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Located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Barranquilla is a lively and colorful city that’s teeming with vibrant culture and rich history. Known for its assortment of fun things to do, delicious food, and stunning architecture, Barranquilla is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore the best of Colombia. In this blog, we’ll highlight the top 15 best things to do in Barranquilla—from visiting its historical landmarks to experiencing the city’s exceptional cuisine—listed in no particular order.
Barranquilla’s Malecon (boardwalk or esplanade in Spanish) was successfully developed around the concept of “returning to the river” and beautifully transformed the city’s relationships with the Magdalena River that it sits beside. Consequently, a walk along Barranquilla’s Malecon allows you to admire a beautiful piece of Colombia’s most important river, which runs some 950 miles (1,500 km) through the country’s western half. What’s more? This tremendous river can even be toured on select river cruises—an activity we’ll tell you more about at the end of this blog!
The Malecon itself was inaugurated in July of 2017 and has since hosted hundreds of cultural, artistic, recreational, and sporting activities, significantly enhancing Barranquilla’s social and economic proliferation. The design of the Malecon is particularly noteworthy due to its integration of Barranquilla’s iconic features found in its topography, geography, history, and climate. This can be witnessed in certain design features, such as diagonal lines that create a transition from the city’s urban “rigidity” to the natural fluidity of the river.
In terms of amenities, the Malecon offers playgrounds, restaurants, shops, and a range of cultural activities along the roughly 2.5 miles (4 km) stretch of boardwalk. This makes it an ideal location for visitors looking to enjoy an outdoor experience that brings them into contact with the river and Barranquilla’s natural environment.
Ultimately, this scenic boardwalk offers stunning views of the Magdalena River and the Caribbean Sea and is a perfect spot to watch the sunset or warm up your legs in the early morning. It also represents the city’s commitment to public spaces, community engagement, and sustainable urban planning.
Over in nearby Puerto de Salgar, a 30-minute car ride out of Barranquilla will bring you face-to-face with Castillo de Salgar, which offers valuable historical insight into the city’s past and is a beautiful place to explore.
Originally built in 1848, this Spanish fort is a testament to the region’s colonial past and its strategic importance due to its proximity to the Caribbean Sea. Its restoration has transformed it into a venue for events and a lovely restaurant while retaining its historical essence.
The castle is recommended due to its stunning views along the ocean, especially at sunset when its yellow walls vividly reflect the setting sun. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy a meal, escape the city crowds, and soak up breathtaking views and history along the water.
With its rich culinary offerings, Barranquilla is a vibrant showcase of Colombia’s gastronomy. The food here, in fact, is considered to be one of the city’s top attractions. Barranquilla’s cuisine reflects a melting pot of cultural influences, blending indigenous, African, and Spanish flavors. Street food in the form of arepas and empanadas offers a scrumptious taste of traditional Colombian fare, while seafood dishes, enriched by the Caribbean’s bounty, present a fresher, coastal twist.
Barranquilla’s food scene isn’t just about traditional dishes—it’s an evolving culinary canvas where modern chefs infuse classic recipes with contemporary flair. This gastronomic diversity not only tantalizes the palates of residents and visitors alike but also tells the story of the city’s cultural heritage, making dining in Barranquilla an essential experience for both food enthusiasts and cultural explorers.
The “Museo del Caribe” in Barranquilla is more than just a museum—it’s a vibrant celebration of the Caribbean’s rich cultural tapestry and a top activity for anyone visiting the city. This museum provides a fascinating look into Barranquilla’s history, culture, and traditions and serves as an excellent place to get acquainted with customs and lifestyles.
As the first regional museum in Colombia, it offers a unique, in-depth look at the Caribbean’s diverse history, culture, and even its ecosystems. The interactive exhibits take visitors on a journey through the region’s indigenous roots, colonial past, and contemporary societal features.
This serves as an excellent place to gain a deeper understanding of the Caribbean’s complex heritage and its influence on Colombia’s national identity.
Exploring Santa Marta is a must for anyone visiting Barranquilla. Just a two and a half hour’s drive from Barranquilla, Santa Marta serves as a delightful complementary experience with its stunning beaches (Taganga and El Rodadero, to name a few), historical significance, and the gateway to the epic Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range.
As Colombia’s oldest city, Santa Marta radiates with rich colonial charm, evident in its well-preserved architecture and vibrant streets. The city serves as a starting point for treks to the famous Lost City and excursions to Tayrona National Park, renowned for its biodiverse landscapes and indigenous cultures. The seamless blend of historical allure, natural beauty, and cultural richness makes Santa Marta a captivating destination, offering a fantastic complementary experience to the urban vibrancy of Barranquilla.
This historic plaza, nestled in the heart of Barranquilla, is a vibrant hub of culture and history, complete with a beautiful fountain, an iconically pink church that can’t be missed, and colonial architecture. It’s where the city’s rich heritage comes to life through its colorful design, lively street performances, and local markets. Visitors can indulge in authentic Colombian cuisine at nearby eateries or revel in the energetic atmosphere that reflects the city’s lively spirit. The plaza also serves as a gateway to exploring Barranquilla’s artistic soul, hosting numerous cultural events and festivals throughout the year, especially during the famous Carnaval de Barranquilla.
Visiting Barranquilla’s Zoo is a top attraction in Barranquilla for several reasons. First, it offers an opportunity to explore a diverse array of wildlife from around the globe—with over 500 animals to discover, including tigers, lemurs, and monkeys—providing educational insights into different species and their habitats. The zoo is renowned for its commitment to conservation and education, making it an excellent destination for families and individuals interested in learning about wildlife and environmental protection.
