On the northern coast of Colombia, you’ll find the colourful city of Cartagena de Indias. As it is one of the most popular travel destinations in the country, you have probably already included this popular city in your travel route. Use these tips to get the best out of your city trip to Cartagena!
#1 Wander through the maze of colourful streets
Cartagena is the most beautiful city in Colombia. In this tropical coastal city, you’ll find the most beautiful colonial architecture and the most colourful buildings. The big highlight of Cartagena is therefore the city itself! So don’t make a fixed plan to explore the city, just wander through the maze of the country’s most colourful streets. Get lost and let the smell of coffee and ice cream lead your way!
#2 View the sunset from the city wall
And not from the popular Café del Mar. The prices there are very high, it is super busy and in our opinion not very atmospheric. Instead, find a place somewhere else on the city wall and bring your own drinks for a much better – and cheaper – sunset experience.
#3 Visit the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
On the other side of the river, the ancient fortress Castillo de San Felipe can be found. You have a beautiful view of the city from the towers and you can wander in underground corridors. In one of the rooms, a film tells about the history of the Castillo and thus of Cartagena itself. A must, if you want to know more about the background of the city!
Tip: it can get very hot on top of the castle, so visit it early in the morning or afternoon.
#4 Get up early and use the morning coolness
It is very hot in Cartagena, so prepare for it! We therefore got up early to explore the city in the cool morning. It’s an extra plus that it is still very quiet on the street that early, as the busy street life doesn’t really start until the afternoon. So this way, you can explore the most beautiful places in peace and make some photos of the characteristic streets without the crowds.
#5 Sleep in San Diego, not El Centro
El Centro is the heart of old Cartagena. It is therefore very busy and touristy. That makes El Centro wonderfully lively and great for wandering around, but we advise you not to choose your sleeping place in El Centro as well. Go for a place to sleep in San Diego instead. This neighborhood is as colourful and beautiful as El Centro, but a lot more peaceful which we absolutely loved about this part of the city.
#6 See the street art in Getsemani
Next to El Centro and San Diego is the more modern Getsemani. It is less beautiful and touristy, but also a lot quieter and cheaper. For that reason, many travelers use it as their base for a visit to Cartagena de Indias. But even if you sleep in the more popular neighborhoods El Centro or San Diego, it is definitely recommended to head to Getsemani. There is a lot of beautiful street art to admire!
#7 Take a walk on the city walls
The old center and San Diego are surrounded by a long city wall – Las Murallas – along the coast. It is not only a beautiful place to watch the sunset, but you can also take a nice walk around the town on top of them. You have a beautiful view of both the ocean and the city. Descend from the city wall at La Bóvedas, where souvenir shops can be found in an old prison in the city wall.
Tip: don’t just take a picture of the traditionally dressed ladies at La Bóvedas, unless you are willing to pay for it. It is their job.
#8 Drink coffee at Abacalibro
The best spot for a coffee break in Cartagena is at Abacalibro, where books and coffee can be found together in one place. You can find the bookshop with coffee bar in the old center, so you will probably pass it by once or twice. So just step inside to browse through the books and enjoy a delicious coffee or chai latte inside or on the small terrace outside. The great atmosphere, delicious coffee and the cool air conditioning inside make Abacalibro a must!
#10 Shop your souvenirs in Cartagena
Cartagena de Indias is visited by many tourists, so you will also find many souvenir shops and stalls here. If you are looking for a nice souvenir, you are in the right place! The best place to look for souvenirs is inside the city wall at the old prison of La Bóvedas, which we mentioned earlier.