offer a full breakfast with fresh fruit, eggs made your way, and some Colombian treats like empanadas. End your night with a cocktail on their rooftop bar. 
  • Hotel Casa San Agustin This boutique hotel consists of three colonial-era buildings, offering an intimate and elegant stay. Some amenities you can enjoy include a rooftop pool and gourmet dining.

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Getsemani is located just outside the Old Town’s walls and is known for its bohemian vibe, vibrant street art, and lively nightlife. It is now one of the trendiest areas in Cartagena, after a significant transformation. Staying here will offer you a more immersive local experience, with a mix of budget-friendly and boutique accommodations. Plus, it will make your Cartagena, Colombia itinerary easier to follow. 

Here are my top picks in Getsemani:

  • Casa Lola Deluxe Gallery. This boutique hotel blends modern with colonial architecture, offering a unique and stylish stay. The beautifully decorated rooms and rooftop pool will make your stay ten times better.
  • Selina Cartagena: Selina is a budget-friendly option with a variety of room types that go from private suites to traditional rooms. This place also offers coworking spaces (excellent for freelancers and work-from-anywhere nomads), a rooftop bar, and a pool. 
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Old Town vs. Getsemaní: Which Is Right for You?

  • Old Town: If you’re looking for a more traditional and luxurious experience surrounded by historical sites and excellent dining options, the Old Town is the perfect choice. It’s ideal for those who want to be at the heart of Cartagena’s historical and architectural wonders, and those who don’t want to travel far to explore the city.
  • Getsemaní: If you prefer a more diverse and vibrant atmosphere, with a bohemian touch, then Getsemaní is your go-to option. This neighborhood is excellent for travelers who enjoy street art, local culture, and lively nightlife. 

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Is Cartagena Safe?

Cartagena is generally considered safe for tourists, especially in popular areas like the Old Town and Getsemani. However, like any tourist destination, it’s important to stay vigilant and be mindful of your surroundings. My advice: stick to well-lit and populated areas, avoid displaying valuables like your phone or jewelry, and be cautious of petty theft. Keep your purse or backpack close to you at all times, preferably near your chest instead of your back!

Is Cartagena A Walkable City?

Yes, Cartagena is a highly walkable city, especially in the Old Town and Getsemani where they have narrow streets and charming squares to explore on foot. I love walking when I’m traveling because it allows me to fully appreciate the place I’m visiting, and walking in Cartagena is perfect for admiring the city’s colonial architecture and unique street life.

Where To Eat In Cartagena

If you’re wondering what to do in Cartagena that blends exquisite food with stunning architecture, this section is for you. Here are my top dining spots I highly recommend you check out while in Cartagena:

  • La Cocina de Pepina: Known for its delicious Colombian and Caribbean dishes, excellent atmosphere, and friendly staff.
  • Pizza Carbón: A local favorite and your new go-to place for unique Colombian-style pizza.
  • El Boliche Cebicheria: Renowned for serving the best ceviche in town in a cozy and friendly space.
  • Candela en Rama: Offers dinner with live music, excellent for enhancing your Cartagena dining experience.
  • Restaurante Candé: Open for over a decade, this place is a staple in Cartagena’s dining scene.
  • Buena Vida Marisquería: The best place to eat seafood, especially ceviche. Do order the Buena Vida sautéed crab meat and ají-coco.
  • Café Lunático: Excellent spot for enjoying Spanish-style tapas in a cozy setting.

How To Spend One Day In Cartagena

One day in Cartagena will allow you to visit the city’s main attractions and get a taste of the vibrant nightlife. In this section, I’ll share my top things to do in Cartagena in a day so you can sit back, relax, and explore the city. 

See Old Town

Old Town in Cartagena

A great way to start your one-day in Cartagena itinerary is by exploring the Old Town and its stunning cobblestone streets. Take pictures of the colonial architecture and visit iconic landmarks such as the Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj) and the Cathedral of Cartagena. 

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Catch A Sunset At Café Del Mar

To give a proper closure to your Cartagena, Colombia itinerary, watch the sunset at Café Del Mar. This bar is located on the historic city walls and offers signature cocktails and incredible views of the horizon. 

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Explore Getsemaní

Getsemaní is your next stop, filled with street murals and art. You cannot miss visiting Plaza de la Trinidad for a lively atmosphere with street performers, food trucks, and lots of dancing.

Be sure to have some cash handy for souvenirs and to buy some fresh coconut water.

Visit Parque del Centenario

Parque del Centenario is a green oasis in the city. It is a great spot to relax, enjoy some shade, and watch the local wildlife, including iguanas and sloths. It’s a peaceful retreat from the bustling streets and a great thing to do in Cartagena to spend part of your packed day.

I like to carry a book with me everywhere I travel, and love finding a quiet place to read, especially parks. Parque del Centenario is excellent for booklovers, artists and generally people who love finding a peaceful place no matter where they are.

Enjoy A View From A Rooftop

To truly enjoy the best of Cartagena, you have to go to a rooftop bar for breathtaking views of the city. Hotel Movich’s rooftop bar offers excellent views of the cathedral, although if you want to hit the best bar in the city, head over to Mirador Gastro Bar.

Other great options include Sophia Rooftop and Apogeo, with excellent cocktails and light appetitive options. 

Indulge In The Culinary Scene

Cartagena has a wide variety of food you must try, especially the local ceviche, a dish made with fresh seafood marinated in citrus juices. The restaurants listed above (El Boliche Cebicheria and Buena Vida marisquería) are excellent choices for a night out to dine on some fresh fish in Cartagena.

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One Day In Cartagena Final Words

Colorful street in Getsemaní

This one-day in Cartagena itinerary will allow you to explore the city’s main attractions without rushing from one place to the other, and with enough time to sit and enjoy a wonderful dinner and have a blast at a rooftop bar afterward. 

Although a single day in Cartagena, or any other city, is not enough to get to know the place completely, it will give you plenty of time to take wonderful pictures and cross it from your bucket list.

Save this post for later if you’re visiting Cartagena because this ultimate itinerary will come in handy!

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