Cartagena the most romantic city in Colombia

Cartagena the most romantic city in Colombia. Lay eyes on Cartagena and prepare to be lovestruck. Let’s see why.

A major trading port in the days of the Empire, Cartagena is Colombia’s most picturesque, well-preserved colonial, and indeed the most romantic city for many.

Its historic center, enclosed by 11km of fortified stone walls, built to guard against marauding pirates. Beyond the walls are an enchanting city of cobblestone streets, brightly colored mansions, and elaborate cathedrals overlooking parks and plazas.

Literature buffs will know the setting for Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s romantic epic Love in the Time of Cholera was almost certainly based on Cartagena.

Cartagena´s state of decaying charm inspired the famous wordsmith in the late 19th century. Today, Old Cartagena is no longer the crumbling sailor’s outpost of Garcia Marquez’s imagination. As Colombia’s premier tourist destination, the city has undergone an extensive makeover.

Grand homes and historical landmarks, all authentically restored. Cafes, museums, and artisan craft stores have proliferated. Even the old horse-drawn carriages have returned, if only for the entertainment of sightseeing tourists.

Sure, Cartagena is touristy, and the Old City somewhat sanitized, but romance is part of the city’s DNA.

There’s fiery passion in the Caribbean-style salsa danced in the clubs and on the streets. Couples sit hand in hand atop the city walls watching the evening sun glow red over the Caribbean Sea. This is a city whose beauty has inspired countless poets, painters, musicians, and lovers.

So, visit Cartagena and follow your heart – and our guide on what to do in Latin America’s most romantic city!

When visiting Cartagena the most romantic city in Colombia, head to the walled city first and wander hand in hand.

When visiting Cartagena the most romantic city in Colombia head to the walled city first and wander hand in hand. Image copyrighted to MotoDreamer Archives.

A contender for the most photogenic city in South America, Old Cartagena’s narrow streets are a living architectural museum. Around every corner is a piece of history – a humble stone church, a lavish cathedral, or a gothic-style bell tower.

Buildings sport vibrant Colonial pastel façades and baroque wooden doors. Consider a walking tour with a guide who can fill you in on the fascinating events and personalities that shaped Cartagena’s identity.

The second stop when visiting Cartagena has to be chilling out in Getsemani.

The second stop when visiting Cartagena has to be chilling out in Getsemani. Image under copyright to MotoDreamer Archives.

Just outside the city walls, Getsemani was a fairly notorious neighborhood that’s experienced a recent renaissance. The scruffy backpacker hostels and shady bars are still there. But the barrio has embraced a hip, artistic vibe in contrast to Old Cartagena’s meticulous aesthetics.

Dilapidated buildings, wholly revamped, ubiquitous street art, boutique hotels, and funky bars pop up everywhere.

Also, Getsemani is changing fast, but for now, it still manages to balance ramshackle quirkiness and cosmopolitan cool. Check it out before the rest of the world gets wind of it!

Cartagena lives up to its reputation as the most romantic city in Colombia in the evening sink cocktails at sunset and watch.

The western ramparts of Old Town face the Caribbean Sea, creating an excellent sunset vantage point. A string of bars along the promenade (including the famous and perpetually packed Café del Mar) provides the perfect opportunity to sip tropical fruit cocktails as the sun sinks below the ocean.

And also, what nightlife-loving city would be complete without a rooftop bar or six?

A newer addition is the slick Townhouse Rooftop, which provides a unique sunset perspective overlooking Cartagena’s rooftops and cathedral domes. A great way to sit and watch the inhabitants of Cartagena, the most romantic city in Colombia.

Cartagena is a well-placed city for losing yourself in Music.

Yes, Cartagena the most romantic city in Colombia has plenty of nightclubs, from traditional salsa joints to techno-pumping party palaces. A image from MotoDreamer Archives.

Yes, Cartagena has plenty of nightclubs, from traditional salsa joints to techno-pumping party palaces. But there’s more to Cartagena’s nightlife than clubbing – it’s a paradise for music lovers of all persuasions.

