Things to See and Do in the Old Town of Cartagena, Colombia

Expect to see fruit sellers, known as palenqueras, on your visit to Cartagena
Expect to see fruit sellers, known as palenqueras, on your visit to Cartagena | © Carl Forbes / Alamy Stock Photo
Chris Bell

The Old Town of Cartagena is one of the most enchanting attractions in Colombia. You could – and should – spend days drifting through the colorful streets, admiring the colonial architecture, before diving into the expansive gastronomic scene. But that would only scratch the surface. Here’s what else you need to see and do.

With Culture Trip, you can enjoy a guided street-food tour of Cartagena as part of our immersive eight-day Colombian Caribbean adventure, led by our Local Insider.

Watch the sunset at Café del Mar

Enjoying a rum cocktail at this renowned bar on the city walls while watching the sun set over the Caribbean is a must. The drinks are a bit pricey, but worth it for the atmosphere and view. Wondering what to drink? Why not try the Cafe del Mar cocktail, a combination of vodka, Aperol, rosemary, pineapple and rose syrup?

Watch the dancers at Plaza Bolívar

Plaza Bolívar, with its shady square and rows of benches, is the perfect place to while away a few hours, enjoying the sights and sounds of the Old Town. The most stirring of these sights is provided by local dancers, who regularly perform for tips in the square, usually dancing to traditional Colombian coastal music played by live bands.

Visit the Zenú Gold Museum

The fascinating Zenú Gold Museum – alongside the lovely Plaza Bolívar – is not only free to visit but also a perfect way to get a window into the ancient cultures that once called this region home. There are several rooms to explore, with artefacts from the Zenú community, including pottery and golden jewelry.

Take the Free Walking Tour

The Free Walking Tour of Cartagena (which works on a tipping basis) is easily the best tour you can take of the Old Town. You’ll discover the unique and fascinating history of the city, as well as learn many facts about the so-called Jewel of the Indies. If you’re planning to take one tour in Cartagena, this should be it.

Go shopping at Las Bóvedas

Beneath the Old Town walls is the Bóvedas market, a lovely stretch of souvenir shops built in the old cells of the former Cartagena prison. Each cell contains a small shop selling items from hammocks to woven bags. The cells are so close to the sea that former prisoners used to be up to their ankles in seawater at high tide.

Eat at La Cevicheria

Anthony Bourdain’s favorite restaurant in Cartagena is one of the best places to enjoy a great meal in the Old Town (high praise because there are so many great restaurants in the city). With a laid-back, fun vibe and some of the best and freshest seafood around, La Cevicheria is highly recommended.

Explore the graffiti of Getsemani

The Getsemani neighborhood is outside the inner walls, but still part of the Old Town. Its faded colonial beauty stands in stark contrast to the glitz and glamour of the Walled City, but it has a lovely bohemian charm. Come here to take in the beautiful murals and street art.

Touch Botero’s ‘Fat Gertrude’ for luck

It’s said that touching the left breast of Fernando Botero’s Fat Gertrude statue, in the heart of the Old Town, will grant you good luck, so make sure to try it out when you pass. While you’re here, pose for a fun photo with the palenqueras (fruit sellers) who sit on the same square – remember to ask for permission first.

Hang out on Plaza de la Trinidad

The central square of Getsemani is a hive of activity every night of the week, as people descend upon the cobbled plaza to drink, eat, dance and be merry. The atmosphere is typical of Getsemani: laid-back, bohemian and looser than the stuffier Walled City. Plaza Trinidad is easily the coolest place to enjoy a cold beer in the evening.

Visit the Museum of Modern Art

In a beautiful 17th-century customs house, the Museo del Arte Moderno is one of the most fascinating art museums in Cartagena, home to pieces by artistic luminaries such as Enrique Grau and Alejandro Obregón. It sits in the equally fantastic San Pedro Claver Square.
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