Gastronomic Guide of Colombia: what and where to eat to experience all the flavors of Colombian cuisine

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Located in the equatorial zone, this seasonless country harvests a great variety of fruit and vegetable all year long, that are then marinated in different dishes creating an explosion of flavors. As love enters through the eyes, in this Gastronomic Guide of Colombia, we invite you to fall in love, not only with its landscapes, but also with delicious dishes that you will surely hear about from locals such as the bandeja paisa, ajiaco, sancocho, and many more.


Colombian Caribbean

The diet of the Colombian Caribbean is characterized by having a lot of green plantain, fish, and fried fast food, such as egg arepas or carimañolas. As for the desserts, you can find sweets on the beach and the famous street of palenqueras being offered in dessert trays with coconut, tamarind, and other typical fruits of the region.

Coconut is one of the main components of Caribbean cuisine, both in dishes and drinks / Photo: Daytours4u

Santa Marta

The Pearl of the Caribbean offers multiple dining experiences, just as varied as the shades of blue of Tayrona National Park and Taganga.

Today, the historical center of Santa Marta is a trendy place for tourists to visit, due to its tranquility and colonial character. In recent years, local gastronomic options have exploded, but just remember to be careful when consuming street food because the water of the coast is not of good quality and your stomach may not be used to it.

 

One recommendation in the historic center of Santa Marta is the Lamart, a seafood restaurant that offers an explosion of flavors; the house specialty dessert is fried ice cream, a very unique dish for those looking for new culinary experiences.

Another is La Primera Restaurante, found a little further outside of the center, it is an establishment strategically located for you to have an excellent view of the bay while enjoying its diverse international dishes.

If you plan on staying in Taganga, you have several options to choose from, such as Bítacora Restaurant, a place with a large culinary variety, or Babaganoush, a restaurant bar whose owner is responsible for providing the best experiences to its guests. Also, before 10 PM every evening, there is a 2×1 cocktail promotion.

Travel tip: To get from the center of Santa Marta to Taganga you just have to take an urban bus or an uber if you want to travel more comfortably.

In addition to enjoying the delights of Taganga, take the opportunity to contemplate its magical sunsets / Photo: Laura García

Cartagena

This magical Caribbean city, famous for its film festivals, literature and classical music which contrasts with wild champeta rhythms, offers its visitors a diverse gastronomy that ranges from street cuisine to elegant restaurants.

If you are curious about the local gastronomy, Cartagena is the ideal place to take a street food tour. This tour is the perfect opportunity to not only get to know the local dishes, but discover how they’re prepared along with their history.

To complement this experience you can walk through the Bazurto market where you’ll find all kinds of food that is typical of the region, along with music and crafts. Despite being well known today among curious tourists, we advise you to visit Bazurto market accompanied by a local due to security risks outside of the main tourist circuit, along with being overwhelmed from contact with locals.

Dining at La Mulata, on the other hand, is a more sophisticated experience without going beyond the typical. This restaurant is located inside the walled city so the atmosphere is much quieter. If you are passionate about the sea breeze, you should go to the Café del Mar, which is a restaurant bar located on the wall. Besides being one of the most famous in the country for its exclusive menu and wonderful views, it also offers an extensive menu of liquors and irresistible foods.


Medellín

These lands are ideal for experiencing tradition and new experiences. The typical diet of this area is based on grains, such as beans and corn, which you will see in every dish of the day in most restaurants, however, in this city you can find anything from molecular cuisine, to typical dishes, and even international cuisine.

Another must-see of the local gastronomy and culture is a visit to the market place. Besides being able to learn about the products of the region, the restaurants located there are an excellent option for breakfast while you immerse yourself in the daily life of the locals.

Reserve a Plaza Mercado Tour here

For lunch, enjoy a paisa tray at La Hacienda, a restaurant located in the center of the city, famous for its beans. Or you can have lunch at La Chagra, an Amazonian food restaurant located in the El Poblado area. This type of cuisine is exotic, so we advise you to ask the waiter about any terms you don’t understand. For dinner, Marmoleo offers music, a pleasant atmosphere and a pork rind ceviche that you cannot miss.

As for complementary experiences, we invite you to visit the restaurant El Cielo, where you’ll find molecular cuisine, and a tour of the most striking bars of Medellin, so you can venture into the nightlife and its drinks.

Travel tip: The best thing about the dishes of this city is that you can learn to prepare them easily and most of the ingredients are available in other countries, so if you fall in love with these typical dishes, we invite you to learn how to prepare them with the culinary experience tour in Medellín.

The paisa tray is one of the emblematic dishes of Medellín, do not miss it! / Source

Bogotá

Like any large city, the Colombian capital offers international food, fusion cuisine, and the most typical dishes of the country. If you visit the capital for a few days, we recommend that you start in the La Candeleria neighborhood. This area has a mixture of colors and architecture that will take you back to the colonial past. It is the best option to get closer to the Colombian Andean season, because, due to its large concentration of universities, offices and tourists, its streets are full of restaurants where you can try ajiacos, tamales and arepas.

Reserve a La Candelaria street food tour

Another colonial neighborhood of Bogotá is Usaquén, a town absorbed by the city, where there is a wide variety of bars and restaurants such as Felinos, a small local place where they sell homemade food, and one of the best ajiacos (soup with three types of potatoes with a chicken base) of the city.

For dinner, the famous Andrés Carne de Res restaurant bar is the place to go to experience night life in Bogotá. This establishment is one of the most famous in the country, with its main headquarters in the outskirts of Bogotá, and another headquarters in the Zona Rosa. On weekends it is difficult to find a reservation, so we recommend that you book one night in Andrés Carne de Res so that you can fully enjoy the experience.

During your days in Bogotá, go through the Usaquén neighborhood and try one of the best ajiacos / Photo: Multivac42

Bucaramanga

The capital of Santander region, as with the whole area, has a gastronomic culture based on yuca, with desserts such as the bocadillo veleño made with sweet guava, and snacks like hormigas culonas, which are ants.

One of the best options for enjoying local cuisine is La Puerta del Sol, a restaurant with more than 60 years of experience where you can find dishes such as mute (typical Santanderean soup), and cabrito al horno, among other delights. Our advice is that to enjoy a complete cooking and historical experience to visit the Santandean villages where you’ll discover that many were the epicenter of Spanish settlements and libertarian deeds.

During the time of colonization, Spanish settlements left coffee as a legacy, a crop that later expanded to other parts of the country. If you are in this region, don’t miss the opportunity to visit a coffee plantation and learn a bit of Colombian history.

Try all the desserts of Bucaramanga, especially the bocadillo veleño made with sweet guava / Phto: Daytours4u

Pereira

Being in the largest city of the 3 departments that make up the Coffee Triangle, you will probably decide to spend at least one night there. If so, one of the restaurants that you can’t miss is Latino, a place offering typical Colombian Pacific food based on seafood and fish, which despite not being typical of the region, is an interesting option to learn innovative ways to prepare food. Being in a place that is not very touristy, we recommend that you use transit to visit. Very close to Pereira, you can find other places to eat, while enjoying an incredible view, such as Santa Clara a grill 20 minutes from the city by bus.

Take advantage of your days in the Coffee Region to visit the haciendas of the place, experience the plantations and taste the quality coffee with the coffee experience in Santa Rosa.


We hope that with this guide your appetite has increased and that you are hungry for adventure and encouraged to experience the best of Colombia.

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By: Laura García Betancur, Colombian journalist and audiovisual communicator from the University of Manizales, Colombia