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Your guide to Cartagena
All About Cartagena
Cartagena is a preserved historic city on the Caribbean coast of northern Colombia boasting a rich architectural heritage, plazas filled with markets and street art, and pristine beaches. In the center of Cartagena is the city’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a walled city (or El Centro), churches casting shadows over a maze of cobble-stoned alleys, and preserved colonial architecture on buildings sporting balconies embellished with bougainvillea. Town squares are lined with historical landmarks and symbols, including centuries-old monasteries, mansions, and churches, such as Catedral de Cartagena. Puerta del Reloj, a luminous yellow clock tower, sits perched atop the main entryway to the Old Town.
A 10-minute stroll outside of the city walls will lead you to Getsemani, a trendy neighborhood adorned in a kaleidoscope of colors with numerous cafes, bars, restaurants, and art. Admire eye-catching murals as you make your way to the plaza outside of Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad — a hub for street performers and vendors selling food at dusk.
The city’s shoreline beckons with pearly-white sand beaches, and gleaming turquoise waters attract swimmers and snorkelers to explore their depths. A short boat ride will bring you to other popular beaches like Playa Blanca, Isla Grande, Tierra Bomba, or the Rosario Islands.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Cartagena
Cartagena experiences a year-round warm and tropical climate. The winter and spring months boast pleasant temperatures with very little rainfall and cool ocean breezes ideal for exploring the city or spending time at the beach. The late summer and fall months see more rain in comparison to the other seasons, so if you’re planning to visit during this time, it may be a good idea to pack a raincoat and proper shoes.
The city is host to various events all year round, from film, music, and food festivals to celebrations of the country’s culture and history. Each spring, the Carnaval de Barranquilla welcomes over 1.5 million visitors to the largest carnival celebration outside of Brazil, where dancers parade in full costume, paying tribute to the country’s roots with music and choreography. In November, the entire town celebrates the day Cartagena became the first Colombian city to declare independence from Spain with music and parades.
Top things to do in Cartagena
La Popa Convent
Perched atop the highest point in Cartagena is Convento de la Popa, a convent built in the early 1600s. The complex looms over the city and offers spectacular vistas of Cartagena’s skyline and the Caribbean Sea. The complex houses a religion-themed museum and features a central square overflowing with greenery and bougainvillea. It’s best to take a cab to La Popa Convent as there aren’t any public transportation stops in the area, and the road leading up to the property is steep and long.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
This grand fortress overlooks the isthmus of Cebrero and dominates part of Cartagena’s cityscape. Construction on the complex started in 1639 and was not completed until nearly 200 years later. Today, you can explore the battlements, bunkers, and underground passages that weave through the impressive structure.
Museo de Arte Moderno
Cartagena’s Museum of Modern Art, located in a 17th-century Royal Customs House, presents an array of rotating exhibits featuring sculptures, paintings, and abstract and contemporary art forms by global and regional artists, including a popular trio of contemporary Colombian artists.