Walking the streets of Cartagena de Indias at night is by far one of my favorites things to do. Growing up in this marvelous city I did not realize all the history that lies within its walls, balconies, and narrow cobbled streets. Nevertheless, every time I go back to my hometown I walk its streets like it is my first time admiring this legendary treasure.
I have been out of my country for 11 years and consider myself a tourist in my own city, it is a shame but I like it. I try to take advantage of this and I really appreciate everything this city has to offer me; the delicious food, friendly people, Caribbean music.
What to say about the castle that my colleagues haven't already said before. The only new information I can provide is that you don't need to take a tour to get there. From Gethsemane, where we stopped it can be easily accessed on foot, even from the walled city. You just have to be encouraged to go through the Cartagena traffic and pay the price of admission. As the saying goes you get to Rome asking (haha). El Castillo San Felipe de Barajas has an undoubted historical value and it is said to be the largest American military castle and also as it's very high up it gives you a panoramic view of the city of Cartagena.
These walls were designed in order to protect Cartagena de Indias from suffering ongoing pirate attacks. Its construction was carried out in stages. It began in 1586 with Bautista Antonelli, an Italian engineer in service of the Spanish Crown. It was completed two centuries later. Its average height ranges from 6 to 8 m and is built entirely on coral rock, which is typical in the area. Today the wall only surrounds the old city partially, since part of it was demolished by the initiative of a mayor, which is a real shame. The state of what remains is quite acceptable, although they did make a few bridges so they could move the cars from the "Stone Corral" to the rest of Cartagena. I still say it's a real pleasure to walk along the wall at night or late afternoon when the majority of the tourists have gone, given that during the day the tourist groups come and there are just way too many people.
I recommend that you take a tent with you and get a little bit away from the sites that fill up when the boats arrive and you'll have a nice place just for you. Bring water, it's scarce and expensive there! There are small huts to sleep in with beds facing the sea with beautiful views!
Heading out of the walls of the old city of Cartagena, you pass the pier where the boats leave, going to Playa Blanca. After five minutes of heading south, you'll arrive in an area that looks like another planet. Bocagrande is a modern area dotted with huge skyscrapers and luxury shopping centres. This is the wealthy side of Cartagena, and the residents live in incredible, Miami-style mansions. Bocagrande has two long stretches of coast. On one side, the sea is strong, wetting the street with its waves. On the other, the Caribbean is completely calm. Although the beaches here aren't fantastic, they're the closest to the old city, so a good option if you want to swim.
It name comes from the Church of Santo Domingo, located in one of one of the square's corners. It's one of the plazas with the most tourists, due to the presence of the church and the great work of the Cartagena Botero Gorda affectionately called Gertrudis . The square is full of restaurants with tables competing with each other to attract customers. At night the place vibrates like the body of a dancing dancing to the sound of Caribbean music.
I have visited Cartagena twice, and I have not found a more fascinating place than Café del Mar, where you can go with friends or by yourself. The music, the view of the sea and Bocagrande is incomparable, and do not forget the girls serving you with their eternal smile. It might rain and you might have to run to cover yourself, but with a little luck and planning ahead you can be outdoors, which is sublime. If you go to Cartagena, do not miss this site.
Set in the lively Plaza de Santo Domingo, the church of Santo Domingo is endearing, next to the Cathedral of Cartagena, one of the oldest temples in America. The construction having been started in the sixteenth century, Santo Domingo has a simple but beautiful facade and a spacious and bright interior. The walls are painted a striking orange from which precious angel statues carved in marble protrude.
Let me quote from my travel journal: "In the afternoon I left the centre of the old city of Cartagena behind me, crossed the Puerta del Reloj, and went to Gethsemane. In this neighbourhood I found food stalls with fried sausages and cheese, roast beef skewers, invading every corner of the colourful houses. Quite a few of the people seemed drunk already, and I saw beggars and drunks, prostitutes getting an early start to their evening, and more. Coroncoro restaurant was already full. I came back a while later for the traditional dish of the day (fish, meat or chicken with sweet rice made with raisins and coconut, cassava or fried plantains and salad seasoned with cilantro), which has become my favorite. Here in Gethsemane, where the cheapest hostels and restaurants are found, it's natural to feel nervous at first. Then you realise that, for all your precautions, nothing bad has happened. Yes, it's rough, working class. But what better place to soak up life, to taste the true colour and flavour of Cartagena?"
Located in a beautiful colonial-style house opposite [poi = 1] Plaza Bolivar [/ poi], the Gold Museum [poi = 123420] in the old part of the city of Cartagena [/ poi] is a must-see part of your visit. The collection in the building is much smaller than that of [poi = 4237] the Gold Museum in Bogota [/ poi], however the beautiful pre-Hispanic jewelry is so well presented and above all, lit, that the experience is interesting and beautiful.
What was originally the spooky Palace of the Inquisition [poi = 123420] in Cartagena [/ poi], now houses among its ancient walls a beautiful and interesting museum. The same place exhibits on the ground floor the terrifying torture machines that suspects of witchcraft were subjected to. Upstairs there's a collection of paintings, weapons and ceramics from colonial times.
The Clock Tower has become one of the most important symbols of Cartagena de Indias and is considered one of the five most beautiful clock towers in the World. It was the main entrance to the city for a long time, and today still leads to the historical center of the city. Its military architecture was designed to defend the walled city from the attacks of pirates and foreign invaders. The clock wasn't an initial part of the structure; it was added much later. This beautiful architectural jewel has played in important part in the history of Cartagena de Indias and is my favorite building in the city for both its beauty and its history.
Just pass the Clock Gate is the opening to the vast Plaza de los Coches, closed off by a long building with a spectacular gallery of arches. The place is called the Portal de los Dulces because centuries ago there were hagglers selling all kinds of pastas and sweet pastries. Strolling under the portal is a really nice experience. The aromas of all kinds of pastries and foods fill the air. They offer fruit, caramel, coconut, chocolate, almond, guava ... and other exotic delicacies absolutely unknown.
This park was created in 1911 in commemoration of the declaration of independence of Cartagena de las Indias. The Indian village was located in this park, but was destroyed upon the Spanish arrival. The park is currently inhabited by a variety of animal species including: Iguanas, pigeons, monkeys, wild birds like Mary Mulatas, sloths, and squirrels, among others. You can also find storytellers, street vendors, bookmakers or elderly retirees who come to spend some time under the shade of the trees.
There are so many places to visit in Cartagena that it can be difficult to decide where to start. Perhaps one of the main Cartagena attractions, in addition to its beautiful beaches and islands, is the Clock Tower, which is known worldwide. It is the main entrance to the historic city center, built on the wall in the nineteenth century. This center is known as the Walled City and is a World Heritage Site, so of course it's an essential entry on your list of stuff to do in Cartagena.
Other things to see in Cartagena are the Rosario Islands, a group of Caribbean islands surrounded by warm, clear waters. A tour out to these beautiful islands is one of the unmissable Cartagena activities. Don't forget that the city is associated with the history of pirates and if you're looking for things to do in Cartagena related to this, head to the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, a fortress built by the Spanish to protect the city.
Still wondering what to do in Cartagena? You should visit Gethsemane. This is one of the most important parts of the city because it was the site of Colombia's declaration of independence. Others important neighborhoods are Matuna, the financial district, and Pie de la Popa, one of the first neighborhoods in Cartagena. Today its colonial houses are among the attractions in Cartagena. To find out more, look at what minube's users are saying about this jewel of a city!