10 things to see absolutely in Cartagena de Indias in Colombia

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Lluis Enric Mayans

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Sixth city in Colombia by number of inhabitants, located in a small bay surrounded by islands and lagoons, Cartagena de Indias is one of the main tourist destinations in the country. known for its colonial-style buildings and festive atmosphere. Despite the troubled past behind it, Cartagena has managed to gradually become a fairly popular destination, also and above all thanks to the incredible amount of things to do and see in the city: first of all, we point out the beautiful old town, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1984.

The attractions of Cartagena, however, do not end here: this is why in this article we tell you what are the 10 things to see absolutely. Are you ready to take note?


  1. Fortified city
  2. San Felipe de Barajas Castle
  3. San Pedro Claver Cathedral
  4. Bairro Gethsemane
  5. Plaza de la Trinidad
  6. Bolivar Park
  7. La Popa de la Galera convent
  8. Caribe Jewelry Museum
  9. Zenu Gold Museum
  10. Playa Bianca
  11. Plan your stay in Cartagena: info on flights, hotels and tours
  12. User questions and comments

1 - Fortified city

If you are undecided about where to leave during your visit to Cartagena, the most suitable place is in our opinion the area of ​​the fortified citadel, romantic and fascinating at the same time. Strolling through this part of town you will almost feel like you are stepping back in time, in the period when the sailing ships docked at the city port for the exchange of goods and the pirates were always on the alert around the corner.

Among the most significant monuments to visit in this area, do not miss the famous one Clock square, as well as the entrance to the fortified center; the picturesque San Diego neighborhood and the surrounding area Cafe del Mar, a panoramic café with a truly priceless view of the ocean (it is not difficult to understand why it is one of the most coveted spots from which to admire the sunset).

  • being the central area of ​​the city, it can be reached quite easily either on foot or by taxi following the signs for the center and for the clock square (in the local language, Plaza del Reloj). Get directions
  • always open
  • Free
  • Cartagena: guided tour of the city

2 - Castle of San Felipe de Barajas

Built by the Spaniards during the colonial era, the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas is one of the largest forts in Latin America and is strategically located on the top of San Lazaro Hill (over 41 meters above sea level). The structure consists of a series of walls and towers, but also secret tunnels and courtyards that alternate with each other crossing more than 400 years of history and which can be visited both independently and through guided tours.

Perfectly preserved, today the castle also hosts city events of a certain renown within its walls, made even more spectacular thanks to the scenic location.

  • if you don't want to make the hike uphill, take a taxi: the castle is less than 10 minutes by car from the city walls; moreover, it is quite easy to see it thanks to its elevated position. Get directions
  • open all week, from 8.00 to 18.00
  • admission costs just under € 7,00 per person (about 25.000 COP).

3 - Cathedral of San Pedro Claver

Named after a Colombian friar, very active in the defense of slave rights, the Cathedral of San Pedro Claver is probably themost significant religious building in the city of Cartagena. Built in the late sixteenth century, the Cathedral has undergone recent restoration and renovation works which, however, have tried to faithfully maintain the original structure. The church, in reality, is more bare inside than outside full of statues recently inserted among which the statue of Pope Wojtyla stands out; furthermore the building overlooks a very pretty little square made up of colored houses ranging from blue to ocher. If you happen to be in Cartagena, you really can't miss it!

  • the Cathedral is located in the square of the same name, in the historic center and therefore perfectly reachable on foot or by taxi. Get directions
  • open from Monday to Friday, from 8.00 to 18.00 and from Saturday to Sunday, from 8.00 to 17.00
  • Free

4 - Bairro Gethsemane

Among the most particular streets of the city, the entire Bairro Gethsemane is undoubtedly in first place: it is in particular a "labyrinth" of alleys with a bohemian soul, with flags suspended between the houses, super colorful houses and lots of street art. In this area, as well as for the very instagrammable shots, come also for the numerous restaurants with a vintage air and traditional dishes. Many locals also finish the dinner service they organize salsa shows and local dances in which you will have the opportunity to go wild until late at night!

  • on foot, just cross the Porta del Reloj and get to Muelle de los Pegasos. Get directions
  • always open
  • Free

5 - Plaza de la Trinidad

Although located near the Bairro Getsemani, Plaza de la Trinidad deserves a separate mention: it is in fact a one of the most characteristic and animated squares of Cartagena. Despite its rather small size, in fact, this square has a lot to offer starting from numerous street food stalls where you can taste local meat dishes at more than bargain prices. Furthermore, immediately after sunset, Plaza de la Trinidad transforms itself into a beautiful and lively outdoor stage where cocktails, folklore characters and fun are guaranteed! Frequented by both tourists and locals, it is also one of the safest places to spend a night on the town.

