Colorful coastal town at sunrise with historic architecture

Cartagena Wiki

Tourist city par excellence of Colombia, Cartagena de Indias, most often called Cartagena, is located in the north of the country.

A former stronghold of the Kingdom of Spain in South America, but also a former site of the gold trade and slave trade, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city of Cartagena has approximately 895,400 inhabitants (2006 estimate).


Cartagena de Indias enjoys a solid economy, thanks to a diversified productive structure in sectors such as industry, tourism, commerce and an international merchant marine logistics that is facilitated by its strategic location between all the Americas and the Caribbean.

In recent years, the diversification of its economy has been highlighted by the petrochemical sector, international tourism and the processing of industrial products. Currently, it is the fourth city in Colombia in industrial production. 

Geography of Cartagena

Located in the department of Bolivar, in the north of Colombia, Cartagena lies on a group of low islands and rocky peninsulas.

A port city, it is open to the Caribbean Sea.

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The ‘noble city’ of castles, walls, sun and sea, was the victim of ravaging raids by pirates that infested the Caribbean Sea, because from its roadstead galleons loaded with gold and wealth for Spain left, and its port was the port of arrival of shipments of slaves, precious and useful goods that were stored in its warehouses. 

According to professor and historian Miguel Camacho Sánchez, in 1498, Christopher Columbus passed near these beaches without stopping.

In 1505, Rodrigo de Bastidas discovered the entire Atlantic coast, but it was Peralonso Núñez and Cristóbal Guerra who anchored for the first time in the bay, which they called Cartagena. 

In the middle of 1533, Don Pedro de Heredia decided to settle in the indigenous village of Calamary, which later, transformed into a prosperous city, was called Cartagena.

Improved and expanded by conquistadors, merchants and adventurers, it was reduced to ashes in 1552, for this reason, the founder, already governor, forbade building with materials other than bricks, tiles, calicanto and stones. 

The forts, batteries, forts and castles, whose constructions combine the ingenuity of Spanish and Italian architects with the labor and sacrifice of slaves brought from Africa to work as beasts of burden, are proof of the Iberian power. 

Architecture of Cartagena

The architecture in Cartagena de Indias is eclectic and fascinating. Military structures, such as the walls, bastions and fortresses, stand next to a well-preserved colonial and republican city.

Cartagena de Indias’s neighborhoods throb with Caribbean colors, and new constructions reflect an American influence in their whites and blues that copy the Cartagena de Indias sky. The walls were designed by Bautista Antonelli, an Italian military engineer who was hired by Phillip II to fortify the main ports of the Caribbean as part of his plan of defense. They were built to defend the city at the end of the 16th century, after an attack by Sir Francis Drake.

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Cartagena Architecture

Things to do in Cartagena

01. The Walls

The historic center is surrounded by 11 kilometers of walls. These were complemented with fortifications along the coast, such as the forts of San Sebastián del Pastelillo and the castle

The San Fernando de Bocachica fortress, and an immense fortress on the land flank, the San Felipe castle, made Cartagena an impregnable place.
The walls were built in several stages. The construction of the first one began in August 1586 under the direction of Bautista Antonelli, an Italian engineer working for

Spain, but only two years later they were ruined by adverse elements of nature. The engineer Cristóbal de Rada worked on the construction since 1608, who succeeded in walling most of the central sector facing the open sea; but almost all of what had been done was swept away by a tidal wave in 1628. Once again, it was up to Cristóbal de Rada to restart the works and finish them.

Of the 20 bastions that comprised the walls of the old city and Getsemaní, today only 16 remain standing, which are preserved in good condition. The bastion of San Ignacio, which in association with the next one, the bastion of San Francisco; had as mission to defend the dock against any invasion.

The bastions of Santiago Apostle and Santo Domingo, the oldest preserved. These and three other bastions: Santa Cruz, La Merced and Santa Clara, form the group called La Muralla de la Marina. The northern end of the city was protected by the bastion of Santa Catalina, which with that of San Lucas make up one of the most imposing sections of the walled city.

The bastion of San Pedro Mártir that concludes the total encirclement of the walls and tied with the Clock Tower was demolished.

As for the walls of Getsemaní, the bastion El Reducto was built to safeguard the entrance to the bay of Las Ánimas. Another important section comprises the bastions of San José, Santa Bárbara, Santa Teresa and San Miguel.

02. Gate and Clock Tower

It is the significant entrance to the walled city. Of the three gates that are open, only the central one existed in the past, and the other spaces were occupied by a weapons room and a chapel. In the central nave is located a gap that served to accommodate the pendulums of the old clock, replaced in 1875.
The external face presents in its central arch a Tuscan style portico, while the inner face, much more austere, bears an inscription on the building. The Clock Gate leads to the Plaza de los Coches.
Plazas and Parks

03. Plaza de los Coches

It is the first one after passing the Clock Gate. Formerly, it was the site of the slave market. The portals are typical of the town and serve to shade the pedestrian sidewalks, which are used as a newspaper, lottery, candy and cigarette shop.
In the center stands the statue of Don Pedro de Heredia, founder of the city, surrounded by beautiful mansions with wooden balconies, where restaurants, bars and nightclubs are located.

In front is El Portal de los Dulces with its candy stands along the gallery and on the right side of the square is an attractive open-air bar.

04. Plaza de la Aduana

It is the largest square in the city. Originally, it was intended to serve as a parade ground and, in its contour, were the administrative offices during the colonial period. In its interior are some buildings, including the mansion where Don Pedro de Heredia lived. In the center of this square stands the statue of Christopher Columbus.

As the Customs House was located there during the Republic, the same name was applied to the square. The current Municipal Palace is the result of the remodeling of the old Customs House.

An outstanding construction is the house of the Marquis of the Royal Prize, where one of the PIT (Tourist Information Points) of the city is located. At the southern end and along the street leading to the Plaza de San Pedro Claver is the Museum of Modern Art.

05. St. Peter Claver Square

It is one of the most beautiful places in the area. The frame of the square is composed of the church of San Pedro Claver and a series of craft shops, jewelry stores and restaurants.

The beauty of the place is enhanced by multiple sculptures and the statue of San Pedro Claver by the artist Enrique Grau, which contrasts with the sculptures made of scrap metal in an avant-garde style representing the various trades created by the master Edgardo Carmona.

The building that houses the Museum of Modern Art, inaugurated in 1958, was once the Galeras warehouse. At the end of the small alley is the bastion of San Ignacio.

06. Santo Domingo Square

It is the epicenter of the splendid nightlife of Cartagena. In its surroundings you can find a great variety of bars, antique shops, jewelry stores, cafes and typical and international restaurants, outdoors or air-conditioned, which open their doors in the morning, sometimes until the early hours of the morning.

The plaza is frequented by theatrical performers, musicians, dancers and mimes. Two singular attractions of this place are the Church of Santo Domingo and the sculpture Gertrudis, work of the master Fernando Botero.

7. Bolivar Park

The leafy trees and in general the vegetation along with its fountains provide an air of freshness to this place in the middle of the intense heat of the city.

Singular attraction for tourists. In its center is an equestrian statue of the liberator Simón Bolívar and, on the periphery, are the Palace of the Inquisition, the Gold Museum, the Republican building of the Bank of the Republic and its arcades, and the offices of the National Beauty Contest.

On its corners is the Santa Catalina de Alejandría Cathedral, the Governor’s Office and the Rafael Calvo Library. In the evenings, a group of Palenque and Afro-Caribbean communities show the rich folklore of the region to provide a pleasant time for passersby.

8. Fernandez Madrid Park

It is another pleasant place to rest because of its vegetation and surroundings. In the center you can see the statue of the hero Fernández Madrid, beautiful colonial mansions and the temple of Santo Toribio.

9. Plaza de San Diego

It is one of the favorite places for visitors and locals alike. The attraction of the site during the day is the surrounding buildings and the beauty of the University of Fine Arts. Around it there is a wide range of restaurants that at night use it as an open-air terrace. Nearby is the home of the Colombian Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Gabriel García Márquez.

