The city of Cartagena is one that likes to surprise many tourists by its sheer stunning beauty that surrounds wherever you go. It blows away most people’s expectations with its delightful old Spanish colonial architecture and in fact was the first Spanish colony on the continent and therefore was one of the first places of freed African slaves in the Americas. The city faces the Caribbean Sea and has some gorgeous beaches, historical attractions, museums and plenty of outstanding restaurants, bars, hotels and shops, which have all made this place one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
The best area to stay in Cartagena is the El Centro neighbourhood as it is one of the most central neighbourhoods in the city, which means it is close to everything that you will want to do and see. Centro is found in the old town, which is surrounded by the city wall and it is a particularly tourist friendly area, which is home to some of the city’s top attractions as well as the finest hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. This area is where the heart and soul of the city comes from and is one that is sure to impress.
BEST LOCATED HOTELS IN CARTAGENA
Casa Del Curato
Carrera 7 No. 38 - 89
RECOMMENDED / BEST VALUE
72€ - 79$
Casa Heredia Boutique By GB Collection
Calle 7 Infantes Casa # 9-73
86€ - 95$
Casa La Fe
Calle segunda de Badillo #36-125
RECOMMENDED / BEST VALUE
136€ - 150$
Calle Cochera del Gobernador 33-28
181€ - 199$
Casa Pestagua Relais Châteaux
Calle de Santo Domingo 33 - 63
234€ - 257$
Anandá Hotel Boutique
Calle del Cuartel 77
259€ - 285$
Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena
Calle del Torno 38-29
400€ - 440$
Hotel Casa San Agustin
Centro Calle de la Universidad No.36 - 44, Cartagena 1300
El Centro is easily the most appealing neighbourhood in the city with the universal lure of its colonial attractions as well as having the highest concentration of tourist amenities. This is one of the safest areas to stay in the city and has recently been given a multi-million dollar facelift and now the district explodes with a variety of coloured buildings, upscale hotels and luxury apartments and is home to some of the richest people in Colombia. This area is well served by buses and taxis, which can get you around the city to see some of the other major attractions and there is plenty of public transportation that links up with the Rafael Nunez International Airport. The area itself is best explored on foot, which provides an entertaining walk with most of the other neighbourhoods in the old part of the city within walking distance.
The heartbeat of the city is found in the square at Plaza de Bolivar, which is a great place to start your journey as there are various government buildings and shops that are located here as well as different statues that represent personnel from the colonial times and more recent eras. This square is also one of the hot spots at night time as there are heaps of restaurants, bars and clubs in the area.
Another major reason to come to this part of the neighbourhood is because the Palace of Inquisition can be found here, which is where the Spanish inquisition judged, convicted and tortured men that were accused of crimes against their religion. This magnificent colonial building is one of the finest bits of architecture and even though the museum focuses more on what happened outside the city, it is definitely worth visiting. There are an abundance of churches in the historic centre with the majority worth seeing, though some of the most impressive ones are Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, the Cathedral and the Iglesia de Santo Domingo.
Plaza Santo Domingo is another excellent square as it has one of the best patios to sit and relax and take in the beautiful views of the city and the sea as well as being home to the Co-operacion de Cultura Espanol, which is a brilliant art gallery that showcases art from the colonial era. There are tonnes of shops in the area and there are some local markets that generally happen on the weekend with the main streets being Carrera 2 and Calle 30.
At night time head to either Plaza Santo Domingo or Plaza de Bolivar as they both have a vast array of international cuisines, top notch bars and some of the most well-known hotels in the country.
Bocagrande is the city’s answer to Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and is one of the busiest beach areas in the city. It is a great place to stay in due to the amount of hotels, restaurants, shops, bars and cafes as well as being a safe area. The area is also well connected to other parts of the city and the same goes for the airport too. The beach is great for sunbathing on and the waters are fine to swim in and there are many beach-orientated activities that you can participate in. You are not too far from the historical districts either and the main streets in the area are Avenida San Martin, Cra 3 and the Bay promenade, which all have an excellent choice of shops, restaurants, bars and hotels.
This district is also part of the old city and is famed for its nightlife entertainment with a huge amount of bars, dancing restaurants and generally cheaper hotels and hostels to stay in. Getsemani is another superb neighbourhood to stay in due to its close proximity to the rest of the city and again is safe. Music is the strongest theme in the area and you are sure to hear traditional Colombian and Caribbean songs blasted out onto the streets as you walk along one of its many cobblestone streets. The main centre of Getsemani is Plaza de la Santisima Trinidad and happens to be the oldest part of the city and there is much colonial architecture, mansions, bars, restaurants, shops and hotels to explore.
This is one of the most interesting and varied areas in the city, which is also found in the old city and is surrounded by the old walls, which makes for an excellent area to stay in. The neighbourhood is safe and most streets are lined with traditional houses, shops, bars, street food stalls and restaurants. There are also markets and art galleries to check out and there are some informative museums that reflect on the city’s past and present. Another thing to check out is the La Popa hill as it offers excellent vista over the city and at night time head to Plaza San Diego as it is where the main nightlife happens.