2 Days in Cartagena: Explore the Walled City of Colombia

Welcome to Cartagena, a vibrant city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia known for its colorful streets, rich history, and lively culture. If you’re planning a visit of 2 days to this enchanting destination, look no further!

In this guide, I will take you through the very best things to do in Cartagena during your short stay. From exploring the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town with its stunning architecture and charming plazas to indulging in mouthwatering cuisine, and relaxing on beautiful beaches.

After spending almost a week in Cartagena, I’ve created a curated list of must-see attractions and activities to help you maximize your 2 days in Cartagena, Colombia.

colombia artists
cartagena walking tour

Is Cartagena worth visiting?

I visited Cartagena at the end of my Colombia Itinerary and had already spent quite some time exploring other parts of the country. Until then, every place had something unique and was worth the visit. And it’s not any different with this walled city on the Caribbean Coast.

The well-preserved architecture in the walled city is extraordinary and the exotic beaches of the Rosario Islands are nowhere else to be found in Colombia (excluding San Andrés, as this island should be incredible as well!).

On top of that, the parties on the fancy and awarded rooftops of Cartagena are well worth a visit on their own!

So yes! To me, Cartagena was worth a stop. Especially during Christmas, when all the celebrations and decorations all over town were absolutely magical.

2 Days in Cartagena Itinerary

Day 1 in Cartagena:

Walking Tour

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When you arrive in a new city, a walking tour should be at the top of your itinerary. It’s literally the first thing I do usually and would recommend the same for your 2 days in Cartagena Itinerary.

You’ll learn all about their culture, the history of the city and you’ll get a proper feeling of how the city is divided. I’ve done multiple free city tours with BeyondColombia during my time in Colombia and enjoyed all of them!

Besides the free walking tours, there are also private walking tours available. This tour takes you through the highlights of Cartagena in a few hours!

viator recommendation

Check all tours in Cartagena de Indias here!

2 days in cartagena colombia

Artistic Neighborhood Getsemani

Without a doubt, you’ll cross Getsemani during the free city tour. But Cartagena’s colorful and artistic neighborhood is full of colorful houses, art, trendy cafes, and cheap restaurants, so it’s well worth another visit.

It’s the place to be for backpackers and therefore you may find a lot of cool hostels here. Wander through the colorful streets, spot talented street art, watch the beautiful locals strolling around in traditional clothing (even though it’s mostly done for tourists, it’s still pretty!), or dance some salsa at Café Havana in the evening.

getsemani neighborhood colombia
art cartagena 2 days

Parque del Centenario

Tucked away in the middle between the old center and Getsemani, there’s a big city park where locals spend their afternoons, artists sell their art and wildlife hides high up in the trees. Sloths, monkeys, and iguanas are fairly easy to spot here and every time I was close to the park, I walked through it to look for the sloths.

The stories behind why and how these animals are living in this small city park with no other jungle nearby aren’t very clear.

The park is dedicated to the heroes of Colombia’s independence, as shown by the monuments all around the park. It’s not only a relaxing oasis – making you feel inside a big city – but also a cultural hub with art exhibitions and organized events throughout the year.

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monkey in tree
wildlife park cartagena

Visit a Rooftop bar

The best way to go out in Cartagena is to pay a visit to one of the many rooftop bars in town. Some of them are even world-famous like Alquímico.

This 3-floor bar is the place for some dancing on reggeaton music and drinking cocktails. The 2 indoor floors are already pretty nice but if it’s not too busy, try to get to the rooftop. During busy times, you may need to wait for a while to be able to get up there, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

Even though you may have 2 full days in Cartagena, Colombia and I can understand that you’re not in the mood to drink the whole night and be worthless on your second day of exploring. Luckily, Alquímico is quite a fancy bar, so you can just enjoy a cocktail (or mocktail ;)) and head home early!

Travel tip: Get yourself an essential FREE Travel Card from Wise to avoid high credit card costs or ATM fees!

cartagena nightlife

Day 2 in Cartagena:

Explore the Old Walled town

Surrounded by a huge limestone wall, the old town of Cartagena is one of America’s best-preserved colonial cities, with beautiful architecture around every corner.

Not only is the architecture here the main reason why people tend to head to this part of Colombia, but it’s also declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Because of the previous influences in Cartagena, it’s now home to a mix of three cultures (native, African & European) creating a lively and interesting vibe to the old town.

The old city is filled with small boutique shops and stalls so if you’re still looking for a unique souvenir or awesome gift, this is your place! Lots of artists also sell their work as prints in various sizes, which is literally the perfect souvenir to hang on your wall at home!

cartagena street
colombia 3 week itinerary cartagena
traditional local colombia

Spend the afternoon at the beach

Even though Cartagena is located along the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, there aren’t many beaches close to the city center. Luckily, you don’t have to go really far to find some pretty nice and relaxing beaches that’ll give you the ultimate Caribbean vibe.

