Cartagena, like the rest of the country, is riding a gourmet coffee wave. The café scene has been percolating slowly in recent years, but today the aroma of fresh-roasted beans fill city's colonial plazas and cobbled streets. Entrepreneurs are brewing up intriguing new takes on typical coffee drinks, many served up with delectable pastries like lonjas de almendros (almond croissants) and cocadas (baked coconut confections). You'll also find gourmet menus featuring everything from frothy cappuccinos and stove-top espressos to specialty brews mixed with rums and even mezcal.
The bevy of must-visit coffee shops ranges from cozy local spots to chic bohemian cafés with all the charm of an authentic French patisserie. Here are our recommendations for seven places worth a stop-in. And if you're looking for a chic boutique hotel to crash at during your stay in Cartagena, check out this article. For the best restaurants, see this one.
Ábaco Libros y Café
The charming Ábaco Libros y Café is an oasis for bibliophiles in Cartagena’s bohemian circle, especially during the annual Hay Festival of literature in January/February. Stumbling upon this trove in the heart of the Walled City is to be transported to a tropical version of the Left Bank or London’s Charing Cross district. Beyond its unassuming exterior, red-brick arches and a terra-cotta tile floor provide a cozy ambiance to browse the wall-to-wall books (in both English and Spanish). Settle in to enjoy a specialty house drink such as the sweet Soul Brew, bitter Mind Brew, or licorice-flavored Love Brew, using beans from the acclaimed Hacienda Samaria in Colombia's Risaralda region. Barista Juan Daniel Barón is also a mixologist and will conjure you a tasty cocktail.
Calle 36 #3-86, Centro, Cartagena
Located in the Walled City, quaint, pretty, and quirky describe the unpretentious ADN Café, with its spiral staircase and loft. Owner Angélica María Osorio serves premium organically grown coffees from Caldas, Risaralda, and the Sierra Nevada regions and is a passionate barista suprema. So while this is a lovely spot to take a break from exploring, it’s also a good place to learn about your brew while taking advantage of the free wifi. It serves plenty of sweet treats too, including a delicious guava cheesecake and an awesome chocolate rote with whipped cream.
Calle del Cuartel #36-122, Centro, Cartagena
Boundless Mezcal Café
With a name like this, who could resist checking out the Boundless Mezcal Café? The three owner-buddies—an Aussie, a Dutchman, and a Mexican (hence the mezcal, an agave-derived liquor akin to tequila)—mix it up with cool coffees and cocktails at this hip spot (part bar and part coffee shop) in Plaza del Reloj. The trio, who grow and market their own organic coffee in Caldas province, turn coffee into a party by combining it with mezcal tasting. So order an espresso mezcal martini and settle into a cool leather couch, chill out to groovy music (live at night in the upstairs lounge) and feed your hunger with mezcal ceviche followed by a brownie with vanilla ice cream.
Calle 34 #7-33, Plaza de los Coches, Centro, Cartagena
Café de las Novias
Tucked away on a quiet street in Getsemani, the Café de Las Novias ("Brides Café") might make you do a double take with its gilt Louis XIV-style furniture, floral arrangements, and porcelains hinting at a Parisian boudoir. As the name suggests, this gorgeous coffee shop evolved from a wedding planning business, and wedding cakes and other gourmet sweet treats are its claim to fame. It also serves salads, sandwiches, and savories, best washed down with a fresh-made limonada de coco (coconut limeade). The lattes here are awesome, but it’s really known for its rich, chocolaty mochaccinos.
Calle 25 (Larga) #8B-126, Getsemani, Cartagena
Café La Presentación
Another gourmet café that serves to edify patrons, Café La Presentación is part of Casa Museo La Presentación, a hip art space with a gallery, theater, and a year-round calendar of cool events. Fusing bare colonial walls with chic contemporary touches, this atmospheric café serves up some serious coffee drinks. We recommend the cold brews that really bring out the rich flavors. Check out the one-hour "Coffee Trip" tastings, which distinguish different brewing methods.
Calle Estanco del Aguardiente #5-63, Centro, Cartagena
Café San Alberto
The folks at award-winning Hacienda San Alberto, located in Buenavista in the Quindío province of the Zona Cafetera (Coffee Country), take their coffee seriously. No one in Colombia works as creatively to educate the public about the science and enjoyment of coffee. So we were delighted when in 2015 it opened its own coffee shop in the Walled City. Wonderful aromas will draw you inside this cozy bi-level café; downstairs is tiny, but an upstairs lounge overflows with space. Sure, their “super-premium” coffees—from espresso shots to macchiatos—are awesome, but the main draw is the "Coffee Baptism" tour. It's given by knowledgeable baristas who take customers on a coffee-bean journey from the tree to the cup, ending with a rewarding coffee tasting session.
Calle de los Santos de Piedra #3-86, Centro, Cartagena
The stylish Época Café—off Plaza de la Proclamación, in the Walled City—is a superb spot to relax with a fresh-roasted cup of joe. Better yet, try a unique house special such as the smoked Carajillo Epoca spiked with aguardiente, the local sugarcane firewater. Or how about a divine Campesino spiced with sugarcane, cassia, and lime? The owners, Colombian couple Nikole Cobo and Julian Gutiérrez, are trained baristas both. They use fair-trade coffees directly sourced from eight small farms and will teach you the essentials of brewing as they prepare your drink tableside. Begin your day with a pastry, or stop in for a light lunch such as the Diablo sandwich or chicken chilaquiles.
Calle de Arzobispado #34-56, Centro, Cartagena