What and Where to Eat in Cartagena, Colombia on a Budget

Getsemani, Colombia is a super hip neighborhood and home to dazzling street art as well as some of the best restaurants in Cartagena.

During our month in Colombia, we were blown away by how good the food in Colombia was.

It took us totally by surprise – Colombia wasn’t the country in South America that we were most looking forward to eating our way through. But it turned out to be our favorite!
Colombian food is wildly varied depending on region, and all of it is delicious (you can read all about it in our post on the best Colombian food).

But our favorite food in Colombia is found in Cartagena de las Indias, a colonial Caribbean coastal paradise with a dark history and a flourishing present day.

We discovered the best food in Cartagena and ate as much of it as we could at some of the best restaurants in Cartagena – the ones that fit our budget, of course.

Here are our tips for what to eat in Cartagena, Colombia on a budget, and the best restaurants in Cartagena!

Psst: We’ve got a ton of other resources for Colombia that you’ll want to look at before you plan your trip!

Posta Negra Cartagena is a dish unique to Cartagena. Tri-trip is marinated and slow roasted, resulting in a delicious tender roast. Find out what and where to eat in Cartagena and Getsemani, Colombia.
Posta Negra Cartagena is a dish unique to Cartagena. Tri-trip is marinated and slow roasted, resulting in a delicious tender roast. Find out what and where to eat in Cartagena and Getsemani, Colombia.

The Best Food in Cartagena, Colombia

Stumped by the menu? Don’t worry, we spent several weeks figuring out what to eat in Cartagena for you! From the budget-friendly street food vendors in the walled city to the best restaurants in Cartagena and the super-hip neighborhood of Getsemani, here is your bucket list of the best food in Cartagena, Colombia.

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Colombian Soup

  • It seems like an odd thing to put at the top of my “what to eat in Cartagena” list, but every single time I’ve eaten soup here, it’s been the best soup I’ve EVER had. Doesn’t even matter what kind: sopa de pollo, fish soup, coconut fish stew… just spritz some sweet, coconutty green lemon on top, and it’s the best darn thing on the table, every time. I learned fast to order soup at any restaurant in Cartagena even when it was 85 degrees and I was sweating. It’s THAT good. Seriously!! After 5 months of backpacking South America, the soup in Cartagena remains our favorite.

Posta Negra Cartagena

  • A classic Cartagena dish, Posta Negra is a must eat Cartagena food! Tri-tip is marinated and slow cooked in a sauce that reminded us of a dark, syrupy, spicy mole – but there is no chocolate in this dish. One recipe that we looked up said to use Coca-Cola. Another said orange juice. What we ate had just a hint of sweetness, perfectly balanced with acid, spice, and a deep, rich robustness. We loved it. Don’t leave Cartagena without ordering it at one of the best restaurants in Cartagena at least once!

Mango Biche

  • Mango Biche is Green Mango with salt, pepper, and lemon. Yes, of course you can (and should!) get fresh sweet mango from a street vendor anywhere in Cartagena or Getsemani. But the more unique street food version – and our favorite – is sliced unripe mango with salt, pepper, and a little green lemon, all mixed together in a plastic bag. It’s sort of like the appeal of salt and vinegar chips: the perfect balance of slightly sweet, tangy, and salty all at once. This was our favorite street food in Colombia, and our favorite snack food in Cartagena.  You can find vendors selling this treat absolutely anywhere for 3.000 COP/$1 (even when you’re on a bus or in a car).

Fish. All of the fish.

  • I know, “fish” is a little vague. But honestly I can’t actually translate most of the fish we’ve eaten, though I’ve been told that red snapper is a local favorite, and I’ve seen a lot of sea bass on the menu. We’ve had some shark, I think, and a lot of shrimp. But honestly it doesn’t matter. All of it is incredibly good, and incredibly fresh. We saw fisherman on the shores of Boquilla and Bocagrande in Cartagena hauling in nets full of fish every morning, which means that fish is the most incredibly fresh thing you can eat in Cartagena. Whether it’s a guy with a cart on the beach, or one of the best restaurants in Cartagena, just order the pescado. You can order it any which way: with fresh herbs, grilled (a la plancha), with garlic sauce or coconut sauce. All good. The fresh fish in Cartagena usually comes with tiny green lemons, green plantain, and sweet coconut rice, which are the perfect accompaniment!

