Where to Stay In Cartagena: The 3 Best Areas (Safe & Fun)

Thinking about travelling to Cartagena and want to know the low down on the best areas to stay?

I spent two months living in Cartagena, so by reading this article you can gain some insider information on the best places to go in Cartagena while staying safe and having fun.

Map of the safe areas in Cartagena
Map of the safe areas in Cartagena

Key Takeaways

  • Centro Historico: perfect for most travellers to the area, it has something for everyone, couples, families and solo travellers are all catered for.
  • Getesmani: ideal location for backpackers and younger visitors to experience Cartagena’s vibrancy.
  • Bocagrande: brilliant for relaxed beachgoers looking for a more modern experience of Cartagena.

Centro Historico – Best Area for Families, Couples and Longer Stays

Street of Centro Historico of Cartagena
Street of Centro Historico of Cartagena

Pros of Centro Historico

  • Centro Historico is the historical centre of Cartagena and it’s where things are happening with must-see cultural spots.
  • The area caters to all kinds of individuals, with a variety of things to do for all ages, Centro Historico suits families, couples and solo travellers.
  • A bustling nightlife scene, great for rooftop experiences overlooking the city.

Cons of Centro Historico

  • The main con of Centro Historico are the ‘hustlers’ that occupy Centro Historico’s streets. They aren’t everywhere, but there are some groups of impromptu rappers that will rap at you as you walk past. The rappers can be fun, but the novelty can wear off quickly.
  • Another type of hustler are the drug dealers which can make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Centro Historico is also the most expensive part of the city so be prepared to pay more than elsewhere if you want to stay in this area of the city.

What to Do and See in Centro Historico

Cartagena has a rich cultural past. Founded in 1533, Cartagena was a major port for the Spanish and Centro Historico has buildings and museums which reflect the history.

One great way of getting your bearings of the area is to walk the city walls. The city walls enclose Centro Historico and from the West you can look out over the Caribbean Sea, and from the East you can look out over the moderner parts of Cartagena and the Castle San Felipe de Barajas. The castle, built in the 1600s is great for a tour and just outside the city walls.

Towards the south of Centro Historico, you can find lots of amazing colonial architecture and museums. The Santuario de San Pedro Claver stands tall at the end of Calle 32 and has a series of significant spots worth exploring.

For museums, make sure to go to the Museum of Cartagena de Indias. The majority of the museum is in Spanish, but what there is in English gives a good insight into Cartagena’s steeped history with some poignant displays.


If you’re after some retail therapy, Centro Historico has got you covered. For local market goods, the Plaza de Reloj has some stalls and all around the square you can fish for locally crafted products.

For designer brands, Centro Comercial La Serrezuela is the best option in Centro Historico and is worth a visit. The mall has a colosseum design and has some nice coffee shops and restaurants on the top floor. Even if you’re not a shopper, you can take in a 360° view of Cartagena and have a drink from the top of the mall.

Restaurants & Cafés

Within the walls of Centro Historico, there are plenty of dining options that can cater to all tastes and budgets.

For a high-end dining experience, look no further than top rated Restaurante 1621. Restaurante 1621 provides great food in a setting fit for Centro Historico, dine inside and enjoy your food in a chandelier lit hall, or choose to sit outside and relax in a cosy courtyard.

For smaller budgets, El Rincón is a fantastic option. The restaurant serves tasty Sushi and has a great atmosphere for a reasonable price. Tacobeach also has good Mexican food that is budget friendly with a hipster décor.

If you want to try some of Colombia’s famous coffee, one great option is Café San Alberto Cartagena- Plaza Santo Domingo. The shop also has options to buy some of ‘the best coffee in the world’ to take home.


Centro Historico has a great nightlife scene and while Centro Historico is especially busy on the weekend, you can enjoy the city on any night of the week.

One option to relax in a bar with enormous character is Alquimico bar. The bar has a complete cocktail bar with a stylish inside and a chic rooftop.

If you’re after some live music, you can find bands playing in The Clock. The clock shows sports and has a good atmosphere if you’re looking to enjoy a sporting event with others.

If you want to explore the options available to you, Plaza de San Diego has some good deals for cocktails and things get lively along Calle 35.

My Favourite Accommodations in Centro Historico

When considering locations of your accommodation in Centro Historico, the area is only small and everything is within walking distance. Here are some of my recommendations:

  • Viajero Cartagena HostelViajero is a chain of hostels in South America and you can be sure that you are going to get a safe stay here and a good standard. For a 6 bed mixed dorm, prices start at US$18 per night.
  • The Clock Hostel And Suites– a great option for couples who may want the comfort and privacy of a Queen-sized bed, but are still up for the liveliness of a hostel. For a comfort room, prices are US$48 per night and dorm options available.
  • Privado Boutique Rooms provide a great stay in an instagram worthy setting. Enjoy a room in one of Cartagena’s typically fantastic looking buildings with a veranda to spend evenings with your loved ones. Just be prepared, at US$125 per night, it’s not a cheap option.