Head out to the dock of Bocagrande (a short taxi drive away from the center) and hop onto one of the lanchas towards Tierra Bomba. Although it’s only 15 minutes away, it’s the perfect place to get away from all the hustling and bustling of the city.

A little bit further away is Playa Blanca, also known as one of the best and most popular beaches of Cartagena. Definitely head there if you have some more time left on your Cartagena itinerary for relaxing on the beach!

cartagena beaches
beaches colombia

Sunset at City Walls

The walls of Cartagena are an unmissable part of the city and you most likely already come across them during your walking tour on day one in Cartagena. It’s also the best spot in town for watching the sunset.

Pack up some drinks and head towards the walls with your friends. I recommend going close to this restaurant to have a beautiful view over Cartagena’s skyline! If you prefer something fancier, head to the bar and treat yourself to a delicious G&T.

Another way to watch the sunset is on a Sunset Cruise! This cheap tour includes snacks and soft drinks and will guarantee you with insane skyline views over Cartagena de Indias.

sunset walled city

3 or 4 days in Cartagena

Rosario Islands 1 night

Having some extra time left in Cartagena and ready for some island life? Hop on the 1-hour boat towards the Rosario Islands and admire the azure blue waters full of sealife and white-sanded beaches on a day trip.

The Rosario Islands were by far one of my highlights of all things to do in Cartagena, Colombia. Therefore, I highly recommend staying there for at least 1 night. Secreto Hostel is a backpacker’s favorite, located on Isla Grande.

How to get to the Rosario Islands from Cartagena?

A few times a day, boats leave from the dock to the Rosario Islands. Most boats stop at various places to drop everyone off at their accommodation. If you’re only staying for a day trip, make sure to check at what time the last boat to Cartagena leaves.

Another way to experience the best of Rosario is to go on this organized tour including a snorkeling trip and lunch!

rosario islands colombia 3 week itinerary

Where to eat in Cartagena on your 2 days in Cartagena Itinerary

I’ve spent most of my time in Cartagena cooking as eating out was quite expensive for a broke backpacker who was already spending a lot during the holidays 😉 However, I did find some nice places where I went back a few times!

  • Pezetarian – sushi is beyond amazing here
  • La Brioche – brunch & coffee
  • El Bololó – healthy bowls
  • Di Silvio Trattoria – Italian food

The best area to stay in Cartagena, Colombia

The historic walled city center of Cartagena is by far the best place to stay with many restaurants and shops nearby, it’s also within walking distance of most things to do in Cartagena. Hostel Republica is great for meeting new people and has the perfect location. However, I recommend not taking the smallest room and taking one with an ensuite bathroom.

Getsemani is also a great area to base yourself on while exploring Cartagena, full of trendy bars and social cheap hostels.

Cartagena Nightlife

Going out in Cartagena is not like other cities. Rooftop bars are found throughout the city and are world-famous. But besides rooftop bars, you may find lots of options for regular bars and clubs in the city! Some of the best are:

  • Alquímico – awarded as one of the world’s best rooftopbars!
  • Mirador Gastro Bar
  • Café Havana
  • Tertulia De Getsemani 
  • Movich Rooftop
  • Eivissa

Cover Charge is common. It’s often free for ladies and for guys somewhere between €5 and €15.

night in cartagena
restaurant sushi food

How to get around Cartagena

Most activities are easily done on foot from the walled city or Getsemani. For destinations further away from the city center, you can request a taxi at your accommodation. Uber is not easy to use as most Uber drivers aren’t allowed inside the walled city and taxis are known for ripping off tourists.

How to get to Cartagena

Cartagena is located on the northern coast of Colombia and can be reached by bus or plane. For some, Cartagena will be their starting point on the Caribbean coast and for some – like myself – it will be the end of the Caribbean Itinerary.

By Bus

Direct busses to Cartagena leave from big cities like Santa Marta, which is only 4 hours away to Medellín and Bogotá, being further south with travel hours rising to 22 hours. I would only recommend coming to Cartagena by bus if you’re coming from Santa Marta or Palomino.

Taking the bus from Medellín/Bogota is simply not worth the travel hours (unless you’re traveling on a very strict budget). For those traveling by bus with the main reason being sustainability (keep on going!), good for you as the earth will thank you for it. 🙂

By Plane

Airlines like, Avianca and LATAM are operating daily with many flights between Cartagena and many places in Colombia. Besides that, Cartagena has an international airport, making it possible for you to enter Colombia here even with direct flights from Europe.

