Cartagena city is a very pretty place brimming with colonial architecture. In 1984 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A WALK THROUGH CARTAGENA CITY
You can walk the circumference of the Cartagena city walls, enjoying the breeze, views of the ocean and an elevated vantage point for photographing the colourful streets.
If you venture into the old city’s main streets, you’re likely to get lost. Unlike most of the major populated areas in Colombia, there are street names, rather than numbered blocks, so it’s best to take a map with you.
PUERTA DEL RELOJ
The official entrance to the old city is called Puerta del Reloj, which means ‘clock gate’.
PLAZA DE LOS COCHES
The first of many plazas in Cartagena City, the Plaza de los Coches, or square of Carriages, is on the inside of the entrance gate. Not surprisingly, it’s full of horse-drawn carriages offering couples romantic tours.
The square used to be used for slave trading but now there are a variety of street performers and many vendors of sombreros, tobacco, music and souvenirs.
PLAZA DE LA ADUANA
The Plaza de la Aduana, or customs square, is only a few paces away and has a statue of Colombus at its cenre. This was the administrative centre during the colonial era.
IGLESIA CONVENTO SAN PEDRO CLAVER
Immediately adjacent to the Plaza de la Aduana is the Iglesia Convento San Pedro Claver, which is situated on a plaza of the same name.
The monk’s skull and bones are kept in a casket here and you can sit yourself down on a throne that Pope John Paul II warmed with his derriere in 1986.
There are also some very interesting wrought iron sculptures by the Colombian artist Eduardo Carmona.
PLAZA DE BOLIVAR
Just around the corner, you will find the flower-filled Plaza de Bolivar – a popular meeting place for locals.
The pretty Catedral is on its northeast corner. It was partially destroyed in 1586 by canon fire and finally completed in 1612.
PLAZA DE SANTO DOMINGO
The Plaza de Santo Domingo is another block west and a great place to grab some lunch in Cartagena City.
There are few places in the old city where you can sit outside to eat, and there are plenty of shaded tables linked to a number of restaurants selling mainly Italian cuisine.
There is also a sculpture by the famous artist Botero, whose work depicting all things obese, you will become very familiar with while travelling through Colombia.
The beaches at Bochagrande, south of the old city have a backdrop of high-rise hotels and timeshare apartments.
You can rent loungers here, but there are many more beautiful beaches along Colombia’s Caribbean coast, and you will be hassled constantly by souvenir sellers.
WHERE TO STAY
If you’re looking for a party, the Hostel Media Luna in the Getsemani district of the old town, has a big rooftop terrace and infamous Wednesday night parties. Get there early to avoid having to queue. Make sure your room has air conditioning because Cartagena City is very hot and humid.