The stunning Spanish seaside port of Cartagena is a bustling modern city overflowing with heritage, riches and locals keen to help you part with a few pesos. This city has been inhabited by most of the great Mediterranean empires at some point or another, and with an abundance of bold architectural virtue and the charm of the ocean, there’s plenty to see and experience.
The top of your to-do list should be doing nothing! Nothing, that is, except marvelling at the stunning ocean views of the Murcia coast along the Sea Wall, hearing your footsteps echo on the marble floor at the remains of Augusteum,and dining alfresco at Café del Mar amongst locals infinitely better dressed than you are.
Cartagena’s Top 10
10. Civil War Museum Go on a covert mission into these galleries that were once used as protection from aerial attack.
5. Casa Fortuna The remains of this house date back over 2,000 years and provide a fascinating glimpse into daily life during the Roman empire.
9. Naval Museum Set sail over to a compelling collection of old ships and assorted navigational equipment.
4. Amphitheatre These colossal ruins were once used as a bullring, and are a remarkable example of Roman splendour.
8. House of Cervantes This house is a spectacular display of modernist architecture, including glassed-in balconies and statuesque bronze reliefs. Don Quixote would be proud.
3. The Old Cathedral Nestled on the Camino del Parque Torres, this 13th century cathedral is the oldest church in Cartagena.
7. Concepción Castle Soldier up to this hilltop castle that once served as a fortress for Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Arabs and Castilians, albeit not at the same time.
2. Town Hall A real gem of modernist architecture, this monumental structure dominates the city skyline.
6. Decumanus Take a stroll along the remains of an old Roman road all the way to a thermal bath at this fantastic archaeological site.
1. Roman Theatre Discovered only 20-odd years ago, this construction dates back to the first century CE and is one of the most important archaeological finds in Spain.
- Castillo de San Felipe – Fortress designed and built in 1657 by the Spanish to protect against pirates.
- La Popa – A hill overlooking Cartagena and home to the Santa Cruz monastery from the 1600s.
- Cartagena’s Historic Old Town – One of the city’s main attractions surrounded by the city wall.
- Iglesia de San Pedro Claver – Found in the historic centre and in honour of the first saint of the new world and his work with the slaves.
- India Catalina – A sculpture of an indigenous woman from the Colombian coast who accompanied Pedro de Heredia and acted as an interpreter.
Cartagena Art & Culture
- Palace of Inquisition – Located in Cartagena where the Spanish Inquisition judged and convicted those accused of crimes against religion.
- Cartagena Gold Museum – A miniature version of the one in Bogota, with a fascinating collection of pottery and gold from the Zenu people.
- Museum of Modern Art – Housed in a house from the 1600s and offering changing exhibits.
- Naval Museum – Opened on the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the New World.
- Teatro Heredia – A stunning theatre with an ornate interior and offers presentations by the local ballet company.
- Upalema – Visit this place for a unique experience and find specialized and top-quality handicrafts.
- Abaco – Place with a great selection of books about the city of Cartagena and lots of English reading.
- Plaza de Santo Domingo – Artisans set up each afternoon to sell a wide selection of local handicrafts.
- Totto – Local chain store with great bags, purses, suitcases and more.
- Las Bovadas de Santa Clara – Famous place in Cartagena to find local handicrafts and beautiful things.
Gay & Lesbian Cartagena
- Ibiza Club Cartagena – Pleasant dance club sleekly decorated in white.
- Cafe del Mar – Cafe set atop some of the local fortress walls attracts a mixed crowd.
- Studio 54 – Great dance and electronic pop music fills the air of this lively place.
- Vamos Colombia Tour – Offers fun and lively tours, excursions and activities.
- Via Libre – Small, cozy bar located in the historic area of Cartagena.
- Playa Blanca – One of the best beaches around Cartagena on the island of Baru.
- Islas del Rosario – Visit these small islands off the coast for beautiful excursions and activities.
- Chiva Bus – Colourful, open-air buses going through the city.
- Mercado Bazurto – The local central market and quite the experience with many options.
- Manga Island – Wonderful place to take in the sights and architecture from the 1800s and 1900s.
- For great water sports and nature related activities, check out Isla Baru.
- The Jaime Moron Leon Stadium of Cartagena offers great soccer games.
- The Islas del Rosario have wonderful places for snorkelling.
- To catch local baseball games, stop by the Tomas Arrieta Stadium.
- La Boquilla beach offers wonderful kite boarding and wind surfing.
Muster up your best royal attire for The Three Kings Festival in January.
Feel the rhythm of Cartagena pumping through your feet at Carnival Cartagena, an annual bonanza taking place in February.
Magnificent floral decorations and majestic religious statues are the highlights of the Semana Santa de Cartagena, heldduring Easter week.
Salsa your way into melodic bliss at July’s Le Mar de Musicas.
For your own action-packed Roman conquest, make sure you are in Cartagena in September for the Fiestas de Carthagineses y Romanos.
When To Go
For summer heat and plenty of sun, August is the best time to head to Cartagena.
January is the coldest month in Cartagena, but that’s all relative as the average temperature is still 12°C (54°F)
The bus network in Cartagena is a convenient, inexpensive way to see the sights.
The best way to explore the coastline is to take a stroll, and the same goes for getting around the cobblestone alleys.
Cartagena also has an excellent railway system for getting around and out of the city.