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Flights to Cartagena

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Fall in love with Cartagena, the living fortress

Vista del atardecer en Cartagena desde la ciudad  hasta el mar

The charm of the Caribbean comes to life in corners and in squares. The colonial architecture and the Spanish heritage beat in the streets and in the mansions. This is Cartagena, a city which thrives during the year with international music and cinema festivals or with the Hay Festival; a city that brings together entrepreneurs from all over the world every month and to which some 200 cruises arrive with about 350 thousand people per year.

Atardecer en San Pedro Claver, Cartagena

According to economist Adolfo Meisel, an expert on the subject, Cartagena is a special place: an example of what remains of the Spanish fortified Caribbean of the late 17th century; a city that was a protagonist in Colombia's history and a port with a cultural calendar that is constantly renewed.

However, the 'Heroica'—so called because it endured the Spanish siege during 105 days in 1815—is not only a cultural and historic destination. Its 19 kilometers of beaches in the urban area, as well as the surrounding islands such as Barú and the Rosario Islands, make it an ideal destination to enjoy the Caribbean sun.

Panorámica de Cartagena vista desde arriba

As Gabriel García Márquez rightly said, "in Latin America there is a country that is not made of land, but water, which is the Caribbean." Cartagena could very well be one of its capitals.

What to do in Cartagena?

Cartagena's Five Historical Landmarks

485 years old and surrounded by 11 kilometers of walls, Cartagena is considered a Historical and Cultural Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO. Colonial churches, ancient palaces and portals have survived centuries, tempests, pirates and riots. This is a tour of the places that have marked the people of Cartagena.

Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa

Cartagena 7

When the Spaniards saw it for the first time they thought it was the stern of a giant ship. Hence the name of the highest point of the city with a dazzling view. Today, the 17th century cloister belongs to the Augustinians and visitors can find there a museum of religious art. Its altar is adorned with gold lamellae and, every February 2nd at dawn, it is visited by the devotees of the Virgin of La Candelaria de la Popa, patron saint of Cartagena.

Castle of San Felipe de Barajas

Cartagena was vital for the Spanish Crown due to its position in the Caribbean. To defend it from possible attacks, this military complex was built. Its central fort, built like the rest of the structure by African slaves during the 16th and 17th centuries, was used to watch the sea. The castle is an architectural milestone that took 120 years to be built. It hosts around 400,000 visitors every year.

Cathedral of Santa Catalina de Alejandría

The cathedral took 35 years to be built despite several missteps between 1577 and 1612: its structure was damaged by pirate attacks and by miscalculations in its design. However, from the beginning this Herrerian-style cathedral has been the religious epicenter of the city and is currently the seat of the archbishopric of Cartagena. It is the largest church in the city and its tower, which stands out in the skyline of the old town, was designed in 1921 by the French architect Gastón Lelarge when the temple was remodeled.

Palacio de la Inquisición 

Vista interna de la inquisición en Cartagena

A colonial house with a baroque portal and wooden balconies was the seat of the Spanish Inquisition for more than two hundred years. Its permanent exhibition shows torture ponies, shackles, whips and other tools with which this institution punished anyone who was accused of heresy through the Mailbox of Ignominy (a small window on one of the walls of the palace where anonymous accusations were placed). Furthermore, since 1984, the Palace also hosts the Historical Archive of Cartagena.

Parish of San Pedro Claver

Atardecer en San Pedro Claver, Cartagena

This national monument is named in honor of the Spanish saint who dedicated his life to alleviating the suffering of the African slaves of Cartagena in the 17th century. Because of his calling and his love of neighbor, he is also known as "the slave of slaves", and his remains rest on the altar. The Parish was built from 1580 to 1654 and, before finding its current name–a tribute to the saint canonized in 1888 by Pope Leo XIII–, it was first called San Juan de Dios and then San Ignacio de Loyola.