10. Centennial Park

It is the largest space within the walls. It contains green areas, driving instruction sites for children and a skating rink.

The park is surrounded by a wall with sculptures. In one of its fronts is the Camellón de los Mártires, which leads to the Puerta del Reloj. In it there are busts of several martyrs of the liberating insurgency. In addition, the place is the symbol of the first 100 years of the cry of independence of Cartagena.

Plaza de Santa Teresa

The name of this square derives from the former convent of Santa Teresa, si
ted in front. Through this beautiful corner of the city, in the southwest of the walled city, you can cross the small bridge over the mouth of the wall and appreciate the sea, the dome of the church of San Pedro, the Naval Museum and the Parque de la Marina to which you have immediate access.

12. Plaza de la Santísima Trinidad

It is the epicenter of the Getsemaní neighborhood, with a church that bears the same name. In the square you can experience a typical raizal atmosphere, which mixes history with modernity. Also, it was here that Cartagena’s cry for independence was born.

Notable streets, legends and traditions
The most refined examples of colonial streets are Baloco (perhaps the most interesting in the city), Las Damas, La Factoría, the two blocks of Santo Domingo, Don Sancho, Estanco del Tabaco, Cuartel, La Mantilla, La Chichería and San Agustín

Chiquito in the area known today as Centro. In the neighboring neighborhood of San Diego, with a lesser architectural style (one-story buildings without the balconies and other architectural luxuries of the houses in the Center), are the streets of La Moneda, Curato, La Cochera, Hobo, Tumbamuerto and Santísimo.

In the suburb of Getsemaní there is still a part of the streets of Espíritu Santo and San Antonio.

13. Candilejo Street

It bears a striking similarity to the street of Seville, Spain, which has the same name. In it was made the representation symbolic of the execution of Don Pedro the Cruel, persona non grata in Cartagena, as he could not be tried directly.

14. Portocarrero Street

It is the shortest of the streets of the city and is crossed in a few steps. It is between the Plaza de los Coches and the Calle de las Carretas. It is named in honor of José María Portocarrero, martyr of the Independence, shot in 1816.

15.Calle de las Damas

Legend has it that in a house on this street, the founder of the con
Stuart Street

The image of the Virgin, which is venerated at the top of the hill, was found in the Popa de la Popa wind.

It is also said that King Charles IV himself, amazed by the high cost of the fortifications of this distant square, decided to come, arriving incognito and disguised as a woman, and that he stayed in one of the houses on this street.

16.Inquisition Street

It is characterized primarily because in the convent of Santa Clara were imprisoned some of the heroes of the Colombian Independence.

17.Coliseum Street

Since the beginning of the colonial period, there was a hall specially designed for theatrical performances. In a small house, now demolished, Rafael Núñez, former president of Colombia, was born.

18. Santo Domingo Street

There are three streets adjacent to the Plaza de Santo Domingo that have the same name. A popular legend tells that in the street between the square and Factoría

Street, every Friday at the same time, a cart pulled by two huge steeds used to appear whose driver threw sparks from his eyes. The vehicle in a fast race would disappear when it entered one of the houses on Factory Street.

In the best known of the streets is located the house of the Counts of Pestagua, which served as the seat of the now existing convent of the Sagrada Familia.

19. Stirrups Alley

It is also called Calle de Nuestra Señora de la Luz. The reinforcements that support the walls of the church of Santo Domingo gave rise to this name.
Factory Street

It is characterized by the beautiful house of the Marquis of Valdehoyos.

21.Don Sancho Street

This is the name of this unique alley, in memory of Don Sancho de Alquiza, a particular character of the colonial era.

22. Curato Street

Its main attraction is the house of the Consulate, which was a place of oratory and shelter for the Poor Clare nuns.

23. Street of the Stone Saints

Its name comes from the fact that the four statues that now adorn the archbishop’s garden were located on the main façade of the cathedral.

24. Archbishopric Street

It stands out because the houses of the Independence heroes Manuel de Anguiano and Antonio José de Ayos still stand there.

25. Tobacco Tobacconist Street

It receives its name because it was the site of a cigar shop during the colonial regime.

26. La Moneda Street

The Casa de la Moneda de la Nueva Granada (New Granada Mint) was located on this street.

27.Calle de la Media Luna

On both sides of this street are located popular and comfortable hotel establishments that are preferred by students and world travelers (routards) or backpackers because of their prices.

28. Arsenal Street

It is one of the most picturesque streets of Cartagena. It begins in front of the Convention Center and with its peaceful cafes, terraces, restaurants, bars, discos and boutiques of various genres and environments.
Museums and Art Galleries

29. Zenú Gold Museum

Inaugurated by the Banco de la República, it opened its doors to the public in 1982. It contains the most beautiful testimony of the Zenú Culture. In its rooms the visitor can appreciate the cultural manifestations of this indigenous group. It exhibits precious gold jewelry and other pre-Columbian pieces.

The Zenú archaeological area is located in the current departments of Córdoba, Sucre, Bolívar and part of Antioquia. Its inhabitants developed a hierarchical society whose economy was based on agriculture, natural resource management and barter.

Services: guided tours, screening and lending of anthropological videos, children’s workshops, lending of educational suitcases, workshops for teachers on the Museum’s services, educational activities for school groups and anthropological programming (seminars, conferences and exhibitions).
Hours: Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturdays: 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Sundays and holidays: 11 a. m. to 4 p. m. Free admission.
Bolivar Square(5) 660 07 78

Museum of Modern Art

Permanent and itinerant exhibitions of pictorial and sculptural art. In front of it is the Plaza de San Pedro, where several iron sculptures (scrap iron) representing the trades of the coastal man allude to the museum.

Naval Museum

Located on San Juan de Dios Street, this unique museum contains pieces and elements related to Colombian naval history. Next to it is the office of the Cartagena International Film Festival, recognizable by a sculpture of India Catalina, the image of the award that year after year rewards the best in cinema.

32. Palace of the Inquisition / Cartagena Historical Archive

Since 1610, the same place served as the headquarters of the Tribunal de Penas del Santo Oficio (Court of Penalties of the Holy Office). Architecturally, it is one of the most important examples of the colonial era. The baroque entrance and the wooden balconies stand out.

The purpose of the Inquisition was to judge crimes committed against the religious faith. It never recognized innocents. Its jurisdiction included Venezuela, Nicaragua, Santo Domingo, Windward Islands, Panama and the New Kingdom of Granada. Connected to the palace is the building that was the residence of the inquisitors, which had 13 secret jails.

On November 11, 1811, day of the Independence of Cartagena, the documents of the court were symbolically incinerated and the inquisitors were expelled. This was reinstalled in 1815 with the arrival of the Spanish troops commanded by the pacifying general Pablo Morillo, and remained until 1821, year in which the city was totally liberated.

Next to the Palace are the Colonial Museum, the Academy of History and the Society of Public Improvements. At present, the Palace houses the Cartagena Historical Archive.

33. Bolivar House

The Liberator stayed in this colonial house on San Agustín Street. There are conference rooms, a library and several archaeological pieces. There, Simón Bolívar wrote about the emancipation and freedom of Venezuela.

Palaces, mansions and manor houses

34. District Mayor’s Office

It occupies the southeast flank of the Plaza de la Aduana. It has a gallery of symmetrical arches on the ground floor and continuous balconies on the second floor.

The second floor was destined to deposits and in the second floor were the treasury, the accountant’s office and the housing of the employees. In what was the Casa de la Aduana, during the republican period, is today the administrative headquarters of the city.

35. Palace of the Governor’s Office

Today, this palace is the headquarters of the departmental government. This building’s use as an administrative center is not recent, since the City Council has been functioning there since 1767. Its architecture is an imitation of the palaces of Old Castile.