Colombian Ceviche

  • Cartagena is a hotspot for all things seafood, and this city knows its ceviche. We’ve seen everything from classic ceviche to mango ceviche on menus across the city, and I want to go back and try them all. Don’t miss out on the Colombian version of this South American foodie staple!
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Colombian Pizza

  • What? Pizza? In Colombia? Yes, it’s true. There’s delicious pizza here, and it’s cheap. Steps away from our hostel in Getsemani, Cartagena on the Plaza de Trinidad were several rival pizza places, all offering delicious thin crust varieties. The Colombian twist, of course, is something sweet: fruit! Colombians put fruit on their pizza, and it’s so good. Colombian pizza offerings typically involve a variety of something like a thin crust Hawaiian pizza, with various local fruit and other flavors. We tried a Colombian pizza with dried plums and jalapenos, one with raisins, and one with guava jelly, and they were all delicious. The sweet fruit balances perfectly with the salty meat and cheese, all on a perfect thin crust. Pizzas that will feed two are around 18.000 COP, or $6 USD, making it a fantastic budget-friendly food in Cartagena.

Jugos Naturales

  • Jugos Naturales are fresh juices made with exotic Colombian tropical fruits. You can order these everywhere in Cartagena and Getsemani, so feel free to try a different flavor each time. Our favorite is maracuya/passionfruit, usually made from a sweeter variety, called granadilla. We’ve also tried tomato de arbol (sort of like a sweet cranberry), mango, tamarind, guava, lulo (also called naranjila, it’s like a citrussy rhubarb), corozo (similiar to a cherry), cherimoya (tastes like bubblegum mixed with honeysuckle, we love it), and blackberry. They go for around 4.000 COP (about $1.25 USD) so there’s really no reason not to have one every time you go out for food in Cartagena!
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Colombian Shrimp Cocktail

  • A Styrofoam cup filled with fresh shrimp.  Finely minced onion.  Bright, fresh cut herbs. Juice from a tiny green local lemon. A generous dollop of cocktail sauce. Mixed together and eaten with a packet of crackers. This is the recipe for the best shrimp cocktail I have ever had. We bought it on the shores of Bocagrande – Cartagena’s shoreline, in front of the sprawling metropolis –  for $4 from a random vendor with a cart. I wasn’t prepared for how incredibly good it was: a salty, tangy flavor bomb, so fresh that when I dove into the warm waters of the Caribbean just after we finished eating, I felt a closer kinship with the sea for having eaten something so fresh. Don’t miss out on some fresh, delicious Colombian shrimp cocktail on the shores of Cartagena, Colombia. Trust us – it’s legit!
This incredibly fresh  fried whole snapper was served to us in the tiny fishing town of La Boquilla, Cartagena. It looks intimidating, but it was delicious! With fried plantain and coconut rice.
This incredibly fresh  fried whole snapper was served to us in the tiny fishing town of La Boquilla, Cartagena. It looks intimidating, but it was delicious! With fried plantain and coconut rice.

The Best Restaurants in Cartagena, Colombia

Now that you know what to eat in Cartagena, here are the best restaurants in Cartagena to eat them! These are  our picks for where to eat in Cartagena as well as the neighborhood of Getsemani, where some of the best food is found. We’ve included both budget-friendly options in Cartagena and a couple of places that we think are worth the splurge!

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Ristorante 1533

  • Ristorante 1533 was one of the first places we went to eat in the walled city of Cartagena, and proved to be one of our picks for the best restaurants in Cartagena. Our delicious meals each came with a generous portion of yummy Colombian soup, sweet coconut rice, plantain, and salad for the insanely budget friendly price of around 15.000 COP/$5. Ristorante 1533 is one of the best restaurants in Cartagena when it comes to great value!

