18 Best Sights of Cartagena – description and photos

Cartagena

Cartagena is a large port city in the north of Colombia, more precisely, it is the fifth largest city in the country, the center of the department of Bolivar. It was founded by Spanish settlers during the Gold Rush: it was from here that the found gold and silver were transported to Europe. Cartagena was often invaded by pirates, one of whom was the famous Englishman Francis Drake. To defend itself against the raids of the enemy, the city was well fortified, and the total length of the fortress walls was more than 11 km.

Today, residential neighborhoods are located in the southern part of the city. As in all of Colombia, Spanish is spoken in Cartagena, and most of the population is Catholic.

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Climate and Weather

Cartagena has an equatorial (subequatorial) climate. Temperatures are high all year round, and winter is no different from summer except for the amount of rainfall. The average annual temperature is +27.5 ° C. The hottest month is June, when the average air temperature is +28 °С, and the coolest month is January.

During this time, the temperature is +26 ° C. The average annual precipitation in the city is about 1000 mm. The driest months are January, February and March, when precipitation does not fall at all. The rainiest month is October.

As for water temperature, during the period from May to October it is +24 … 25 °С, during the rest time the water gets warm from +21 to +23 °С.

Nature

In the city is very rich in nature, which is greatly facilitated by the location. Especially diverse underwater world.

Here you can meet several hundred species of fish and other creatures of the marine ecosystem. For example, the coastal waters are home to many species of coral, clams, crustaceans, sponges and fish (angel fish, parrot fish, butterfly fish, surgeon fish, tuna, lutsian and many others).

There are also a large number of bird species, such as flamingos, toucans, parrots, ostriches and peacocks. Several varieties of monkeys, moose and even squirrels can be found in Cartagena.

As for the flora, despite the lack of dense tropical rainforest, it also looks rich. A large number of palm trees grow here, as well as exotic flowers that grow right in the city streets.

Attractions

The center of the southern part of Cartagena is the Plaza San Pedro Claver, where the Cathedral, built between 1575 and 1602, is located. Nearby is Bolivar Square, where a monument to Colombia’s first president has been erected.

There are also some museums to visit, such as the Archaeological Museum and the Historical Museum (a former convent of the 16th century). The Palace of the Inquisition built in 1770 and the former prison of Las Bovedas of the 16th century attract a lot of tourists. Today its territory is home to many commercial facilities. If you are in this part of town, be sure to visit the Old Port and the beautiful promenade.

The Old City is located in the north of Cartagena. Here are concentrated colonial buildings, old forts and many other buildings that remind you of the rich history of the city. Here it is worth seeing the Fortress of Cartagena Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. The thickness of its walls reaches 12 meters, construction was carried out in the period from 1533 to 1657 years. It is in this part of the city that the oldest church, Iglesia de Santo Domingo, is located, built back in 1536.

One of the things you’ll notice while walking around the city is the cleanliness of its streets.

Nutrition

When it comes to food, you can enjoy Colombian cuisine in just about any café or restaurant. There is also a huge number of restaurants specializing in seafood. By the way, catering establishments are mostly concentrated in the Bocagrande recreational area, south of the Getsemani district.

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Here you can grab a bite to eat at fast-food restaurants, which, oddly enough, are plentiful here. There are world-famous chain restaurants as well as small local eateries.

Traditional alcoholic drinks and cocktails are available in bars, restaurants, and cafes, of which there are many, especially in the touristy areas.

Accommodation

The Caribbean coast has a huge number of hotels and hotels of different classes. Here you can rent rooms with a great view from the window, for example, from the 20th floor (all hotels are high-rise and designed for a large number of guests). But in such an area rooms will cost an order of magnitude more expensive than in remote areas of the city.

Lovers of urban landscapes can rent a room or apartment right in the city center, within walking distance of major attractions. If you need a cheaper accommodation, it is recommended to settle in the youth hostel, where a large number of foreign tourists live.