Heredia Theater
With its 18th and 19th century European opera house style, it was built in the shape of a horseshoe with boxes and balconies divided by cedar lattices that look like lace. It was built over the old church of La Merced. It was officially inaugurated in 1911 with the performance of floral games and, in February 1912, the company of Evangelina Adams premiered its stage.

Palace of Justice
This is the name of the beautiful building adjacent to the old convent of La Merced (Teatro Heredia) which was the seat of regional and local justice. Today it is the headquarters of postgraduate studies at the University of Cartagena.

38. House of the Marquis of Valdehoyos

Typically colonial residence that belonged to the Marquis of Valdehoyos, a person who had the privilege of importing slaves and flour. It stands out in its showy facade, the windows with finely carved wooden bars and the central balcony that communicates with the main living room.

The floors and ceilings are also made of wood. Occasionally, cultural events or social events such as exhibitions, receptions and conferences are held here. Today it is the alternate headquarters of the Chancellery of the Republic.

Don Benito House
It is one of the best preserved colonial houses in the city.

40. Chamber of Commerce

On the corner of Baloco Street, it is housed in a 17th century aristocratic house.

Bartolomé Calvo Library
Of neoclassical style, it contains the most important library in the city.

42. Mapfre House, Skandia House and Banco de la República Building.

On the same Calle de la Inquisición are two old restored mansions. On the corner with Landrinal Street is the Republican style building of the Bank of the Republic, easily recognizable by its long series of arches. This sector is also known as the Portal de los Escribanos. The offices of the National Beauty Contest are located here.

43. Candelaria House

It is the most classic example of colonial architecture. Its facade stands out with its unique gate. It is located on Damas Street.
Other colonial mansions
Although within the walled center, each house, mansion or building is a true colonial jewel, the Casa de Bolivar and Casa España stand out.

Religious architecture : Churches and Cloisters

It is known that the construction of temples and convents in Cartagena was the work of a small group of people, due to the aesthetic unity that predominates in the civil architecture of the entire city.

In fact, it is very possible that the same hands built the cloisters of La Popa, San Francisco, Santa Teresa, San Agustín, San Diego, La Merced and Santa Clara. Only the buildings of the Society of Jesus (San Pedro Claver) and Santo Domingo deviate from this notion of the typical Cartagena cloister.

44. Sanctuary of San Pedro Claver

Both the church and the monastery were built at the beginning of the 17th century by members of the Jesuit community, for this reason it was formerly called ‘Iglesia de San Ignacio de Loyola’ (Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola).

Its current name is a well-deserved tribute to St. Peter Claver, a Spanish man whose magnificent work was to fight for the underprivileged and the oppressed. He took the most important step for the definitive liberation of the slaves, which is why he was called the Apostle of the blacks.

The saint, whose remains are preserved in an urn in the lower part of the main altar, lived and died in the convent adjacent to the church, and a chapel was erected in his room, located at the landing of the stone staircase leading to the convent. There is an important archaeological museum.

In 1888 the church was restored, and in 1921 the present dome was added, the work of the French architect Gaston Lelarge.

45. Church and Convent of Santo Domingo

It is the oldest temple in Cartagena. Its construction began in the late sixteenth century, and had to overcome five stages for its completion. The abutments that protrude into the street were made when the original walls gave way. Its tower is slightly crooked and, like some churches of its time, has a fortified apse.

The altar, of baroque style, has an image of Christ carved in wood in the middle of the last century, called the Christ of the exhalation; and an image of the Virgin whose crown is of gold and emeralds. The arch, which rests on two columns and supports the choir, is famous among the architects of the world for being almost straight.

46.Church and monastery of San Francisco

It was used as temporary lodging for the first inquisitors before the court began to operate in the pantheon where it was definitively installed. In the neighboring corner is located the church of the Third Order, where the military received burial.

47.Church of Santo Toribio de Mongrovejo

Corner of the Fernández Madrid Park. It has the characteristics of a hermitage, with several altarpieces of the time and a beautiful altar.

48. Church of San Roque Very old temple, located in the street of San Roque.

of the Crescent.

Trinity Church
It is located in the very center of the Getsemaní sector. It houses several works of religious art.

Monuments and Sculptures

50. Catalina India Monument

It is one of the masterpieces of the sculptor Eladio Gil. The Indian symbolizes the native race. It is said that Catalina, a beautiful and brave warrior born in the neighboring town of Galerazamba, was captured by Alonso de Ojeda once the mutiny in which the Cartagena native Juan de la Cosa died was over, in 1509. Later,

Diego de Nicuesa took her to Central America and sold her as a slave in Santo Domingo. Don Pedro de Heredia brought her back to Cartagena as an interpreter in 1533.

51. Monument to the Pegasus

It is named after the two sculptures of the mythical winged steeds that adorn the promenade of the pier,
next to the Convention Center. The Pegasus Pier is an ideal place for a stroll, especially at sunset, when the city is beautifully illuminated.

52. Gertrudis Sculpture

Work of the master Fernando Botero, donated in homage to the city. It is in the Plaza de Santo Domingo, in front of the church.

53. Monument of San Pedro Claver

Between the entrance door to the convent and the nearby walls, the master Enrique Grau paid homage to the saint with this beautiful work.

54. Gannet monument

It is another work of master Gil, which exalts the local avifauna, located on the boardwalk on one side of Santander Avenue.
Other sculptures

Cartagena is a city of public works of art. Among the main sculptural works are Tesoros de Cartagena, by Salvador Arango; Las chatarras, sculptures in the San Pedro plaza; the busts of heroes and patriarchs in the camellón de los Mártires, and the sculptures located at the entrances to the Parque del Centenario.
Other places of special interest

55. Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala Convention and Exhibition Center

It is one of the best equipped in Latin America. This venue can accommodate more than 4,500 people. It is highly versatile because it can be used for plays, musical shows, film projections or large congresses. The ceiling is specially built to reproduce the acoustics required.

The Quadrant is one of the interior areas where the commercial stands are set up for events, adjacent to the Grau Hall and the Hall of the Great Hall Barahona.
The convention center also has large outdoor areas, such as the Esplanade of San Francisco and the Patio de Banderas, 2100 square meters; the Claustro de las Animas,

2277 square meters; and the gardens of the Paseo del Arsenal, 4200 meters. It is an ideal place for mass attendance events. amidst the most beautiful views of old Cartagena and the bay.

56. The Vaults

They are located in the northern sector of the walled city, between the forts of Santa Clara and Santa Catalina. It consists of 47 arches and 23 vaults themselves, and is considered the last work of the Colonial period, executed within the fortified perimeter.

Its use was exclusively military; it served the Spaniards as barracks and, later, during the time of the Independence and the beginning of the Republic, to the patriots as prisons. The vaults were restored and in them were conditioned attractive and original premises where art galleries, bars and handicraft stores operate.
External part of the walls

57. Fortification of San Felipe de Barajas

Simply known as San Felipe Castle, it is the largest defensive complex built by Spanish military engineering in the New World. It stands on top of the hill of San Lazaro, a strategic point from which any attempt to invade the city by land or sea could be warned.

Its construction began in 1536 and was completed more than a century later, in 1657. It received the name of San Felipe in honor of the sovereign who reigned at the time, Felipe IV.

This first castle was a triangular-shaped hood, with four sentry boxes, a cistern, a storehouse and lodging for the soldiers, and was equipped with eight cannons.

The castle withstood several assaults and was key to the defense of the city in the attack, in 1741, of the English troops under the command of Admiral Vernon. It fell only once, in 1697, at the hands of the French commanded by Baron De Pointis.

In 1762, the threat of a new war with England led Spain to the decision to reinforce all the defenses of its colonies. The military engineer Antonio de Arévalo was in charge of converting the castle of San Felipe into an impregnable fortress.

De Arévalo reinforced it with collateral batteries that could hold 63 cannons. At the same time, this set of batteries was protected by a high and steep wall that was impossible to climb.

