Cartagena holds an annual festival in honor of its traditional fried foods.  It is part of the celebration of the city’s virgin.  One of the most anticipated events of the year by Cartageneros, the festival features a competition to see who makes the best of a variety of Cartagena’s favorite fried snacks.  So leave your diet behind, bring your appetite, and read on for a complete guide to enjoying Cartagena’s fried food festival, the Festival del Frito Cartagenero.

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Photo of some stalls selling fritos at the Cartagena Fried Food Festival.
The annual Cartagena Festival del Frito features stalls making the most popular fried street foods. Read on to learn more about the festival.  Image Source:  Wikimedia Commons

What is the Cartagena Festival del Frito?

The Festival del Frito Cartagenero is Cartagena’s annual festival in honor of its favorite fried foods.  Similar to a chili cook off, it features a competition to see who makes the best of the different traditional fried snacks.

During the Cartagena Festival del Frito, each competitor has a table where they sell samples of their wares to the public.  At the end of the festival, a winner is announced by the judges.  It’s a great opportunity to enjoy a popular local event that blends culture, tradition, and, of course, delicious food!

When is the Cartagena Festival del Frito?

The Festival del Frito is part of the Fiestas de la Candelaria.  The Virgin of the Candelaria (La Virgen de la Candelaria o Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria) is Cartagena’s patron saint.  She took on an even larger importance for sailors as they looked to the convent built in her honor on the hill to help guide them back safely to port.  One of the effigies of the Virgin Mary that is depicted with black skin, she also represents Cartagena’s Afro-Colombian culture.

The Festival del Frito Cartagenero is held the week before February 2, the feast day for the Virgin of the Candelaria.

The 2020 Festival del Frito will be from January 24-February 2.

Where is the Cartagena Fried Food Festival?

Graphic showing the location of the festival del frito cartagena
The Festival del Frito in 2020 will continue to be in its traditional location by the monument of the old shoes behind Castillo San Felipe.  Image Source:  IPCC Cartagena

The Festival del Frito is held in the park by the Zapataos Viejos (Old Shoes) monument, a block behind the Castillo San Felipe Fortress.

There was a proposal to move it in 2020 to the Convention Center, but at least for this year it will remain in its traditional location.

What to Expect at the Cartagena Fried Food Festival?

The main attraction here is to try the different fried snacks, known as fritos.

What Fried Snacks Can I Sample at the Festival del Frito?

  1. Arepa de Huevo- More like a corn empanada than arepa (and sometimes called an empanada), the arepa de huevo is stuffed with ground beef and an egg.  It is unique to the Colombian Caribbean coast and tends to be the star of Cartagena’s Festival del Frito.
  2. Innovative Frito-Contestants put their own unique spin on a classic, usually by replacing the ground beef in the arepa de huevo with other meats.  Be on the lookout for interesting combinations.
  3. Empanada de Carne-Empanadas made with corn flour and stuffed with ground beef.  Simple, crunchy, and delicious.
  4. Buñuelo de Frijol-These small fritters are made from mashed black-eyed peas.
  5. Arepita Dulce-These smaller, sweet arepas have a syrup made from panela (unrefined sugar cane) is added to give them a sweeter taste than the average arepa.
  6. Carimañola-Carimañolas are like empanadas, only made from yuca (aka cassava) instead of corn flour.  The yuca is bowled then made into a croquet stuffed with ground beef or cheese.  It is unique to the Caribbean (note the name).

See also:  15 Street Foods Worth Trying in Cartagena

Prices at the Festival del Frito

Graphic showing the prices at the Festival del Frito Cartagena 2020
The 2020 Festival del Frito Prices. Image Source: IPCC Cartagena

Besides the terrific fried foods on offer, there are also a number of cultural presentations during the festival, including music and dance.

The gates are open from 2-10 pm Monday-Thursday and 1-11 pm on Friday-Sunday.

I recommend going in the late afternoon on a weekday as it tends to get very crowded in the evening and on the weekend.  The crowds can make it hard to stroll and check out the different variations on offer.  If it does get overcrowded, you can always just head in, grab a few, and eat them outside the gates in the park.  There will be a limit of 600 people allowed in at one time starting in 2020 to prevent overcrowding.

2020 marks the 36th year of the Festival del Frito Cartagenero.  I recommend checking out the IPCC’s Facebook page for more info as well as each day’s agenda of special events.

There you have it, a complete guide to the Cartagena Festival del Frito!  I hope if you go, you enjoy!

Cheers and Happy Stuffing Your Face!

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