Entertainment and Recreation

Nature lovers and lovers of peace and quiet should visit the National Park of the islands of Rosario and San Bernardo, which are located 40 kilometers south of Cartagena. Here you can see the picturesque beaches with white sand and listen to the sound of the sea, away from civilization.

It is here that the only underwater park in the country is located, which covers an area of 19,000 hectares. Also, one of the diving centers is located near the island of Baru, which is surrounded by beautiful coral gardens.

Walking around the city, you will meet beautiful women in national dress, who carry huge baskets of fruit on their heads. What is interesting, they themselves always offer to take a picture with them. For a few dollars, of course.

In short, this town is the perfect place to rest in harmony with nature: it is always quiet and comfortable. Of course, in some parts of the city you can visit nightclubs and bars working late into the night.

Shopping

In the southern part of the city you can go shopping and boutiques. However, shoppers will not be thrilled with what the city has to offer. There are enough supermarkets and grocery stores here, but unfortunately there are no shopping streets. Instead, you can see large markets where you can buy everything you need inexpensively. In the Old Town there are many stores and stalls with souvenirs and traditional Colombian goods.

I must say, tourists eagerly buy up such things and do not spare money on them. On average, the stores close around 8 p.m., but some close later.

Transportation

Public transport in Cartagena is represented by buses and shuttle buses (the latter are usually painted red, blue or green). A fact that may surprise a European: minibuses usually run with the doors open, and there are cars without doors at all. This allows a person to easily jump into a minibus on the move.

There are a lot of ordinary cabs in the city. However, you should be careful when choosing a car and only use the services of a licensed cab.

There are few cars on the streets of Cartagena, so you can rent a passenger car and feel completely comfortable on the road. By the way, there are both local and international car rental stations.

Communication

Along with the state cell phone operators, the local operator Tigo also operates in Cartagena. SIM cards of this company can be purchased at any kiosk, store and post office. It is worth saying that the rates are quite reasonable. In the streets you can meet people with signs that say they can let you make calls from their cell phone for a small fee. But it’s easier and cheaper to connect to a mobile operator yourself. You can also use a pay phone, of which there are many in every city block.

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Internet access is usually available at Internet cafes. The cost of an hour of connection is low, and the global web is now available to almost all residents of Cartagena. Free Wi-Fi access points can be found in major hotels and hotels.

Security

In terms of security, Cartagena is one of the most peaceful places in Colombia. However, you should not neglect the basic safety rules. In crowded places it is better not to show expensive jewelry, and documents and large sums of money should preferably be kept in hotel safes.

Going out to the beach, especially the wild, you should take care of protection against insect bites. It is better not to take off shoes on such beaches, so as not to hurt your feet. And when diving at the bottom of the sea is necessary to wear special wetsuits that can protect against the bites of some marine animals, many of whom are poisonous.

Business Climate

Cartagena is not the best place to open and run a business, especially for foreign nationals.

Real Estate

In this city, foreign tourists are very active in buying real estate. First of all, they are attracted by the good climatic conditions and the measured rhythm of life in the city. The procedure for buying real estate in Cartagena is fairly quick: the local market can meet the needs of any buyer.

In addition, foreigners and Colombians are equal in rights and opportunities regarding the purchase of real estate. To do this, you only need to find a realtor who can be fully trusted, and to prepare all necessary documents.

Tips for the tourist

The main advice that can be given to someone visiting Cartagena for the first time: be careful with some of the local population. Although it is a relatively peaceful place, and the Colombians are quite hospitable people, you should not accept “gifts” in the form of cigarettes or alcoholic beverages from them. Drug traffickers “work” all over the country, and tourists are good bait for them, so you need to be vigilant.

It is better to have special adapters for power outlets just in case: not all hotels have two types of outlets (for 110 and 220 volts).

In restaurants and cafes it is customary to leave a tip of 10% of the bill, and the maids and attendants usually leave about $1 or $2. Often service is included in the bill.

