My Favorite 13 Things to do in Barranquilla - Understand
Barranquilla is just 80 miles from Cartagena
, but feels more like the affluent residential parts of Panama City
than Cartagena. There is little tourism in Barranquilla to speak of, but there are beaches in Puerto Colombia (about 30 minutes outside the city), which has a small number of beachside hotels.
Barranquilla seems to have undergone a major building boom and has lots of newly-finished or 'about to be finished' buildings. Surprisingly, Barranquillos are serious about good food and the inner city neighborhoods have some great options.
Given the 3000:1 exchange rate to the US dollar, most things are great value. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but prepare yourself for the Dynamic Currency Conversion
in most places (as without perfect Spanish, there is no way to get rid of these charges). Spanish is a must here
, as you will meet almost no English speakers.
Barranquilla is a great way to see a 'real' Colombian town without all the increasing tourists. It's hot and humid year-round, though it feels less hot than Cartagena, and, like in Panama City, there are no real sidewalks, so prepare to walk on the streets alongside rather aggressive drivers.
My Favorite 13 Things to do in Barranquilla - Safety
The inner city neighborhoods are very safe during the day and quite reasonable after sunset. If you venture outside of these neighborhoods, you should still be fine if you hide your valuables and have access to a car.
My Favorite 13 Things to do in Barranquilla - Get Around
UberX and UberBLACK are in town. Weirdly, almost all drivers in the city seem like they only just started with Uber
. While most drivers were super-friendly, we encountered:
- blaring Techno music
- rusty cars from 20 years ago
- complete loss of direction and no idea where to go (with no ability to use Waze or Google Maps)
- drivers with only 5% battery and no charger cable
- cars that had their trunks full of strollers and shopping bags
- drivers who kept circling buildings and calling instead of waiting somewhere for us
We always got where we wanted and everyone was nice (albeit they only spoke Spanish), but that's a lot of 'odd' behaviors.
My Favorite 13 Things to do in Barranquilla - Sights
Barranquilla has few sights to speak of, but this also gives you more time to explore what it has.
Museum of the Caribbean
This attraction is pushing hard to be recognized as a world-class museum
. The grand architecture outside is quite out of place in the rather sketchy area of Centro Historico in Barranquilla.
The entrance fee isn't cheap at 10k COP (for almost all visitors and nationalities), but the museum has five floor of exhibits. Most of them are in Spanish only, which gives you another chance to brush up on this language!
Centro Historico de Barranquilla
Barranquilla's Centro Historico shares only its name with Cartagena's beautiful historic center. While Barranquilla's old town has a number of pretty, restored churches and cathedrals, most buildings are in bad shape. This area is also one of the more dangerous places in the city. There is a super-busy Sunday street market in a big part of it, which I'd recommend going to only with a local guide or restrict yourself to driving there. Don't go there at night.
Centro Comercial Buenavista II
This shopping mall (named II) is an extension of the older one named Centro Comercial Buenavista I. It's sad to say, but you will feel like you have been here before, as all these chains look the same. Still, there is good ice cream to be had and it's cool enough inside that you can start to think straight again.
Puerto Colombia Klimandiaro Sunset Lounge
Puerto Colombia is about 30 minutes outside of Barranquilla. Our Uber driver promptly got lost, though she confirmed several times that she knew the place and did NOT need any directions. Her phone died and without my directions we would have never found it. Oh well.
The beach bar is a bit dirty, as is the beach, but this place has a freewheeling 'Thailand feel' to it. It also has gorgeous sunset views and cheap drinks. The atmosphere is very relaxed and the service is friendly, though slow.
The tough part is leaving here, since you will be at the mercy of the taxi drivers (as there's no Uber pickups). Plus the mosquitoes ravaged us after sunset.
The taxi ride was 25,000 COP and Uber charged just 15,000 (despite getting properly lost).
Centro Comercial Villa Country
Wow! The entrance area of this place is visually striking and could easily be mistaken for a modern art museum. Sadly, it's not; it's the same stores you already know. But it's cool inside - enough reason for me to stop by.
My Favorite 13 Things to do in Barranquilla - Eat & Drink
La Patrona Cantina Mexicana
This place takes Mexican culture and food seriously! Mexican food is rather rare south of the Mexican border, but here it's celebrated. It's moderately priced and the outside patio is a wonderful area to see this upscale neighborhood at night.
There are a number of excellent-rated restaurants close to La Patrona - too many for me to try out personally - but give this list a try
if you want more variety!
Juan Valdez Coffee
Since there is no 'third wave' coffee in town, Juan Valdez is all you get, but some of them are really good. Most outlets feature decent coffee and a nice place to sit and use the WiFi. We liked the one in the same building as the Hampton by Hilton Barranquilla
the most, but other outlets might be equally good.
Che Boludo Parrilla Bar
This place was so good that we ending up eating here twice in just 3 days (although it's also close to the Hampton by Hilton). Excellent, Argentine-style steaks and barbecue paired with no-nonsense, friendly service make this place a winner. It's not as cheap as in Argentina, but still extremely cheap compared to any San Francisco steakhouse.
Salvator's is THE place for cheap but yummy pizza in Barranquilla. The $11 pizza is enough for three hungry people and the atmosphere is family-friendly. It gets crowded and loud, though. It's not a fine dining spot, but a place you'll walk out of much happier than when you came in.
Bogota Beer Company
Bogota Beer Company is all over Colombia and delivers a consistent draft beer bar atmosphere. Nearby you'll also find Bourbon St
and Beer Station
, which both offer cheap drinks. In most places in Bogota
, however, you can get away with $1-$2 for a beer - I'd gladly pay the DCC
in those cases!
This is a Mexican Tex Mex food chain; it's quite simple and has a certain discount feel to it. The food takes a long time here - easily 30 minutes for lunch with only just a few patrons. The food looked and tasted good, but it gave me a nasty reminder a few hours later.
Middle Eastern cuisine
There are a
surprising number of Middle Eastern food places in Barranquilla. We didn't get the chance to visit any, unfortunately, but if the kebap and hummus craves hit, you should try Terraza Árabe
or Arabe Internacional