For the most part, Centro Historico is safe. The area is the centre for tourists and locals want to make sure Centro Historico preserves a good reputation. That being said, at night, thefts do happen from time to time. If you’d like to read more about safety in Colombia and want to pick up some tips, please follow this link to our page about safety.

Getsemani – Best area for backpackers, young travellers and parties

Scenic Colorful Streets of Getsemani

Getsemani is located a small five-minute walk from Centro Historico and is the home of Cartagena’s fiestas.

With painted streets and superb bunting, Getsemani is exploding with character and is a must visit for backpackers and young travellers.

While Cartagena is bouncing in the evening, the area has a relaxed laid-back vibe in the day where local artists come out to display their work and there are several charismatic restaurants and bars to visit.

Pros of Getsemani

  • Getsemani is blessed with a host of areas to have fun. If you’re young and like to party, there aren’t many places better than Getsemani.
  • Getsemani is a great cultural area with art on every corner.
  • A good opportunity to socialise with locals.

Cons of Getsemani

  • In the evening, Getsemani isn’t family-friendly. With lots of partying and loud music, the area is not a great place for young children and with busy streets, parents would have to be constantly on their toes.

What to Do and See in Getsemani

Like Centro Historico, Getsemani has some great streets to walk down and take in the sights. The area’s heartbeat is the Plaza de la Trinidad, where you can find a square overlooked by a church. In the evening, you can find street food vendors and street performers creating a vibrant atmosphere with a mix of locals and backpackers.

To experience Gestemani’s artistic best, Calle de San Juan is worth checking out and is a great opportunity to take some photos for social media. There are two art dealerships, which display their work alongside painted walls, giving a representation of modern-day Colombian culture.

Another option for colourful streets is Calle de Las Sombrillas. Here the street is lined with umbrellas and comes alive in the evening.

For a sunset, venues don’t get much better than Municipal. Acting as a bar on the waterfront, Municipal provides a stunning view overlooking Centro Historico and Bocagrande and you can watch boats come and go. The bar also has a selection of food trucks to cater for many different tastes.

To make the most of Gestemani’s party reputation, you can visit one of Cartagena’s most famous cocktail bars, Café Havana.  El Cabildo Gastromar is another option as an affordable rooftop bar and has a great crowd on a weekend.

However, to have the best time in Getsemani in the evening, nothing beats improvised street parties. Mostly at the weekends, locals use the opportunity to stock their fridges full of beers to sell to party goers and streets become dancefloors. Carrera 10c is a street where parties tend to break out.

My Favourite Accommodations in Getsemani

  • Casa Del Pozo Boutique HostelThis hostel showcases the vibrant colours that encapsulate Getsemani to be an extremely Instagram friendly hostel. The hostel also has a pool which is important in Cartagena’s heat. For US$18 per night to enjoy the laid back vibes is a steal.
  • Zana Hotel Boutique is a very cute hotel option for couples and has a rooftop to relax on where you can get a good view of the sunset. For US$31 per night, this can be a good option for a couple as between two, the price is cheaper per individual.


Similar to El Centro, for the most part Getsemani is safe and you can be relaxed while exploring and enjoying your evening.

However, do be aware that thieves still operate in this area and while most partygoers are relaxed, cocaine is easily accessible, and this could lead to people acting out of character.

Bocagrande – Best Area for the Beach


Bocagrande is a recent development and has capitalised on the major influx of tourists to Cartagena. Located on a peninsula south of El Centro, Bocagrande has many high-rise buildings and seeks to be a glamorous option for travellers.

Pros of Bocagrande

  • A family-friendly setting. Lots of families choose Bocagrande for a holiday location due to its access to amenities
  • A diverse selection of restaurants and bars that serve a variety of different foods
  • Proximity to beaches

Cons of Bocagrande

  • An expensive area of the city
  • Less cultural than Centro Historico or Getsemani as many of the buildings are modern developments

What to Do and See in Bocagrande

Access to Beaches

If history doesn’t interest you enough to stay in El Centro and you’re looking for a relaxed beach holiday, Bocagrande is the place for you. The area has great access to some of Cartagena’s best beaches such as Playa De Bocagrande and Playas El Laguito.

But if you’re staying in Bocagrande, the options for beaches can be bolstered by taking a boat out of the city. One must visit beach is Playa Blanca, for only a 40-minute boat trip from Cartagena you can be at a dreamy Caribbean beach with clear blue water.

Dining & Nightlife

Bocagrande’s restaurant and bar scene is based on two main streets, Carrera 2 and Carrera 3. These streets provide plenty of choices for food and drink and Fruti Sandy is a great choice for fresh fruit and refreshing drinks that are needed to cool down in Cartagena’s heat.


Cartagena is a brilliant, vibrant city and if you stay in either Centro Historico, Getsemani or Bocagrande, you are likely to make the most of your visit.

However, if you want to explore more of the city, Manga is a great option to experience a more authentic Colombian neighbourhood, or visit La Boquilla if you want to have a go at some watersports.

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