With brightly-colored buildings, colonial landmarks, and bougainvillea-covered balconies, Old Town Cartagena is known for its beauty and its UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Highlights include the leafy Plaza de Bolivar, the striking Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj), and the Gold Museum (Museo de Oro).
The Old Town is a staple of most Cartagena sightseeing tours, which provide a comprehensive introduction to the walled city for first-time visitors. Explore top attractions, including the Palace of the Inquisition (Palacio de la Inquisición), the church of San Pedro Claver, and Las Bóvedas (a series of vaults beneath the city) on foot or by bike, Segway, or air-conditioned minibus. Tours typically also cover the nearby San Felipe de Barajas Castle (even though it’s not technically part of the Old Town).
Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- Old Town Cartagena is one of the city’s highlights, popular with first-time visitors and history buffs.
- Cobbled streets and uneven surfaces can make tours bumpy for travelers in wheelchairs and families with strollers.
- There are plenty of accommodation, restaurants, and bars in Old Town Cartagena. During peak season, make hotel and restaurant recommendations in well in advance.
The vast majority of Cartagena hotels are located in the Old Town, within walking distance of the main square and other attractions. From Cartagena Airport, you can take a private taxi to the Old Town or opt for a local colectivo (shared taxi), which depart from just outside the arrivals hall.
When to Get There
To avoid the heat of the day, try getting to the Old Town in the early morning or late afternoon. The Plaza de Bolivar also offers shady spots comfortable in the middle of the day, as well as air-conditioned museums and restaurants. San Felipe de Barajas Castle
No visit to Cartagena would be complete without a visit to San Felipe de Barajas Castle, the city’s most visible architectural symbol. The 14th-century fortress, built by the Spanish, protected the coastal city from English invasion. The castle attracts visitors interested in its history and its panoramic harbor views.