La Cocina de Pepina

  • La Cocina de Pepina, in Getsemani, Cartagena, was recommended to us by the artisanal baker we met in Minca, so we had to go – and we were not disappointed! La Cocina de Pepina is one of the best restaurants in Cartagena to sample the fusion of traditional Colombian and Carribbean cuisine that is typical of Cartagena food (and we aren’t the only ones who think so! One Hour Behind listed it as one of the best restaurants in Caratagena too)! We ordered a mind blowing fish soup and delicious Posta Negra Cartagena. We also ordered “cabeza e gato” which were little balls of mashed yucca and plantain topped with sour cream and a chili sauce – a tasty and interestingly titled appetizer! Dishes hover around 20-30.000 COP (roughly $7-$10).
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La Casa de Socorro

  • La Casa de Socorra is a pricier option, but it’s worth the splurge if you want to sample traditional comida costeña/coastal food at one of the best restaurants inCartagena. We had absolutely incredible fish soup (notice a trend here?) and an incredible appetizer of minced shark on top of plantain. We also tried one of the many items on the menu that were treated to a French gratin of bubbling hot cheese and garlic. As if eating shark wasn’t adventurous enough, you’ll also find snail and turtle in the menu (we didn’t try those). We recommend ordering any fish dish at La Casa de Socorro. Entrees cost about 25.000-50.000 COP, $8-$16 USD (the upper price range is all lobster)!

Pizza Carbon

  • Yep, Colombian pizza. Look, sometimes all you want is a good, budget-friendly pizza and an ice cold Aguila, the local cheap beer. (Yes, we like Aguila. Try it before you judge us!) Pizza Carbon hits the spot for Colombian pizza. It’s got a prime location right on the Plaza de Trinidad in Getsemani, Cartagena, where you can watch various battling dance troupes or just people watch on a warm Cartagena night. The best pizza in Cartagena comes with a sweet surprise: the Colombian pizzas all feature fruit! Our favorite was a Hawaiian pizza with jalapeno and plums. A whole Colombian pizza for 2 cost about 18.000 COP/$6. Aguila was insanely cheap, like 2.000 COP/less than $1. So worth it.
    • Pizza Carbon Address: # a 144, Calle 29 #9122, Getsemani, Cartagena, on the Plaza de Trinidad in Getsemani | Facebook Page
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Oh! La La

  • French food isn’t something I would have immediately considered when choosing a restaurant in Cartagena, but it’s actually quite unique. The incredibly friendly owner of the cafe took the time to explain to us everything on her menu, in English, and answer all of our questions. She’s a French chef with a love of Colombian ingredients, and it shows in her food. Her pancakes were the best I’ve ever had, and the assortment of artisanal fresh made jams, jellies and syrups – all made with Colombian tropical fruits like tamarind and guava – was a fantastic included addition to our meal. The breakfasts are reasonably priced around 15.000-19.000 COP ($5-$6) and come with a huge bottle of fresh juice, coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.

El Boliche Cebicheria

  • If you’re willing to ball out a little, this is THE best restaurant in Cartagena for Colombian ceviche. The menu’s ceviche offerings feature insanely fresh Cartagena fish (caught locally each morning by Cartagena fisherman, of course) mixed with tropical Colombian fruits. If you’re game, try the spicy tamarind ceviche or the fresh grilled octopus!

So that’s our roundup of the best restaurants in Cartagena, Colombia for budget-friendly eating! Which delicious Cartagena specialty do you most want to try? Leave us a comment below!


Psst: We’ve got a ton of other resources for Colombia that you’ll want to look at before you plan your trip!

Oh hey! If this post made you want to visit one of the best restaurants in Cartagena, pin it!
What & where to eat on a budget in Cartagena, Colombia! The best restaurants in Cartagena and Getsemani and what Colombian food to try. #Colombia #Travel

Hey, I'm Lia! I'm a Kentucky native living in San Francisco. I'm extremely practical and also entirely addicted to travel, which I'm forever trying to reconcile. If I had a patronus, it would a spreadsheet. Or a llama. Possibly a llama creating a spreadsheet. I'm married to Jeremy and I'm obsessed with him and it's super gross, unless you're us, in which case it's the best.

5 Comment

  1. The fish looks delicious! I'll eat pretty much any kind of fish. Thanks for the suggestions!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      You’re welcome, Tracie! The fish in Cartagena is absolutely amazing, every last bit of it.

  2. June says: Reply

    This post is well timed as we are considering a cruise which has a day in Cartagena. Your recommendations will save us wasting time looking for a place to try great local dishes. I love fish and the fish soup looks and sounds fab 🙂

    1. Lia says: Reply

      I’m glad we could help, June! You’re going to love Cartagena. Have fun on your cruise!

  3. John says: Reply

    Thanks….we are heading there in December!

    Great post.

    John and Susan
    Boquete, Panama

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