Explore Cartagena - An Exclusive Guide
A perfect day in... Cartagena, Colombia
Founded in 1533, this walled city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia is bursting with color, culture and a vibrant Latin spirit that’s hard to resist.
What to see in Cartagena
Home to some of the best-preserved colonial architecture in the Caribbean, Cartagena is justly famous for its vibrantly-painted houses and narrow, cobbled streets. El Centro, the city’s historical heart, is the place to be; stroll through to discover secret courtyards and centuries-old churches, and soak up the atmosphere. Be sure to look up, too, to see balconies festooned with bougainvillea, and keep an eye out for the elaborate aldabas (door knockers), formerly used as a marker of the inhabitants’ wealth and status.
A 15-minute walk from El Centro, just outside the city walls close to the lively Getsemani neighborhood is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, an imposing castle built in 1536 and worth a visit. Being on the shores of the Caribbean, Cartagena also offers unmissable sunsets. A local favorite vantage point from which to watch the sky turn pink is Café del Mar, a relaxed bar perched atop the westernmost point of Cartagena’s 17th Century fortifications.
What to do in Cartagena
Get started in Plaza Santo Domingo, the bustling square in the heart of the old town and home to many shops, bars and cafes. From here, take a stroll down Carrera 3 to the Naval Museum, for an insight into the city’s past and swashbuckling tales of how its fortifications were used to stave off pirates.
If you’ve not yet had your fill of museums, you’ll find two worth visiting nearby Plaza de Bolivar: the Museum of Cartagena is a great place to brush up on local history and the Spanish Inquisition, while the Jewelry Museum houses a sparkling collection of precious metals and ceramics.
For a more tranquil excursion, consider a boat trip to the Islas del Rosario National Park, an archipelago made up of 27 islands an hour’s ride from the city. The white, sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters are a world away from the hubbub of Cartagena. Spend the afternoon lazing on a secluded beach, or head out onto the big blue on a snorkeling trip.
What to eat in Cartagena
Cartagena’s food scene offers everything from exciting street food to fine dining. For a quick bite, take your pick of the traditional Colombian fritos (filled corn flour pockets) and empanadas from local stalls on Plaza Santo Domingo – or for a more luxurious take on classic Caribbean dishes, make a booking at culinary gem Celele on Calle del Espíritu Santo. Alternatively, for a delicious taste of local seafood, head to well-known La Cevicheria, a simple, cozy local restaurant on a corner in the north of the city; expect large helpings of mouthwatering calamari and octopus in peanut sauce.
Cartagena comfort food comes in the form of Posta Negra, a meaty stew typical of the Caribbean coast, made with seared steak cooked in a rich, sweet sauce. For a lighter refreshment, stay hydrated after a day of sunny sightseeing with a limonada de coco, a local favorite drink that blends fresh lime juice and coconut milk in a tangy-sweet mixture.
For more information, visit turismo.cartagena.es
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