6 Best Things to Do in Cartagena, Colombia

With all its natural and man made wonders, Colombia offers amazing experiences for tourists, travelers, expats and locals. If you want to enjoy the Caribbean sun while getting to know interesting places in Colombia and some of the most beautiful streets you'll ever see, the best idea is to go to Cartagena de Indias. This city is very popular around the world because it has a beautiful old downtown filled with colorful colonial architecture, museums, restaurants, cultural centres, etc.

With that being said, if you are ever in Colombia, don't miss Cartagena de Indias by any chance.

Before we start, keep in mind that learning some Spanish will definitely be helpful in a city like Cartagena because it's probable that locals don't speak much English.

Cartagena de Indias is the undisputed queen of the Caribbean coastCartagena de Indias is the undisputed queen of the Caribbean coast.

Here are some of the best things to do in Cartagena. In no particular order, we have chosen these things because they are unique and popular experiences totally worth a try.

1. Discover the old walled city

The most touristic, but also one of the most beautiful places in Colombia. Cartagenas's old city has everything you ever wished for: it’s close to the beach, it has interesting museums, amazing plazas, good restaurants, a vibrant night and street life, cool hotels or hostels to stay at, mesmerizing architecture, and many small and colorful streets to walk by.

In addition, it's also enclosed by a colossal and beautiful rock wall built centuries ago by the Spaniards to protect the city from its enemies; so, it’s basically like a fortress and you can even walk through the walls and sit down to enjoy a beautiful sunrise or sunset. If you are visiting Cartagena, this is the place to go, but be aware that it could be expensive, though definitely worth it!

2. Pay a visit to Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Another wonderful place to visit if you are interested in castles, fortresses and colonial history. Built between the seventeen and eighteen century and strategically located to protect the city from land and sea from pirates or enemies, San Felipe is a huge rock castle as well as a very important landmark in Cartagena.

With its impressive colonial architecture, it's filled with underground passages, maze-like tunnels, and fort's walls and battlements. When you are there, don't forget to grab a guide or an audio tour headset so you can have a better insight of San Felipe's history and its importance. It's also another great place to watch a beautiful sunset before making your way down to the old city for a nice dinner and night party!

3. Take a day trip to an island, like Islas del Rosario or BarĂº

The beaches in Cartagena are ok, but if you really want to visit a beautiful caribbean beach, like those you see on postcards, then you have to take a daytrip to some of the islands nearby. Two of the most popular but very beautiful islands within an hour by sea, from the city, are Islas de Rosario and Barú; both have blue clear water, soft and white sand, tall bright green palms, and local vendors selling you a nice coconut drink and a tasty caribbean fish meal.

You can also go scuba diving, snorkeling or you can simply lay down, enjoy the sun, and take a swim in the sea from time to time. The Rosario islands are actually a protected national park and archipelago and they are considered a gem for locals, so do pay a visit and enjoy!

4. Party and drink in some of the best clubs and bars in the old city

Cartagena is also known for its great and vibrant nightlife that has something for all tastes. Located in the old city, the neighbourhood of Getsemaní is known as a party center where you can find salsa clubs (Café Havana), crossover (Bazurto Social Club), merengue, bachata, techno (La Movida Club), and much more.

Dancing is a very important part of the caribbean culture and in Cartagena locals do like to party a lot, so don't stay out of the fun and have the time of your life dancing as if there is no tomorrow. You can also have a cocktail or pre-party drink watching the sunset in Café del Mar, which has a prime location because it’s situated along the walls of the old city. Every night in Cartagena is a good night, so don't miss it out!

5. Visit the Museum of Inquisition or Historical Museum

An interesting place to know more about the dark times of the Inquisition and the effect it had on a city like Cartagena as a Spanish colony back then. The museum is located in the walled city near the Cathedral, in the actual place where these questioned practices were made against anyone who did nor preach Catholic faith, and it's indeed a bit overwhelming to see.

However, the building itself is a good example of colonial architecture and everything is well displayed and informative. In the past years it has expanded its exhibitions and it's not just exclusively about the Inquisition anymore, they also have art installations and amazing photography exhibits. The entrance is around 6 USD and it's worth it if history is your thing!

6. Do a food tour and go to Mercado de Bazurto

Food is another absolute best in Colombia and it also plays an important role in the country's identity. In Cartagena you can find really good local food of all tastes, sizes, and colors. You can do a food tour around the walled city where you'll be able to try fresh fruits, fried snacks (like empanadas), sweets, and typical drinks from this part of the country.

If you are keen on local markets that exhilarate culture and traditions, visit Mercado de Bazurto, which is a 30 minute drive from the walled city; this is an exceptional place that has everything you can imagine, and where you'll be able to try many local foods for all senses and tastes while getting lost in it endless colorful stalls. It’s best to go early in the morning so you can find everything fresh.

Keep in mind that Cartagena is expensive, but not unaffordable either, just have a track of what you are spending and make sure it's within your budget. It's really an unforgettable experience and a definitive must if you are visiting the country. Good luck and safe travels!

Kalyan Panja