Known as the Jewel of the Indies, Cartagena is the most popular tourist city in Colombia. Many come solely to explore the historic center, but there are plenty more exciting spots to discover. From hipster-approved Getsemaní to the glamorous districts of Castillogrande and Bocagrande, there is a neighborhood to suit all tastes here.
Explore Cartagena with a Local Insider as part of our expertly curated eight-day Taste of Colombia’s Caribbean Coast trip.
It may be touristy, but the perfectly preserved colonial architecture, picturesque streets and photogenic beauty of El Centro mean that it remains the classic Cartagena neighborhood. It’s the epicenter of tourism in the city, with more luxury and boutique hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars than it’s possible to list. Essential stops include San Pedro Claver Church, the Palace of the Inquisition, and Café del Mar for a sunset cocktail.
The burgeoning hipster neighborhood of Getsemaní was once a hotspot for crime and prostitution, but is now the area of choice for young travelers, artists and musicians. It’s still a little rough around the edges, and there are parts that get a bit sketchy at night, but it’s a bustling neighborhood full of life and Caribbean charm.
Although outside the walled city, Getsemaní features the same beautiful colonial architecture, while an excellent street art scene gives it an edge that El Centro lacks. The nerve center is Plaza de la Trinidad, where tourists and locals come to eat, drink, dance and enjoy the laid-back vibe of the neighborhood every night.
If you’ve made it to the exclusive mansions and tower blocks of Castillogrande, then you know you’ve hit the big time. It’s one of the smallest neighborhoods in Cartagena – made of just 16 seafront blocks connected to Bocagrande – and home to three exclusive members’ clubs: the Club Union, Club Naval and Club Cartagena.
The beach here is more relaxed than in Bocagrande and, though the area is better suited to residents, beautiful apartments are available to rent. If you want a celeb-worthy stay in Cartagena, this is the place to be.
Bocagrande, the main beach neighborhood in the city, has been the vacation destination of choice for Colombians since the 1960s. The long strip of beachfront and high-rise buildings, visible throughout Cartagena, is a beacon for beachgoers and the wealthy. Some of the most famous hotel chains in the world have an outlet here, jostling for space with casinos, bars, residential buildings and restaurants. Bocagrande may lack the authenticity or history of El Centro or Getsemaní, but it makes up for it in glorious, glamorous fashion.
In the northeast corner of Cartagena’s walled city is San Diego. Despite being only a few blocks from the luxury hotels and bars of El Centro, this neighborhood has a more relaxed, bohemian vibe. The houses are less grand, and the nearby Bellas Artes college gives it a more casual atmosphere. Popular tourist attractions include La Bóvedas, a craft market built in a former jail under the city walls, and the bustling Plaza de San Diego, which contains some of the best restaurants in the city.
Manga is a leafy, residential neighborhood to the south of Getsemaní, with some of the finest budget restaurants in the city, as well as arguably the best seafood eatery in the city, Club de Pesca. While it lacks the glamour of El Centro and the buzz of Getsemaní, it does have a more laid-back atmosphere, making it a popular spot for families and couples. In spite of a lovely promenade overlooking a beautiful bay of yachts – Manga is home to some of the largest yacht moorings in Cartagena – tourist largely ignore this neighborhood, making it an excellent place to discover a different side to the city.