9 Top Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia
Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Cartagena, is located along Colombia’s Caribbean coast, and is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is quickly becoming a must-visit destination as it is the perfect mix between urban chic, Caribbean paradise and historical charm. It will be without a doubt one of the most beautiful and seductive places that you will ever visit.
Here is a list of must-do things in Cartagena.
The Old Town
Spend a morning or afternoon walking around Cartagena’s UNESCO-protected Old Town. The labyrinth of beautiful streets with flower decked balconies, cobbled side streets and colourful Spanish-colonial houses & buildings will have you feeling like you are in the middle of Gabriel García Márquez novel. Every street reveals something different & unique. The entrance to the Old Town is best through the under-passage of the old clock tower – Puerta del Reloj – a 400-year old masterpiece.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
A coastal fortress built by the Spanish in the 16th century is one of Cartagena’s most iconic landmarks. It was built to protect the city not only from pirates, but also the French & British colonists - the most famous siege on the city was led by Sir Francis Drake. The Castillo has been well-kept and is in an excellent condition.
La Popa Hill
La Popa Hill is the highest point in the city with some great views of Cartagena. Upon the top of hill is an old monastery with a beautiful courtyard. You will be able to overlook the city and see how the city of Cartagena is built upon a few very small islands, highlighting the contrast between the old town and new city. The only way up is via a Taxi or a private car.
Day Trip to Playa Blanca
Although Playa Blanca is not accessible directly in the city, it’s a 40-minute boat ride and located on an island - Isla de Baru. With pristine white stand and clear blue water, here you can enjoy tasty cocktails and delicious food while soaking up the sun. Tourism agencies, reps and staff at the city's harbour will let you book day passes or excursions. There are a number of other options to consider for a day at the beach, check out these top 10 Beach Escapes in Cartagena.
Every Colombian loves to dance salsa, but more so along the Caribbean coast. In Cartagena, you will find many different salsa bars to choose from, but we recommend visiting the small neighbourhood of Getsemaní. Even if you don’t have any rhythm, they are 100% worth visiting just to watch some of the locals’ impressive moves and for the atmosphere. Several establishments do offer group salsa classes for beginners before sunset!
One Colombian food is diverse, but you will find some extra delicious options in Cartagena full of flavours and influenced by Spanish and African cuisine. Local restaurants that don’t cater specifically to tourists are you best bet! Here you will find delicious seafood, fish tacos and so much more! Also, don’t miss out on an arepa con huevo (egg, ground beef and cheese stuffed inside a corn arepa) – a local favourite! Along with the impressive selection of fresh fruits.
Located just outside of Cartagena is the Mercado Bazurto - a chaotic and exciting Colombian market. Here you will find a selection of local produce, such as; fruit, meat, cheese, chocolate and artesanal products. The best way to experience the market is to tag along with a local and could be challenge if you are not proficient in Spanish.
The Old Town is dotted with Palenqueras – Cartagena's beautiful sellers of tropical fruits and sweets. When you cross one of these Palenqueras women, you are crossing part of the African history of the Caribbean region of Colombia, women whose heritage has been forged with the mentality & folklore of happiness and joy that characterizes most Colombians.
This is a chic neighbourhood and the place to visit for street art (especially along Calle de las Tortugas), local cuisine and night-time entertainment. In the evening, the main square – Plaza de la Santísima Trinidad – which is littered with small local restaurants and bars becomes home to a variety of different street performers.
The best way to explore this unique neigbourhood is to walk the streets and take it all in.
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This blog post was written & published by Intern Colombia on 3 June 2019