The region has its distinct musical stylings, blending Latin and Afro-Caribbean influences. Stand still and listen; you can hear the city’s wealth of live music venues.

Most play local genres like champeta and cumbia, while others cater to rock and jazz devotees. For live salsa, Café Havana is a well-loved classic. But often, the best live music you’ll encounter is performed on the streets.

What’s more awesome, wherever you go in this soulful city, music is in the air.

Instead of staying in the city, do you fancy escaping for a few hours to a secluded island?

Cartagena doesn’t have mainland Colombia’s best beaches – you’ll have to go to Tayrona or the Pacific Coast for that. But Cartagena is still inextricably linked to the coast, and an island-hopping cruise is high on most visitors’ agendas.

The Rosario Islands are 27 pretty coral islets scattered off Cartagena’s coast.

Remember, most day trips follow a standard itinerary, anchoring at the islands’ often overcrowded beaches, combined with some rather unimpressive snorkeling.

To get a better feel of Colombian island life, consider staying overnight. Isla Grande has several accommodation options along its idyllic white-sand beaches.

One of the few inhabited settlements in the Rosarios, a local indigenous population, lives in rustic villages carved out of the island’s jungle interior.

For a more luxurious (if less authentic) stay, the exclusive Hotel Coralina sits atop tiny, coral reef-fringed Isla Coralina. Here´s where guests relax in thatched-roof bungalows and feast on top-notch food made with local Caribbean produce. And watch the world go by in Cartagena, the most romantic city in Colombia.

Now it’s time to overload your senses at the world-famous Mercado Bazurto in Cartagena.

Sadly a market is not the vest way to promote Cartagena the most romantic city in Colombia but we have to mention Mercado Bazurto is a gigantic, 24 hour indoor/outdoor market 15 minutes outside the walled city. A further Motodreamer Archive copyright image.

Now sadly, we have to mention the other side of Cartagena, the most romantic city in Colombia.

Cartagena isn’t all beauty and romance. Most tourists experience a completely different Cartagena to the one thousands of Costeños enjoy. Nearly all Cartagena locals live, work, and raise their families within the city walls.

Yet both fancy restaurants and working-class Costeños come to the same place to buy fresh ingredients.

Mercado Bazurto is a gigantic, 24 hour indoor/outdoor market 15 minutes outside the walled city. It’s a raw slice of real life in Cartagena’s not-so-glamorous side. This is no tourist attraction.

However, Bazurto is a gritty, grimy assault on the senses, pungent with the smells of recently slaughtered animals, their body parts dangling from iron hooks. Produce vendors sell a mind-boggling variety of fruits and flowers, while counterfeit dealers ply knock-off watches and underwear.

Furthermore, it’s a confusing, chaotic warren of narrow passageways, prowling pickpockets, stifling heat, and sweaty bodies.

Well, to be fair to Cartagena, the most romantic city in Colombia. A market anywhere in the world will not be a romantic destination for anyone.

Remember, it may look intimidating, but Bazurto is a pleasant place, a sort of social hub for locals. People take their families, snack on fresh food, drink cheap beer, and in true Costeño fashion, break out into the occasional impromptu jam session.

Feature image for this article titled: Cartagena – Colombia’s Most Romantic City. Image copyrighted to MotoDreamer Archives.

What the rest of Cartagena lacks in romance, it makes up for in passion.

Written by: Fiona Davies (extreme pillion rider and adventure travel writer)

Edited for SEO optimization by Mike Bowley at

There is more to Colombia and MotoDreamer,. There is a friendship between country and riders that is so evident when you feast your eyes on the next set of articles written by Fiona and Mike for Diana and Mikkel

Colombia – Home to the World’s Happiest People 

MotoDreamer’s Guide to Zona Cafetera 

MotoDreamer Supporting Local Businesses in Colombia 


Visit Cartagena the most romantic city in Colombia with Mike & Diana at MotoDreamer


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