10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Barranquilla Anyway
Barranquilla doesn’t have the best reputation amongst travellers. The Lonely Planet describes the Colombian city of Barranquilla as a frantic and noisy city where there is nothing really to see. And even among the Colombians the industrial city is not very popular and by far not as popular as the capital of Colombia or the capital of Antioquia, Medellin. Here I would like to give you a few reasons why it is still worth to pay a visit to the capital of the Caribbean.
Museo del Caribe
The Museo del Caribe (Caribbean museum) in Barranquilla is absolutely unique. At this museum indeed everything is about the Caribbean. The exhibition starts with a very interesting multimedia presentation about Marquez. Afterwards one descends in the distinctive geographic zones of the Caribbean and get to know a lot about the Flora and Fauna in this incredible part of the world. The most interesting are certainly the short videos about the indigenous people living in this area. Before you get a sense of what making music and dancing means in the Caribbean a few Locals give their statements in front of the camera Conclusion: Definitely worth a visit.
Watch an Arroyo
The Arroyos (water flows usually after heavy rain) are extremely dangerous and frequently cost the inhabitants their all their belongings or even their lives. Still the Arroyos are something unique. It is very impressive when the streets turn into rivers and the taxis and busses move through half a meter deeps waters. Unfortunately it often doesn’t stay at half a meter. If you look on YouTube for „Arroyos Barranquilla“ , you will find Videos in which masses of water drag away caps and fully occupied busses that remain in the middle of the floodwaters. The entire thing is certainly no fun and because of that the government of the city decided to do something about it. The streets where the strongest currents arise are going to be tunnelled so that the water can drain off into the Rio Magdalena without being a hazard.
Visit a Jazz concert in La Cueva
La Cueva ist probably the most cultural place in Barranquilla. The restaurant where Gabriel Garcia Marquez met with other writers and artists still shines out in Barranquilla. Almost every Wednesday you can listen to Jazz concerts. The „Fundación La Cueva“also organizes book launches, readings and other events. A great place, where not only good food is available.
Visit an arthouse cinema
Although you always have to look for cultural activities pro actively, they still do exist. For the second time the FICBAQ“took place in March. Initiated by the Fundación Cámara Oscura the international movie festival is supposed to bring movie from all over the world closer to the Baranquilleros which do not end up in the big movie cinemas in Colombia. In March one week production from South America and all over the world were shown. Additionally there were events where pupils and students could be filmmakers and directors themselves.
Go to the theatre
Shakespeare meets Caribbean. Barranquilla not only has a yearly movie festival but also theatre that is very important for some weeks of the year. The theatres are full and parks and streets become stages. In April this year groups from all over South America were gathering in the capital of the Caribbean. Among them for instance the group „Auch!“ from Chile, which impressed open air with their percussion show. The highlight of the festival was certainly the performance of „Ricardo III.“ Modern, entertaining and still not too far from the Shakespeare original performed the group „El Paso“ from Pereira in Teatro José Consuegra Higgins.
Dance Salsa in „La Troja“
„La Troja“ is the most iconic bar in Barranquilla. Every weekend and even during the week Salsa fans from the entire city gather here for a good fiesta. Young meets old and poor meets rich but this doesn’t matter in this place. Over an Aguila (beer) dancing along fast Salsa rhythms all people are equal. Most of the time the space in the bar is not enough so people start dancing on the sidewalk or the streets. Anyway „La Troja“ is more of an open air event then a party in between closed walls.
Like most of the larger cities in Colombia Barranquilla has some North American lookalike malls too. Here the upper class Costeño buys everything he needs for living, meets his friend for a coffee at Juan Valdez, goes to the cinema or to the hairdresser, unfortunately you quickly get the impression that the air conditioned Malls replace the beautiful pedestrians streets like in my home country Germany. Only one pedestrian street exists in Barranquilla in the city centre and only for a short time. The street is also kept very shortly.
Take a stroll through the historical city centre
Whoever visits Barranquilla should not miss out on the historical centre. But If you expect to see colonial houses and small alleys you will be disappointed. Here you find streets full of retailers, street vendor selling goods from their booth and food stalls. If you look a little whiter than the rest you will most likely called „Gringo“ – and at least one time people will bag for money. But still an outing to centre is totally worth as nowhere else in Barranquilla it will be as authentic. But maybe it is not too bad of an idea to only visit this part of the city during the day.
Bocas de Ceniza
In case you visit Barranquilla you should definitely go to Bocas de Ceniza. Most cab drivers know the place in the neighbourhood Las Flores where the train leaves and drives the 12 KM long way along the finger. Here only some few meters high rocks, trash and sand divide the Rio Magdalena from the Caribbean Sea. Apart from that a small community consisting of 105 people lives on 8 Meter mainland. German speakers can read more about it on Friendly Giant.
Even the lonely planet admits that Barranquilla is worth a visit during carnival. The carnival of the capital of the Caribbean is after the one in Rio de Janeiro the second biggest in the world and has a lot to offer. Already two weeks before the parades the city wakes up from their hebetudes daily routines and starts to celebrate. People dance on the streets and official open Air events are organised. And of course everybody’s welcome. If you want to see Braranquilla from its best side you should definitely join for next years celebrations and admire the beautiful parades. And additionally you will certainly drink a lot of Aguardiente (firewater) a typical Colombian Schnapps.
Barranquilla is certainly not perfect. And even the locals know and accept that they won’t get to see too many tourists. Backpacker and Traveller wont do anything wrong if they take the bus from Cartagena directly to Santa Marta and leave Barranquilla aside. But in case you have a little more time on your journey through Colombia or people that maybe would like to work or study in Colombia are certainly in a good place. Plenty of universities and international companies settled in this metropolis. If you live here you will certainly enjoy your stay for a simple reason: The people. The Costeños have certainly their peculiarities but they are still very open and if you dare to go to an event or into a bar you will most likely leave with 1 or 2 more friends. If you want to get a foot into Colombia or just meet some interesting locals you are certainly right here.
Original Post in German by Tobias of the Friendly Giant.