  • follow the signs for the Bairro del Getsemani and then from here follow the signs for Plaza de la Trinidad. From the Porta del Reloj you are only a few minutes away on foot. Get directions
  • always open
  • Free

6 - Bolivar Park

Another very popular destination for spending an evening of music and entertainment in Cartagena is the Bolivar Park. Besides being one beautiful green area at morning, at nightfall the park comes alive hosting dancers and street performers in traditional costumes. Famous for being mentioned in a well-known novel by Marquez dedicated to Colombia, this is the place that we most recommend to visit in Cartagena if you want to immerse yourself and touch the most authentic Colombian culture first hand.

  • on foot or by taxi, follow the signs to the nearby Cathedral or the Inquisition Palace, just a few minutes' walk away. Get directions
  • always open
  • Free

7 - La Popa de la Galera Convent

Built with a privileged view of the sea, the Convent La Popa de la Galera is one of the most particular buildings in Cartagena. Previously built but rediscovered in 1510 by a group of colonizers Spaniards, the structure was immediately used by Europeans as a prison for political enemies, although some testimonies argue that the original purpose of the building was to house religious groups. Regardless of what its main role was, today La Popa de la Galera attracts numerous visitors, mainly thanks to the breathtaking panoramic view.

  • we do not recommend to reach it on foot due to the steep ascent and also because you have to cross an infamous area of ​​the city that is best avoided. Unfortunately, there is no public transport that stops nearby, so it is better to use a taxi (about 15 minutes ride from the center). Get directions
  • open every day, from 8.30 to 17.30
  • the entrance ticket is around € 3,00 per person (about 10.000 COP).

8 - Caribe Jewelry Museum

Among the most interesting museums to visit in Cartagena, we undoubtedly point out the Caribe Jewelry Museum, or the museum of Caribbean jewelry. The Caribbean, in fact, has always been famous for precious stones and jewels of fine workmanship and the Colombian ones are no less. Inside the museum, you will not only be able to admire unique pieces, but you will be able to learn in depth the processes inherent in the extraction and processing of emeralds, among the most frequent precious stones in the area. As this is a very popular attraction, vi we suggest you book the guided tour a little in advance (the reservation is made directly through the official website).

  • in fact, there are several stores located throughout the city. However, the main museum is located on Calle Bocagrande at number 5, just a few minutes away from the neighborhood of Gethsemane. Get directions
  • as regards the opening hours, these can be changed according to the season and the tourist influx. For this reason, we invite you to consult the official website.
  • the entrance ticket costs approximately € 9,00 per person (32.000 COP).

9 - Zenu Gold Museum

The other museum that we advise you not to miss in Cartagena is the Museo del Oro Zenu. Despite being very small, the museum collects a selection of priceless objects, belonging to pre-Hispanic civilizations (and therefore also quite ancient!). The collection is mainly composed of finely worked gold jewelry, although there is no lack of terracotta objects and tools enriched with precious stones. Perhaps not as exciting as Bogota's much larger gold museum, it is still a fascinating exhibit, both historically and culturally.

  • the museum is located in the historic center, a few steps from the Cathedral. Get directions
  • open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 9.00 to 17.00 and on Sunday from 10.00 to 15.00
  • Free

10 - Playa Bianca

Finally, if you really want to enjoy 100% all the wonders located near Cartagena, we recommend that you also dedicate time to theexploration of its surroundings, first of all the beautiful Playa Blanca located on the island of Barù. As the name already implies, it is a small marine paradise where you can devote a few hours to relaxation and beauty. The crystal clear sea and the fine white sand will catapult you into another dimension, furthermore the hostels and establishments present (but nevertheless, never invasive!) Will allow you to rent umbrellas, deck chairs and, for the more active, motorcycles. water ... to spend unforgettable hours!

  • from the city center, we recommend that you rent a private car (or mopeds) to reach the beach. Alternatively, opt for a taxi (the beach is about an hour from the center, so you will spend around € 50,00 for a taxi, or 180.000 COP). Get directions
  • always open
  • Free

Plan your stay in Cartagena: info on flights, hotels and tours

Although Cartagena, as we have said, is one of the most popular destinations in Colombia, it is actually a destination still far (fortunately!) From mass tourism, which makes it very pleasant to visit as well as definitely cheap. Here, in fact you can find it safely accommodations under € 10,00 per night, as well as hundreds of restaurants in which eat tasty and abundant dishes at the cost of a few euros.

Rather similar speech also concerns transport prices: due to the sometimes bad conditions of the vehicles and the inefficiency in terms of punctuality, we advise against the use of buses and other means of public transport, while we suggest you opt for the use of taxis (even Uber actually works very well!), or di rent a moped to explore the different city areas in total autonomy.

From a security point of view, Cartagena de Indias is by no means a dangerous destination as some may think: on the contrary, it is a fascinating place to discover both through guided tours and alone, letting oneself be guided by instinct and thirst for curiosity.

  • starting from € 647,00 -
  • Hotel and b & b starting from € 5,00 per room -

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