Cartagena features a rich fusion cuisine, combining ingredients from its African, Spanish and Indigenous roots as well as the food brought by Arabic immigrants.  Its local cuisine is mainly composed of seafood dishes, like fish and shellfish, and accompanied with coconut rice, salty-sweet crispy plantains and salad.
Cartagena also boasts a wide range of exotic fruits, including; sweet coconut, pitahaya or dragon fruit, guamas, mango, pineapple, papaya and guava, among others, which are sold by the "palenqueras." These iconic fruit vendors walk around the streets or beaches artistically carrying bowls of fruit on their heads.
Typical dishes also include "sancocho," made of fish or meats with large pieces of plantain, potato, yucca and other vegetables. You can also find the traditional “arepa de huevo” (egg filled arepa) or a “carimañola,” best described as a yucca fritter with meat inside.

Top 20 things to try!

1. Tropical Juice from an exotic fruit. If you can, get a natural juice every day, DO IT! They cost like $2 USD and they are liquid bliss. We're only slightly exaggerating when we say you can spend all your time in Cartagena sampling the mind-blowing selection of sweet, sour, acidic, and just plain fascinating found-only-in-Colombia fruits. Matt's favorite is the "Guanabana" juice in milk which gives you the feeling you are having a milkshake. Xime loves the "Lulo" and "Tomate de Arbol" juices, which are a bit more citric.

List of amazing exotic fruits: Mora, Tomate de Arbol, Nispero, Papaya, Mango Biche, Guanabana, Guava Agria, Passion  Fruit, Lulo, Feijoa, Uchuva, Mangostino, Pitahaya, Granadilla,  Badea,  Corozo, Curuba, Zapote,  Guama, Anon, Mora, Mamoncilla, etc.

2. "Arepa con huevo." A kind of mini pita bread made from ground-up corn, fried, opened, filled with an egg and spiced mince, then re-fried. Served with suero (like a sour cream) and chilli sauce. Perfect as a breakfast snack!

3. Colombian Coffee is known for its rich, mild flavor because of the perfect climate and beans that are grown. As a matter of fact, Colombia is one of the few countries that only grows Arabica beans, which besides climate and elevation, is why Colombian coffee is considered higher quality. Starbucks-style coffee shops that serve espresso can be found in Cartagena. The most famous are the chain of Juan Valdez coffee shops, do try to get coffee from there as you will have the highest quality coffee!

4. "Carimañola." Yucca fritter with meat inside. Great snack for any time of the day!

5. National Beers. Try Club Colombia and Aguila.

6. "Patacones" or "Pataconas." These are smashed and fried plantains. They are usually eaten alone with "hogao", a sort of cooked-style salsa.

7. "Kola Roman" and "Colombiana" soft drinks. The favorite soft drinks of the Colombian Caribbean. "Kola Roman" is bright pink, sweetened with a drop of vanilla and as sparkling as champagne. "Colombiana" is a soda drink made out of a fruit called "Tamarindo". It is often used to make "Refajo," which is a mix of the soft drink and beer. They are both refreshing and addictive (and a nice balance to the local savory food).

8. "Empanadas." Pastries filled with a variety of savory ingredients and baked or fried. Usually you eat them with "ají" which is the Colombian go-to spicy sauce.

9. "Cocadas" are a traditional coconut candy or confectionery in Cartagena. They are oven-baked, but are served at room temperature to provide their chewy and soft texture. Xime's favorite is "Cocadas de Arequipe," which has a more caramelized flavor.

10. "Pan de Bono" is a delicious Colombian chewy-moist bread rolls that melt in your mouth. They are made of cornflour, yucca and cheese making them super moist and dense. If they are fresh out of the oven they are pretty-much irresistible. "La Esquina Del Pan De Bono," located in the historical center (see map below), is the best place to get these and other pastries like "Pasteles" filled with chicken, meat or "arequipe" (Colombian version of dulce de leche).

11.  "Aguardiente" is the national drink. It is an anise-flavored liqueur, derived from sugar cane. It's similar to Arak or Ouzo.

12. "Obleas" are a very thin, round, brown wafer, almost like a flattened waffle cone, but lighter. "Obleas" are usually spread with "Arequipe" between two wafers to create a delicious dessert-sandwich. Some vendors sell it with tons of additional toppings, like grated cheese, marmalade, or colored sprinkles, but the traditional plain is our favorite.

13. "Limonada de Coco." Don't leave the city without trying this Cartagena specialty, a frothy, icy blend of coconut water, lime juice, and sugar, the perfect refresher after a day of sightseeing.