Inside, he arranged an intricate network of tunnels, galleries, slopes and traps, so as to allow a successive retreat from one battery to the next, as well as an ingenious system of mines to blow up the fort if it was taken by the enemy.

Once the danger of the wars was over, the castle was abandoned, and even served as a quarry, until its restoration began in 1928. At the entrance to the enclosure is the statue of Commander General Don Blas de Lezo, defender of Cartagena during the attack of Admiral Vernon in 1741, even though he was one-eyed, lame and one-armed.

58. Monument to the Old Shoes

It is located in the back of the Castle of San Felipe. Work represented by a pair of old bronze shoes made in honor of Luis Carlos Lopez, the poet from Cartagena who became famous for the sonnet “A los zapatos viejos” (To the old shoes), which is quoted in the place.

59. Sanctuary of La Popa, Candelaria Convent

From the top of the historic hill overlooking the entire city, you can see one of the most beautiful panoramas of the whole at an altitude of more than 170 meters.

At the beginning of the 17th century, at the top of this prominence, the Augustinian Fathers built the cloister that was called the Convent of Our Lady of Candelaria. Later it was the site of fights; it also served as a barracks and a fort. After a long period of abandonment, the building was restored by the Augustinians in 1964.

At the back is the most rugged place on the hill, the Salto del Cabrón, from where, according to legend, the first superior of the convent was born,
Fray Alonso de la Cruz, threw a goat called Busiraco, an object of worship and adoration of the Indians.

60. Barrio de Bocagrande Its panoramic view forms the inverted letter L.

The main street, which starts at the Naval Base, has San Martín Avenue as its axis, which reaches the Caribe Hotel, from where another road leads to El Laguito. The height of the letter is formed by the Castillogrande sector, whose main street is called Piñango Avenue, which ends at the Naval Club. The neighborhood is located between the Caribbean Sea and the bay of Cartagena.

61. Pedestrian walkway of Castillogrande

From the Naval Club to the Naval Base, along the entire bay, there is a beautiful pedestrian promenade that rejoices for the beauty of the panorama that can be appreciated. It is a place of concurrence of skaters, joggers, walkers, children and lovers.

Barrio del Cabrero / Ermita del Cabrero Hermitage

Chapel where the remains of the poet and President Rafael Núñez, author of the lyrics of the National Anthem and precursor of the 1886 Constitution that ruled until 1991, are preserved. He was also the only Colombian president who governed from Cartagena.

House of Rafael Núñez

The villa in front of the chapel belonged to the illustrious public man and now houses a small museum with objects belonging to him, which are evidence of his relevance in the recent history of the country.

Manga Neighborhood

It is located on the island of Manga. The mansions that stand out in this sector combine the opulence of an era of progress with the sobriety of Creole architecture influenced by the Arab and the most recent Californian architecture.

Most of the houses are submerged under the cool shade of huge mango trees. Unfortunately, many of these mansions have been demolished to make way for modern buildings.

Area attractions

Pastelillo Fort
The fort of San Sebastián del Pastelillo replaced the fort of Boquerón, the first fortress built in the city. It is home to the Fishing Club, the main dock for pleasure boating.

Roman House
Located on the main street of Manga, it is a favorite place for visitors to the area, due to its beautiful architecture that combines Moorish and neo-republican styles. The mansion is surrounded by a beautiful garden and its mosaics stand out. In addition to this one, in Manga there are many houses of the peculiar stately style of the time.

Santander Avenue
It connects the city, from the Crespo neighborhood, near the airport, with the Santander traffic circle, at the beginning of the Bocagrande neighborhood. It is a ring road that joins the ring road and connects Cartagena with Barranquilla.

A tour along this road artery has for the tourist the attraction of being a sample, by way of synthesis, of Cartagena: historical walls, tropical landscapes and salty sea air. At night you can appreciate the illuminated walls and the domes of the Cathedral and San Pedro Claver churches.


Cartagena has beaches in Bocagrande, El Laguito, Marbella, Crespo, La Boquilla and Manzanillo del Mar, in addition to those of Tierrabomba, Bocachica, Barú and the Rosario Islands. In all of them you can count with chairs and parasols service and access to refreshments and typical food.

There are rules for bathers, one of them is to pay attention to the meaning of the signal flags. Green flag: there are no waves or dangerous currents. Yellow: there is some kind of swell or current.

recommends bathing with some caution and not to move away from the beach and red: the bathing should not be taken, because the danger is imminent.

Where there are no caution flags, it is necessary to consult with tour guides or local authorities or people who are experienced and local, as recklessness in the sea of Cartagena can lead to problems.

Lifeguard service is available at some beaches. It is forbidden to use them during the night hours.

Best time to visit Cartagena

Knowing when is the best time to visit Colombia is not an easy thing to do because each region has a different climate depending on its altitude and geographic position.

Cartagena being located on the Caribbean coast, has two very marked seasons.

A humid one that coincides with the winter in South America, and another dry one that corresponds with the summer

The best time to travel to Cartagena de Indias is from December to April

cartagena colombia
Best time to visit Cartagena – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

The temperature in this period is around 28ºC and can reach temperatures up to 31ºC

The rains, are not very frequent and of scarce milliliters

It is also the time of more tourist affluence and where everything becomes a little more expensive.

When to travel to Cartagena de indias

The seasons to travel to Cartagena de Indias

Here is a small diagram of how the seasons are composed.

  • High season: from December to February. The temperatures are very pleasant as always and we are in the dry period.
  • Medium season: March and April, where temperatures remain favourable, but some rain can be perceived a little more frequently, but it is still a good time to visit. The tourist influx decreases considerably and with it the prices.
  • Low season: From May to November, where high rainfall and cyclones, make it not a good time to visit Cartagena.

The worst time to travel to Cartagena de Indias

And just as we have a dry season, there is also a wet season.

Where rains and cyclones overshadow the high temperatures that govern the city.
The wet season consists of the months from May to November, where on average 227mm of water is expected to fall through the rain.

Although the average temperature expected is about 30°C or more.

Pro Tip

For precise weather information on when the best to visit Cartagena for weather, we recommend the WeatherSpark website which is very detailed.

cartagena colombia
Street Seller – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Best time to visit Cartagena for Weather

Cartagena has a tropical climate, where in its dry season, humidity is around 85% and temperatures are around 31ºC or perhaps more.

The average rainy day is 6, and the winds blow towards the end of the afternoon, making the humidity much more bearable.

For the wet season, Cartagena keeps its usual humidity adding up: rainfall of about 90 days of the wet season with rain; many clouds covering the sun; but temperatures of 30ºC are kept.

The rainiest month is October.

To these we must add the tropical storms and cyclones.

cartagena colombia
Best time to visit Cartagena for Weather – Palenquera in Cartagena – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Cartagena de Indias has a typically tropical climate, hot all year round with minimal seasonal temperature changes.

Seasonal differences occur only in the amount of rain that falls and not in the temperature.

Based on rainfall we can distinguish two seasons, the hot and dry period between December and April, where it hardly ever rains, in these five months, the days of rain, in fact, on average, are only 6.

While between May and November we have the rainy season, hot and humid, during these months, the days of rain, on average, are 90.

The amount of annual precipitation that falls in Cartagena de Indias is a little over 1,000 mm, for a total of 98 rainy days.

The hours of sunshine in this Colombian Caribbean city exceed 2,600 per year.

The average maximum temperatures are for the whole year around 30°C/31°C, while the average minimum temperatures vary between 23°C and 25°C.

Humidity is always high and remains stable at around 80% throughout the year.

The winds blow, especially in the late afternoon, and when they do, they bring relief.

The temperature of the sea water varies between 27°C and 29°C.

