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The Ultimate Guide to Visit Cartagena, Colombia

cartagena 12 Km walking guide

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.

Colombia is a country full of history, wonderful landscapes, and magical towns. Try to extend your visit as long as possible! Start with this three week itinerary to Colombia, this guide has everything you need to start planning your vacation around this amazing South American country.

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The Beaches in Cartagena

cartagena beaches

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.

La Casa de Rafael Núñez

Casa Rafael Núñez

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

Las Bovedas

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

Teatro Heredia

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

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.

Palacio de la Inquisición

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

Portal de los Dulces is exactly what it sounds like, the best place to buy some local sweets and confectionaries.

Monumento Torre Del Reloj

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

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.

Naval Del Caribe

Naval Del Caribe

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.

City Walls

City Wall Cartagena

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

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 ops.

Get lost in the streets of Old Cartagena heart window

Get lost in the streets of Old Cartagena colorful alley

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.

Getsemani

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.

Fuerte Pastelillo

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

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

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!

Without a doubt, when in Cartagena you must visit the Rosario Islands. The beach at the islands are fantastic as well as the coral reefs you are able to explore at the islands.

Cartagena Tourist Bus

Explore the most emblematic sights in Cartagena on a comfortable panoramic sightseeing bus. Hop on and off at any of the stops to discover the best of the Colombian Caribbean city. Unmissable!

For more details, click here!

More articles from Colombia that might interest you:

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Read More: Travel Guide: What to Do and See in Jardín, Colombia

Read More: Exploring the beautiful city of Medellín, Colombia

Read More: Exploring Santa Fe de Antioquía, Colombia

Read More: Ultimate guide to Tayrona National Park, Colombia

Read More: Day trip to the colorful city of Guatapé, Colombia

Read More: What to do in Bogota in 48 Hours

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Vanessa Shields

Thursday 15th of August 2019

Cartagena looks like such a beautiful and vibrant place to visit. I really love the architecture throughout! That’s so interesting to learn that Cartagena has city walls, I never knew that!

Travel To Blank

Wednesday 21st of August 2019

It is always amazing how much you can learn about a place just by seeing it in person.

Tania Muthusamy

Thursday 15th of August 2019

Love the colourful houses of Old Cartagena. And I would like to visit the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas and its tunnels, as I always enjoy visiting castles. This is a really lovely walking tour. Thanks for the ideas.

Ann (travelgirlto)

Wednesday 14th of August 2019

I really want to go to Colombia! I love how colourful the old town is, looks like fun to just walk around. Thanks for 5e guide!

Travel To Blank

Wednesday 21st of August 2019

Thank you! Cartagena is an amazing city to stroll around the cobblestone streets. It is great to plan extra time in your visit to just relax and enjoy.

Lia

Wednesday 14th of August 2019

The city is so colorful! Would love to visit it someday :)

Andi

Wednesday 14th of August 2019

I've only been to Cartegna as a small child. My family lived in Panama and we visited all over Central and South America including Cartegna. I have seen photos of our trips but I don't have a lot of memories. Definitely, something I need to remedy!

Travel To Blank

Wednesday 14th of August 2019

Cartagena is worth visiting time and time again. It is a perfect destination to explore a new place or just sit back and relax!