Cartagena was by far my favorite place in Colombia. There is so much life, so much history and the city is so pretty! Plus, thanks to the nice breeze from the sea, it wasn’t as hot as Santa Marta. I spent four days in Cartagena, but I could have stayed for longer. I didn’t have time to do all the things that I have planned. But that’s life. I will definitely plan to go back there one day. Here are some things that you must see when you are visiting Cartagena de Indias.
Getsemani is definitely the culture and party hub of Cartagena. It is the most colorful and lively place in this wonderful city. This is the place “owned” by the locals. Street art is present everywhere and always tells a story. The streets are filled with people in the evenings, just hanging out, listening to music, dancing, drinking. During the day they are filled with Instagrammers looking for the best shot of the area. Many cafes, restaurants, and arepa shops make it super cozy, friendly, and definitely worth spending an afternoon just exploring. It’s definitely a must-see in Cartagena.
Museo Naval del Caribe
Another place that you must see in Cartagena is the Naval Museum. This Museum in the center of the city holds an impressive collection related to the naval construction in the port of Cartagena. Since the city was the very first Port City in Colombia, it has a long story to tell. If you are interested in the history of Colombia, especially the history of the Spanish fleet, this is a great place to visit.
Palace of the Inquisition
This was a real kick. This place tells a long story of the Spanish colonization of the Indian land as well as the history of the Spanish Inquisition. You will see the original torture tools, movies, and animations. On the left side of the building, you will notice a small window located too high to reach for a standing person. This was the “denunciation” window. A person could ride to it on a horse and hand in a paper with a name of a person they thought was a witch. If the office received the same name three times, this person could be “prosecuted”.
Museo del Oro
Second biggest one in Colombia (after the one in Bogota). You probably heard the story of El Dorado. A Muisca King covered himself in gold and was submerged by the waters of a lake. Some legends say that it was a raft filled with more gold then we can imagine that drowned in the lake. Another one sais that is was an entire city. Anyway, there is a lot of Gold somewhere hidden in Colombia. And since Colombia was always the land of Gold, all that is left and was not stolen by the Spanish, you can admire in the Museo de Oro.
Torre del Reloj
This is the original entrance to the walled city. Probably the most well-known building in Cartagena, it got its famous clock only in the 18th century. Originally it was called “la Boca del Puente” – the mouth of the bridge. It had a bridge attached to it that could be raised if the city was attacked. When open, it allowed the connection to Getsemani, today a neighborhood in the city of Cartagena de Indias.
Plaza de las Coches
One of the main plazas of the city, Plaza de las Coches is located directly behind the Clock Tower on the left. Initially, it was a place where all the horse carriages could park. Today, it is a place for parties, as it is surrounded by restaurants, bars, and clubs. Sadly, at night it is also filled with prostitutes. Surprisingly, it doesn’t mean that it’s unsafe. It’s always filled with people at night and during the day it’s actually super pretty. The Club called Eivissa, that we went to a few times is located there, so I know what I’m saying 🙂
Walled City Walls
They are really well preserved. It’s a nice way to see the city from above. I definitely recommend taking a walk on the walls. If you go on a walking tour, it will end close to Cafe del Mar, which is located directly on the old city walls. It’s a great place to start a walk or have a drink and enjoy the sunset.
Check out this post about the food in Cartagena.
Here is a list of great places to go out and have a drink, and/or dance, since the vibe of the city almost forces you to move your hips 😉
My tip: take a free walking tour. It’s a tour organized by the local guides to promote local history. Most of them are very knowledgable. They will show you the city in a couple of hours, they will explain the history and will point you onto some great local specialties. Those tours can be found in most big cities, and they are based on tips. As it’s a free walking tour, you are not forced to pay, but it sure is nice for the guide.