Traveling to Cartagena for business? Whether you have a half or full day, or a whole weekend, here are some recommendations for making the best of your free time.
If you have a half-day in Cartagena:
If you’re looking to discover Cartagena but don’t have much time, the Walled City is your best option. Take in the colonial architecture of this historic center, meander its cobblestone streets and finish with a much-deserved rest in a city plaza.
1. Clock Tower Monument: Considered one of the 5 most beautiful clock towers in the world by BBC Travel, Cartagena’s Clock Tower is a must-see. While there, you’ll catch a glimpse of some of the city’s renowned colonial architecture. This is a wonderful opportunity to snap photos.
Schedule: Open to the public 24 hours.
Location: Click here for a map of the Clock Tower
2. Sweets “Arcade”: In front of the Clock Tower, savor the typical sweets of the city. The arcade, called “Portal de los Dulces” in Spanish, was originally a slave hub, and is the first sight you’ll see when entering the Walled City.
Schedule: Sunday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm.
Location: Click here for a map.
3. Saint Pedro Claver Church: Dating back to 1603, this church is the former home of the Jesuit priest Pedro Claver, who dedicated his life to protecting slaves and defending human rights. The building features an archaeological museum on the second floor.
Museum Schedule: Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5:30 pm. Weekends from 8 am to 4 pm.
4. Zenú Gold Museum: Don’t miss one of the most precious collections of pre-Columbian gold at the Zenú Gold Museum, one of the Bank of the Republic of Colombia’s six museums nationwide.
Schedule: Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm. Sundays from 10am to 3pm.
Location: Click here to locate the museum on a map
Tip: If you want more like this, check out the “museum route” in Cartagena.
5. Las Bóvedas Artisan Center: If you’re looking to buy a locally made craft or hammock, Las Bóvedas is a good choice. Located between the Santa Clara and Santa Catalina forts, these old dungeons, composed of 47 arches and 23 domes, are now home to a variety of craft and antique shops.
Schedule: Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm. Weekends from 10am to 7pm.
6. Santo Domingo Plaza: To complete your tour of Cartagena’s historic center, stop at the Santo Domingo Plaza. Sit back, relax and enjoy a cold drink and a snack.
Required Time: 6 hours
Budget: 50 – 100 USD per person
If you have a full day in Cartagena:
In addition to touring Cartagena’s historic center, here are some options to complement the rest of your day:
– San Felipe Castle: Considered the largest Spanish military structure in the New World, the San Felipe Castle is a must-see. The interior contains tunnels, ramps, traps and escape routes, and will definitely transport you back in time. The route takes between 2 and 3 hours.
Schedule: Sundayto Sunday from 8am to 6pm
– Horse-drawn carriage ride: By day or night, this plan will connect you to the historic center’s colonial heritage in a romantic setting. The journey takes between 20 and 60 minutes and can be booked directly on the streets of the historic center.
– Culinary experience: To close the day, further explore the city’s culinary offerings. Below is a selection of some of Cartagena’s most renowned restaurants:
- Café del Mar: Restaurant and bar located within the walls of the historic center, specializing in seafood. More information here.
- Marea by Rausch: Haute seafood cuisine with a menu designed by brothers Jorge and Mark Rausch. More information here.
- Palosanto: Traditional Mediterranean food with a Cartagena twist. More information here.
- Frank & Frank: Eclectic and Mediterranean food in the middle of the historic center of Cartagena. More information here.
- Don Juan: A Caribbean bistro fusion. Located in a government building in the historic center of the city. More information here.
- La Vitrola: One of the most traditional restaurants in Cartagena, serving up seafood amidst the colonial architecture.
If you have a weekend in Cartagena:
If your stay extends into the weekend, take in the sun and enjoy the lush scenery and beaches near Cartagena; or head out to dance to salsa, champeta and the characteristic rhythms of the city.
– Islands and beaches: In addition to Bocagrande, the Rosario Islands are a favorite among tourists. This small archipelago, located just an hour and a half away, features clear blue waters and is suitable for recreational diving. Cabins are available for rent, offering a range of facilities for a variety of budgets.
You can also enjoy the tranquility of Playa Blanca, an unspoiled coastline located on the island of Barú, known for its turquoise waters and white sand.
– Nightlife: To enjoy the rumba and a good drink, check out the areas of Bocagrande, la Calle de Arsenal, the Walled City and Getsemaní. If you are looking for a night out on the town, here are some typical places to try:
- · Donde Fidel: One of the most popular salsa clubs in the Walled City, Donde Fidel is located on the Aduana Plaza and has a large outdoor terrace with a beautiful view of the city.
Schedule: Open from 11 am to 2 am.
- · Café Havana: With its Cuban ambience, Café Havana has won over locals and foreigners alike with its mojitos and great music. Located in Getsemaní.
Schedule: Open until 3 am.
More information: www.cafehavanacartagena.com
- · Quiebra-Canto: This popular salsa club is located at Centennial Park, 200 meters from the Clock Tower.
Schedule: Open until 3 am.
More information: www.quiebracanto.com
Tips for getting around in Cartagena:
- When traveling by taxi, it’s best to know the name of the place you’re headed, or some sort of geographic hint. In Cartagena, an address is not a common reference.
- Taxi rates are preset. To inquire about rates, ask at your hotel lobby. Taxi drivers likely won’t use the taximeter.
To prepare for your trip to Cartagena, read (in Spanish):
- FAQs for traveling to Colombia
- Cartagena, a cultural destination
- History of Cartagena: 200 years of heroism
If you found this information useful, please share it via social networks at #LaRespuestaEsCOlombia.