Best time to Visit Cartagena for weather : month by month

  • January : the weather is fair, but still correct. At midday, the average temperature is 33° and it rains about 9mm every month.
  • February : the climate is favourable. For example, the maximum temperature in February is 33°.
  • March and April : the climate is not favourable, but remains correct. In the early evening the temperature is on average 31° and it rains about 126mm every month.
  • May and June :  the climate is unfavourable. On average, in the morning it is 28° and you can expect 227mm of precipitation/month during this period.
  • July : the climate is very unfavourable. The thermometer climbs to 35° and you can expect 179mm of rainfall per month during this period.
  • August to November : the climate is unfavourable. At noon, the average temperature is 33° and it rains about 285mm every month.
  • December : the climate is not favourable, but remains correct. The temperature rises up to 33°.
cartagena colombia
Best time to Visit Cartagena – Cumbia Show – Photo © Tristan Quevilly


Being an international city, Cartagena has a great variety of restaurants with Creole cuisine, in addition to those specialized in international gastronomy. 

Restaurants: most of them are located in the historic center, but also in Bocagrande, Manga, Crespo, El Cabrero, La Boquilla, Mamonal, on the beaches and in the most popular tourist areas. There is something for all tastes and budgets. 

Combination of Arab, Spanish, Caribbean, African, indigenous. prepared with the love of the women of Cartagena de Indias. Fresh fruit carried by palenqueras.

The streets of Cartagena de Indias are alive with the aromas of foods brought here by the Spanish, the natives, and the Africans, which blend together to produce an extraordinary fusion of scents and tastes. The typical cuisine is varied and rich, prepared with fresh ingredients that blend fruits like coconut, plantain, mango, and corozo, as well as seafood and fish caught by the ancestral fishing communities.

Nothing is more popular and typical of this city than a refreshing tropical fruit platter served by a smiling “palenquera”, or perhaps a visit to the Portal de Los Dulces where the palate is seduced by delicious desserts made from Caribbean fruits.

Pastry lovers will be delighted to try the best the city has to offer: arepa de huevo (a deep-fried patty stuffed with an egg), carimañola (yucca fritters) or a buñuelito de frijol (bean fritters), topped with a spicy sauce and washed down with an icy cold Kola Roman.


Cartagena is home to establishments of international prestige and large hotel chains. The offer ranges from luxurious and exclusive boutique hotels to executive hotels for businessmen and travelers, hostels and inns. 

The city has two hotel associations, Cotelco and Asotelca, which represent 72 lodging establishments. The National Tourism Registry of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism states that Cartagena has 327 places to spend the night or rest. Some of them are resort-type, or all-inclusive, and others offer a variety of plans. 

The project took almost two centuries to complete, and during that time the city was constantly under attack by pirates. The walls were finally finished in 1796. They are now open for tours, and on many an afternoon, couples will sit and watch the sunset from places where cannon shots were fired at pirate ships in the olden days.

cartagena de indias colombia
cartagena de indias colombia – Photo @ Tristan Quevilly

How to get around in Cartagena

Getting around in Cartagena renting a car

If you want to take a road trip in Colombia and have the freedom to visit the area at your own pace, a good idea is to rent a car. Here you can compare the available offers and rent a car at the best price.

Get Around in Cartagena by Cabs 

They taxis do not have taximeters, but their fares are officially regulated; however, before boarding, it is advisable to check the fare. 

Get Around in Cartagena by Collective cabs

The Colectivos have routes to various points in the city along the main road corridors, with fixed fares per passenger. 

Get Around in Cartagena by Buses and vans

Buses and Vans intercommunicate the entire city with the historic center and the neighborhoods of the city. They are more economical, but take longer to travel. 

Get Around in Cartagena with the Transcaribe System

The transcaribe is the most important urban transportation system, along a road axis that runs from the place known as Bomba del Amparo to the entrance to the Bocagrande neighborhood.  

How to get from Cartagena to Tierrabomba ?

If you want to spend a different kind of recreational day on the neighboring island of Tierrabomba, which is in front of Bocagrande, you can take a collective or individual boat from those located for this purpose near the Caribe Hotel and the Avenida del Retorno in El Laguito. 

How to get from Cartagena to Bocachica and Baru ?

Land route: to cross the Dique channel, take a ferry from Pasacaballos, and then continue by unpaved road to the town of Santa Ana de Barú or Playa Blanca. 
Water route: From La Bodeguita dock, small boats leave to different destinations on the island every day in the early morning hours. 
La Bodeguita Dock on Google map : Avenida Blas de Lezo, Cartagena, Bolívar

How to get from Cartagena to Rosario, Baru and San Bernardo islands ?

Tourist boats that travel to the Rosario Islands, Baru, Bocachica or the San Bernardo Islands, depart from the tourist pier La Bodeguita, in the bay of Las Animas. The pier has comfortable waiting facilities, boutique and cafeteria. To enter, tourists must pay the entrance fee to the national natural park. Boats to their destinations leave between 7 and 10 a.m., and return between 4 and 5:30 p.m. 

How much cost a taxi from Cartagena Downtown to the airport?

Taxis here do not work with meters, but rather charge depending on the area or neighborhood. The minimum taxi fare is 5,000 pesos, which is about US D 2.50. A trip from the Historic Center to the airport should cost around 15,000 pesos.

It is not advisable to contract trips with companies not certified by the Port Captaincy to avoid inconveniences. 

How to get to Cartagena ?

Get to Cartagena By air

Rafael Núñez International Airport is located 15 minutes from the historic center of the city. It is a modern airport with international specifications to accommodate all types of aircraft.

The main national airlines and several international airlines land there, either directly or in connection, to destinations all over the world.


Frequent connections from/to Bogotá and Medellín and also to San Andrés with Avianca, Maracaibo with Lan, or Panama City with Copa Airlines. 

Shuttles and colectivos connect the airport to the centre. The rates are indicated at the exit of the airport.  A taxi to the centre costs $15,000.

Getting to Cartagena renting a car

If you want to take a road trip in Colombia and have the freedom to visit the area at your own pace, a good idea is to rent a car. Here you can compare the available offers and rent a car at the best price.

Buses to Cartagena

From Bogotá , Bucaramanga, Cúcuta, Medellín, Cali and the coffee region (Armenia, Manizales and Pereira), Cartagena is interconnected by the Troncal del Magdalena Medio and Troncal del Caribe highways that connect it to the north with Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Riohacha and reach Paraguachón, on the Venezuelan border.

Two roads can be used from Barranquilla to Cartagena: the road to La Cordialidad and the road to the sea.

The first is the oldest and most traditional and the one usually taken by interdepartmental buses; and the second, the most recent, runs parallel to the sea, ends in the north of the city near the airport, and is the one taken by the small authorized companies of collective service.

Bus Terminal

  • Adresse: Carretera de la Cordialidad – Diagonal 57
  • Phone +57 5 663 0454

Frequent connections to Bogotá (20-24 hours) and Medellín (13-17 hours). 

Count 2 hours for Barranquilla, 4.5 hours for Santa Marta and 6-7 hours for Riohacha. The terminal is 45 minutes from the centre, count 24,000 taxi fare. 

Buses (destination Centro or Parque del Centenario) do not enter the centre. 

Ask the driver to warn you where to get off (near the old city walls).

Mini Vans Puerta a Puerta (Door to Door)

These Colectivos can take you approximately every hour from Cartagena to Barranquilla ($27,000), Santa Marta ($49,000), Taganga ($46,000) or Palomino ($75,000).

It is much more convenient and faster than the bus (due to the distance from the terminal). 

Ask your hotel or directly at Marsol

Get to Cartagena sailing

Cartagena has an important and very safe location within the Caribbean Sea basin, which, together with the number of scenic, historical, cultural, commercial and technical attractions, makes it an almost essential stopover for pleasure cruises sailing the Caribbean waters.

More than 200,000 passengers per season arrive at this Caribbean port, which has a modern terminal and facilities for tours of the city.

Recreational marinas

Cartagena de Indias has five recreational marinas. Sailors and yachtsmen have several safe marinas within the bay, with adequate facilities for their temporary stays, including the Fishing Club, Todomar, Marina Santacruz, El Club Nautico and Marina Manzanillo.

  • ✆ +57 5 660 7781
  • Cruise ship port, with duty free shops and cafe.

