Santa Marta, surrounded by beaches and mountains, was the first city founded by the Spaniards in Colombia. Due to its cultural and historic importance, the historic center of Santa Marta was declared a national monument in the 1960’s. Five years ago it underwent a costly renovation and is proud to show off its new face and is best explored on foot.
The best place to start is from the center point of all towns in Colombia, the Simon Bolivar Plaza. The nearby Bank of Republic Library presently houses the Tayrona Gold Museum. Take time to see the displays of the fascinating gold pieces made centuries ago by the Tayrona indigenous group.
Construction of the white-washed Santa Marta Cathedral was completed towards the end of the 18th century. Some of the features of the cathedral are its dome-shaped bell tower, the floor plan in the shape of a cross, the main area’s vaulted ceiling and the side chapel marble screens. There’s also a statue of the Virgin that accompanied the Spanish founders.
The Customs House (La Casa de la Aduana) is another example of Colonial architecture and the first building erected in the area. Other buildings to see are the Santo Domingo Convent and the Town Council.
Don’t miss the statue of the beloved national football (soccer) hero Carlos Valderrama, who was born in Santa Marta. Known as El Pibe (The Kid), Valderrama was an outstanding Colombian football player. This immense statue stands outside the football stadium in Santa Marta shows off the football player’s distinctive blond hair and playing style.
Afterward the tour of the historic center, spend some time at one of the restaurants or cafes around the beautiful Parque de los Novios.