Additionally, its well-maintained facilities and interactive exhibits make it an enjoyable experience for visitors of all ages. The zoo also plays a crucial role in local conservation efforts, contributing to the preservation of endangered species. Overall, Barranquilla’s Zoo presents a unique blend of education, conservation, and recreation, making it a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to the region.
This city park in Barranquilla, nestled in a northern neighborhood and surrounded by high-rise apartment buildings, offers a refreshing urban oasis. Although not a typical tourist destination, it’s a delightful spot for locals and visitors alike to engage in outdoor activities. The park features dedicated paths for jogging and walking alongside volleyball and basketball courts. For those looking to stay fit, there are areas equipped with exercise gear. Children can enjoy play areas, and there’s a designated area for dogs, too. This linear boulevard park is a charming spot for a leisurely stroll or some exercise amidst the city’s hustle and bustle.
The Colon Theater in Barranquilla stands as a beacon of cultural and architectural importance, making it a unique landmark for anyone exploring the city. With its quirky art-deco style and striking facade, this historic theater is a unique example of early 20th-century architecture in Barranquilla.
The Viva Barranquilla Mall is a contemporary and vibrant shopping and entertainment center that has quickly become one of the city’s most popular destinations. This expansive mall is not just a shopping haven with a wide array of stores ranging from local boutiques to international brands but also a place where visitors can enjoy a diverse mix of culinary delights, from fast food to gourmet dining. Its modern architecture, combined with an inviting atmosphere, makes it an ideal location for both leisurely shopping and socializing.
Parque Venezuela in Barranquilla is a vibrant and bustling public space that captures the city’s lively spirit. Known for its lush greenery and spacious areas, the park is a popular gathering place for residents and visitors alike. It is especially loved for its family-friendly atmosphere, offering playgrounds and recreational facilities where children can play safely while adults enjoy the serene environment or engage in leisurely activities. The park’s well-maintained paths are perfect for jogging, walking, or simply relaxing under the shade of its many trees.
This modern cathedral in Barranquilla, renowned for its vast interior and striking stained glass windows, offers a cool respite with its unique roof design. Highly regarded due to the absence of internal columns and a magnificent altar sculpture, the cathedral also features a distinctive ceiling sculpture, often compared to Poseidon. Its artistic interior, complemented by exceptional glasswork, captivated Pope John Paul II, who conducted a mass here in the 1980s. While its exterior might be regarded as unconventional, the cathedral’s interior is a testament to modern artistic achievement and is a worthwhile visit for both its religious and architectural significance.
Unfortunately, its name does not imply that this is an excellent museum to go to for a romantic date! It is, however, a unique and enchanting space that offers visitors a deep dive into the history and cultural heritage of the city. Housed in a charming, traditional Caribbean-style building, this museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the rich history of Barranquilla. Visitors are treated to an array of exhibits that include historical artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia, each telling a story of the city’s past.
The Inmaculada Concepcion Church in Barranquilla is a remarkable architectural and spiritual landmark, reflecting the city’s rich religious heritage. This church, known for its unique neo-Gothic architecture, stands as a testament to the artistic and architectural influence of the early 20th century. Its somewhat minimalist design, complemented by the beautiful stained-glass windows, creates a visually distinct presence amidst Barranquilla’s greater cityscape.
Barranquilla’s beaches showcase the city’s natural appeal, offering a perfect blend of relaxation and scenic beauty. These beaches, with their soft golden sands and the inviting crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea alongside them, provide an idyllic setting for sunbathing, swimming, and a variety of water sports. Lined with palm trees and frequented by gentle sea breezes, they are ideal for those seeking a tranquil escape or a fun-filled day by the sea.
The beaches near Barranquilla are not only popular for their picturesque landscapes but also for their vibrant beachside culture, featuring lively kiosks and restaurants serving delicious local seafood. Whether it’s for a stroll along the shore, a refreshing dip in the waters, or simply to enjoy the stunning coastal views, Barranquilla’s beaches are a must-visit for any traveler to the region. Worth visiting are the beaches over at nearby Puerto Salgar.
Barranquilla’s up-and-coming roster of exciting river cruises—some of which travel along the majestic Magdalena River to Cartagena—are destined to offer a unique and enchanting way to experience Colombia’s natural and cultural landscapes. These cruises are aimed at providing a serene journey down one of Colombia’s most important waterways, revealing the beauty and biodiversity of the region. As these boats glide along the river, passengers are treated to stunning views of lush riverbanks, local wildlife, and the daily life of communities that have made their home along the river’s edge.
These cruises often include guides that offer insights into the historical and ecological significance of the Magdalena River. Some cruises also feature live music, dining options, and even the chance to stay on the boat for multiple nights, allowing guests to enjoy local cuisine and entertainment as they take in the scenic views throughout each day. Whether it’s a romantic sunset cruise or daytime exploration you’re looking for, a river cruise on the Magdalena is a highly memorable way to easily enhance your Barranquilla visit.
The experience combines relaxation, education, and sightseeing, making it a perfect activity for tourists and locals alike. Cruises are set to begin offering in-depth itineraries that travel deep into the Magdalena River and take you to Cartagena starting in 2024-2025.
Simply put, Barranquilla in Colombia is a fantastic city that’s full of culture, history, and beauty. With many great and top things to do and see, it makes for a perfect vacation place by the Caribbean Sea and the Magdalena River. We hope this list of the best things to do in Barranquilla will inspire you to plan your next trip to this vibrant city!