Cruise Lines

Cartagena de Indias is the only Colombian city that has a loading port for Royal Caribbean and Pullmantur cruise ships.

Visit or for more detailed information on these wonderful trips.

Get to Cartagena From Panama

Numerous sailing boats provide transfers between Cartagena and Panama through the magnificent San Blas archipelago, the territory of the Gunas Indians. 

The trip last 5 days of travel in heavenly landscapes , including 3 days in the islands. 

It’s more expensive than flying, but it’s a unique experience!

Blue Sailing

Pro Tip:
Find out about the reputation of the boat. Sailing conditions depend a lot on the season. From December to March the trade winds blow and the sea can be rough. During the rest of the year, there may be scattered thunderstorms and rain, but the wind is noticeably less strong. The low season runs from August to November, when rates are lower.

History of Cartagena de Indias

Cartagena de Indias, so named to distinguish it from Spanish Cartagena, was built on the site of an abandoned Amerindian village, Calamarí, located on a small island of the same name.

It has received many names in its history, but none suits it better than Cartagena de Indias – it makes you dream.

Today, Cartagena is the most visited place in Colombia.

History of Cartagena in Summary

Founded in 1533 by the conquistador Pedro de Heredia, Cartagena is the port of entry to the Andes and is highly coveted.

It was plundered in 1697 by the French during an expedition led by Admiral Jean-Bernard de Pointis and Jean-Baptiste du Casse.

Then, in 1741, the forces of Admiral Edward Vernon attempted to lay siege to the city, but without overcoming the tenacity of its occupants.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Cartagena became a hub of the slave trade.

It was then the first city of the vice royalty of New Granada to declare its independence in 1811.

Today, Cartagena is a very touristy city, welcoming about two million visitors every year.

The origins of Cartagena

Rodrigo de Bastidas discovered the bay of Calamarí in 1501 but did not stop there, believing that it was only a gulf.

Two years later, however, Cartagena’s name appears for the first time in a decree of Queen Isabella; no one knows how or why.

Soon after, the gold and emerald rush began.

A port had to be built to repatriate all these riches to Spain, and Pedro de Heredia was entrusted with this mission.

The latter had to leave his noble Madrid roots after an unfortunate duel, and settled in Santa Marta and then in Cartagena, where he began gold trading with the native populations.

Heredia was then accompanied by a beautiful native, Catalina, a former slave from Santo Domingo.

Pedro de Heredia became governor and established his residence in the village of Calamarí and founded Cartagena in 1533, settling on the Bocagrande peninsula.

The access roads to the harbour were easy to control: two or three hills overlooked the surrounding plain, and from there it was possible to observe the bay.

Colonization, gold and mercenaries

The small village quickly prospered thanks to the discovery of many treasures in the region.

Expeditions of mercenaries were dispatched to collect all the valuable remains left in the country by the ancient indigenous civilizations.

During the first expedition, two famous jewels were brought back: a 60 kg solid gold porcupine and eight 1.3 kg gold ducks.

As a reward, the mercenaries received a large sum: 6,000 ducats per person, a fortune when you know that one ducat corresponds to about 37 grams of pure gold.

The treasures brought back during the following expeditions proved to be even more splendid, especially those found in the Sinus tombs, the Amerindian people who buried the dead with their belongings.

The cemeteries were surrounded by trees with gold bells hanging from them.

A popular saying illustrates the richness of the Sinú River: “The gold of Peru is nothing compared to that of the Sinú! »

In 1552, however, a fire burned down the city of Cartagena, whose houses were all made of wood.

Pedro de Heredia ordered that everything be rebuilt in steel.

The city has thus been able to preserve its architectural features to the present day.

As Spanish colonization continued in South America, Spanish plunderers discovered the fabulous riches of various indigenous nations, including the Incas.

The port of Cartagena profited from this looting.

Ships with precious cargoes from Ecuador and Peru reached Cartagena through the Isthmus of Panama, where they were loaded with other goods harvested in the interior of the country.

The conquistadors set up a network of mules and slaves to transport the booty, especially gold and emeralds, to the coast.

The galleons would then call at Cuba or Puerto Rico, where other goods were added to their invaluable cargo.

Finally, the course was set for Spain.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Cartagena was therefore in a way the Iberian safe of the New World.

Lucrative slave trade

Another factor allowed the city to develop rapidly: the slave trade.

At the beginning of the 17th century, the King of Spain granted the colony a monopoly on trading.

It should be remembered that at that time, the Spanish Crown had prohibited the slavery of Amerindians, while granting certain prestigious men from the colonies the right to participate in the African slave market.

Thus, Cartagena received the terrible and highly coveted privilege of being one of the official centres of the slave trade, along with Vera Cruz in Mexico.

All these commercial activities allowed the local notables to amass enormous fortunes and build superb residences which, even today, still make the charm of the city.

Within a few years, Cartagena reached such a level of prosperity that it attracted all the lust of the colonial powers, as well as that of the many pirates who crisscrossed the seas.

In 1543, a Frenchman named Robert Boal launched a successful attack on the city.

The pirate managed to extort 310 kg of gold from the city.

This was the beginning of a long list of pirate assaults, including those of the English Francis Drake (in 1586) and Vernón (in 1741), and the French Martin Cote (in 1559), Jean-Bernard Desjeans and Jean Ducasse (in 1697).

The Spanish Crown, irritated by these losses, decided to fortify the city.

Cartagena became the best protected colonial city in South America.

The construction of a series of forts, castles and fortresses was entrusted at the beginning of the 16th century to the famous Italian engineer Bautista Antonelli, who had been in the service of King Philip V since 1570.

The entrance to the bay was then protected by two fortresses and the only land access road was also blocked by a fortified castle.

Several strongholds were erected, connected by ramparts.

Thousands of black slaves were employed there, and colossal financial fortunes were swallowed up.

The work lasted until the first half of the 17th century.

The fortress of San Felipe de Bajaras was built with the participation of Italian, Spanish and Dutch engineers and architects.

It took forty years to build a set of walls, towers and drawbridges on the hill nearest the city.

A very coveted city

In 1767, Admiral Jean-Bernard Desjeans, Baron de Pointis, was sent from France to weaken Spain by attacking its colonial strongholds.

He stormed Cartagena, seizing one fort after another.

His troops systematically plundered the city.

The spoils of his vandalism were valued at nine million pesos in gold, and a two hundred and fifty kilogram solid silver sepulchre, which Louis XIV later returned.

In addition, trade rivalries between London and Madrid worsened.

England sought to dominate the Caribbean Sea in order to safely transport its goods from America.

Among all the armed conflicts that marked the history of the city, two dates are worth remembering: the first is 1741, the year of the Battle of Vernón, and the second 1810, the year of Independence from Spain.

In 1741, 186 British ships appeared in front of Cartagena, the largest fleet the Carthaginians had ever seen off the coast.

Admiral Edward Vernón commanded 23,600 fighters and a regiment of 4,000 Americans.

Cartagena, on the other hand, had only 3,000 men and six warships.

But it was only on the third attempt that Admiral Vernón succeeded in taking Cartagena.

He seized the fortress of San Luís de Boccachica in sixteen days, using a myriad of cannons.

The English ships landed in the islands of Manga and Gracia, and the American regiment occupied the Popa Hill.

The admiral was already shouting victory…

The Englishman decided to seize the fortress of San Felipe de Barajaras, but his troops were crushed by the garrison of Colonel Carlos de Naux.

He lost 800 men and 200 were taken prisoner.

Dysentery and fever also claimed hundreds of victims among the English, who finally decided to weigh anchor, but not without first destroying all the fortresses they had seized.

The Mother City of Independence

With work now to be undertaken in Cartagena to make it an impregnable stronghold, the fortress of San Felipe de Barajas was renovated and perfected.

This fortress is undoubtedly the most impressive work of military architecture.

An underwater wall, El Dique, was erected between the Bocagrande peninsula and the island of Tierra Bomba between 1753 and 1778 to close the main access road to the bay.

