Must-Visit Attractions in Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagenas landscape is a striking blend of modern and traditional
Cartagena's landscape is a striking blend of modern and traditional | © Sonja Novak / Alamy Stock Photo
Chris Bell

There’s so much to see and do in Cartagena that it can be nearly impossible to choose what to do during a visit. However, some attractions are simply unmissable.

Experience the very best of Cartagena with Culture Trip by joining our exclusive small-group Colombian Caribbean adventure, led by our local insider.

1. San Felipe Castle

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

MB1PY0 San Felipe Barajas Castle in Cartagena, Colombia
© Oscar Espinosa / Alamy Stock Photo

This 16th-century Spanish castle stands in a commanding location overlooking the bay of Cartagena and the city below. A Unesco-listed site, the castle is a maze of tunnels and turrets that is definitely one of the city’s must-visit attractions.

2. Getsemani

Art Gallery

EPM8CN Walls in a street in Getsemani, Cartagena, Colombia, South America, covered in street art (graffiti)
© Nathan and Elaine Vaessen / Alamy Stock Photo
Formerly a hotbed of vice, Getsemani has fast evolved into Cartagena’s hippest and most exciting neighborhood. The focal point of the area is the buzzing Trinidad Square, where locals and tourists alike gather each night to eat, drink and dance. The walls of Getsemani are also covered in beautiful street art.

3. Torre del Reloj

Building

KHEAXY Torre del Reloj | Cartagena de Indias | Colombia
© Oliver Wintzen / Alamy Stock Photo
The clocktower at the entrance to the Walled City of Cartagena is one of the city’s most photographed landmarks: a beautiful, pastel yellow building, it is surrounded by the walls of the old fortifications of Cartagena. There are even some market stalls in the arches beneath the tower.

4. Isla Grande

Natural Feature

2D95X9C Caribbean Sea beach, Isla Grande, Rosario Islands, Cartagena de Indias, Bolivar, Colombia, South America
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo
The lovely blue waters and mangroves of Isla Grande, just under an hour by boat from Cartagena, are the perfect place to relax and enjoy a few hours in the Caribbean sun, or to hire a kayak and head out exploring the island.

5. Zenu Gold Museum

Library, Museum

2E7F4NN A tourist looks at gold pieces at the recently opened Museo del Oro or Gold Museum in the Caribbean city of Cartagena, Colombia March 28, 2007. Picture taken on March 28. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz (COLOMBIA)
© REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo
The Zenu indigenous people, who once inhabited the coastal regions to the southwest of Cartagena, were amazing goldsmiths. This fantastic museum is a living testament to their ingenuity and talent. It might not be as sprawling as Bogota’s Gold Museum, but it’s definitely worth half an hour of your time.

6. Playa Blanca

Natural Feature

JAYJEA Stunning turquoise Caribbean water at Playa Blanca near Cartagena, Colombia
© Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Another top beach day trip from the city, Playa Blanca can certainly get busy on weekends, but with good reason: the picturesque, white-sand beaches and palm trees make it the archetypal Caribbean destination.

7. Parque del Centenario

Park

B00XKE An iguana in the Parque del Centenario, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
© Alex Segre / Alamy Stock Photo

This small, leafy park just outside the entrance to the Walled City would be fairly nondescript were it not for the fact that it is home to a small population of wild monkeys, iguanas and sloths. There can’t be a much more unexpected sight in the city than these sleepy sloths making their way through the park at dusk.

8. San Basilio de Palenque

Church

KYXN3B An old Colombian man sits in a rocking chair in front of his house in San Basilio de Palenque, a village in the Caribbean region of Colombia.
© Jan Sochor / Alamy Stock Photo

An easy day trip from Cartagena, San Basilio de Palenque holds the distinction of being the first free slave city of the Americas. A fascinating window onto Afro-Colombian culture, the village is a Unesco-recognised site, with its own unique language, customs and musical genres. You can visit with Culture Trip as a day excursion from Cartagena on our specially curated eight-day Colombian Caribbean tour, led by our local insider.

9. Quiebracanto and Cafe Havana

Bar, South American

D7N0CW Cafe Havana, a salsa bar in Cartagena, Colombia. Saturday night with band and customers dancing
© Michael Freeman / Alamy Stock Photo

If you come to Cartagena, then you can’t avoid going out to dance. Quiebracanto and Cafe Havana are two of the best nightspots in the city. Both are located in the hip Getsemani neighborhood and are packed every weekend with revelers, dancing to the joyous strains of cumbia and salsa until dawn.