5 Things to do in Getsemaní

It was called 'El Arrabal' ('The Slum') because it was one of the first neighborhoods to be built outside the urban layout of Cartagena in the 16th century. For some, this was where the "free from colors" lived: a place where neither race nor social class nor creed mattered. A walk through the neighborhood's diversity and cultural commitment.

Cartagena's Five Historical Landmarks

485 years old and surrounded by 11 kilometers of walls, Cartagena is considered a Historical and Cultural Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO. The colonial churches, ancient palaces and portals have survived the passage of time, the elements of nature, the assault of pirates and the independence riots. This is a tour of the places that have marked the people of Cartagena.

Plaza del Pozo 

Eleven steel sculptures depict scenes from popular neighborhoods of La Heroica: children playing, families and friends chatting or selling fruit. They are the work of the artist Edgardo Carmona, born in Cartagena. In this iconic Getsemaní site you can have beers at the Black Parrot Bar or eat a tuna tartar at Demente restaurant.

Plaza de la Trinidad 

Vista de la Plaza Trinidad en Cartagena

Also known as Plaza Libertad, this square is the meeting point of the Getsemaní neighborhood. In the evenings there are street art shows that can be enjoyed from the nearby bars and cafes. In recent years it has become a stage for live music.

Calle de la Sierpe

Vista diurna de la Ruta Getsemani en Cartagena

An outdoor urban art gallery that is a space for Cartagena artists since 2013. With different techniques and styles, the images on the walls represent the mix of ethnic groups, cultural influences and iconic characters from Cartagena such as India Catalina or fruit vendors (called Palenqueras)

Guillermo Vega's Workshop

Vista del Taller de Guillermo en la Ruta Getsemani

He was born in Corozal, a town located in Sucre, 168 kilometers from Cartagena. He is considered a 'naive' artist because of the ingenuity of the strokes with which he depicts street dogs, women on the beach and nocturnal spirits, and because of his completely self-taught background. His workshop is an exhibition site for emerging artists.

Calle Larga

Coffee Houses like El Mural and Café de las Novias have opened in recent years near this road to recover its historical commercial vocation. In the past, Calle Larga was the meeting point for businessmen from different countries, called 'Turks' by the locals who weren't sure of their nationalities. Today, Calle Larga is located next to the Convention Center.

The City That Inspired the Nobel

Experts and amateurs know it: Cartagena has left a mark in the work of Nobel Prize Winner Gabriel García Márquez, as evidenced in books such as Love in the Time of Cholera and Of Love and Other Demons. For that reason, to walk along the city is to travel through Gabo's imagination and his love for Cartagena.

Calle de las Damas

Gabo arrived in Cartagena in 1948 and looked for his friends at the student residence Hotel Suiza, located in Calle de las Damas. Since he did not find them, he had to spend the night in Parque de Bolívar, where he was arrested for violating the curfew enforced in the country after the assassination of political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in Bogotá, which devastated the capital.

Portal de los Dulces

Vista de mercado en ruta Gabo, Cartagena

In Love in the Time of Cholera this place was called "El Portal de los Escribanos" (The Arcade of the Scribes): the place where Florentino Ariza confessed his love for Fermina Daza. As the name suggests, el Portal de los Dulces (The Arcade of Sweets) is an ideal place to taste candy made from tamarind, coconut, sesame, guava and other flavors that the author described in his novel: "the sellers of sweets who shouted over the din of the crowd: pineapple sweets for your sweetie, coconut candy is dandy, brown sugar loaf for your sugar":

Gabriel García Márquez House

Located at the corner of Calle Zerrezuela, in front of the Hotel Sofitel Legend Santa Clara, this is the place where Gabo spent a few months before leaving for Mexico in 2014. It is a huge house with high coral walls, designed by the architect Rogelio Salmona.