To rebuild this line of defence, hundreds of slaves were made to work, carrying huge rocks to the bottom of the water.

Today, the upper part of the wall is still one metre below sea level.

The war against England, followed by domestic political unrest, forced the viceroys of New Grenada to spend part of their lives in Cartagena.

Viceroy Sebastián de Eslava, for example, lived there for about ten years, governing both the captaincy of Venezuela and the presidency of Quito.

On November 11, 1811, Cartagena proclaimed its independence from Spain.

It adopted a Constitution, inspired by those of France and the United States, and a flag, the cuadrilonga.

It abolished the Inquisition.

However, Cartagena still had to fight battles against the Spanish partisans in the surrounding areas.

In 1815, Cartagena fell under the Spanish yoke of General Pablo Morillo.

The general took over the city in 121 days, ushering in the darkest period in the city’s history.

Famine and disease decimate more than a third of the population (6,000 people).

Later, during the final war waged against the Spanish crown by Simón Bolívar, Cartagena was again one of the first cities to declare its independence.

She obtained her final freedom in 1821.

For the courage and skill of the Carthaginians in defending their city, the Liberator nicknamed Cartagena la Ciudad Heroíca (“the Heroic City”) and pronounced the famous words: “Si Caracas me dio vida, vosotros me desteis gloria” (“If Caracas gave me life, you gave me glory”).

His words were engraved on the equestrian statue erected in his memory in Bolívar Square at the end of the 19th century.

Thus, Cartagena is the mother city of Colombia.

From there came the conquistadors in search of the Eldorado; from there also the spoils of the looting were brought back to the Spanish Crown; from there the African slaves were unloaded; from there finally, in 1819, the insurrection movement started which was to lead to the liberation of the country.

The city today

Classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Cartagena is one of the most dazzling examples of Hispanic colonial architecture.

The city is painted in ochre and mirabelle plum colours, and a whole range of pastels.

Carved wooden entrances open onto sumptuous and elegant residences or green patios.

cartagena de indias colombia
cartagena de indias colombia


Today, Cartagena is a very large city, with a million residents, but also the main centre of the regional administration and one of the most important Colombian ports on the Caribbean.

cartagena de indias colombia
cartagena de indias colombia

However, despite a modern active life, Cartagena still possesses the magical charms that have always characterized it.

The city is host to numerous cultural events that please just about every taste. Musical concer ts come in various styles, including Colombian and Caribbean music, as well as classical music, champeta, vallenato and jazz.

Other lively and thrilling celebrations include Independence day festivities and the gastronomic festivals that feature desserts and fritters competitions.

Visitors and natives alike enjoy films under the stars and the heated literary debates during the Mapfre Hay Festival.

Cartagena Events

In a typical year, the following events are celebrated in Cartagena de Indias:

  • January : International Music Festival. Mapfre Hay Festival.
  • February: Our Lady of La Candelaria Celebrations
  • March: International Film Festival.
  • August: Festival de la Hamaca Grande. International Kite Festival. Afroamerican Champeta Music Festival
  • September: IXEL Fashion Congress
  • October: Book Fair.
  • November: Independence Day Festivities and National Beauty Pageant.
  • December: Caribbean Cultural Market, Jazz Festival, New Year’s Party and Caribbean Gastronomic Festival and Market.

Cartagena Nightlife

At night, cars, mostly Victorian, drive visitors through the streets of the historic city or to places of interest, while other tourists take advantage of the sea breeze and the cool atmosphere to walk, stroll or wander through the colonial streets. 

Also, every day, when the sun goes down, the Palenque folkloric dance group appears in the Bolivar Park to show the public the dances and the percussion of the drums preserved from the time when their ancestors came to the New World as slaves. 

The night offers multiple alternatives in the Santo Domingo, Los Coches, Santa Clara, La Aduana and Santa Teresa squares, on Larga and Arsenal streets and in different places in the historic center, the bastions and walls of Bocagrande, Pedro de Heredia Avenue and the El Amparo and El Bosque sectors. 

Restaurants, small bars, terraces and discos with live music and casinos diversify the night’s activities, which last until dawn. .


  • Adress: Calle del Colegio N° 34-24
  • Phone: +57 318 845 0433
  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Hours: Open daily from 5pm to 2am, until 3:30am on Friday and Saturday.

Count around $21-26,000 for a cocktail ($12,000 non-alcoholic), $12,000 for a craft beer, $17-30,000 for a dish.

The idea was born in Jean’s head in a laboratory in Getsemaní…

He brought it to life behind the walls of the old city.

With patience and genius, he brought an old ruined building back to life and turned it into a unique bar: Alquímico.

A place apart in Cartagena, which has earned a formidable reputation for its delicious cocktails and cosmopolitan atmosphere, trendy but not stuffy, and an efficient staff.

An evening at Alquímico is a true sensory experience.

The mixologists put on a show in the middle of the central bar.

They master their art perfectly, using experimental methods to obtain elixirs with unsuspected, harmonious and exhilarating flavors.

The incredible variety of aromatic herbs, spices and tropical fruits allows the creations to evolve constantly.You can also eat there, especially fish and seafood dishes, simple but refined.

As for the setting, it is superb: the architecture of a Republican building from 1910, composed of three levels, period tiles, an old indeplaceable safe at the entrance, jars of arranged rums (another specialty of the house) being macerated on the shelves, and a beautiful lighting.

The music selection is not to be outdone, from jazz to house, hip hop, soul, funk or electro cumbia.

Don’t miss the rooftop, which is particularly lively on weekends and very pleasant when a light sea breeze blows.

Café Del Mar

A great classic for sunsets.

On the ramparts, amidst the Spanish cannons, the place is spectacular and the beautiful people parade around.

  • Adress: Baluarte de Santo Domingo
  • Phone: +57 5 664 2945
  • Hours: Open every day from 5pm to 3am.

Donde Fidel

An icon of Cartagena ! Pura salsa ! El Gran Combo, Tito Nieves and Oscar De León, among others, have come to sway here.

You can drink beers on the terrace at the foot of the ramparts, while watching the city come alive.

There is also a lot of dancing inside, with music at full volume!

  • Adresse: Plaza de los Coches
  • Hours: Open every day until at least 2am.

El Barón

A pleasant bistro with a warm bar and a terrace overlooking the San Pedro Claver square.

The atmosphere changes during the day, the light evolves, the music too.

During the day, you can enjoy an espresso while listening to swing or bolero music, and in the evening, cocktails flow freely to the sound of tropical house.

Some of the best cocktails are served here with a creative bar chef, aromatic herbs from the garden, special ice cubes, etc.

A sure value.

  • Adress: Cra 4 N° 31-37 Plaza San Pedro Claver
  • Phone: +57 5 664 3105
  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Hours: Open Sunday-Monday 5pm-1am, Tuesday 12pm-1am, Wednesday-Saturday 12pm-2am.
  • Cocktails around 30k.

El Coro Lounge Bar

The prestigious Sofitel Legend Santa Clara offers an elegant and warm lounge bar.

Good tapas and creative cocktails; its mojito is renowned.

Live Cuban music groups and DJs entertain on weekends.

Getsemaní and Manga

  • Adresse: Hotel Sofitel Legend Santa Clara
  • Calle del Torno N° 39-29
  • Phone: +57 5 650 4700
  • Website:
  • Hours: Open from 12:30 pm to midnight.

Bazurto Social Club

Concerts, champeta classes, restaurant.

A small bar that breathes the Caribbean, with warm decor and explosive champeta concerts.

Big atmosphere!

Adress: Avenida del Centenario, N° 30-42 In front of Centenario Park

  • Phone: +57 311 648 1183
  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Hours: Open from 7pm to 4am Thursday through Saturday.

Café Havana Cartagena

High ceilings, wainscoting, subdued light, this club has been hosting excellent salsa bands for years and it’s often crowded.