18 sights to visit in Cartagena

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Cartagena is one of the world’s largest natural harbors, rich in mineral mines. For thousands of years, this city has been considered one of the most profitable places on the planet. The Carthaginians once played a major role in its evolution as an ancient trading center in the 3rd century B.C. It was later conquered by the Romans.

To get the opportunity to see all the sights of Cartagena at once, you can buy a multi-ticket. Such a tour of historical sites will allow you to understand the complex ancient history of the city. In the 19th century, there was a mining boom, which brought Cartagena fame and great revenues. It was it that transformed the historic center and introduced Art Nouveau architecture.

Museum of the Roman Theatre

Roman Theater Museum

Museum of the Roman Theater.| Photo: Maarten / Flickr.

This 2,000-year-old theater is the first thing to see in Cartagena. It was discovered only recently, in 1988. It was found under the ruins of an old cathedral that had been destroyed by shelling during the Civil War.

About two-thirds of the remains of the theater were found under the ruins, which allowed a very detailed restoration to be done and to create what we see now.

The museum displays fantastic artifacts found during the excavations, including an altar to Jupiter, a statue of Apollo, a variety of tablets, and Islamic ceramics from the Middle Ages.

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Address: Roman Theatre, Palacio Pascual del Riquelme, Plaza Ayuntamiento, Cartagena, Spain.

Calle Mayor Pedestrian Street

Pedestrian Street Calle Mayor

Pedestrian street Calle Mayor.

Calle Mayor is considered to be the main pedestrian street of Cartagena. This 24/7 bustling neighborhood is a great place for tourists who want a glimpse of the modernist architecture of this beautiful city.

In the late 1800s, Cartagena was the center of the mining industry, which made many residents very wealthy. Remnants of this wealth can be seen in the historic center of Cartagena. Because of the revolution in 1874, during which half of the city was destroyed, the center of Cartagena needed reconstruction. And it was carried out, but in a modernist style.

There are some phenomenal Art Nouveau buildings here including the Casino, the Aguirre Palace, the Gran Hotel, the Pedreño Palace, and the Cervantes House.

Address: Calle Mayor, Cartagena, Spain.

Port

Port.

If you are at the Roman theater, then just head south on Calle Mayor. This way you will come out to the port.

The port in Cartagena is quite beautiful compared to other ports where cruise ships call. It is a pretty area that is surrounded by hills and overlooks some very expensive sailing ships and cruisers. The cruise port overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, with mostly personal (read “rich people”) pleasure boats in the port.

Address: Port de Cartagena, Paseo Alfonso XII, Cartagena, Spain.

National Museum of Underwater Archaeology

National Museum of Underwater Archaeology

National Museum of Underwater Archaeology.

It is fitting that this museum is located in one of the oldest harbors of the Western Mediterranean, where almost every year something new is found.

ARQUA is the national center for maritime archaeology. Here you can see the remarkable historical artifacts found in underwater sites, and there is also a research center for experts and scientists in this field of science.

In this museum, you can watch archaeologists analyze their findings in a lab. There are also interactive displays for children.

Among the many artifacts housed in this museum are ivory tusks from Carthage and treasures from the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a frigate that was sunk in the early 19th century with 14.5 tons of gold and silver coins.

Address: Museo Nacional de Arqueología Subacuática, Paseo Alfonso XII, Cartagena, Spain.

Palace of the Consistory

Consistory Palace

Palace of the Consistory.

The palace of the consistory is one of the most impressive modernist wonders of Cartagena. It is a former 100-year-old town hall, which is located in the Plaza de Ayuntamiento.

This triangular palace is also the “brainchild” of the late 19th century mining boom, as Cartagena simply “outgrew” its former town hall (due to changes in the city’s infrastructure, the building was too small).

Ten years ago this building was restored. Of particular note is the façade, which is made entirely of white marble. The building itself is decorated with domes covered with zinc.

Get a little closer and you can notice a few bullet holes that the Civil War left on the building. Tourists can tour the building with an English-speaking guide and see the marble staircases with balustrades and an exhibition of ancient tapestries.

Address: Palacio Consistorial, Plaza Ayuntamiento, Cartagena, Spain.

