Cartagena is one of those cities that gets under your skin almost immediately. Its decaying yellow, red, and blue walls are among the most picturesque we’ve seen in South America.
Plan a trip to this beautiful city of Cartagena with Spirit Airlines Group Travel and enjoy your days in Cartagena.
The city has changed during the previous decade. Much of this is good, indicating that Colombia’s reputation as a safe destination has gone beyond the backpacker network. But Cartagena is beginning to suffer as a result of its Instagram and word-of-mouth popularity; on our two visits to the city over four years, the extent and quickness of its tourism change caught us off guard.
Places in Cartagena to Visit In 2023:
1. STREETS OF GETSEMANÍ
If you’ve been drawn to Cartagena by a photo of one of its many, many colorful streets, it’s very likely that shot. Although there are plenty of these lovely multicolored calles and carreras within the Walled City (more on those later), we liked the ones we discovered 10 minutes away in and around the Getseman area.
Getseman, once a grungy, gritty, salubrious area of old Cartagena, has recently grown into a magnet for backpackers and curious foreigners. But, on our most recent visit, it was evident that gentrification and wider tourism had come into force.
2. STREET C-ART-AGENA
Sorry for the bad pun, but it’s better than Andrew’s favourite pick of ‘A Street C-ART-agena Named Desire’. Okay, they’re both bad. Colombia has become something of a mecca for graffiti artists, and while Bogota is the uncontested centre (thanks to Justin Bieber), Cartagena’s walls house some of our best works.
The smiling Afro-Colombian woman with streamers for hair, the masked group of youngsters peering down at you with menace or delight, gigantic blue birds, and towering works of photograph-like art that come out of nowhere.
3. CAFE STEPPING STONE
We had been travelling in South America for three months and were looking forward to some good breakfast and a quiet morning reading up on news on our first morning in Cartagena. We strolled along Carrerra 10, which had been a go-to spot for food in Cartagena, and noticed that a lot had changed, for the better. We returned again since the brunch and atmosphere were so fantastic. But it is the mentality and work of Stepping Stone’s three young Australian founders that distinguishes it from the competition.
You may be thinking why we haven’t yet covered any Cartagena beaches. After all, this is a city on the Caribbean Sea, so it had to have some, right? However, it is vital to realize that Cartagena does not represent the place for those looking for a beach vacation or to soak in the tropical atmosphere.
There are a few cities beachfront (such as Bocagrande), but they are unlikely to be what you seek. The good news is that several fantastic postcard-worthy beaches are easily accessible on a day trip from Cartagena!
5. GABO’S TRAIL
If you’ve never read Gabrial Garcia Marquez, your trip to Colombia is about to improve. Colombia’s most prominent writer grew up in Cartagena and spent much of his boyhood there, and the city strongly influenced him. So, if it’s your first time in Colombia, we suggest you to make reading one of his greatest publications a key part of your pre-trip planning strategy! They are not only stunning, but they will alter your perception of the world as you wander about Cartagena.
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You may have heard that watching the sunset from the mediaeval walls is a must-do in Cartagena, and we agree. You may have also read that it’s best done at a table at Cafe del Mar. We’re going to tell everyone that’s not true. It may have been the case five or ten years ago, when Cartagena was still unknown, but now Cafe del Mar (Google Maps) is at sunset, with way too many people to make the experience enjoyable.
7. BAZURTO MARKET
If you’re a foodie or want to experience a different side of Cartagena, spend a morning at the chaotic Bazurto market. We enjoy visiting local markets wherever we travel in South America, and Bazurto does not disappoint on any level. It takes just fifteen minutes to get to the enclosed City.
To go to Bazurto, we recommend taking a local cab, which will cost you roughly COP$10,000. Please keep in mind that this location has been the source of several online security issues. Pickpockets are a real issue, but as long as you apply common sense and don’t carry everything you own, you should be fine.
8. STREET FOOD
There are many new restaurants opening in old Cartagena, and the majority of them cater to the foreign market and palate. You won’t have any trouble finding a place you like., grab lunch at one of the few small, local restaurants. They all put on a menu del dia each day, which is a fixed two-course lunch meal plus fresh juice for as little as 8,000 COP (£1.8 / $2.5). It’s simplest to find if you look for Malagana Cafe & Bar, and it’s the opposite!
9. PARTY & DANCE
As the sun sets, Cartagena comes alive, and one of the highlights of visiting this city is experiencing its nightlife scene, both in and around Plaza de la Trinidad. Cafe Havana, Quiebra-Canto, and Donde Fidel are the classic and best alternatives for salsa, while there is a slew of hostels down Calle 30 in Getsemani (all close to one other) for backpacker evening beers.
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El Baron is a great option for a more upmarket evening. They have excellent mixologists on staff and offer cocktails that will have you going back for more. Enjoy every bit of everything in Cartagena with Spirit book a flight so you can enjoy Cartagena’s famous cuisine.