The Colombian coastal city of Cartagena is also known as the historic pearl of the Caribbean. Right on the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena offers an unparalleled blend of history, culture and vibrancy. Once an important hub in the Spanish colonial empire, the city now boasts cobbled streets, colourful street art, top gastronomic venues and a vibrant nightlife. Outside the imposing city walls, dream Caribbean beaches invite you to relax. Although 24 hours is not enough for an exploratory tour, we have put together our 8 highlights in Cartagena for you.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
This Cartagena landmark offers the perfect overview for the beginning of your journey of discovery. The San Felipe de Barajas fortress was built during the Spanish colonial period to defend the Colombian coastal city against pirates and enemies of the Spanish crown. The well-preserved fortress today offers the perfect view of the Old Town, the new part of Cartagena and the bay. The twisted tunnel system of the fortress is also ideal for cooling down on hot days.
Opinions are divided on question of whether you should visit a shopping centre during your holiday. La Serrezuela is different: it is not a characterless shopping centre but is considered one of the most beautiful in Colombia. La Serrezuela was originally built in 1893 as a theatre and bullfighting stadium. The renovated building today offers a wide variety of Colombian designers and brands. La Serrezuela combines history, architecture, culture and gastronomy all under one roof.
Paradise Islands off the Coast
If you’d like to relax on idyllic beaches, you’ll find what you need on the many small islands off the coast of Cartagena. Just half an hour by boat, for example, is the Sofitel Barú Calablanca in the east of the island of the same name, Barú. You can relax and enjoy the white sandy beach with aquamarine water in this 5-star resort. With dozens of islands spread across various archipelagos, the Cartagena coast offers variety and relaxation for every taste.
Historic City Walls of Cartagena
Cartagena is one of Latin America’s most fascinating and historic cities. The city wall is also a veritable gem of colonial architecture. The imposing stone wall is 11 kilometres long and surrounds the centre of the Old Town: perfect for a walk around the city on the wall. It is complemented by fortifications and bastions, offering a perfect location from which you can watch the sun set over the Caribbean Sea.
Of course, a day in Cartagena also includes a visit to the city’s lively nightlife. Our tip: Alquímico Bar, located in the centre of the city, has won several awards as the best bar in South America. On the three floors of this refurbished colonial villa, you can dance exuberantly to reggae hits and try popular refreshments from the expanding cocktail menu.
And if you’re looking for more highlights for your 24 hours in Cartagena, ask the locals. Because they are open and proud to share their country and culture, and will be happy to give you some valuable tips.