Archaeological Museum of Cartagena

Cartagena Archaeological Museum

Archaeological Museum of Cartagena.

North of the ancient monuments of Cartagena is the late Roman necropolis, which was located on the shore of an ancient lagoon that disappeared over time.

It is a very fascinating place because here you can see the last evidence of Roman settlement, which dates from 300 to 700 AD (the period of transition to Christianity).

There are many objects in the museum that were found here. There are also many artifacts from all over Cartagena. By visiting this museum you will be able to trace the complete chronology of the development of this city, from the remains of Neanderthals and Phoenician pottery to the tools found in the Roman mines on the outskirts of the city.

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Address: Museo Arqueológico de Cartagena, Calle Santiago Ramon y Cajal, Cartagena, Spain.

Battery de Castillitos

Battery de Castillitos

The Battery de Castillitos.

You can have a great time at the top of Cape Tignoso, a 30-minute drive from Cartagena. Here, at an altitude of 250 meters, you can admire the extraordinary mountainous landscape of this natural park.

In this place you can also see an installation that combines frivolous architecture and sinister artillery pieces.

The Battery de Castillitos was built in the mid-1930s during the reign of Primo de Rivera. It was part of a series of batteries that were supposed to defend the coast of Cartagena.

The quaint medieval-style towers blend in with the mountain slope and blend strangely with the formidable black Vickers-Armstrong cannons.

Here you can also explore the tunnels in the fortified area (be sure to bring a flashlight).

Address: Batería de Castillitos, Spain.

Military Museum

Military Museum

Military Museum.

Cartagena is a city that has had a large military presence for thousands of years, and nowadays several units of the Spanish army are also based here. In this museum you can see all the military heritage in one place, a place that connoisseurs of military equipment will definitely appreciate.

The museum building was built at the end of the 18th century. In the courtyard of the museum, you can see the undestroyed shell that was jammed into the wall during the uprising of 1874. Tourists will be able to view an exhibit that consists of tanks, rockets, field telescopes, light weapons, a number of heavy weapons and other military equipment.

The museum also has the largest collection of handmade military models in the world. It even received a Guinness certificate for this!

Address: Historical Military Museum of Cartagena, Plaza General López Pinto, Cartagena, Spain.

Asylum Museum (Spanish Civil War Museum)

Asylum Museum (Museum of the Spanish Civil War)

Asylum Museum (Spanish Civil War Museum).

The war of 1936-1939 is one of the darkest moments in the history of Spain, which in its time affected Cartagena. The city was a military stronghold of the Republicans and, as mentioned above, was well protected from the sea.

This made it a target for bombing by nationalist forces, so shelters of this kind were built all over the city.

Here tourists will appreciate what people had to do to survive and will see original signs, propaganda posters and other artifacts from those times.

Original films and photographs can also be viewed here.

Address: Civil War Museum, Via Hisbert, Cartagena, Spain.

Augusteum Museum

Augusteum Museum

Augusteum Museum.

The Augusteum Museum in Cartagena is dedicated to the first Roman emperor Octavian Augustus. At the Augusteum, visitors can learn about the ceremonies performed by Roman priests in honor of Augustus. There is also a statue of Augustus surrounded by marble sculptures.

The address is Augusteum, Calle Caballero, Cartagena, Spain.

House of Fortune

Casa de Fortuna

House of Fortuna.

You have already seen the necropolis, the theater and the port; now you have a chance to learn how the wealthy people of Roman Cartagena lived. This villa gets its name from the inscription “Fortuna Propitia” found on its back entrance, which means “Good Luck”.

The House of Fortuna is the home of a very wealthy Roman family, which was opened in 2000. Tourists will be able to visit the entrance hall (atrium), bedrooms (cubiculum), dining room (triclinium) and the master’s study (tablinum). All the rooms are decorated with wall paintings and the floors are paved with mosaics.

There are a number of ancient artifacts in the house, including lamps, personal items, dishes and amphorae. The house itself is decorated with beautiful mosaics and wall paintings.

