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Colombia´s fourth biggest city has two faces—that of a hard-scrabble port that is a major industrial hub; and a colorful, cosmopolitan metropolis with a famous nightlife scene. Located on the Caribbean delta of the Rio Magdalena, Barranquilla was a 20th–century boom town that attracted thousands of immigrants from Europe and the Middle East. Those glory days have faded, but the city still has a multi-cultural population which prepares Colombia´s biggest and wildest carnival party. That, and a rich selection of restaurants and bars, means Barranquila has lots to offer the curious visitor.

Things to Do

Along Paseo Bolivar you´ll find the city´s most historical buildings. Peer through serene, stained glass windows at the ultra modern Catedral Metropolitana or eye the voluptuous canvases of Fernando Botero in the showcase Museo de Arte Moderno. If you miss the carnival, make sure to visit the Casa de Carnival with its evocative murals and intriguing photos displaying such bizarre party rituals as the symbolic burial of Joselito Carnaval on the final day of the festival.

Restaurants and Dining

The upscale district of El Prado offers excellent dining in a leafy, pleasant setting. Sip cocktails in the alluring courtyard of the trendy Naja Restaurant, or relax in Henry’s Café, an American–style diner. Barranquila´s considerable Arab population means you don´t have to go far for some genuine kebabs, shawarma, and falafel. Restaurante Sareb is one of the best known Middle Eastern restaurants, but other choices abound along the principal gourmet route known as Carrera 53.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Barranquila is a cultural powerhouse, attracting performers from all over the country. Teatro Amira de la Rosa is the city’s principal venue for classical music and ballet. For something a little more visceral, check out the salsa and cumbia beats at the city’s two most famous nightclubs, Froglegs and La Quinta. Time your visit right and you could experience one of the continent´s best jazz festivals, and of course the most outrageous carnival in the country.