The rich history of Cartagena and eclectic mix of people make it a fascinating hotbed of cultures. Here, Culture Trip has curated a list of immersive local experiences to give you an authentic taste of the city’s neighborhoods, sights and flavors.
Once a site of colonial conflict and coastal piracy, Cartagena has managed to preserve its unique cultural identity through the ages. Take a day trip to Palenque – the first free town established by escaped African slaves in the Americas – explore by bike, cook traditional Colombian Caribbean dishes in a local home or learn the history of the city’s neighborhoods. Of course, no itinerary would be complete without visiting the Unesco-listed Walled City.
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Guided Old Town tour with food tasting
Join Culture Trip’s exclusive tour of Colombia’s Caribbean coast for the chance to experience Cartagena through the eyes of a local. Not only will you learn about the city’s heritage, how its community has developed since its foundation, and get to try a few local dishes and rums on a guided street food tour – you’ll also visit the nearby Rosario Islands, take a boat ride along the Magdalena River, trek through the jungle in Tayrona National Park, and discover the historic town of San Basilio de Palenque, with our dedicated Local Insider to guide you.
It’s well worth venturing beyond Cartagena’s Walled City to explore Getsemaní. On this two-hour walking tour you’ll gain a first-hand insight into the neighborhood’s fascinating history and transformation. Previously considered a no-go zone for travelers, Getsemaní is now a hipster’s haven. One of the trendiest city neighborhoods in Colombia, it is renowned for its street art, music, hip coffee shops and lively bars. Enjoy a round of drinks, meet the locals and participate in a community art project, designed to help local artists showcase their talents.
There’s no better way to get a taste for Colombian Caribbean cuisine than cooking it yourself in the home of a local family, guided by their expertise. First off, pick your ingredients fresh from Bazurto Market and embrace its rambunctious atmosphere before heading to your hosts’ home. Discover the techniques and flavor combinations behind a variety of local delicacies, such as arroz con coco (Colombian coconut rice) and empanadas (a pastry filled with meat, vegetables, herbs and spices). Listen to music and sample local wine and beer while you cook.
Cycle around Cartagena at a leisurely pace on this two-hour biking tour, stopping by the most significant landmarks as well as a handful of hidden gems en route. Not only will you visit the plazas and colonial churches of the Walled City, including the Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría and the Santuario de San Pedro Claver, you’ll also venture to Centenario park and the lively Getsemaní neighborhood, giving you a full perspective of what Cartagena has to offer. Don’t forget your camera – there’ll be plenty of opportunities to take pictures as you go.
Not keen on cycling? This four-hour walking tour is an ideal alternative to get under the skin of Cartagena. First, you’ll head to Convento de la Popa – a 17th-century monastery at the top of a 150m (492ft) hill, offering excellent views over the city and port. You’ll also stop by the Santuario de San Pedro Claver (dedicated to a Spanish Jesuit priest who devoted himself to helping African slaves), Castillo de San Felipe (a colonial fortress) and the Plaza de Bolívar (a leafy square inside the Walled City). A guided walking tour of Cartagena is also included as part of Culture Trip’s exclusive small-group Colombian Caribbean trip.
Salsa dancing and music are core components of Cartagena’s cultural heritage, and this tour offers a perfect introduction – no matter your ability. Get on your dancing shoes and enjoy a welcome cocktail at Crazy Salsa studio, where you’ll learn the techniques of this traditional Latin American dance style. It’s then time to hit the town and put your new-found skill into practice on a bar-hopping tour of the best live music spots, giving you the opportunity to sample Cartagena’s exuberant nightlife. Alcoholic drinks are included.
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