What to do in Cartagena? The charming “fairytale” city of Colombia

Redactora / Travel writer

Cartagena is one of those cities that gives the feeling that everything was put to look like a postcard , a background from a historical film or an open-air museum. Cartagena is a starting point to “travel back in time” through those centuries-old constructions but also, base to enjoy the natural paradises that Colombia protects. Do not miss this post where we will tell you what to do in Cartagena and enjoy the days of your stay doing the greatest diversity of activities possible in a place as charming as this.

What to do in Cartagena in 2 days

As we anticipated at the beginning, Cartagena de Indias is a city that seems all set to create a beautiful historical postcard and, not for nothing, a large part of it was declared Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO , preserving every detail of each construction.

In Cartagena, the traveling photographic lens goes crazy , it is a place where the colorful houses, the balconies with flowers and the cobbled streets form a city worthy of instagramming.

What To Do In Cartagena

What to do in Cartagena: day 1

In the morning: Historic Center

The historic center of Cartagena de Indias should be the first place where, as a “first-time” traveler, one should go. All the most important buildings in the city are located in the surroundings of the historic center and it is the place where, in addition, it is possible to admire the essence of Cartagena : the colorful paintings, centuries-old buildings and cobbled streets create this movie or “fairytale” scene worth photographing.

What to see in the historic center of Cartagena de Indias: 3 must-see places
  • The Clock Tower: the icon of the city and the “meeting point” for tourists who visit it. The Clock Tower is easily recognizable by its yellow color and in addition to its beauty, it is in charge of dividing the walled city from the Getsemaní neighborhood, the most beautiful neighborhood in Cartagena. What to do in Gethsemane? It deserves a separate paragraph.
What To Do In Cartagena
  • Cathedral: inside the walled old town is the most important church in the city and one of the best preserved in Latin America : the Cathedral of Santa Catherine of Alexandria.
  • Plaza de los Coches: one of the most beautiful squares in Cartagena is also the place where you can admire this essence of the city since, in addition to being a meeting point, It is the place where when the evening begins to fall, there are generally locals dancing and playing music of their ancestors.

For lunch: Where to eat in Cartagena? (Rich and on budget)

  • Espíritu Santo Restaurant : ideal for those who want to taste typical food in a place where locals also go. It only opens at noon and they have “daily specials” that start at $ 5.

Location: Calle 35 # 6-69, walled city near the University.

  • Donde Magola: a restaurant where, according to travel opinions, the best arepas in all of Cartagena are eaten. It’s a great place to eat “on the go”.

Location: Portobello 10-94.

  • La Mulata : despite not being one of the cheapest, it is one of those places where you can taste typical Caribbean recipes, of course also located in the historic center to have lunch and continue the tour.

Location: Cl. Del Quero # 9 58 .

In the afternoon: Castle of San Felipe and Walls

The largest Spanish colonial fortress in America was built to protect the city of Cartagena and was the Castillo San Felipe, also declared a World Heritage Site and a key place to do in Cartagena de Indias.

The Castle is not within the walled city, but it is a few meters away, so it is recommended to visit when visiting the historic center .

How to visit the Castillo de San Felipe
  • Tickets can be purchased through the castle’s website by clicking here.
  • The castle is open every day from 8 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon.
  • Audio guides can be hired at the castle to better understand each sector.
The Walls of Cartagena de Indias, the best thing to do in Cartagena in the afternoon

Sunset is a great time of day in various parts of the world and Cartagena de Indias is no exception.

As we told you before, one of the most instagrammable places in Cartagena and one of the essential things to do in the city is walk along the walls.

The Walls of Cartagena are distributed over a route of almost 13 kilometers : fortresses built at the end of the 16th century to defend the city.

What To Do In Cartagena

Why was Cartagena of such importance during the Spanish conquest? Because since 1533 it knew how to be the port where the riches that the Spanish Crown departed It shipped from the American continent to the different ports of Spain , so attacks by English, French and even pirates were frequent.

The Walls of Cartagena can be visited freely and it is not necessary to pay any type of ticket, but they correspond to a very interesting attraction to visit in the city, especially when the sun begins to fall .

What to do in Cartagena: day 2

Although the attractions of the city are close to each other, it is a great place to enjoy each of its corners , the music that is heard in every corner and the charm of the postcards that are formed at all times.

