This town on the Caribbean coast of Columbia as a true tourist hotspot and has a lot to offer: beaches and nice weather, a colonial city center, old historic buildings and the surrounding island. Life there is also a little different from what I saw in the other Colombian cities I visited and you can feel the Caribbean vibe everywhere. The touristic focus is sometime a little annoying as you will be frequently called out for this and that. Besides you also should be aware of the price level, which is around double from Bogota for example (1 beer 9k-15k COP).
Historic city center
The big city wall is guarding the old city center and is also walkable nowadays. From time to time the placed the old canons to give the tourists a feeding of the military strength and importance of the city. On the west end there is also a popular sun set spot on the wall. Honestly I‘ve been there and it was not that very impressive to watch.
Plaza de Los Coches & Clock tower
This plaza in the center is one entry point to get behind the thick walls. On the inner side there is the Majors house and to the left going in to the Plaza de la Aduana. In the night it gets dodgy here and you will see lot of sex workers.
Santuario de San Pedro Claver
On the mentioned Aduana place you will see this church with the easy to spot not matching clock tower, which was a gift from Germany.
Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría
Another church in the city center, that was built directly into the street without a big square in front of it.
Plaza de Bolívar
Very in the center of the old town area is this small plaza with a big statue of Simon Bolivar in the middle. The plaza was once a vibrant meeting point for people but nowadays looks a little shady.
Santo Domingo Square
This square makes the church with the missing 2nd tower so special. Also the 1st tower is twisted as the legend tells that the devil destroyed one tower and twisted the other one until a priest come to confront him. Also in front you will find a big bronze statue of Botero.
Being a former problematic and dangerous area, the district has transformed over the years into a colorful, vibrant city part (somehow comparable with Comuna 13 in Medellin but not as big). The entire area made to me a very friendly and more relaxed impression than the hectic and sometimes annoying city center. Also going out here is the thing to do.
Plaza de la Trinidad
This small plaza is the heart of the Getsemani area with its small church.
Calle de Las Sombrillas
Although the Getsemani area is quite colorful this street tops it all with its umbrellas hanging from the top. You see those kind of street decoration in many South American cities.
Outside city center
Las Botas Viejas
Next to the San Felipe castle there is this big bronzen pair of shoes standing in a park and people queuing like crazy for it for a shot.
Castle San Felipe de Barajas
This big fortress was the main defense instrument of the city to defend against pirates or the other colonial powers. The entire castle looks like a big prism rather then a typical medieval castle from Europe. That’s because it was built when there where already canons used in warfare. The walls are massiv and have small holes to fit the big canons pointing to the sea. The entire fortress is equipped with a tunnel system, which is also partly walkable today.
Batería del Ángel San Rafael
The castle was one of two that protect the only entry to Cartagena port in former time and was of great military importance. The building is way smaller than San Felipe but other than that very similar in style and architecture.
Isla Grande is the biggest of the Rosario islands, that are very close to Cartagena city – around 1h boat ride to get there. Other than the conditions in the city the water is very clear and it’s mild current. The beach is just wonderful and for me to get there is the perfect day trip.