Santa Clara Convent

Vista interna de Santa Clara en Cartagena

Built in the 17th century, Santa Clara is now a hotel. Apart from being one of the settings of the novel Of Love and Other Demons, it used to be the place where the offices of Legal Medicine, the workshop of the School of Fine Arts and the headquarters of the Departmental League of Baseball were located. In 1994 it was restored and converted into lodging.

El Universal Newspaper

Upon recommendation of author Manuel Zapata Olivella, here is where García Márquez began his journalistic career. For a year and a half, Gabo wrote more than forty articles and fell in love with journalism, which he called "the most beautiful job in the world”.

What to eat in Cartagena?

Restaurants

Alma

Vista interna de Restaurante Alma en Cartagena

Specialty: sea food / traditional Caribbean food.

This restaurant is an architectural and a historical experience. Its location in the colonial city allows diners to admire century-old streets and houses, including the one where the restaurant is located, which was built in the 17th century and which is also a hotel. The dishes of its chef, Heberto Eljach, such as the Coco Woods ceviche  (fish marinated with lemon, coconut milk, onion, chili and served with green plantain), the seafood casserole 'a la cartagenera' (with lobster, clams, fish, squid, octopus, mussels with coconut milk and lobster cream) or the sancocho made with the day's catch are a tribute to the traditional flavors of La Heróica.

Moshi

Vista interna de Restaurante Moshi en Cartagena

Specialty: caribbean and Asian fusion food.

This place aims for the fusion of typical flavors and Asian cuisine. Some of its signature dishes are the tataki salmon, the spicy crab, the tempura shrimp, the chaufa lobster and the ramen. However, the most recommended experience is the omakase tasting menu, with seven stages that recreate a trip from the Caribbean Sea to Japan. A modern space in the heart of the historic city, which has an open-air lounge to enjoy the breeze of the coast and a sushi bar in which drinks such as the Moshi Moshi cocktails (sake, vodka, lychee liquor, basil, lemon and ginger) and the Vernita Green (tequila, kiwi, cilantro, yellow lemon, kaffir lime and mint) stand out.

Typical Dishes

Posta cartagenera

Posta (beef cut obtained from the lower part of the hindquarters), prepared with a mix of onion, garlic, black sauce, cumin and raw cane sugar or brown sugar.

Arepa de huevo

Comida típica en Cartagena, arepa de huevo

Fried arepa (round dough made with corn) filled with a fried egg. It can be filled with other ingredients besides the egg.

Mote de queso

Comida típica en Cartagena, mote de queso

Soup prepared with yam (tuber) and costeño cheese (a type of salted Colombian cheese), garlic, onion and lemon.

Arroz con coco

White rice prepared with coconut scratch, coconut milk and raisins.

A chef

Better known as 'Leo', Leonor is the owner of two well-known restaurants in Bogotá: "Leo" and "Misia", the first of which was recognized as the best in Colombia and one of the 50 best restaurants in Latin America, according to the 50 Best count. This chef from Cartagena has devoted much of her life to creating proposals based on local cuisine, reinterpreting the most traditional dishes of Colombian popular food and working hand in hand with the indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in the vindication of gastronomic traditions as a social and economic engine through her project Funleo.

A Recipe

Carimañolas

Comida típica en Cartagena, carimañola

This type of yuca frying, similar to a croquette, can be made with meat or cheese and is usually accompanied by a sauce called costeño serum (similar to sour cream) or a bit of spicy sauce.

Flights to Cartagena

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Relevant data

Airport

Rafael Núñez International Airport, located in the Crespo neighborhood in the north of the city.

Language

Spanish.

Currency

Colombian peso (COP).

Average temperature

26°C / 79°F

Transport

Buses (Transcaribe System): from 5:30 to 23:00. * Upon arrival in Cartagena, check the schedules, which may vary according to the day. Price: 2,300 COP (0.62 USD) per ticket. Taxis: minimum rate: 6,700 COP (2.10 USD).

Hotel

3-star hotel: 170,000 COP (53.49 USD) per person. 5-star hotel: 670,000 COP (210.82 USD) per person.