On a second day in Cartagena de Indias, the best recommendation is to spend a large part of the morning visiting the most beautiful neighborhood in the city: Getsemaní which, despite being relatively close to the center historical, it is advisable to allocate special time to each of its corners.

El Barrio Getsemaní, the most recommended to visit in Cartagena de Indias

Despite its “dark past” where its safety was not recommended for travelers, the neighborhood managed to change its appearance and today it is one of the most touristy places to visit in the city.

This is one of those neighborhoods “to get lost” to use for feet to walk alone and discover the colorful corners.

What To Do In Cartagena
What to do in Gethsemane?
  • Admire the graffiti: urban art in Getsemaní is highly respected and adds more color to the already colorful city. The streets with the most urban art in Getsemaní are distributed in the Plaza de la Trinidad (the main one), Calle 29 and Calle del Espíritu Santo.
  • Photographing everything : both the streets with graffiti and the streets with colored buildings make for a super instagrammable neighborhood, that is why Calle Espíritu Santo or Calle 7 with, in addition, the balconies full of flowers, represent the essence of the neighborhood and the most beautiful things to see in Cartagena .

What to do in Cartagena at night

Cartagena’s nightlife is extremely open to the presence of tourists where insecurity is not a problem and the transfer can be done easily on foot.

Traveler advice: this tranquility may not be present in some places in cities such as Bogotá or Medellín where, as they are larger and more populated, there are certain times when it is It is recommended to travel by taxi.

What To Do In Cartagena

The best places to go out at night in Cartagena are the Walled City and Getsemaní where, in addition to some discos, there are also bars, pubs and restaurants with live music .

  • Café del mar: with an ideal terrace to have a drink at sunset.
  • Where Fidel : salsa!
  • Café Havanna: one of the best known places in the whole city.

What to do in Cartagena in more than 2 days

A few kilometers from the Walled City of Cartagena de Indias, the second most important thing in this Colombian region begins to be glimpsed : transparent waters full of marine life, warm temperatures and white sands ideal for resting under the Caribbean sun. Can you ask for more?

What are the beaches near Cartagena?

  • Manzanillo del Mar
  • La Boquilla
  • Bocagrande
  • El Laguito
  • Castillo Grande
  • Tierra Bomba Island: located just 15 minutes by boat from Cartagena
  • Barú Island : an ideal natural paradise surrounded by waters warm and crystalline, white sands and a “call to relax” for everyone who visits.
  • Rosario Islands: located at 45 minutes from Cartagena, being one of the most sought after attractions by travelers. Travel information: there is accommodation in the Rosario Islands and it is highly recommended.
What To Do In Cartagena
  • Walls : there are 13 kilometers of history, viewpoints and instagrammable spots (keep reading, we’ll tell you more).
  • Rooftop of the Movich Hotel : for the most Instagrammer travelers, this hotel has an “infinity pool” or infinity pool with views of the historic center.
  • The Getsemaní neighborhood: one of the most colorful in the historic center of Cartagena de Indias, each of its streets and buildings are worthy of a photograph and feed from Instagram (keep reading that we will tell you more about the most beautiful neighborhood in Cartagena).
  • Calle Don Sancho : the most instagrammable street in Cartagena where, towards the end, it is possible to have views of the colorful Cathedral.
  • Plaza de la Trinidad : the balconies, the festive atmosphere, colorful corners and instagrammable spots of Cartagena that bloggers know how to identify.
What To Do In Cartagena

Where to stay in Cartagena de Indias?

Thanks to its charm, the few “tourist sites”, but the large number of options and variants, one of the best places to sleep in Cartagena is in Getsemaní, where the hostels and rental apartments abound throughout the rest of the city.

For those seeking more transfer comfort or higher category hotels , then a great option to sleep in Cartagena is in the historic center area, within the walled city, despite the prices they are usually somewhat higher than in Gethsemane. It all depends on the type of traveler and the budget that each one carries.

Cartagena de Indias offers a historical backdrop, surrounded by a calm and clear Caribbean Sea, indelible traces of a troubled past but that was used to tell the events in another way, to the travelers who visit it, feeling the special sound of Colombian joy and the aroma of traditional Caribbean dishes, a city that must be visited.

We appreciate the cover photo: [o] Rolando Vejar

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