Image by illustrator Natalia Rojas Castro

The Insider Guide to Cartagena

Cartagena is a cultural mosaic on the Caribbean coast: vibrant, colorful and enticing. The labyrinthine cobblestone streets lead to colonial plazas, crumbling castles and beaches, where life is always best lived al fresco.

Read More

The Main Attractions

The most popular tourist destination in Colombia, Cartagena is an easy gateway to this magnificent country. The Magic City mixes tropical grandeur with 15th-century Spanish architecture, while a modern skyline contrasts against a turquoise sea dotted with islands. It’s a welcoming and multifaceted oasis. People have been calling the region home for more than 6,000 years – perhaps longer than anywhere else in the Americas. The bounty of natural resources and proximity to global trade routes put it on the radar for the Spanish, who conquered it in 1533. Under their control, Cartagena soon became an affluent hub. So renowned was it that the famous city walls and imposing Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas were built to protect it from invading pirates. Walking through the maze that is the Unesco-listed Old Town, you can still see the historic riches of Cartagena today. Bask in the opulence of Cartagena Cathedral and Iglesia de San Pedro Claver. Then, immerse yourself in the old market of Plaza de Los Coches while the Convento de la Popa looms above – it’s the highest point in the city. Stroll past crumbling colonial mansions and relax next to the shady fountains of Plaza de Bolivar, before visiting the Museo del Oro. The Palace of the Inquisition is a diverse gem: the 18th-century fortress houses both the Cartagena Historical Museum and the Inquisition Museum – complete with torture devices and dungeons. As you explore the city, you’ll see the seamless fusion of Caribbean, Colombian, Spanish and African cultures, visible in everything from the architecture to the music. Deserving more than just a few days, take your time wandering the different neighborhoods. They range from snazzy to bohemian, such as Getsemani, where the colorful streets are home to as much contemporary creativity as the Museo de Arte Moderno. Don’t forget though, that there’s so much more to the city, with plenty of picture-perfect beaches and islands bursting with marine life to explore. Keep reading to delve even deeper.

Neighborhoods in Cartagena