A Foodie’s Guide to Cartagena

Chow down in Cartagena with our tasty guide to the city's best eats, from age-old recipes to new-school fusion, making it a total foodie dream spot.

2/26/20245 min read

a man sitting at a table with bowls of food
a man sitting at a table with bowls of food

If you're a food lover looking for your next culinary adventure, you need to add Cartagena to your travel bucket list. This vibrant city in Colombia is not only famous for its stunning beaches and historical landmarks but also for its incredible food scene. From traditional dishes that have been passed down through generations to contemporary fusion creations, Cartagena has something to delight every foodie's taste buds. In this guide, we'll take you on a gastronomic journey through the Heroic City, highlighting the must-try dishes that will leave you craving more.


Welcome to Cartagena, where the flavors are as rich as its history. This coastal city is a melting pot of cultures, resulting in a diverse culinary landscape that will tantalize your senses. Whether it's savory street food or elegant fine dining, Cartagena offers a plethora of dining options that showcase the region's unique ingredients and cooking techniques. Get ready to embark on a gastronomic adventure like no other.

As you wander through the vibrant streets of Cartagena, you'll be captivated by the enticing aromas that waft through the air. The city's culinary scene is deeply rooted in its history, with influences from indigenous tribes, Spanish colonizers, African slaves, and Caribbean neighbors. These diverse cultural influences have shaped the local cuisine into a harmonious blend of flavors, creating a truly distinctive gastronomic experience.

One of the highlights of Cartagena's culinary scene is its street food culture. From the moment you step foot in the city, you'll be greeted by the enticing sight of food carts lining the streets, offering a wide array of mouthwatering delicacies. Indulge in the famous arepas, delicious cornmeal patties filled with cheese, meat, or beans, and grilled to perfection. Or perhaps try the mouthwatering empanadas, crispy pastries stuffed with a variety of fillings, such as beef, chicken, or cheese.

Each bite is a burst of flavor, a true reflection of the city's vibrant spirit.

a woman sitting at a table with food and drinks
a woman sitting at a table with food and drinks

The Culinary Landscape of Cartagena

Cartagena's culinary scene is a testament to the city's cultural heritage. Influenced by African, Indigenous, and Spanish traditions, the local cuisine reflects a fusion of flavors that will transport you back in time. From the vibrant colors of fresh fruits and vegetables to the simmering pots of aromatic stews, the city's markets and restaurants are a feast for the senses.

One of the defining characteristics of Cartagena's food culture is its emphasis on seafood. With the Caribbean Sea right at its doorstep, the city boasts an abundance of fresh fish, shrimp, and lobster. From hearty seafood soups to succulent ceviche, you'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to oceanic delights.

As you explore the culinary landscape of Cartagena, you'll discover that the city's love for seafood extends beyond the traditional dishes. In many local restaurants, you'll find innovative seafood creations that push the boundaries of flavor and presentation. Imagine savoring a perfectly grilled octopus, tender and smoky, served with a zesty mango salsa that adds a burst of tropical sweetness to every bite. Or perhaps you'll indulge in a dish of buttery scallops, seared to perfection and accompanied by a velvety coconut curry sauce that will transport your taste buds to paradise.

But it's not just the seafood that steals the show in Cartagena's culinary scene. The city is also known for its mouthwatering street food, where you can find a variety of snacks and treats to satisfy your cravings. Picture yourself strolling through the bustling streets, the tantalizing aroma of freshly fried empanadas filling the air. These golden pockets of dough are filled with a savory mixture of meat, cheese, or vegetables, creating a delightful explosion of flavors with every bite.

Must-Try Traditional Dishes

No foodie's journey to Cartagena is complete without indulging in the city's traditional dishes. One such dish is "Bandeja Paisa," a hearty platter that includes rice, beans, ground beef, chicharrón (crispy pork belly), plantains, and a fried egg. This flavorful combination will keep you energized as you explore the city's streets.

But wait, there's more! Cartagena is a culinary paradise, offering a plethora of mouthwatering dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. Let's delve deeper into the world of Cartagena's traditional cuisine and discover two additional must-try dishes.

First on our expanded list is "Sancocho," a beloved Colombian soup that warms the soul. This hearty broth is made with a variety of meats such as chicken, beef, or pork, along with a medley of vegetables like plantains, yuca, and corn. The rich flavors and fragrant aromas will transport you to the heart of Colombian culture, where families gather around the table to share this comforting dish.

Now, let's turn our attention to "Cazuela de Mariscos," a seafood lover's dream come true. This delectable dish showcases the bounty of the Caribbean Sea, with a tantalizing mix of shrimp, fish, crab, and mussels cooked in a savory tomato-based broth. The addition of coconut milk adds a touch of creaminess, elevating the flavors to new heights. Served with a side of white rice or crispy plantains, this dish is a true celebration of Cartagena's coastal culinary heritage.

So, Cartagena has something to satisfy every craving, whether you're a fan of hearty platters, crispy cornbread, soul-warming soups, or seafood delights. Embark on a culinary adventure and explore the vibrant flavors that make this city a food lover's paradise.

a woman smiling and holding a plate of food
a woman smiling and holding a plate of food

Where to Find the Best Local Eats

When it comes to finding the best local eats, it's all about exploring the city's hidden gems. Start your culinary journey in the neighborhood of Getsemaní, where you'll find bustling food markets and street vendors dishing out authentic Cartagena flavors. Don't miss the chance to try "Patacón con Todo," a mouthwatering dish consisting of smashed and fried plantains topped with various toppings like shredded beef, cheese, and tangy sauces.

If you're looking for a more upscale dining experience, head to the charming neighborhood of El Centro. You'll find innovative restaurants that blend traditional Colombian flavors with modern culinary techniques here. Indulge in dishes like "Posta Negra," a tender beef stew with rich chocolate sauce.

As you continue your quest for the best local eats, make sure to explore the spirited neighborhood of Bocagrande. Known for its stunning beachfront views, Bocagrande is also home to a variety of restaurants that offer a unique fusion of international cuisines. Treat your taste buds to the flavors of the Caribbean with dishes like "Arroz con Coco," a delicious coconut rice served with fresh seafood, or "Ceviche Mixto," a refreshing mix of marinated fish and shellfish.

If you're a fan of street food, don't miss out on the lively neighborhood of Manga. Here, you'll find food carts and stalls serving up delectable snacks and treats. Try the famous "Arepa de Huevo," a traditional Colombian cornbread stuffed with a fried egg, or indulge in the sweet and savory combination of "Mango Biche con Sal y Limón," which is green mango sprinkled with salt and lime juice.

Plan Your Culinary Adventure with Cartagena Caribbean Tours

Now that you know about the incredible culinary scene in Cartagena, it's time to start planning your food-filled adventure. Whether you're a fan of traditional Colombian dishes or eager to try innovative creations, Cartagena has something to satisfy every palate.

Book your trip with Cartagena Caribbean Tours and get ready to embark on a gastronomic journey like no other. From guided food tours to hands-on cooking classes, they'll ensure that your experience in Cartagena is as delicious as it is memorable.

Don't wait any longer – pack your bags and get ready to indulge in the flavors of Cartagena!