Cartagena has dozens of tourist attractions. But many of them are places we know naturally on the trip, such as squares, monuments and churches. Including because they are almost all close, within the Walled City. Therefore, here I will only indicate attractions that are really unmissable in Cartagena de las Indias and region.
these are the top tourist attractions in Cartagena. They are the best places I visited in Cartagena and that I recommend to include in your itinerary. At the end I also put what, in my opinion, is not worth visiting in Cartagena. All with photos and information for you to decide whether or not to visit.
Rosario Islands – Where are the most beautiful beaches
Paid tour. The tour with speedboat transport, ticket and lunch costs an average of between 150,000 and 200,000 COP.
The Islas del Rosario are a small archipelago where some of the best beaches in the Cartagena region are located and the Oceanarium with dolphin shows. You have to go by boat. By speedboat, it’s about 50 minutes to a beach. The tours go straight to a club or resort with a private beach. I visited Gente de Mar and I really liked it (see there for details such as tour prices). Other praised beaches on the islands are these:
- Isla del Pirata
- Hotel Cocoliso
- San Pedro de Majagua
- let’s go
- Coralina Island
The wall of Cartagena
Free ride. Total walk is about 11 km.
The historic city of Cartagena it is all surrounded by a great wall of rocks. In 2014 the wall turned 400 years old. Built for the defense of Cartagena, it is virtually entirely walkable. That’s it, we can climb the wall. Up there are cannons, flags, shelters for soldiers and some of the best lookouts in the city. Close to downtown, Café del Mar is an (expensive) restaurant popular with tourists, especially at sunset. Highlights of the walled city:
- Santo Domingo bastion
- Forte las tenazas
- Bulwark La Merced
- Bastion of San Pedro Martir
- bastion of san lucas
- Bastion of Santa Catalina
- Bastion of Santa Teresa
Portal and Clock Tower (Puerta del Reloj)
Free ride. You will naturally pass by it when you arrive in Cartagena.
If there is one place in the walled city that deserves to be highlighted, it is the Clock Tower. Built on the wall, it is right on top of the main pedestrian entrance to the historic center. As you pass under the clock, you will already be in the busiest square in Cartagena, the Plaza de los Coches, which is surrounded by restaurants, exchange offices and hotels. And that during the day it hosts fruit fairs, and at night it is a point of prostitution. About Cartagena’s Clock Tower:
- Inauguration of the tower: 1631
- Installation of the clock: in 1874 a clock imported from the United States was installed, later replaced by a Swiss clock.
Downtown and San Diegothe center of the walled city
Free ride. Duration: at least one full day of walking, including at night.
In the tourist center of Cartagena, inside the wall, there are some of the main tourist attractions in Cartagena and it is possible to explore everything on foot. Pass through the pleasant streets of flowering houses painted in vibrant colors. See beautiful churches, such as the grandiose San Pedro Claver, and squares lined with bars and restaurants, such as Plaza de San Diego. Places to see inside the Walled City:
- Plaza de la Aduana
- Palace of the Inquisition
- Church of Santo Toribio
- Church of Santo Domingo
- plaza de san diego
- Plaza Bolivar
- Plaza de la Aduana
- Plaza San Pedro Claver
- Plaza de las Bóvedas
- plaza de los coaches
- Museum of the Emerald
- Museo del Oro
Getsemaní, the alternative side of the walled city
Free ride. Duration: at least two hours of walking.
Many people get confused and think that the Getsemaní neighborhood is outside the wall. But just walk a little to see that it is within the Walled City. But it is a different region and has recently started to attract tourists. It was home to newly arrived slaves. Today, it is one of the youngest and busiest areas of Cartagena. It concentrates bars and parties and has received many charming inns, for a lower price than in the center.
San Felipe de Barajas Castle
Charge admission. Price: 25,000 COP for adults.