To find the best flight deals, I always love to search for the cheapest dates on Google Flights and look further for the best rates at Kiwi.com.

getsemani cartagena street

Where to go AFTER 2 days in Cartagena, Colombia

Depending on where your journey through Colombia started, Cartagena is a good starting point for your Colombia Itinerary
along the coast. If Cartagena is your first stop, I recommend taking the bus towards Santa Marta after your 2 days in Cartagena itinerary. From there you can go on the Lost City Trek or move on to the mountain village of Minca.

If you want some more tips for visiting the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, this blog post will cover your trip to Tayrona National Park and I’ve also written a complete guide for hiking the Lost City Trek, including a (jungle-proof) packing list!

With an airport right outside the city center, you can also move on toward Medellín or Bogotá.

Is Cartagena Colombia Safe?

Together with the basic safety precautions that you should use throughout the whole of Colombia, you’ll be fine. Cartagena is however one of the most touristy places in the country causing more petty theft and criminal activities.

The most important tips are to don’t walk alone at night and don’t get overly drunk. Both of these will put you in a very vulnerable position, and you really want to avoid this. Ubers drive very little in the old city so you’re often forced to walk home or take a taxi after a night out (who are known to scam tourists).

Most stories from other travelers you’ll hear are from people who were a victim of petty theft or being drugged and stolen everything from.

Always pay close attention to your drink in clubs and don’t accept drinks from random people at the bar. Sadly enough, I’ve heard many stories of people who were a victim of this and will never blame a victim, but many of these situations could be avoided in the first place.

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Summary of the best things to do during 2 days in Cartagena

  • Free Walking Tour
  • Explore the artistic neighborhood of Getsemani
  • Spot sloths in Parque del Centenario
  • Drink cocktails on world-famous rooftop bars
  • Wander around the old walled city
  • Relax on the beach
  • Watch the sunset from the city’s walls
  • Visit the Rosario Islands if you have 3 or 4 days in Cartagena


Is Cartagena Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

I spend almost a week in Cartagena as a Solo Female Traveler and felt safe during the day. However, I didn’t go out on my own after dark. Read my blogpost about safety in Colombia here!

What is the best month to visit Cartagena?

Being located on the Caribbean Coast, Cartagena is a year-round destination with an average of 28 degrees at any time of year. December to March is the high season with clear skies and warm days! The wettest months are October and November. Avoid holidays and weekends if you want to experience Cartagena with the least amount of tourists possible. 

Is 2 days enough in Cartagena?

2 days in Cartagena Colombia is enough if you only want to see the highlights of the city. Most best things to do in Cartagena are located inside the walled city or Getsemani which is all within walking distance. However, a trip to the well-worth Rosario Islands would take up 1 full day so there isn’t enough time to see the beauty of these islands.

Is it better to go to Cartagena or Medellín?

Both Cartagena and Medellín are worth visiting on your Colombian Itinerary and are super different from each other. I kinda fell in love with Medellín so I would choose that one over Cartagena but I might be biased. 😉 

Is Cartagena very touristy?

Yes. Cartagena has grown to be one, or even the most, touristy place in Colombia for international travelers and a popular vacation getaway for many locals as well. When arriving in the walled city you’ll notice this immediately in the form of the amount of people trying to sell you any kind of stuff (even basic spoons lol). 

Because of this exact reason, Cartagena wasn’t my favorite city in Colombia, but I had an absolute blast exploring Cartagena’s nightlife during Christmas and visiting the Rosario Islands.

Is there Uber in Cartagena?

Yes, there is Uber in Cartagena. However, when we arrived in Cartagena by bus, our Uber won’t drive up to my hostel inside the walled city. Not all of them are allowed inside apparently, so I needed to walk to my hostel at 11 PM. Luckily I had 2 friends of mine that walked me to my hostel – another reason why I don’t recommend taking an evening bus from Santa Marta to Cartagena. 

Use Uber only for places beyond the walled city, as basically anything is within walking distance.

Is Cartagena safe at night?

Unfortunately, Cartagena at night can be a little dodgy I’ve noticed. A lot of random people are wandering the streets at night, trying to talk to you and petty theft is a common problem here. I suggest not walking alone at night and watching your drink when going out. 

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Simone Vromans

Simone is the owner and writer of Travel With Simone! By sharing these travel guides, she hopes to help you plan your epic adventures and inspire you to go on that long-overdue trip! 💛

travel with simone

About Simone

Hi there, I’m Simone and the writer behind this travel blog. By reading my guides, I’m hoping to inspire you to travel more mindfully and have epic adventures all over the globe!

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