What to do and see in Cartagena District, Bolivar Department: The Best Things to do Good for Big Groups

June 21, 2021 Marissa Gamble

Discover the best top things to do in Cartagena District, Colombia including Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, Walled City of Cartagena, Sanctuary of Saint Peter Claver, Catedral Santa Catalina de Alejandria, Plaza Santo Domingo, Plaza de San Diego, Iglesia de la Trinidad, Caribe Jewelry Museum & Factory, Oceanario, Bomba Beach Club.

1. Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Carrera 17, Cartagena 130002 Colombia +57 5 6421293 http://fortificacionescartagena.com/en
Excellent
51%
Good
36%
Satisfactory
11%
Poor
2%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 12,870 reviews

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Cartagena was always a desirable conquest for pirates and enemies of the Spanish Crown; and for this reason, the defense of the city from these threats was a question of priority for its inhabitants from the first decades of the existence of the city. Once the primitive nucleus of Cartagena and the outlying district of Getsemani were fortified, there was a need to erect a structure on San Lazaro Hill that would prevent an enemy attack from its peak, since the hill dominated the walls and the only entrance to the city, the Media Luna Entrance in Getsemani. In addition, this hill was the intermediate point between the city and the nearby Popa Peak, where some heavy guns and canons were installed between 1769 and 1780 to cross fire with the castle and make an enemy attack more difficult from the large beach of Playon Grande in Pie de la Popa.

Reviewed By myom624 - Coquitlam, Canada

A hilltop fortress (but just a 5-minute-or-so walk up from the bottom) with a "quite sprawling" area above the ramparts, this is really a site for a "high-ground walk" in I would categorize as generally 3 parts: the Central Part with the "national flag" (a good-sized one for a nice photo-op) where there's also a tunnel to go down below which connects with the North Part (a straight walk for just about 5 minutes to the other side but where inside are also some "diverging paths" to wander around a bit); the North Part which is the "most spacious" of the three where there's also like a higher promenade along its one side for some direct views to outside through the openings among the battlements alongside; and the South Part which is actually a 2-level one with its upper level being the "highest part" of the entire fortress (and likely due to that physical position being the "most number" of cannons of the Fortress to be found at that specific location). And yes, to enjoy above apart from spacious grounds are also great views all around especially to the south with just a "pretty phenomenal" view of the city's skyline (generally around the Bocagrande Beach area with really quite a number of modern high-rises spread along an impressive length!) and also to the east with La Popa Hill (a distant-but-clear view of its convent on top with actually also interestingly some of the cannons of this fortress pointed in that direction for some "unique scene" I would say). Just somewhat on the downside though (not personally for me) is that this is a site pretty much "all outdoor" except for some rest shelters, but be sure not to miss the small souvenir shop on the upper level of the South Part (which despite its size has a pretty good collection of a variety of souvenirs). If coming from the "Walled City", after coming out of its east side is just about a half-hour walk pretty much just a straight way (until arriving at the north end of the Fortress which is where to turn right for a further short walk to the ticket entrance), and also to pass by "at about halfway" along the way is the India Catalina statue right beside a big lake (one commemorating the tribal woman who accompanied Conquistador Pedro de Heredia in his quest to establish Cartagena). And actually as for statues, there's also one right at the bottom of this fortress (just to the left after coming back out of the ticket entrance) which is just somewhat of an interesting one featuring a "sword-weilding" commander or such (with my initial impression being one for the Spanish defenders in the 1740's War, but the inscription below mentioning actually being one for the British attackers!).

2. Walled City of Cartagena

Calle 41, Cartagena 130002 Colombia
Excellent
76%
Good
21%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 22,769 reviews

Walled City of Cartagena

Reviewed By midwaytoheaven - Midway, United States

A PHOTOGRAPHERS DREAM! We loved exploring both the inside and outside of the Old City Walls of Cartagena. It is amazing that these walls still exist and standing after hundreds of years of history. Boy, if these walls could talk what stories they would tell. A MUST SEE when visiting Caratgena. BOTTOM LINE: What a fun place to see so much history in a compact area. You can wall atop many parts of the wall and get a different perspective of the old city, too. We found it fun strolling the old narrow cobblestone streets, seeing the Cartagena Cathedral, San Pedro Church, city hall, customs house square, shops, jewelry stores, historical statues, seeing street vendors, Yellow Clock squared and more. Plan to spend several hours strolling the streets and better appreciate the flavor of this walled old city. MY RATING: 9/10. Most of the old colonial homes have been nicely restored. You'll see some beautiful flowered balconies down every street. A photographers dream location. Photo and selfie stops around every corner!

