Where to Stay in Cartagena: No Frills Guide (2018)

Wondering where to stay in Cartagena? We've broken down the best areas and top things to do, including the best rated hotels and more!History, tropical beaches, and beautiful people. Just a few things that come to mind when I think about visiting the cultural hotspot city Cartagena.

Whether you want to explore the historical walled city, get a taste of Colombia’s legendary nightlife, or base yourself near the Caribbean, there is something in Cartagena for you.

But where to stay in Cartagena? This city has grown exponentially, so the districts can feel very different from one another. Moreover, some areas are more family-friendly than others.

Do you need a spot for you and your mates? Your kids? Want to be near the best shops? bars? old city? We will cover all that and more in our guide on the best areas in Cartagena.


Quick Tips – Where to Stay in Cartagena

  • Where to stay in Cartagena for the first time – Centro
  • Where to stay in Cartagena on a budget – Manga
  • Best area to stay in Cartagena for nightlife – Getsemaní
  • Coolest place to stay in Cartagena – San Diego
  • Best neighborhood in Cartagena for families – Bocagrande

Where to Stay Cartagena


Where to Stay in Cartagena

If you were looking for a specific place to stay, then look no further than our top 3 accommodation picks for Cartagena below… Also make sure to check out our hostel guide for Cartagena!


Best Hostel in Cartagena: Bourbon St Hostal Boutique

This super stylish hostel is the epitome of Cartagena cool. Comfortable and chic, the calm surroundings mean you can relax in peace and quiet after days spent walking around the city.

The dorm beds are modern and give guests space and security. The breakfast served here is complementary and tasty.

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Best Hotel in Cartagena: Casa Pizarro Hotel Boutique

Big, comfortable, modern-style rooms plus friendly, helpful staff make this boutique hotel a real gem. A few things that make this hotel one of the best places to stay in Cartagena: a refreshing pool for guests to use, a large traditional breakfast, and convenient location walking distance to the walled city and tourists site, but still in a fun local neighborhood.

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Best Airbnb in Cartagena: Studio in Awesome Location

Situated among the winding lanes of the old town, this chic, modern studio apartment offers everything you need for your trip to Cartagena.

Its small kitchen is ideal for whipping up eggs and brewing your morning coffee. Bathrooms are clean and large, and more importantly, the bed is uber comfortable. There’s even access to a terrace with a jacuzzi!

If this is your first Airbnb booking, check out our Airbnb post for a 35% discount!

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places to visit cartagena


Neighborhood Guide to Cartagena

Nestled on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Cartagena is an old port city that has long been important for the import and export of goods. Founded by the Spanish in 1533, today this old colonial town is Colombia’s fifth-largest city, but the history of this place attracts visitors to its central area, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But it’s not all about history: Cartagena’s tropical climate, coupled with good beaches, make it an epic city for a Caribbean getaway.

Throughout its existence, Cartagena has grown exponentially, so the city’s districts can feel very different from one another.

Taking up a triangle-shaped space in Cartagena’s oldest area, the walled city, we begin with Centro, short for Centro Historico. Simply meaning ‘historical centre’, here is where you will find the astoundingly well preserved colonial architecture that this city is famous for. As such, Centro is also the busiest and most touristed area of Cartagena.

To the south of Centro on an island sheltered by the spit of land, on which sit the skyscrapers of Bocagrande, is Manga. This place is a world away from pastel buildings and crowds of the historical center; rather, Manga is a leafy residential area with a laid-back atmosphere.

To the northwest of Manga is the hip area of Getsemani. Previously known as a haven of crime (and still somewhat sketchy at night in some parts), the district is known for its street art and cool edge that other parts of the city lack.

And comprising the northeastern portion of the old walled city is San Diego. Though bordering Centro to the south, San Diego is far less about luxury and has more of a bohemian, alternative vibe.