The Spanish army took great care in building this fort, whose appearance resembles an old medieval castle. For those who like history and military strategy, it is an essential visit. The same goes for those who like to photograph. Although the fort is somewhat deteriorated by time, from the top there are some of the best views of Cartagena. It’s probably in San Felipe de Barajas Castle (see price and transport details there) that you will guarantee your best photos of Cartagena.
Santa Cruz de La Popa Convent – The highest point in Cartagena
Charge admission. Price: 4,500 thousand COP for adults.
For fervent Catholics and inveterate photographers, this is another tourist spot to visit in Cartagena. The monastery is located at the top of La Popa Hill, which reaches 148 meters in height. On clear days, the view is exuberant, reaching from the historic center to Isla Tierra Bomba, in the beautiful Caribbean Sea. The convent itself, with a beautiful flower-filled patio, looks like something out of a book by Gabriel García Marquez, a Colombian writer who lived in Cartagena for years.
Shopping in Cartagena
Prices in Cartagena are equivalent to the big cities in Brazil.
Cartagena has stores scattered throughout the city, especially within the Walled City. But to buy typical items, gifts, knitwear and emeralds, one place stands out: Las Bóvedas. This kind of gallery is under the wall, at the northeast end. Framed by the beautiful colonial architecture, the stores are simple and the prices are not scary. It really is one of the best places to shop in Cartagena. And if you need cash, there are exchange offices in the area.
Boardwalk of Bocagrande
Free ride. Tip: rent a bike.
The modern and wealthy neighborhood of Big mouth it is preferred by those looking for cheaper hotels or with better infrastructure. Incidentally, some of the best 5 stars in Cartagena are in the region. If on the one hand the neighborhood does not have the charm of the Walled City, on the other hand it is cleaner, practically free of the insistence of vendors and has a beautiful sidewalk. Avoid the open sea side and go to the bay side, which looks more like a lake. The long promenade is ideal for walking and cycling.
Cartagena’s Best Sights – Ranked by Other Travelers
Based on reviews from thousands of travelers on Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel site, these are the top 20 attractions in Cartagena. Including museums, neighborhoods and open-air walks. In this order:
- walled city
- Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
- Caribbean Jewelry Museum & Factory
- Getsemaní neighborhood
- Cathedral of San Pedro Claver
- Oceanarium of the Rosario Islands
- Plaza Santo Domingo
- Plaza de la Trinidad
- La Popa de la Galera Convent
- Historic center
- Zenu Gold Museum
- clock tower
- Museo del Cacao (Choco Museum)
- La Gorda Gertrudis (Sculpture made by Fernando Botero)
- plaza de san diego
- big island
- Bomba Beach Club
- Plaza Bolivar
- Las Bóvedas
- Church of Trinidad
What NOT to visit in Cartagena
Among the sights in Cartagena, the place that disappointed me the most was Playa Blanca. Taken by pushy sellers and masseuses who disrespect the rest of tourists, the beach is a trap for tourists. I even wrote an entire post about it: Playa Blanca, paradise that became hell.
Another tourist spot that I wouldn’t go back to is the Gold Museum. Much smaller than Bogotá’s already dull Gold Museum, Cartagena’s version is a micro-museum. Although the visit is free, it is a waste of time. Next to it, the Museo de la Esmeralda, which is actually a shop, looks like a tourist trap. And they are in front of Plaza Bolívar, which despite its historical importance and having received the then homeless Gabrial García Marquez on his first night in Cartagena, is a begging point and is full of pigeons, even at night.
And if this is the first article you read about Cartagena, know that the city is not exactly a beach destination. Despite being close to Santa Marta and the beautiful beaches of the Rosario Islands, the sea in the urban part of Cartagena is nothing like paradise. The most reasonable beaches are in the neighborhood of Bocagrande. But they are murky waters and the excessive presence of vendors also discourages the most lively swimmer. So, also see which are the best beaches in Cartagena and other Cartagena tips before boarding.