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Cartagena Colombia and the Old City - People and Places

Cartagena is becoming one of the most luxurious destinations in the world and it is not hard to see why. This vibrant and colorful City is also known for its rich culture dating back to Colonial times. Cartagena de Indias or “Corralito de Piedas” as the locals like to call it, was founded in the 15th Century and has grown to be an ultimate vacation Caribbean destination. Near Cartagena de Indias you will find the clear blue waters of “Baru” and the “Rosario Islands”; two destinations we highly recommend you add to the visit. (Cartagena Colombia Rentals would be happy to help you arrange a trip and even a stay in a private vacation home in the islands). Cartagena’s character is given by its beautiful plazas, fruit vendors and street skilled artisans that help its visitors to become instant photographers taking amazing photos of Cartagena Colombia. The entire Old City is a work of art, and therefore, in 1984 was deservedly included in the UNESCO list of Patrimonies of the World.

Palenquera Seller

Palenquera Fruit Seller

These fruit sellers wander the streets of Cartagena, Colombia offering locals and tourists alike a sweet taste of what the tropical soil and sunshine provides in abundance. Some of the more exotic offerings they carry on their heads include Cherimoya, Guanabana, and Lulo fruit

Cathedral in Cartagena

Cathedral in Cartagena

This cathedral, photographed down the historic Calle Don Sancho in Cartagena, Colombia, was designed by Simón González and modelled after basilicas in Andalusia and the Canary Islands. Though the building was finished in 1612, the inspiring tower that stretches high above the Centro neighborhood was designed by French architect Gastón Lelarge as part of a modern renovation

San Pedro Dome

San Pedro Dome

The Dome atop the Church of San Pedro Claver sits in the heart of Cartagena, Colombia. Under the dome rests the mortal remains of San Pedro Claver, a Jesuit priest who obtained Sainthood for his great acts of charity involving the African slaves in the markets of Cartagena. It is said that he personally baptized 300,000 individuals

Palenquera Fruit Seller

Palenquera Fruit Seller

The Ethnic Palenquero in Colombia, South America are descended from escaped Caribbean slaves (Maroons) and speak the only Spanish-based Creole language in the world. Cartagena Colombia is one of the last bastions of this vibrant culture and unique language with less than 3,000 people who can call themselves Palenquero

Iglesia Santo Toribio

Holy Communion day for this girl

This young girl wears her Sunday Best as she prepares to attend Holy Communion at church in Cartagena Colombia. Cartagena (and Colombia in general) is majority Catholic thanks to the heavy influence of the Spanish Colonial period (as noted by the stunning architecture of the churches dotted throughout the city). Nearly 80% of those native to Cartagena are Catholic

San Pedro Plaza

The Plaza de San Pedro Claver at Night

The Plaza de San Pedro in Colombia features some of the best restaurants in the city. The local flair, street performers, and affordable foods make it a popular destination for diners who want a little of the traditional Cartagena culture with their meal

Carnival Cartagena

Carnival Dancers on Parade

Carnival was brought to Colombia by the Spanish and Carnival in Cartagena has retained many of the European trappings whereas other Caribbean Carnivals more closely reflect local and indigenous traditions. This is partly due to the fact that Cartagena was a major urban center for the Spanish and the ruling elite didn’t allow native peoples to celebrate as raucously as they would have otherwise

Wedding Reception

Street Wedding

Romantic destination weddings in Cartagena, Colombia cast a sense of Old World charm over Caribbean/Spanish flair. It’s not uncommon for the traditional Catholic weddings of locals to spill joyously out into the streets and turn Cartagena into one big wedding reception under the stars.

Walking on Cartagena Old City Wall

Walking to Cartagena’s Old Walled City

Cartagena’s Walled City is a living monument to Spanish Colonial times when the gold of Colombia flowed through the port of Cartagena and the Caribbean Sea was prowled by pirates. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, the Walled City comes alive at night, cast in golden sunsets and glimmering streetlamps, giving tourists and travelers a glimpse into the past just steps from a modern urban conveniences

Carriage waiting in a Plaza

Horse Drawn Carriage in Cartagena’s Old City

Those wishing to experience Cartagena, Colombia in an authentically romantic way can take horse drawn carriages through the narrow colonial streets of the Walled City for just a few dollars, and—even if for just a minute—forget that their living in the 21st century

Mochila Bags

Colorful Mochila Bags

The stalls of street vendors in Cartagena are full of cultural gems like these traditional Mochila bags. These bags were originally used on a daily basis by various native peoples in Northern Colombia. Made from colorful fabrics and leather, these bags have become the cultural symbol of Colombia and are still as functional as they were centuries ago

Locals Chillin in Getsemani

The Night Life in Getsemani

The Getsemani neighborhood of Cartagena, Colombia has reinvented itself in the past decade to become the entertainment center of the city. With exotic restaurants, salsa bars, and nightclubs open to locals and travelers alike this neighborhood has something to offer night and day

Cartagena Street at night

Cartagena’s Beautiful Colonial Architecture


Cartagena boasts some of the best examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in Colombia. The city was a major hub for the Spanish Empire through which gold, emeralds, and other valuables were funneled in the 1600s through the 1700s. Many of those contemporary buildings are still standing today

Street Carnival Cartagena

Carnival Dancer in Cartagena

Cartagena comes alive with colorful costumes in November as Carnival ramps up. Most of the celebration takes place during the second week of the month and it all culminates when the Carnival Queen is crowned. A mix of Spanish and indigenous cultures, Cartagena’s Carnival is unlike any other

La Vitrola Restaurant

La Vitrola Restaurant in Cartagena

La Vitrola is an authentic Colombian restaurant where travelers can sample local delicacies and traditional recipes like Pulpitos a la parrilla, king prawns, grouper, and octopus ceviche. On many occasions La Vitrola also hosts live entertainment such as Cuban and Colombian musicians