The address is Casa de la Fortuna, Piazza Riceño, Cartagena, Spain.

Decumanus Maximus

Decumanus Maximus

Decumanus Maximus.

This stretch of road, running from east to west, connects the port to the forum. There are taverns here as well as Roman baths with a “praefurnium”, an oven from which hot air comes. Such baths also usually feature three hypocausts and a frigidarium, or room with a pool filled with cold water.

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Punic Wall Interpretation Center

Punic Wall Interpretation Center

Punic Wall Interpretation Center.

The Punic Wall is the remains of a wall that was built in the 3rd century BC by the Carthaginians. You can see it from the top of the Castillo. The Punic Wall stands on Monte Aletes, one of the five hills surrounding Cartagena.

The remains of the wall, which protected the city from attack by the Moors and outsiders, were discovered in 1987. It is one of the few remains of the Carthaginian civilization in Spain.

Address: Punic wall of Cartagena, Calle San Diego, Cartagena, Spain.

Naval Museum

Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum.

This museum is located right in the port, the pieces on display show the maritime military past of Cartagena.

It is located by the sea in an attractive 18th-century building, which until recently was a college training maritime personnel who then joined the Spanish Navy.

The museum contains memorabilia, weapons, navigational instruments, and reports dating back to the 1870s.

The main specimen here is the submarine Peral, the world’s first battery-powered submarine, which was launched in 1888. This prototype was tested for two years, but was never put into production, even though it was a real technological breakthrough. It was probably the world’s first submarine.

Address: Naval Museum Cartagena, Paseo Alfonso XII, Cartagena, Spain.

Concepcion Castle

Concepcion Castle

Concepcion Castle.

The Castillo de la Concepcion was built by the Moors in XII-XIII centuries on the site of a captured Roman temple.

Most of what we see now dates back to the 13th century, which can be traced in the carvings of eagles and rosettes. Visitors can climb to the top of the castle, which offers a magnificent view of the harbor and coastal mountains.

Address: Castillo de la Concepción, Gispert, Cartagena, Spain.

Calblanque beach

Calblanque beach

Calblanque Beach.

Believe me, you will not regret visiting this unspoiled beach half an hour away from Cartagena.

Calblanque beach is on the way to Cabo de Palos, a promontory at the southern end of La Manga. Turn off at Calblanque and the road takes you south to the coast through farmland and the low mountains of Calblanque Regional Park.

Beyond these peaks is a secluded 300-meter beach with a shade of burned gold sand.

On calmer days, chances are you’ll be alone on the beach. Don’t forget to bring refreshments, as there are no stores here.

The address is Playa de Calblanque, Cartagena, Spain.

Licor 43

Liquor 43

Licor 43.

Even a rainy day in Cartagena can be spent with pleasure (for adults). Tourists can take a tour of the production of one of Spain’s most exported liqueurs, Licor 43, which is made right in Cartagena.

Book the tour in advance and you can spend two hours here in the company of a guide.

For the uninitiated, Licor 43 is an alcoholic beverage (31% alcohol content) made from 43 different citrus fruits and spices that pairs best with ice and milk.

During the tour, you can observe the production process up close, from mixing the ingredients to fermentation to aging and bottling.

We do not advise you to come here with your car, as the tour ends with cocktails!

Address: Experiencia 43, Los Camachos, Spain.

Local mines

La Unión Mine

La Unión mine building.| Photo: Jelle de Vries / Flickr.

Like so much else in Cartagena, mining was started here by the Romans. The Sierra Minera is rich in metals, including silver, copper, zinc, lead, tin, manganese and iron.

Here you can take a closer look at two mountain attractions, the La Union Mountain Park and the Las Matildes Mine. In La Union there is the Agrupa Vicente mine, which is 80 meters deep and has an underwater lake with reddish waters.

There and there you can see the equipment and infrastructure – you can see the miners’ quarters, compressor rooms, 19th century drilling rigs and mineral transport carts.

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