Cartagena is a port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast with colourful architecture, a rich history, and plenty to see and do. Here is a list of the city’s top amazing attractions and fun activities.
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1 Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
You can’t visit Cartagena without going up to this massive castle that towers over the city. This massive structure began in 1639 but was not completed for another 150 years. However, it has been the city’s crowning landmark since its completion, and visitors can now stroll through the battlements, weave their way through underground passageways, and admire the impressive architecture.
2 Playa Blanca
Without a doubt, Playa Blanca is one of Colombia’s most beautiful beaches. It is located on Bar Island, 45 minutes by boat from the Port of Cartagena or a two-hour car ride from the main city. Crystal-clear waters lap the perfectly white sand, and visitors can spend the day relaxing on this incredible beach or, if that isn’t enough, stay overnight. Come for the day and enjoy some delicious fresh fish served with coconut rice. Stay the night and you’ll be able to enjoy the beach in complete stillness and silence once the day-trippers have gone home. In any case, anyone spending more than a day in Cartagena should pay a visit to this beach.
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3 Museo del Oro Zenu
Cartagena, like almost every other major Colombian city, has a gold museum. The Museo del Oro Zen, despite its small size, houses a fantastic collection of gold and pottery from the Zen (also known as Sin) people, who lived in the departments of Bolvar, Córdoba, Sucre, and Northern Antioquia before the Spanish Conquest. Look out for special exhibitions and guided tours, which are available in both English and Spanish.
4 Mercado de Bazurto
It’s loud, busy, and a little overwhelming, but if you want to experience the real Cartagena, you must go to Mercado de Bazurto. Everything from fresh fruit to cooked turtle is available at this food market (which is discouraged by authorities but considered a traditional meal in many indigenous communities). You’ll be amazed by the sheer variety of produce and food available at Mercado de Bazurto, as well as the prices: a two-course lunch should cost no more than $2. Keep an eye on your belongings as you walk through the market.
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5 La Cevicheria
La Cevichera is regarded as one of the best ceviche and fish restaurants in the city. Take a break from all the fritos (fried food) you’ve been eating and enjoy some incredible Peruvian-Colombian fusion food. Expect fresh fish, bold flavours, plenty of lime, and some seriously tasty cocktails. You’ll probably have to wait for a table because the place is always busy.
6 Dance salsa
Cafe Havana is the place to be if you enjoy listening to or dancing to salsa music. Even if you’ve never danced before, it’s worth visiting Getsemani, the city’s cultural and party hub, to check out this Cuban-style bar. Cafe Havana attracts a mixed crowd of locals and immigrants and features talented live salsa bands that keep the crowd entertained until the early hours of the morning. Even if you have two left feet, come down for some perfectly mixed cocktails, enjoy the music, and watch others dance.
7 Party on a chiva
A night on a chiva (party bus) is a uniquely Colombian experience, with live musicians playing Vallenato, an open bar stocked with local liquor, and plenty of dancing. While the party begins on the bus, you will be dropped off at various bars throughout the city before arriving at a larger club where your chiva will leave you to dance the night away. Most of the city’s hostels organise chiva tours, which are a great way for solo travellers to meet new people. Just make sure you’re fully prepared to have a good time!
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Hang out with Friends at Beach
La Boquilla is a fishing village on Cartagena’s outskirts. What it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in character and authenticity, as this is a popular local beach. If you go on a weekend, you’ll find it packed with Cartageneros who have come to relax, drink beer, and sunbathe. The food is delicious; you can eat freshly caught fish and try the local delicacy arroz con coco (rice with coconut).
This walled city, located in the heart of Cartagena and protected by a fortress, was once used to protect the city from pirates and storms. Within this small sector, there is an incredible variety of bars, restaurants, shops, and some beautiful (and rather pricey) hotels. Despite being crowded with tourists almost all year, this historic district of the city has not lost its allure.
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