Colonial house balcony window

Woman Overlooking a Cartagena Street

These little Colonial-style balconies along the narrow streets of Cartagena, Colombia offer residents and visitors a different view of life in this vibrant Caribbean city. They’re the perfect spots to watch the sunrise before going out to explore or to sip a cocktail and watch the night blanket the city

Carnival Cartagena

Carnival Street Party in Cartagena

These dancers dressed in traditional Carnival costumes are celebrating at one of the street parties that pop up all during the last week of Carnival (the second week of November). You can join in the dancing, moving to the jubilant Caribbean beat or watch from the sidelines—either way, have your camera ready to capture once-in-a-lifetime shots

Outside a Bar in Old City Cartagena

A Cocktail to End the Night in Cartagena’s Old City

The Old City in Cartagena is home to any number of tiny little bars in which you can sip local cocktails, wines, and beer while relaxing after a day of exploring everything the city has to offer. Many feature live entertainment and local light fare unlike anything you’ll taste anywhere else

Holy Communion in Cartagena

Communion in Iglesia Santo Toribio

This young girl is receiving communion in Iglesia Santo Toribio, one of the architecturally stunning Catholic churches in Cartagena’s Old City. This is a wonderful spot for photographers to snap authentic Colombian life

Horse and Carriage at night

Horse and Carriage Driver in Cartagena

The horse and carriage drivers in Cartagena’s Old City operate throughout most of the night. If you’ve seen the city by day, you owe it to yourself to see it after the sun goes down. The golden lights bring the colorful architecture a whole new life and the gentle swaying of the carriage is the perfect way to relax after a wonderful dinner

Rosario Islands

The Rosario Islands

The Rosario Islands are just a short boat ride away from the heart of Cartagena and feature some of the best fishing, snorkeling, and scuba in the entire area. The islands are surrounded by a protected coral reef and are the perfect place to experience the life of a beach bum during your stay in Colombia

Hire a Boat

Cafe Havanna Cartagena

Café Havana in Cartagena

Café Havana, in the heart of Getsamni, is one of the best places in Cartagena to experience local nightlife. Each night the club brings in live entertainers from around Colombia and also schedules special performances for special occasions

Inside Cartagena Cathedral

Cartagena Cathedral

Not only is the architectural icon gorgeous on the outside, the inside is breathtaking as well. With sculpted pillars, high vaulted ceilings, and wooden artwork in bas relief the Cartagena Cathedral truly is one of the most stunning 17th Century buildings in the city. It’s a marvel built with simple hand tools hundreds of years ago

Santa Clara Hotel

The Streets of Cartagena

Even the more modern buildings in Cartagena have been structured with that authentic Colonial and indigenous vibe that makes this city one of the most beautiful in all of Colombia. Local materials are used wherever possible and make even modern mansions and hotels looks as if they’ve stood on these narrow streets for hundreds of years

Local Dancers Cartagena

Traditional Colombian Dancers

Latin Dance and music are central to the cultural life in Cartagena. While modern pop music and the nightclub scene are very strong in Cartagena, there are also plenty of opportunities for the traveler to see traditional Colombian dance and music as well

Horse Drawn Carriage

Cartagena by Carriage

You can walk many of the streets of Cartagena but if you want to truly experience the city one of the best ways is by horse and carriage. They are an excellent way to rest your feet after a day of exploring and bring you to hidden gems you might not have seen otherwise

Holy Communion Cartagena

Communion in Cartagena

This young girl in her communion dress stands outside one of the many Catholic churches in Cartagena. The unique blend of Spanish Catholicism and native peoples has created a sort of hybrid religious culture that exists in Colombia today

Cartagena Cathedral Dome

The Cartagena Cathedral Tower


This tower that sits atop the Cartagena Cathedral was actually a modern addition to the Colonial structure designed by a French architect to reflect the contemporary style and elegance of a bygone era. The tower can be seen across most of the city and provides a handy landmark for those who want to explore Cartagena on foot

Cartagena at Night

Cathedral Tower at Night

At nigh the tower atop the Cartagena Cathedral blazes to life with brilliant lights shining into the sky. Just like during the day, this landmark makes an easy reference point for travelers trying to find their way through the narrow Colonial streets

Colonial-House-in-Cartagena

Colonial house in Cartagena

The Colonial architecture left by the Spanish during the 1700s is accentuated by Cartagena’s tropical climate and Caribbean sea breezes. Native and imported flowering plants bring bright bursts of color to buildings bathed in golds, oranges, and blues. And everywhere you go the scents of those flowers reminds you that you are someplace exotic

Colonial House Cartagena

Colonial Doorway

This heavy, studded door sitting in this sturdy archway is typical of the Colonial architecture in Cartagena. The city was built to survive pirate raids at a time when much of the gold the Spanish were stealing from Colombia funneled through Cartagena. Everything is watched over by the massive Castillo San Felipe de Barajas atop the Hill of San Lázaro

Palenquera Fruit Seller

Palenquera Fruit Seller at Night

When the sun goes down the streets of Cartagena, Colombia transform. The historic beauty of this Caribbean city is shrouded in starlight and exotic sounds spill from salsa bars and nightclubs that mingle with the Palenquera Fruit Sellers. To party consider the up the up-and-coming Getsemani neighborhood

Cristobal Colon Plaza Cartagena

Plaza de la Aduana in Cartagena

This plaza was once home to all of the royal Spanish offices in Cartagena during the Colonial era. It is famous for the massive statue of Christopher Columbus created by Italian sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini. The sculpture was privately owned by Juan Bautista Mainero y Trucco who donated it at the end of the 19th century

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