Finally, we move to Bocagrande. This is New Cartagena, a spit of land covered in skyscrapers that represent modern Colombia as it is today. This relatively upmarket area is also home to the main beach of the city, complete with international hotels, casinos and shopping malls.

Each area has a certain flavor you’ll want to consider when thinking about where to stay in Cartagena, so let’s go into it in some more detail, shall we?


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5 Best Areas to Stay in Cartagena

Though a mountainous region, Cartagena is well linked by its roads; bus routes regularly ply the most obvious routes between major towns, and there’s even a Tour of Cappadocia cycling road race here every summer.

Boats roll up and down the river too, connecting Avanos with other riverside towns and villages.

The appeal of Cartagena as a destination is the fact that it is the perfect cocktail of sightseeing and history. Add a dash of cool, authentic atmosphere, and garnish of modern cosmopolitan, beachside charm. This unbeatable recipe means you’re unlikely to bore.

You could be eating sushi in Bocagrande for lunch and then checking out the backpacking bars of Getsemani that night. Taxis are very affordable, so whether it’s skyscrapers or saintly churches you’re looking for, you can get there easily.

But when it comes to a specific area, where will suit you (and your budget) the best? Here’s a breakdown of the best neighborhoods in Cartagena to help you decide.


1. Centro – Where to Stay in Cartagena for the First Time

Centro is the undisputed center point of Cartagena’s tourism industry, and for a good reason. The streets here are pristine, vibrant, and filled with relics of the past hundreds of years. You can easily get lost among the charming streets taking pictures all day, it’s that beautiful.

With the influx of tourists, obviously the Centro Historico can get very busy. However, because of that, you’ll be spoilt for choice in terms luxury and boutique hotels, and there are a whole host of cafes and restaurants to dine in.

Centro, Cartagena

image source: Flickr


Things to See and Do in Centro

  • Marvel at the almost-500-year-old church of Iglesia de San Pedro Claver.
  • Visit the Palace of the Inquisition, ironically one of the most beautiful baroque buildings of the area that houses a somber museum.
  • Admire the yellow facade and baroque details of the stunning Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría.
  • Visit Casa Del Marquez de Valde Hoyos, a historic 18th century mansion.
  • Stroll around the pretty Parque da La Marina.
  • Go for a sliders-and-cocktails lunch at top-rated El Barón.
  • Learn about Colombia’s navy, culture, and history at Museo Naval Del Caribe.
  • Walk down the colorful Calle de Los Siete Infantes.
  • Check out the gold, silver, and ceramics of Museo del Oro Zenú – all about pre-Colombian culture.
  • Go see the fortress of Baluarte de Santo Domingo for stunning sea views…
  • … And sip delicious cocktails at Café del Mar (also at the fortress) as the sun sets.


Best Hostel in Centro: Be Lounge Hostel

Housed in a traditional building with a beautiful facade, this hostel has managed to combine rustic features with stylish interiors to create a welcoming and relaxing space.

Beds in the dorm are very comfortable and there is a choice of female-only, too. The location is ideal for sightseeing and private rooms come with their own balcony, which has a view of the street.

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Best Hotel in Centro: Casa Mantilla

Beautiful and historic, this hotel is breathtaking. The location down an old street adds to the ambiance of the building; spend evenings on the balcony listening to the sounds of the city and enjoy a morning swim in the pretty pool.

The rooms are very spacious and all of the facilities are well maintained.

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2. Manga Neighborhood – Where to Stay in Cartagena on a Budget

Whereas Centro is bustling and busy and touristed, Manga provides the antidote since tourists don’t seem to visit this part of Cartagena often. That means a naturally more laid-back character.

Because of its quiet nature, it may be less stressful to stay here with your family. This area might also be the best place to stay in Cartagena for couples since it is romantic and secluded.

Manga isn’t exactly brimming with sights like Centro is, but that’s why it is easier to get cheaper accommodation here. Moreover, the area is still quite charming with its quieter streets and harbor-skyline views.

