A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984, Cartagena, with its cobble-stoned streets, 16th-century mansions and perfectly preserved fortresses, is overflowing with history, legends and romance. From foodie and art adventures to exploring the city’s most important historical sites, here are Cartagena’s best walking tours.
Cartagena’s Walled City, from its beautiful colonial churches right down to the mysterious door handles decorating the city’s most beautiful mansions, is riddled with fascinating history. A great way to delve into it – as well as familiarise yourself with Cartagena’s most important sites – is with one of the free walking tours that leave daily from Plaza Santa Teresa. While there are several operators out there, Free Tour Cartagena – easily recognisable by their bright yellow umbrellas – come highly recommended for their enthusiastic bilingual guides and in-depth historical knowledge.
Cartagena’s busiest (and craziest) central market – filled with fish guts, cow heads and freshly plucked chickens – isn’t for the faint-hearted. However, those up for an adventure will be rewarded with scenes of the real Cartagenero life, as well as the opportunity to try the tastiest Caribbean cuisine in town. One of the best ways to explore hectic Mercado Bazurto is on a market tour with Cartagena Insider, where a local bilingual guide will take you through all the weird and wonderful produce on offer, as well as introduce you to some of the long-time vendors here. Tastings and hotel pickup are included in the 111,000 COP (US $38) charge.
Once one of Cartagena’s poorest neighbourhoods, today Getsemani is undergoing an impressive cultural revival. Located just a five-minute walk from the Old Town, Cartagena’s coolest new neighbourhood – with its hip hostels, fusion restaurants and happening nightlife – is attracting an ever-growing number of travellers looking to escape the crowds and steep prices of the inner Walled City. Leading this cultural revolution are Getsemani’s street artists, who in recent years have covered its walls in colourful masterpieces, many of which comment on the sociopolitical issues and lost history of Colombia. To know the story behind the neighbourhood’s most famous pieces, as well as a great overview of the area, take a free urban art walking tour with Streetart Cartagena. Tours leave at 10.30am daily from Plaza Trinidad.
OK, so this isn’t strictly a walking tour. However, for those looking for all the normal highlights of a historical walking tour but with the added thrill of whizzing around on a Segway, then this is for you. Highly rated Segway Cartagena offer 40-, 70- and 90-minute Segway tours of Cartagena’s Old Town, taking in the city’s most important historical sights, such as Heredia Theatre, Santo Domingo Square, and Customs Plaza.
One of the best ways to get to know a city and its people, is through its food – and Cartagena, with its endless stalls of sweet and savoury treats, is no different. Cartagena Connections’ foodie tour takes you to all the best vendors in town, giving you the chance to try some Cartagenero favourites – such as arepas, buñuelos and empanadas – while learning about Colombia’s fascinating culinary influences. Tours leave every day (apart from Sundays) at 2.30pm from the Chocolate Museum, and include up to eight tastings.
Cartagena’s colourful streets, bougainvillea-covered mansions, and its beautiful people makes it a photographer’s dream. Cartagena Connections also runs a fantastic photography-focused walking tour, where you’ll be guided by a professional photographer through the city’s most photogenic spots, such as Getsemani, La Matuna and San Diego – all while learning about their respective history and thriving culture. At US $80, it’s a little pricier than most walking tours, however, it includes over four hours of hands-on guidance by a professional photographer and, hopefully, a solid photography portfolio of Cartagena at the end of it!