Cartagena is a picturesque port town in the north of Colombia. It is well known for tourists from within and without Colombia, which is due to the old town. As Cartagena was the most important port of South America during for the Spanish colonial times, they built a nice town and surrounded it with a thick wall after being too often by pirates. This old Spanish town with lots of two-story buildings and flower-decorated balconies still exists and is a blessing for your eyes. If you are just there for a short time, here are 5 must-do things:
Stroll through Old Town
The cute old town needs to be explored and relished, so take a few hours and just stroll through the streets, take pictures of the balconies and get lost in all the alleys. After a while, you will always hit the outer wall and find your way back anyways. If at one point you should get bored looking at the houses, you can find many small stores and street vendors to keep you busy.
Just don’t think of taking a free walking tour here. For us and everybody we talked to, they were quite a disappointment and I could have spent those two hours with a stroll by myself and a travel guide to read up that little bit of history we were taught.
Have lunch at La Mulata
This little restaurant can easily be overlooked when walking by, but it highly deserves its tripadvisor certificate. Greeted by the super friendly staff, you will enjoy a nice soup, decide for one of the offered lunch plates (preferably the fish-ones) and have some fresh juice or a lemonade. You van find them in Calle Quero 9-58.
Enjoy the lively „parques“ at night
As in all the Colombian town, you can find many small squares („parques“) in Cartagena. Mostly at night, when it cools down a little bit, they are filled with locals and tourist hanging out, performing dances, selling things and enjoying the breeze. Try spending some time at Plazuela de San Diego or take take the short walk to Getsemani and spend some time in front of the Trinidad church (plaza de la santisima trinidad). There, you will even find a trampoline for kids in the middle of the square, and lot’s of young people sitting on the benches around it.
Go to one of the amazing bars
Old town is full of nice bars, and as it’s a tourist town with lots of competition, many of them specialize in something. You can try for example Agua de Mar, where you can get some options of hard to find Gin Tonic or amazing Gin Cocktails, while enjoying yummy tapas.
Visit Playa Blanca with a private driver
If you are ready for some beach time, when already sweating all day in hot and humid Cartagena, you can spend a day or a few hours at Playa Blanca. It’s about a 45min to 1h drive from Old Town. There are boats going there from the port, but they take just as long and the rides are supposed to be rather rough. Better idea is to take a car, every taxi and uber driver knows where to go, for example. We found a private driver, who took us there and spent the day close to us, making sure nobody can get at our stuff and giving us some tips about what to eat and how to act with local merchants. If you want to whatsapp him – here is his card:
At the beach, just walk down towards the Hostels and you will find a more quiet and less crowded part of the beach.
Try to get into one of the beautiful old patios. Maybe your hotel already offers this and has a pool area in the middle, or try peaking openI’m through doors and visit a restaurant.