Cartagena, a Caribbean port city with a long and fascinating history, is the perfect place to end your adventure in Colombia. Founded in 1533 by Spanish conquistadors, Cartagena is known for its colonial architecture, protected by one of the most complete city walls in South America. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Cartagena’s old town is perhaps best understood by taking part in the vibrant life on its cobbled streets.
Where is Cartagena located?
Cartagena is situated in the north of Colombia right on the coast of the Caribbean.
The walled city of Cartagena
Old Town Cartagena Colombia:
To defend itself from imperial powers battling it out in the colonies and frequent pirate attacks, Cartagena was enclosed in a protective wall in the 1600s. The wall was continually repaired and expanded over the next nearly 200 years. Today, the wall still stands and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, enclosing the neighborhood of San Diego. Inside the walls are colorful colonial-era buildings, and an array of museums, bars, and restaurants.
The clock tower of Cartagena:
Cartagena’s iconic clock tower “La Torre de Reloj” sits just on the border of the old city and neighboring Getsemani. Built in 1600, it has been through several updates including the addition of a pendulum clock to the tower in the late 1800s. Nowadays it houses a 1900s Swiss Clock and has become a must-see for anyone visiting the old city.
Where to Stay in Cartagena, Colombia
Hotel Casa San Agustin
We recommend Hotel Casa San Agustin, an exclusive boutique hotel that resembles a splendid private residence. The hotel’s three colonial-era, white-washed buildings have been lovingly restored to provide comfort for contemporary travelers while retaining Cartagena’s colorful Caribbean sensibility. Take tea in the library, unwind by the solarium pool or visit the relaxing spa.
What to do in Cartagena Colombia:
Cartagena’s old town, enclosed by a centuries-old wall, boasts some of the best colonial architecture in South America. Nearby, the hip neighborhood of Getsemani pulses with life, while placid Cartagena Bay shimmers as the sun sets behind the city skyline. With a burgeoning culinary scene and a lively Caribbean vibe—as well as designation as a World Heritage site—Cartagena is quickly becoming one of South America’s favorite cities.
ARCHAEOLOGY & HISTORY
Cartagena Walking Tour
Join a local historian on a trip through the fascinating streets of Cartagena. See the most important historical structures in this World Heritage site: the colonial grandeur of the Palace of Inquisition, the painted ceilings of Theatre Adolfo Mejia and the incomparable views of sunset along the city wall. At each stop, deepen your appreciation of Cartagena cuisine and culture with private tastings of local food and drink.
What is the Palace of Inquisition?
This huge Baroque style building was at one point the site of Spanish torture and violence in colonial times, but now its beautiful grounds and interior has been opened to the public as a museum commemorating the victims of the Spanish Inquisition and displaying various instruments of torture used against them.
Who built the Palace of Inquisition?
Spanish colonists constructed the Palace of Inquisition in 1770 and adorned it in extravagant details.
Why was the Palace of Inquisition built?
The Palace of Inquisition was built as a house of torture for the Spanish to force people to confess their sins and absolve them in the eyes of the Catholic Church. In Cartagena, the Inquisition largely targeted supposed witches, putting them to trial for baseless accusations of witchcraft. These trials proved unjust. Not a single woman who stood trial was found innocent.
Getsemani Mural Painting
Spend the morning with your local guide in Getsemani, Cartagena’s coolest neighborhood. Grab a brush and join a well-known muralist in adding to the neighborhood’s exuberant street art, then make your way through Getsemani’s lively streets.
1. Where to eat in Getsemani Cartagena?
Rated as one of the top restaurants in Colombia, Carmen specializes in a unique combination of contemporary cuisine and traditional Caribbean dishes. The kitchen’s emphasis on modern techniques and creative preparation makes a meal here truly special.
If you’re a fan of sweets, don’t miss el portal de los dulces or the “portal of sweets” located across from the clock tower, an area packed full of traditional Colombian sweet vendors.
How to pronounce Getsemani?
Getsemani is pronounced much like you would think it was in English! Think: Get the money.
Is Getsemani in the walled city?
Getsemani sits just outside the walled city.
Sunset Sailing and Rum Tasting
Board a luxury sailing yacht and glide across the peaceful waters of Cartagena Bay. As the sun sets behind the city skyline, sample rums with a local expert who will help you recognize the unique characteristics of each one you taste.
FOOD & WINE
Private Cooking Class
Prepare the city’s signature dishes, such as ceviche, seafood soup, coconut rice and plantain chips, with the chef from a renowned Cartagena restaurant. Learn about the evolution of Colombian gastronomy and laugh along as your teacher tells of working in the kitchens of some of the world’s best-known chefs.
Private Dining Experience
Join two talented local chefs in an atmospheric and historic apartment for a unique private dining experience. These chefs are known for finding local ingredients from different regions of the Caribbean and using them to put their own modern spin on popular Colombian dishes.
We would love to take you on a vacation in Colombia.