Manga, Cartagena

image source: Flickr


Things to See and Do in Manga

  • Admire the Church Santa Cruz de Manga and its ornate bell tower.
  • Eat at Club de Pesca, perhaps the best seafood restaurant in Cartagena.
  • Wander around the Cementerio Santa Cruz de Manga, jostling with white mausoleums.
  • Snap a pic of Casa Roman, a colourful arabesque private home.
  • Take a walk through the green, sea-hugging San Lázaro area.
  • Simply stroll around discovering some of the spectacular old mansions of Manga.
  • Walk along the Parque del Pastelillo with views across Bahia de Manga. You can see the skyscrapers of Bocagrande across the water.


Best Hostel in Manga: CandE Hostel

This cool, welcoming hostel is run by friendly staff. The city center is a 15-minute walk away and there are many amazing eateries nearby. There is also a bike rental service, which is perfect for exploring Cartagena.

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Best Hotel in Manga: Hotel Castel By HMC

Stay in this traditional house in elegant rooms and feel at home. The hotel is in a safe and quiet residential street, but close to many bars, restaurants, and interesting sites. The rooms are large and immaculate, and there’s even a pool for guests to enjoy a dip.

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3. Getsemaní – Where to Stay in Cartagena for Nightlife

Getsemani is Cartagena’s bastion of alternative cool, an area of street art and the city’s emerging hipster scene. Set just outside the old walled city, Getsemani was previously known for its crime – and some parts still don’t feel 100% safe at night – but musicians, artists, and backpackers are beginning to make a community in this bustling area.

Although it’s outside of the walled city, there are still many examples of colonial architecture here, which combined with the vibrant street art and graffiti daubed onto the sides of old buildings, make it a unique and fun place to explore.

Getsemani, Cartagena


Things to See and Do in Getsemani

  • Discover the area’s amazing murals – like those at Calle de las Tortugas.
  • Take a breather and chill for a moment in Parque Del Centenario.
  • Head for cocktails and tapas at Demente.
  • Visit the recently restored Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad.
  • Eat pizza at the famous Di Silvio Trattoria.
  • Visit Cafe Havana for old world charm and party ‘til late.
  • Meander down the Calle San Andres and browse its bars and eateries.
  • Step along the Pier Los Pegasos, and admire the view and the Pegasus statues.
  • Eat, drink, dance and make merry with everyone else at Plaza Trinidad.
  • Check out yet more charming buildings and murals at Calle Del Espiritu Santo.


Best Hostel in Getsemani: Life is Good Cartagena Hostel

This hostel has everything you need to make your stay in the city comfortable. Choose from the dorm rooms with its clean beds that have privacy curtains, or a private room with an ensuite bathroom.

Staff at the hostel are really helpful and will give you sightseeing and restaurant tips. There’s a rooftop hot tub to enjoy, too, as well as a complimentary breakfast.

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Best Hotel in Getsemani: Hotel Casa Tere Boutique

Easy walking distance to lots of eateries and bars, this boutique hotel is close to the old city, but in a safe and quiet location. Rooms up high have beautiful views and there is a tapas bar attached to the hotel which serves tasty food and wine.

The traditional open feel is welcoming and there is a terrace, a swimming pool and a hot tub, where guests can take some time out from sightseeing.

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4. San Diego – Coolest Place to Stay in Cartagena

Just to the north of Centro, and still inside the environs of the old walled city, is the area of San Diego.

With as much history and many historic buildings as its southern neighbor, but with fewer tourists, this atmospheric district is where students come from the nearby art college of Bellas Artes to meet up and have fun.

You’ll also find some of the best food in Cartagena around the lively Plaza de San Diego, complete with historic church and street performers. This area is the place to come if you want the open-air museum feel of Centro but with less of the tourist numbers.

