The port city of Cartagena, Colombia was once the center of colonial Spanish rule. The historic walled city is still full of quaint squares, cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings. Get your walking shoes on and your smiles ready for some amazing photo opportunities. Bring along your bathing suit to take advantage of the nearby Caribbean white-sand beaches.
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North and south of the historic center of Cartagena are lined with beaches. They are conveniently located for a quick dip in the wavy waters. However, be aware of the signage as half the beach areas are closed for swimming for safety reasons.
Rafael Núñez was most notably an author and politician, serving as president of Colombia. Under his leadership the Constitution for Colombia of 1886 was created. He also wrote the lyrics of the Colombian national anthem. The house now serves as a museum to his legacy.
Las Bovedas were originally built as dungeons, deep into the city walls. They are now a staple visit for all tourists looking for every type of souvenir while going from cell to cell.
Plaza de San Diego
A few blocks onward is the quaint little Plaza de San Diego. Here you can witness the wealth the city once had with its flowering balconies and endless cobblestone streets. It is the perfect place to sit back and enjoy a bite to eat or a drink later in the evening.
Teatro Heredia was built to commemorate the Centennial of Independence in 1911. This beautifully ornate gold and red decorated theatre is well worth the tour. The entrance is actually located around the back at a smaller backstage door.
Plaza Santo Domingo
In the middle of the Plaza Santo Domingo there is an original Fernando Botero statue, often the centerpiece for many. However do not forget about the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, built in 1539. The small plaza is often bustling with tourists so try and get there early if you want some photos with only a few people.
Museo del Oro Zenú
The small Zenú gold museum is a great way to learn some of the precolonial history of the region and all about the traditions of the native Zenú. Get out of the hot sun and explore this interesting museum with its free entrance.
The Palace of Inquisition is one of the finer examples of Spanish colonial architecture in Cartagena. The building was used as the center of trials during the Spanish Inquisition. It now houses the History Museum of Cartagena. The written information is all in Spanish, meaning you must get a paid English tour guide to really understand the history.
Portal de los Dulces
Portal de los Dulces is exactly what it sounds like, the best place to buy some local sweets and confectionaries.
Monumento Torre Del Reloj
Just across the street is the Monumento Torre Del Reloj. This clock tower, built into the old city walls was once the main entrance into Cartagena. It now connects the busy port with the historic center.
Muelle de Los Pegasos
Along the old port you can see many tourist and historic boats. Walking along the waterfront and you are also greeted by Muelle de Los Pegasos, two large Pegasus statues.
Plaza de San Pedro Claver
The Plaza de San Pedro Claver is a smaller, less crowded square, with a church by the same name. Within the plaza there are also several sculptures made from scrap by Edgardo Carmona.
The Caribbean Naval Museum opened on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. It focus on the naval history and battles fought in Cartagena and around the Caribbean. The museum does, however, have a few number of actual artifacts, so this stop is more for history or naval aficionados. Otherwise, just enjoy the grand colonial building from the outside.
At this point, across the street from the naval museum you can walk up onto the old city walls. The walls date back to the 1600’s when Cartagena was the largest port this side of the world, moving all of Spain’s spoils.
Get lost in the streets of Old Cartagena
One of the best things to do in Cartagena is get lost in the old city. The walled city is only a 15 minute walk across, but it is filled with bright and colorful colonial houses lining every road. Take an afternoon and enjoy some amazing photo opps.
Playa De Bocagrande
Just south of the historic city center is Bocagrande, home to many of the bigger hotels and resorts. Unless you are staying in this area, the main reason to visit is its beach! The beach can be quite busy, but you cannot compare the convenience of have a beach right at your doorstep.
East of Bocagrande is the up and coming neighborhood of Getsemani. This authentic neighborhood gives you a better glimpse into the eyes of a local in Cartagena. Wander around and enjoy its street art and local cuisine.
Across the water from Getsemani is the Fuerte Pastelillo. It was built as one of the town’s first defense points. We suggest you photograph it from across the water as there is little to see on the inside.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
The massive fortress of San Felipe de Barajas once protected the city of Cartagena from any attacks by land or sea. It is most well known for its complex tunnel system running throughout. You can now walk through the fort, or take a guided tour for several dollars more.
Los Zapatos Viejos
One of the most iconic images from Cartagena is Los Zapatos Viejos statue. This surprisingly small statue is located at the base of the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. Make sure to climb into the standing shoe to get a great picture with the fortress as the background!