14. "Mote de Queso." With cheese, yam, garlic, onion, and lime juice, this traditional costeño (from the Colombian Caribbean coast) soup couldn't be simpler--or more soul-satisfying. It's really rich so a little goes a long way.

15. Fried Mojarra or Pargo with coconut rice. There's no better way to enjoy this typical meal than beneath a swaying palm tree, by crystalline water, on one of the Islas del Rosario--accompanied by a Club Colombia beer, or fresh fruit juice, of course. Mojarra is a seabream and Pargo is a Red Snapper.

16. "Cazuela de Mariscos". Seafood casserole made on a base of coconut milk. Unbelievably good!!!

17. "Posta Negra Cartagenera". A kind of pot roast of meat slowly cooked in panela (sugar cane). Sweet, savory, tender and delicious!

18. "Mondongo Soup". Tripe and offal soup especially consumed on Sundays as a post-booze fix. Also try any "Sancocho" soup.

19. "Ceviche".Cartagena is ceviche-mad. The dish arrived to Cartagena from the North of Colombia and also via the plethora of Peruvian restaurants that have set up shop there. There's different versions depending upon the origins, but basically it involves raw seafood (fish, prawns etc) "cooked" in the acidic marinade of limes, oil, garlic, onion, tomato, herbs. The Peruvian version also has crunchy toasted corn kernels. See also the prawn/shrimp cocktails made with mayonnaise, tomato sauce, garlic and chilli.

20. "Tres Leches". A vanilla sponge cake drenched in three "milks": normal milk, condensed milk, and a kind of caramel milk. Ridiculously, hurt-your-teeth sweet.

Recommended Restaurants

The city has numerous good restaurants inside and outside the walled city.  Arabic, Cuban, Italian and traditional Colombian restaurants can be found in the modern and historic areas representing the diversity and the flavors brought about by immigrants and inhabitants of the city.

Did we mention that we’re huge foodies? We love eating good food, so we would love for everyone to enjoy the great food that Cartagena has to offer. We have put together the following list of restaurants to help you plan your culinary adventures in the city. We suggest you book some of these ahead of time if interested, as they tend to get very busy.

Here are our recommendations:

Don Juan
Cuisine: Caribbean, Seafood, Meats
Phone: +57-5-6643857
Address: Calle del Colegio #34-60 Local 1, Centro histórico
Comments: This is one the city’s favorites.They have really good food and a lively atmosphere. Book ahead of time!

La Cevicheria
Cuisine: Caribbean, Seafood
Phone: +57-5-6601492
Address: Calle Stuart 714, Cartagena de Indias
Comment: A small, casual place that serves a delicious ceviche! Located next to Santa Clara Hotel.

La Perla
Cuisine: Peruvian fusion, Seafood
Phone: +57-5-6642157
Address: Calle 35 #4-42, Cartagena de Indias
Comment: This place has beautifully fresh food. We went there to eat during our December Trip to Cartagena and had a good chat with Chef Carlos Accinelli. Please do yourself a favor and try the Stuffed Pepper! Highly Recommended.

Cuisine: Caribbean, Seafood
Phone: +57-5-6810052
Address: Calle de la Universidad No. 36 - 44, Cartagena de Indias
Comment: Chef Heberto Eljach is amazing!

Cuisine: Tapas Bar
Phone: +57-5-6604226
Address: Plaza de la Trinidad, No. 10-19, Getsemani
Comment: Trendy tapas restaurant/bar with rocking chairs in Getsemani neighborhood.

Cuisine: Caribbean, Seafood, Meats
Phone: +57-5-6605380
Address: Calle del Colegio #34-60 Local 2, Centro histórico
Comment: If you loved Don Juan, you’ll love Maria. They’re owned and operated by the same people.

El Boliche Cevicheria
Cuisine: Caribbean, Seafood
Phone: +57-5-6600074
Address: Calle Cochera del Hobo No.38-17 San Diego, Centro histórico
Comment: Getting props in all the right places.. this tiny space delivers amazing plates of mega freshness and flavor.

Restaurante La Mulata
Cuisine: Caribbean, Seafood
Phone: +57-5-6646222
Address: Calle Quero #9-58, San Diego
Comment: Great value for spectacular seafood dishes. Hidden gem in the historic center. Don't skip the coconut lemonade!

La Diva Pizzeria
Cuisine: Pizza, Italian
Address: Calle Ricaute, Edif. Ricaute #31-38
Comment: Great pizza, casual environment.

