A Unesco World Heritage site since 1984, Cartagena, with its cobblestoned streets, 16th-century mansions and beautifully preserved fortresses, is teeming with history, culture and romance. From foodie and art adventures to exploring the city’s most important historical sites, here are Cartagena’s best walking tours.
On Culture Trip’s exclusive eight-day Colombian Caribbean adventure, which traces the northern coast line from Cartagena to Palomino, you can enjoy a guided walking tour of Cartagena’s Walled City and a street food tour – followed by a rum tasting session. Our Local Insider will show you the main landmarks, such as the Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría (Cartagena Cathedral) and the Santuario de San Pedro Claver, as well as a handful of lesser-known spots.
From colonial churches to atmospheric plazas and elaborately decorated mansions, Cartagena’s Walled City has a fascinating history. A great way to delve into it and familiarize yourself with Cartagena’s most important sites is to join one of the free daily walking tours that start at Plaza Santa Teresa. There are plenty of operators, but Free Tour Cartagena – easily recognizable by their bright yellow umbrellas – come highly recommended for their enthusiastic bilingual guides and in-depth historical knowledge.
Once one of Cartagena’s poorest neighborhoods, today Getsemani is undergoing an impressive cultural revival. Just a five-minute walk from the Old Town, its hip hostels, fusion restaurants and flourishing nightlife are attracting a growing number of travelers. Leading this cultural revolution are Getsemani’s street artists, who, in recent years, have covered its walls in colorful graffiti and murals – many of which comment on the sociopolitical issues and lost history of Colombia. Take a free urban art walking tour with Streetart Cartagena to learn the story behind these artworks. Message their Facebook page to organize a day and time.
One of the best ways to get to know Cartagena is by trying the local street food. Cartagena Connections’ foodie tour takes you to all the best vendors in town, giving you the chance to sample delicacies such as arepas (griddled cornmeal cakes), buñuelos (fried dough fritters covered in sugar and cinnamon) and empanadas (a South American pastry filled with meat, vegetables, herbs and spices). You’ll also learn about Colombia’s culinary influences. Tours leave from San Diego Plaza every day – apart from Sundays – at 2.30pm and include up to 10 tastings across two hours.
Pungent aromas swirl through the air at Bazurto Market, which sells meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, street food, handcrafted goods and more. It’s loud, sprawling and somewhat chaotic, but if you embrace the rambunctiousness, you’ll experience a wonderfully raw and authentic side to Cartagena. On this tour, you’ll be guided through the labyrinth of stalls, taste some exotic foods and meet several vendors to find out how they make their products. Afterwards, tuck into lunch at Ceci’s restaurant – famous for featuring on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations TV show.
While most Cartagena walking tours are predominantly focused around the Walled City, there’s plenty more to see beyond the historical center. On this tour, you’ll visit the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas – a castle built by the Spaniards on the Hill of San Lázaro to protect themselves from attacks by the English and the French during the 17th century. You’ll then move on to the nearby Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa – a monastery on top of a 150m (492ft)-high hill, offering sweeping views across the city and the harbor. Entry to both sites is included.
As well as covering the main historical landmarks in the Walled City including Cartagena Cathedral and Plaza de Bolivar, this two-hour walking tour includes a trip to the Zenú Gold Museum. Opened in 1982 in a grand colonial building, the museum offers a detailed insight into the ancient Zenú civilization with a particular focus on gold artefacts and pottery from pre-Columbian times.