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Our friend Shannon came to spend some time with us on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast. Being on the coast for two weeks already, we fell in love with this paradise, but we still hadn’t adjusted to the fierce heat of the day and oppressively muggy evenings. Flying into Cartagena, Shannon stepped into this furnace leaving behind cool temperatures as low as two degrees. Needless to say, she wasn’t prepared. Taking matters into her own hands, she decided to swerve the free city walking tour and designed us a tour of the best things to do in Cartagena Colombia based on the best air-conditioned spots in the historic city to beat the heat.
Located just inside the walled city near the famous Cafe Del Mar lies the NH Galeria. The gallery offers two floors of arts ranging from paintings to sculptures and textiles and is one of the best things to do in Cartagena Colombia. The art ranges from eclectic to classical art making it enjoyable for everyone. The NH Galeria is free for entry and is open Monday to Sunday from 10:00 to 20:00.
AC score: 7 out of 10
Abacas Books and Coffee
Just a quick stroll along the vibrant streets from the NH Galeria lies Abacas Books and Coffee. Due to its popularity, two locations now exist, however, we prefer the original location tucked amongst rows and rows of books. Not only does the place keep the air condition running, but they serve up delicious coffee as well which is no surprise in Colombia. Try a “tinto” in a personal French press or, more sensibly, opt for a cold brew to help beat the heat. The prices are reasonable at 6,000 COP ($2 USD) for a brew. There is free WiFi for those who need to be connected or work while traveling.
AC score: 8 out of 10
Tucked away on a less busy street is the restaurant La Mulata. La Mulata offers one of the best limonada de coco or coconut limeade in Cartagena, the area’s signature drink. Made with coconut, lime, and lots of sugar this refreshing drink will definitely not disappoint you in your efforts find things to do in Cartagena Colombia to beat the heat. Try spicing it up with a shot of rum if you are there during happy hour!
AC score: 10 out of 10
Cebiches & Seviches
In the hot sun, one of the best refreshing things to do in Colombia, Cartagena, and a great way to cool down is with a delicious lunch of ceviche at Cebiches & Seviches. We tried two types of ceviche, El Manglar and Montadito. El Manglar includes fresh fish, shrimp, onion, cilantro, fried crunchy corn, and avocado. Montadito is a nontraditional ceviche that includes octopus marinated in lemon pesto sauce, cilantro, onion, Parmesan cheese, fried crunchy corn, and avocado.
We cooled our palettes while we cooled our bodies in the air-conditioned restaurant. It is hard to imagine La Cevicheria’s (touted as the number one ceviche eatery in Cartagena based on Anthony Bourdain’s visit in 2008) ceviche topping this place, but check it out for yourself.
AC score: 10 out of 10
Ice cream shops sit on almost every street corner of Cartagena. What makes this one so special is not that the ice cream is delicious (which it is), but that it is freezing cold. Unlike the others we passed, this one has its doors closed keeping in all of the cool temperatures that you are so desperately craving after even just a short walk. The space is small and the seating is limited (sit on the stairs if the regular seating space is already taken). It is open every day from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm, so plenty of time for you to enjoy a sweet treat.
AC score: 10 out of 10
Honorable mention: Museo del Oro
We did not have an opportunity to visit the museum as it is closed on Mondays. We, however, have been told that visiting the museum is one of the best things to do in Cartagena Colombia with superb air conditioning. The museum is said to be a good reprise from the heat while boasting some of the countries best gold artifacts outside of the Museo del Oro in Bogota. Check it out and send us a message if our contacts are accurate about the AC. Just make sure you don’t go on a Monday.
These are some of the best things to do in Cartagena Colombia to beat the heat. Let us know if you find any others that should be added to the list. And don’t forget to stay cool out there!