The salseros will appreciate it!

La Caponera

Below Quiebra Canto, a bar that attracts both locals and tourists. Cheap beers and good salsa. Good atmosphere in general.

  • Adress: Carrera 28B N° 25-119
  • Hours: Open every day until 2am.

Casa Quiebra Canto

The temple of the salsa brava! Like in Bogotá, a warm bar where you can dance until the end of the night, and this for 30 years! Nice posters of artists of the genre, and a nice balcony.

  • Adress: Carrera 28B N° 25-119 Segundo piso
  • Website:
  • Hours: Open Monday to Thursday from 10am to 11pm, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 3am.

Ciudad Movil

Activities offered every day. An alternative and self-managed space by a group of artists, where workshops, concerts, plays, dance classes or circus shows are offered. The garden at the back hosts a pleasant bar-restaurant.


Overlooking the Trinidad square, Demente is the trendy bar in Getsemaní.

Two atmospheres, Open room or patio, minimalist decor among old stones, groovy and funky music, many liquors and cocktails, which are accompanied by good pizza and elaborate tapas.

  • Adress: Cra. 10 #29-29
  • Phone: +57 5 660 4226
  • Email:
  • Hours: Open every day from 6pm to midnight.

Malagana Café & Bar

Happy hour from 6pm to 8pm.

In Calle Tripita y Media, a café-bar on three levels, run by two sisters, Diana and Maria Carolina, who named it after their small village that lies south of Cartagena.

A stylish, tasteful place with a great rooftop.

It is best to go there at sunset and have a cold beer or a Mango biche mojito.

  • Adress: Carrera 10 N° 31-55
  • Phone: +57 5 660 1360
  • Email:
  • Hours: Open daily from 4pm to 11:30pm.

You can also eat there (ceviches, wraps, salads…).

Media Luna Hostel

The must-see Wednesday night for years for mochileros.

Visa por un Sueño hosts bands and DJ’s for a very funk and dubstep program.

Another address: Hostel Media Luna Baru in Playa Bobo (Baru), daily transfers from Cartagena. Bocachica and Isla Tierra Bomba

  • Adress: Calle Media Luna N° 10-46
  • Phone: +57 5 664 3423 / +57 318 265 3217
  • Website:
  • Email:

Blue Apple’s Beach Club

An exclusive beach club facing the sea, 30 minutes by boat from Cartagena.

Set up in July 2016 by Portia, Blue Apple has quickly become the favorite hangout for trendy cartageneros and cachacos and foreigners living in Cartagena.

Quiet on weekdays, much more festive on weekends.

Tropical and relaxed atmosphere, with a good musical program (DJ on Sundays).

You can eat very well (refined restaurant) and you can even sleep there (6 rooms, luxury).

A must on Sunday afternoon!

  • Phone: +57 316 750 6979
  • Website:
  • Email:
  • For drinks at the bar-resto, minimum consumable of 80 000

Book via whatsapp or online (no Phone: network).

The day pass costs $70,000, it includes transportation, pool, beach towel, paddles…


Shopping in Cartagena’s stores is a real pleasure. The historic center, where you can walk freely, represents a permanent temptation for the visitor. There you will find the most elegant stores with their glittering shop windows. In the old part there are jewelry stores, antique shops, handicraft stores, small galleries, bazaars such as Las Bóvedas, and fashion stores of internationally recognized designers. 


which in a diversified way can be purchased in the Bóvedas or in warehouses scattered in the historical or tourist center. 


especially emeralds, crafted by artists and artisans, available in many jewelry stores. 

As for the jewelry stores, given the competition, you can get good deals, especially for emeralds.

Older articles

which can be purchased in at least 25 antique stores located mainly in the streets of Santa Teresa, Baloco, Santo Domingo, La Mantilla, La Inquisición and others in the walled enclosure. 


Clothing of recognized brands: several international designers have their stores in various sectors of the city. 


You can find handicrafts from all over the country but the prices are higher than elsewhere.

There are some wonderful stores in the historical center to treat yourself.

Cartagena Travel FAQ

How is the Weather in Cartagena ?

Cartagena has a tropical-warm and quite humid climate, influenced by the winds that blow between December and March, which give rise to dry and rainy seasons.
In this region, the rainy season lasts from May to November, with maximum precipitation in October, and the dry season between December and April. The average annual rainfall is 950 mm and the average temperature is 27 oC. The city has more than 2640 hours of sunshine during the year.

What are the Best Beaches in Cartagena ?

It is no secret that in addition to its colonial sites and its Walled Center, Cartagena de Indias has the privilege of having some of the most beautiful beaches in Colombia and the Caribbean.
The 5 best beaches near Cartagena are : Playa Blanca, Isla Cholon, Rosario Islands, Punta Faro at Isla Mucura and Tierrabomba.
More information : Best Beaches in Cartagena

Things to do and see in Cartagena ?

The city of Cartagena has many tourist attractions to see. Tourists will mainly go to :
– The Torre del Reloj
– the Plaza de los Coches
– the Sen Felipe Castle
– Gold Museum and Archaeology
– Plaza de Bolivar
– Bullring in the Plaza de Toros de la Serrezula
– San Fernando Forts
See also : Best things to do in Cartagena de Indias

How to get around Cartagena?

The city of Cartagena offers various modes of transport, Bus, Taxi or Car Rental, to choose from.
The bus: the city buses are available day and night.
– Taxi: the price of the trip must be fixed in advance.
Car rental: there are many agencies in Cartagena.

What is the best time to Visit Cartagena ?

In Cartagena, it’s sunny all year round. The sea breeze brings down the ambient heat at dusk. The tourist season extends over the first 11 days of November, then in December, January, February, during Holy Week and in June and July. In all seasons it is recommended to book your accommodation in advance.
– More info : Best Time to Visit Cartagena

How to get to Cartagena ?

If you have the possibility, invest a little more and fly: you will save many hours of bus that you can take advantage of on the beach.
Flights to Cartagena : Cartagena’s airport is international, so many companies have flights, which do not necessarily pass through Bogotá. If you are already in Colombia, Viva Colombia offers low cost flights from Medellín, Cali and Bogotá.
Buses to Cartagena: If you are already in Colombia, Cartagena is very well connected with the rest of the country, although trips are usually slow due to the state of the routes and traffic.
More Info : How to Get to Cartagena

Nightlife in Cartagena

When the sun goes down, the other Cartagena de Indias lights up: the city of bars, nightclubs, and nightlife which radiate with Caribbean joy.
There are very good bars at the Historic Center: Places like Dónde Fidel, Habana, Bazurto Social Club and Quiebra Canto showcase the Caribbean experience.

Where to book a City Tour ?

There are quite a few tourist guides available in Cartagena de Indias, but for the best tour of the city, the recommendation is to contact a guide that has been certified by the Tourism Corporation at

Where to Eat in Cartagena ?

Most of them are located in the historic center, but also in Bocagrande, Manga, Crespo, El Cabrero, La Boquilla, Mamonal, on the beaches and in the most popular tourist areas. There is something for all tastes and budgets.
More info : Best Restaurants in Cartagena

What to see near Cartagena ?

In the surroundings of Cartagena, there are various sights to see.
– The peninsula of Baru, located one hour from Cartagena;
– The Rosary Islands, perched on a coral base
– La Boquilla
– San Basilio de Palenque
– San Bernardo Islands
– Rincon del Mar (2 h Drive)
Mompox (6h drive)
Santa Marta (4h drive)

What are the local Dishes in Cartagena ?

Being an international city, Cartagena has a great variety of restaurants with Creole cuisine, in addition to those specialized in international gastronomy.
The dishes: Arroz con coco (rice with coconut milk), Arepa de huevo (corn cake with eggs), Sancocho de pescado (fish and tuber soup), Patacones (fried bananas), Seafood.
Desserts: Panela (cane sugar loaf), Dulce de millo (millet dessert).
Drinks: Fruit juice, Colombian coffee, Local beer, Rum.