Cartagena has a very interesting history, full of pirates and conquistadors, as well as people from all over the world who decided to settle down in this beautiful Colombian city. In fact, Cartagena was one of the first cities in Colombia to receive settlers when it was first founded by Spanish conquerors in 1533. Here are 10 things you should know about Cartagena if you plan on visiting the vibrant city any time soon.
1) The origins of Cartagena
In 1533, Spanish colonists founded a settlement named after Cartagena, Spain. That settlement is now known as Cartagena de Indias and it has been home to several important events in Colombian history. In fact, Colombia’s independence was declared there!
The most famous landmark in Cartagena is Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle is one of South America’s largest military fortifications and remains standing to date.
By law in Colombia, every city must have a museum and it is no different for Cartagena. Museo del Oro, or Gold Museum for short, has been open since 1974 and houses one of South America’s largest collections of gold artifacts from all over Colombia.
2) What to visit in the city
The biggest city in Colombia has a lot to offer in terms of tourist attraction and entertainment options. The city’s history dates back more than 400 years and you can visit most places and monuments with just a day trip. Here are 10 things you should know about Cartagena, 5 Best Places To Visit In Colombia For Summer
Cartagena is one of Colombia’s most important ports, so it’s possible to arrive from other big cities like Bogota and Medellin. There are some great hotels, hostels and apartments for rent in Cartagena that can help you enjoy your stay. However, due to its location on a peninsula you don’t really need a car if you just plan to spend your time visiting tourist attractions and having fun in any of its bars or restaurants.
3) How safe is it?
The city of Cartagena is a relatively safe city by many standards. Though violence and crime rates have increased in recent years, most tourists will enjoy a worry-free visit to Cartagena as long as they exercise some common sense. In addition to watching your luggage, you should also be aware of your surroundings at all times and keep an eye on any personal belongings, particularly on public transportation and in popular tourist areas.
4) Best places to eat
If you’re looking for something more substantial, a trip to one of Cartagena’s many restaurants is a must. Head down to Castillo de Felipe de Barajas for some traditional Medellin fare or try Tío Pepe’s for some authentic seafood. And, if you like Mediterranean food, Zenobia Lebanese restaurant will not disappoint. The best part? Most places don’t even require reservations!
5) Best places to stay
Hotels in Cartagena are abundant, but they range from high-end to budget. If you want to get a real taste of local life, consider staying in a hostel or renting an apartment—but don’t expect luxury. If you’re visiting during Semana Santa or Feria de las Flores (the Flower Festival), book well in advance. Prices spike during these busy periods, and most hotels are sold out for months before and after.
6) Best activities for visitors
Stroll Old Town’s labyrinthine streets and you’ll learn much about the history of Cartagena. The walls, forts, narrow cobblestone alleys, churches and plazas are incredible reminders of Colombia’s colonial era. There is so much to see that you need more than a few days to get a true sense of it all. Stay here for at least four days to experience both historic and modern Cartagena from its top attractions.
7) Best day trips from the city
To get a sense of Cartagena’s history, head to El Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, a sixteenth-century fortress that served as a military stronghold for many years. For an up-close look at more contemporary history, visit Museo del Oro, which houses one of Colombia’s most extensive collections of gold art and artifacts from pre-Columbian times through today.
8) Is there nightlife?
Believe it or not, salsa is not actually from Colombia. It was invented in New York City in 1910 and became wildly popular in Latin America only after its introduction to New York by Puerto Rican immigrants during World War II. But if you’re looking for an authentic Colombian experience, look no further than La Candelaria district.
This is one of Colombia’s most popular tourist destinations, with good reason. It was built in 1533 and its cobblestone streets, grand plazas and colonial architecture are well worth a visit. For a more modern twist on historic landmarks, head to Puertito de los Delfines for scenic views over Cartagena’s bay and don’t miss out on El Centro Cultural Garcia Marquez for some immersive theatre culture.
9) Where are the best beaches?
The best beach in Colombia is not in Colombia. It’s off its Caribbean coast, on San Andres Island. San Andres, a tiny island about half an hour from Cartagena by boat (or about 20 minutes by jet), has long been popular with Colombians who travel here for weekends and holidays.
10) How close is Colombia to Panama?
If you’re looking to travel in Central America and don’t have time to visit both Panama and Colombia, you may be wondering how close these two countries are to each other. Colombia is less than 100 miles from Panama, which means that getting from one country to another takes little more than a car ride of about four hours.
Cartagena is known as one of South America’s most beautiful cities. With its breathtaking historical sites, turquoise bays and trendy cafés and restaurants, Cartagena will draw you in with all of its charm. The History Of Cartagena dates back to 1640, when it was founded by Pedro de Heredia during a Spanish colonial rule; however, there are also stories that support that it was first inhabited more than 5,000 years ago.