San Diego, Cartagena

image source: Flickr


Things to See and Do in San Diego

  • Admire the entrance to the luxurious Santa Clara Hotel.
  • Catch a play at renovated the theatre space of Sala de Teatro Reculá del Ovejo.
  • Learn about the old walls of the city at Museo de Las Fortificaciones.
  • Go to Plaza de San Diego, marvel at the church, and grab some street food.
  • Check out the former dungeon of Plaza de Las Bovedas now home to souvenir shops.
  • Watch the fisherman haul in their catch at the aptly named Fishermans Beach.
  • Though a private house, head on over to Casa de Gabriel Garcia Marquez to see where the great writer once lived…
  • …And then head down the atmospheric Calle del Curato.
  • Enjoy a mojito and a cigar at Cuba 1940.
  • Try the 5-course tasting menu at Carmen Cartagena – one of the city’s best restaurants.
  • Head to the Murallas De Cartagena – the old walls of the city – for great sunset views.


Best Hostel in San Diego: Republica Hostel Cartagena

A fun and lively hostel with a lot of heart. This place is perfect for meeting new people and sharing stories, but there’s also plenty of space to relax by yourself.

Staff members are helpful and friendly, and the rooms are so stylish and beautiful that you’ll want to move in indefinitely.

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Best Hotel in San Diego: Hotel el Candil De Los Santos

A little bit of paradise in the city, this hotel has a lush terrace space with a pool surrounded by plants. The rooms are big and perfect for resting after a hard day exploring the city.

The hotel itself is located just a few steps away from Plaza San Diego.

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5. Bocagrande – Where to Stay in Cartagena with Families

This strip of seaside skyscrapers is Cartagena’s modern heart, a beach resort with a cosmopolitan backdrop of international hotels and a host of restaurants serving food from all over the world.

One of the most expensive areas in the entire country, let alone Cartagena itself, this area is home to gated communities and wealthy Colombians.

This is the best place to stay in Cartagena if you like modern luxuries. Keen shoppers will like this place, as will those of you who just want to kick back and unwind at the beach.

Bocagrande, Cartagena


Things to See and Do in Bocagrande

  • Walk the streets in search of designer clothes from the many fashion shops.
  • Look up in wonder at the Estelar Hotel, one of Colombia’s tallest buildings.
  • Take a stroll around El Laguito, a little lake in the south of Bocagrande.
  • Eat beachside (and affordable) at one of its most popular eateries, Kiosko El Bonny.
  • Explore the mall of Plaza Bocagrande, complete with sea views.
  • Chill out on one of several slices of the beautiful beach at Bocagrande.


Best Hostel in Bocagrande: Hotel Casa Bahía

With this upper-end beach resort district home to luxury hotels, there isn’t a lot in the way of hostels in the area, but this homely hotel is excellent for those traveling on a tight budget.

Everything is clean and the staff is welcoming, but the best thing about this hotel is its location just two minutes from the beach.

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Best Hotel in Bocagrande: Travelers Suites Orange

Clean and safe, these spacious, family-friendly apartments boast beautiful sea views. Close to the sandy beach and with lots to see and do in the local area. You’ll be won over by the daily maid service, big complimentary breakfast, and reception staff who will help you with sightseeing tips.

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Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Cartagena

Wondering where to stay in Cartagena. We’ve summed up the top 5 neighborhoods above, complete with the best hostels and hotels in each area! A few days in this marvelous city, and you’ll quickly see why Cartagena is one of the top 17 reasons to visit Colombia.

Here’s our recap of the best places to stay in Cartagena.

Bourbon St Hostal Boutique is our pick for the best hostel in Cartagena because it is comfortable and chic, yet located in a calm, laidback area of the city.

Casa Pizarro Hotel Boutique is walking distance from the walled city. It’s a modern, comfortable and stylish hotel with a pool!

Did we miss anything? Let us know below!

Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.


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Wondering where to stay in Cartagena? We've broken down the best areas and top things to do, including the best rated hotels and more!

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