One Day Exploring Barranquilla, Colombia
Technically, I was in Barranquilla for more than one day. Because of the time that I arrived and time that I left, I essentially only had one full day to explore. So I tried to make the best out of it and see as much as possible.
I arrived to the bus stop in Barranquilla around 5 pm on Friday, November 24th. I then took an Uber to my hotel which was in the center of Barranquilla. I stayed at the NH Collection Barranquilla Smartsuites, which was a nice modern hotel in a safe area. Highly recommend staying here if you visit.
After checking in and relaxing for a bit, I decided to go out and walk around the area of the hotel. It was already dark outside so I was a little hesitant at first to venture out. My first stop was a Juan Valdez (No Starbucks nearby) to grab a coffee. I then proceeded to walk around to try and find a place to eat. I happen to find a placed called GoGreen which is a chain I had eaten at before in Bogota. It is a healthy salad fast food restaurant. After my salad and bottle of water, I treated myself to an ice cream at a place called Heladeria Americana.
Feeling full from all the food, I went back to hotel to call it a night and plan my next day.
Day Exploring, November 25
Like usual, I started the day later than I would have liked. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a morning person. I rolled out of bed around 10ish and get ready to explore the city. The day was Saturday, so that already put me at a disadvantage as some things were closed or closed early. I tried to research closing time and distance so as to catch as much as possible within reason.
My first stop was the Modern Art Museum of Barranquilla. They are in the process of building a huge new museum next to the Museum of the Caribe. This older museum was tiny and in a somewhat nondescript location. I had to be buzzed in and the guy at the desk told me (I think since my Spanish is very limited) to go upstairs for the museum. He didn't ask me for an entrance fee so the price was right!
There was an interesting exhibit of photos of a man dressed like he is from the early 20th century standing in modern day settings. There was only a small amount of other art pieces in the space. Would have been nice to have been there when the new museum was open. The new place looks huge, so I am not sure what they are going to fill it with if the old space is any indication of the size of their collection.
Next stop was the Museo Romantico which is a history museum of various artifacts from Barranquilla. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me and Google, the museum was closed when I arrived. The area around it was nice and full of mansions and a park with holiday decorations as well as the Monumento Al Heroe Caido (Monument to the Fallen Hero).
Next, it was off to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Barranquilla. Because of the relative short distance between all of these places, I was walking between them. The temperature was hovering in the high 80's and was rather humid. Reminded me of a summer day in Florida.
The Cathedral is a modern building so it doesn't have the historic charm of many other cities cathedrals. Barranquilla is a relatively new city compared to it's neighbors Cartagena and Santa Marta.
There was some sort of service going on so I took photos outside and just inside the front door in the back all while trying to be inconspicuous.
After snapping some photos around the cathedral, it was time to eat some lunch. Luckily, across the street was a shopping center which I knew would have a food court. Inside the food court, I noticed a restaurant named Salvators Pizza which I had seen recommended in a guidebook at my hotel. I ordered a chicken and corn pizza with a bottle of water. Took longer than I expected, but the pizza was delicious.
Feeling full from lunch, my next stop was the Museum of the Caribe (Museo Del Caribe). This is a large, modern museum that focuses on the Colombian Caribbean history and culture. The entrance fee was around $5 USD. The museum is 6 floors and the exhibition/tour starts on the 6th floor. Unfortunately, I didn't understand that when the guard told me in Spanish to take the elevator to the 6th floor. So I started on the ground floor until a worker told me in broken English to go to 6th floor to start the tour of the museum.
The top floor of the museum is devoted to the Nobel Prize winning Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I must have walked in midway through the presentation/show which was basically an animation projected on the wall and other parts of the room depicting scenes and words from his books. It was all in Spanish.
The remaining floors covered various topics like, language, peoples, environment, objects and expression (music and dancing) of the region. The exhibitions were all in Spanish so it was difficult for me to understand. Some of them were videos of people talking and were interactive. There were plenty of staff around that were explaining things to people.
I walked through most of the floors briefly looking at the exhibitions, but didn't feel the need to spend a significant amount of time at the museum. I am sure if I was more fluent in Spanish, then the museum would have been a lot more enjoyable, but alas I am not.
The Iglesia de San Nicolas was next on my homemade walking tour. This is one of, if not the most iconic sites in all of Barranquilla. In front of the church is a plaza. There were many people in this area including beggars and people selling things. It seemed like an area you wouldn't want to be in when it got dark, so I made sure to hurry it up.
Unfortunately, the church was not open so I was unable to take pictures of the inside. The exterior was beautiful and well worth the visit to the area.
It was around 4:30 pm when I was done walking around the San Nicolas church and I had to make a choice about what to see and do next. I had wanted to visit the Zoo of Barranquilla, but it closed at 6 and was not in walking distance. I had also wanted to go to the Shakira statue, but that was also relatively far from where I currently was. Uber was also charging a 2x surge price at the time, so the further away a place was the less appealing it was.
On the recommendation of a friend, I decided to check out the boardwalk (malecon) overlooking the Magdalena River. He suggested I go to the Golden Gate Event Center (Centro de Eventos Puerta de Oro) and that there is an entrance to the boardwalk from there. So I walked part of the way there and then request an Uber when the price was more reasonable.
The event center was nice and had some auto event going on so there were plenty of people around. Unfortunately, they were doing construction on the boardwalk in this section and there was no way to get to it from the center. That being said, they had a nice area where you could view the river.
The area around the center was a bit sketchy looking so I walked around some trying to see if there was another way to a different section of the boardwalk. By the time I realized that there was no way to get to the boardwalk from this area, I was feeling a little tired so I called another Uber to take me back to my hotel.
Once I got back to my hotel, I took a shower and relaxed for a while before having over a local friend I met on Grindr. Luckily, it's not too hard to find people who are fluent in English in larger cities like Barranquilla.
After we hung out for a while it was time for dinner. He had suggested a few places and then also mentioned that there was a restaurant on the top floor of a nearby hotel that was quite nice and affordable. I figured that would be a great way to end the day with dinner overlooking the city.
The restaurant was called Piso 26 (Floor 26) and was at the Hotel Barranquilla Plaza. It was a lot more busy than I anticipated. It took a while for a worker to acknowledge and seat me. Then it was another wait before someone came over to take my order. Not sure if this is the typical type of service at the restaurant.
The food was average at best. Nothing spectacular. I got the baby beef. They used way too much pepper on the meat to the point where it was almost difficult to eat. The dish also included mashed potatoes which appeared to have been put on plate by a piping bag which is typical for frosting cupcakes. The other piece of the dish was cooked vegetable that was drenched in oil or some oil like substance.
The only redeeming part of the meal was the limonada de coco (I am gonna miss this when I leave Colombia) which I had to drink and the views of the restaurant. I paid my bill and decided to go to McDonald's which was across from my hotel for an M&M McFlurry (because why not) before calling it a night.
Barranquilla is a really nice city and I wish that I had been able to spend more time here. Unfortunately, I plan these things ahead of time and don't always consider the fact that I'll really like a place and want to stay longer.
Because I only had one day, and it was a weekend, there were some things that I was just not able to see due to time constraints and weekend hours. So if I get a chance to go back, I would like to see more things. Mainly, I'd like to visit the Museum dedicated to the Carnival. I'd also like to visit the Museo Romantico about the history of the city. The Zoo, Shakira statue and the boardwalk overlooking the Magdalena river would also be on my list of things to visit.
Barranquilla is also known for it's Carnival festival in February. I have heard great things about it, so I am sure it would be a fun time to visit the city.
Estimated Trip Cost in USD