Marea By Rausch
Cuisine: Colombian Seafood
Phone: +57-5-6544205
Address: Centro de Convenciones, Barrio Getsemani
Comment: Specializes in inspired seafood creations by Colombia's most famous culinary double-act, Jorge and Mark Rausch, and offers stellar night views of the Old City.

Cuisine: Local, Traditional
Phone: +57-5-6685291
Address: Calle Estanco del Tabaco No.35-30, Centro Histórico
Comment: Very traditional Cartagena food, try the "Pasta Negra" or the "Mote de Queso".

La Vitrola
Cuisine: Seafood, Cuban, Nueva Colombiana
Phone: +57-5-6600711
Address: Calle Baloco No. 2-01, Centro Histórico
Comment: Considered one of the best restaurants in Cartagena. The atmosphere is 1940s Cuban, with sepia photographs of the owners’ friends, high ceiling fans and mahogany wine racks. They serve fresh seafood and offer live music. Book ahead of time!

Porton de San Sebastian
Cuisine: Local, Seafood
Phone: +57-5-6601672
Address: Calle 35 No. 3-63 Local 1

Di Silvio Trattoria
Cuisine: Pizza, Italian
Phone: +57-5-6602205
Address: Calle de la Sierpe #9A-08, Getsemani
Comment: Some of the best pizza you will eat in your life, served with life music Thurs-Sun inside a roof-less ruined shell of a historic building.

Restaurante Carmen
Cuisine: Contemporary
Phone: +57-5-6606795
Address: Anandá Boutique Hotel, Calle del Cuartel #36-77
Comment: The contemporary styling and daring fusions like corozo palm and lychee caviar, pork in fat-bottomed ant sauce, and a dreamy al fresco patio make this Cartagena’s finest choice for dinner.

Restaurante El Santisimo
Cuisine: Colombian, French
Phone: +57-5-6601531
Address: Calle del Torno # 39-76
Comment: Order the prawns in a tamarind coconut sauce!

Restaurante Cuzco
Cuisine: Peruvian
Phone: +57-5-6606125
Address: Calle Santo Domingo #33-48
Comment: Tranquil surrounds, amazing ceviche, excellent staff, live music Thurs-Sun. We went to their place in Ibague and were really impressed by the quality and freshness of their food. Excellent choice!

Restaurante Bohemia
Cuisine: Contemporary
Website: Bohemia
Phone: +57-5-6644438
Address: El Marques Hotel Boutique, Calle Nuestra Señora del Carmen No. 33-41
Comment: Try the fish carpaccio with toasted quinoa and the baby lobster tails.

Harry Sasson
Cuisine: Contemporary, Caribbean, Author
Website: Harry Sasson
Phone: +57-5-6649446
Address: Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa, Carrera 3 #31-23, Plaza de Santa Teresa
Comment: It is by best-known Colombian chef, Harry Sasson, this cool, informal restaurant serves tasty tapas of ceviche, crab and squid as well as great steaks.

Crepes and Waffles
Phone: +57-5-6604291
Address: Cra. 4 #31-24, San Pedro Plaza
Comment: A chain of casual and inexpensive restaurants in Colombia. A good place for a quick lunch; even better to satisfy your cravings for sweets and desserts. Xime usually gets the "Beef Stroganoff" or "Pepper Steak" Crepes.

Vegetarian Options

It's not easy being green in Cartagena.. but it's not impossible and there's definitely some good options if you know where to look. Also a lot of the street snacks are vego-friendly (like the "Carimañola", "Arepa de queso" and "Arepa de huevo sin carne").. not to mention all the exotic fruits!

Restaurante Vegetariano Girasoles
Phone: +57-5-6602625
Address: Calle de Los Puntales # 37-01
Comment: Great vegetarian food!

Restaurante Torre Luna
Address: Cr 7 entre Calles 38 y 39, Cartagena de Indias
Comment: With an entire vegetarian menu and vegan listed menu items this place is the best vegetarian restaurant in Cartagena.

Restaurante Gokela
Phone: +57-5-6654283
Address: Casa Victoria, Carrera 3, 7-157, Bocagrande, Cartagena
Comment: Healthy wraps, salads and soups with plenty of meat-free, high protein options on offer.

Crepes and Waffles
Phone: +57-5-6604291
Address: Cra. 4 #31-24, San Pedro Plaza
Comment: Plenty of vegetarian options and an awesome salad bar that features high-protein quinoa, beans and legumes.

Other Veggie friendly options:  Sol de India, Ganesha