10. Santo Domingo Square

Architectural Landmark

PXK9MB Fernando Boteros sculpture of the Reclined figure of the fat Gertrudis at the Santo Domingo square in Cartagena de Indias
© Anamaria Mejia / Alamy Stock Photo

One of the busiest and most bustling squares in the Old Town of Cartagena, Santo Domingo Square is the perfect place to grab a cold beer in the sun and watch the world go by. It’s also surrounded by gorgeous old buildings and, at the center of the plaza, stands one of Fernando Botero’s most famous sculptures.

11. Bazurto Market

Market

WB8AK0 An Afro-Colombian woman sells fresh fish in the market of Bazurto in Cartagena, Colombia.
© Jan Sochor / Alamy Stock Photo

Cartagena’s bustling food market is not for the fainthearted: it’s a noisy, claustrophobic place, but it also offers a glimpse of a totally different side of Cartagena than the prim and proper Old Town. With amazing street food and a real local atmosphere, it’s worth coming early in the morning to see the fisherman arrive with their catch.

12. Cafe del Mar

Bar, Cafe, South American

KJX0X6 sunset at Cafe del Mar, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, South America
© Juergen Ritterbach / Alamy Stock Photo

Cafe del Mar is thebestspot to take in the glorious Caribbean sunsets that Cartagena has in store for you: a trendy cocktail bar on the old city walls, it overlooks the Caribbean and – although it can get windy – there’s no better place to enjoy a piña colada at sunset.

13. Palace of the Inquisition

Architectural Landmark

HWAB56 Colombia, Bolivar department, Cartagena, historical center listed as World Heritage, the Centro district, the Palace of the Inquisition (museum) built
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Don’t be fooled: although the Palace of the Inquisition is one of the loveliest buildings in Cartagena, it was also the site of the some of grizzliest moments in the city’s history, as the Inquisition used it to imprison and torture suspected heretics. It’s now a fascinating museum, housing some of the original torture weapons, as well as all sorts of colonial artifacts.

14. Las Bovedas

Market

HMC7YM Handicrafts, Las Bovedas, Cartagena de Indias, Bolivar, Colombia, South America
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

Located at the site of a former jail, Las Bovedas is one of Cartagena’s best street markets and the perfect place to pick up any souvenirs you’ve been after from your trip. Each stall is housed in a former cell. It is said that the cells were so close to the Caribbean that prisoners would often find themselves knee-deep in seawater!

15. Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa

Building

2DAH6AX Cartagena, Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa (Convento de Santa Cruz de la Popa) located at the lookout that provides scenic panoramic views of Cartage
© Elijah Lovkoff / Alamy Stock Photo
This monastery sits on a 150m(492ft) hill, the highest point in Cartagena. With lovely gardens and fascinating religious iconography, it is one of the city’s most underrated and beautiful tourist destinations. The views are, as you’d expect, spectacular.

16. Saint Pedro Claver Church

Cathedral, Church

Cartagena de Indias
© Chris Bell
Named after the legendary patron saint of slaves, who lived and died in Cartagena, this is one of Colombia’s most beautiful churches and is well worth a visit for its lovely architecture and the pretty square on which it is located.

17. La India Catalina Statue

Architectural Landmark

MPE0GN Cartagena, Colombia - March 27, 2017: The monument to India Catalina. India Catalina born in 1495 she was an indigenous woman and the daughter of the
© Marek Poplawski / Alamy Stock Photo

India Catalina was a local indigenous woman who played a key role in the Spanish conquest of Colombia, acting as an interpreter for Pedro de Heredia during the conquest after she was abducted from her village. By now an icon of Cartagena, Catalina is immortalized through this beautiful monument in the historic center.

18. El Totumo Mud Volcano

Natural Feature

C1112N Traveller getting covered in mud while enjoying the mud baths of Volcano Totumo, near Cartagena, Colombia.. Image shot 2010. Exact date unknown.
© Idealink Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

A popular backpacker day trip, this active mud volcano, as well as being the smallest volcano in Colombia, is famous for its alleged healing properties. Up to 15 guests at a time can bathe in the dense, warm mud (with an optional massage), before heading to the nearby sea to be washed off. It’s dirty, relaxing fun!

19. Bolivar Square

Architectural Landmark

C33CYW Statue of Simon Bolivar in Bolivar Plaza, Cartagena, Colombia
© dbimages / Alamy Stock Photo

This pretty, shady square in the heart of the Walled City is the perfect place to sit back and watch the world go by: local dancers often perform in the square, making for a festive vibe.

20. Adolfo Mejía Theatre

Theater

TTW1DC Ancient Church of La Merced, today Theatre Adolfo Mejia in the old town, Cartagena, UNESCO World Heritage site, Bolivar Department, Colombia
© Keren Su/China Span / Alamy Stock Photo

The theatre itself is a beautiful building, but it’s what’s inside that counts at the Adolfo Mejia Theatre: the stage curtain and magnificent cupola were both painted by famous local artist Enrique Grau and are some of the most gorgeous works of art in the entire city.

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