Steeped in history and culture, Cartagena is Colombia’s colonial Caribbean city, complete with a tropical climate, and this colourful destination is making its mark on the travel scene. With an increase in flights to the city direct from Europe and the USA, it is becoming an alternative dream locale to other Caribbean islands. Not only is Cartagena a perfect mix of vibrant old architecture in the ‘Walled City’ and modern structures in Bocagrande (the high-rise hotel district), the city also has a hidden gem with its collection of 27 coral reef islands located just off the shores of the city.
San Felipe Castle is a major landmark in Cartagena, located just outside the wall of the old city. The castle, along with the wall, contributed to the safekeeping of the city; it helped protect the city from being invaded by the French and English many times throughout history. Indeed, the biggest invasion was by the British in 1741 (the Battle of Cartagena de Indias), and the San Felipe Castle played a major role in stopping the English from invading and taking over Colombia.
Today, the castle is a major attraction and still stands as it did in the past. Visitors can walk around the castle, stroll through the old tunnels and watch videos of the castle’s victories and history. It also has a spectacular panoramic view of the city and beyond.
On top of the highest hill (150 metres or 492 feet) in the centre of the city stands a convent filled with history and beautiful colonial buildings. Founded as a small wooden chapel in 1607 and converted into a convent over time, the Popa is now home to unique historical artefacts such as books, currency from around the world, and clothes used in the convent over the past 100 years. While the 360-degree panoramic view of the city is simply breathtaking, it helped the Popa play an important role in protecting the city from invaders in the past.
A 13-kilometre (eight-mile) wall once built to keep the city’s population safe from pirates and invaders surrounds Cartagena’s old city. The streets and buildings within the wall are brightly painted and the colonial architecture preserved through time. The old city is brimming with life day and night and has a large number of inviting plazas and cobbled streets filled with entertainment. The evening is when the walled city really comes alive, complete with people, live music and an unforgettable atmosphere.
No trip to Cartagena is complete without watching the sunset while sipping a cocktail at Cartagena’s famous Café del Mar. This bar, located on top of a portion of the old wall, faces the ocean and is one of the best places in the city to watch the sunsets year-round.
Café del Mar, Baluarte de Santo Domingo, Cartagena, Colombia, +57 5 664 2945
This small quaint restaurant, located next to the prestigious Sofitel Hotel in Plaza San Diego, is well known for its ceviche and local fresh seafood. With tables both outside and inside, La Cevicheria provides some of the best food and a great atmosphere for an unforgettable evening meal. Check out this post for more information and why this is one of Cartagena’s best restaurants.
La Cevicheria, Calle 39 #7 – 14, Cartagena, Colombia, +57 5 6601492