3. Sanctuary of Saint Peter Claver

Carrera 4 30 01, Cartagena 130002 Colombia +57 5 6644991 [email protected] http://www.sanpedroclaver.co
Excellent
51%
Good
38%
Satisfactory
10%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 2,829 reviews

Sanctuary of Saint Peter Claver

Four hundred years ago jesuits established in Cartagena and founded a school and a church in downtown. During the XVII century a father called Pedro Claver dedicated all his life to the protection of the african slaves and became saint 300 hundred years later. To keep alive his legacy, jesuits came back to the city at the end of XIX century and started to collect pieces for a museum that includes precolombian, religious and african caribbean art and, of course, the chamber and other spaces where the saint lived and died. Nowadays it is the museum with the most complete collection of religious art in Colombian coast, and the building preserves the spirit of Claver, the spirit of Human Rights.

Reviewed By ruthandvern - Wilton, United States

Not only is this a museum, it leads to the sanctuary. Within the exterior walls there is a wondrous courtyard full of plants and calm and quiet. The plants and flowers just light up the buildings. On three floors there are colections of ceramics of the saint's, his cell, the most complete collection of of religious art in the area, African arts and crafts both old and new. Workmen were working on the roof of the sanctuary and brought supplies up the narrow winding staircase from the sanctuary to the choral loft and on up to the bell tower. The tower was not available for viewing.

4. Catedral Santa Catalina de Alejandria

Calle de los Santos de Piedra, Cartagena Colombia +57 5 6645308 http://www.cartagenadeindias.travel/conoce_catedral-santa-catalina-de-alejandria-177
Excellent
44%
Good
41%
Satisfactory
12%
Poor
2%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 448 reviews

Catedral Santa Catalina de Alejandria

Reviewed By Kelleygirl2 - Sarasota, United States

Getting my bearings I located the cathedral tower and made my way back toward Bolivar Plaza where I found people preparing for a wedding! As is the practice in Cartagena, THE place for destination weddings, all the churches are open and anyone walking by can come in to photograph, sit or watch someone’s private wedding ceremony. I saw people milling about in front of the golden yellow Cathedral of Cartagena, officially known as the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, one of the oldest episcopal sees in the Americas. Black and white tile cover the floor of the entrance to the beautiful stone church and an enormous red door stood wide open, and invitation for sure. Curious, I stuck my head inside. Tourists were seated in some of the pews. I thought of sitting to watch the ceremony but the real action was in the prelude to these nuptials. The grooms were already waiting in the back of the church and the mother of the bride was giving instructions to the men. Several young boys and girls roughly 4-8 years of age were not so patiently waiting in front of the church. The young boys were attired in a little black suit, bow tie and flip flops, the girls were in beautiful white dresses with flower wreaths in their hair. One young girl caught my eye. Ever the photographer, I had my camera ready photographing some of the celebrants when this young 6 or 7 year-old little girl, in her lovely white dress, ballet slipper shoes and flowers in her hair looked at the massive church door and began to climb it as if it were her very own climbing wall. She held on to several of the protruding knobs on the door to pull herself up. She gained purchase with her feet on other knobs, and she was off! I was quite impressed. She got away with it for a minute or so before she was spotted by the father of the bride who promptly removed her from the wall. Very quickly the mother of the bride said “Did you get that?!” I said “I sure did!” I was invited to photograph more of the family, which I happily did. As the children were ushered inside to their seats I noticed my now favorite rascal of the boys was being pulled off the padded kneeling bench at the altar. I left after the bride, escorted by her father, made their way down the aisle for the nuptials to begin. Leaving the church I began to photograph the cathedral in the warm afternoon light. Suddenly a small taxi pulled up and, like a circus clown car, out popped three women wearing voluminous white dresses with their hair wrapped in white scarves piled high on top of their heads, plus a tall gentleman, also in white, carrying an enormous bongo drum! I have no idea how they got in or out but they did. I followed the women into the Bolivar Plaza and rushed up to photograph them in the lovely backlight. They were going to perform after the wedding, but whose? I imagine it was the one at the cathedral but I didn’t stick around to find out.

5. Plaza Santo Domingo

Calle 35, Cartagena 130010 Colombia
Excellent
47%
Good
39%
Satisfactory
11%
Poor
2%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 3,902 reviews

Plaza Santo Domingo

Reviewed By tripswithtai - Jamaica, United States

Lots of local artists, sculptors and gem enthusiasts will approach you! Lots of beautiful art in the plaza and a beautiful statue of the plump saint

6. Plaza de San Diego

Calle San Diego, Cartagena Colombia
Excellent
48%
Good
39%
Satisfactory
12%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1,248 reviews

Plaza de San Diego

Reviewed By S3035BAnancym

Wonderful place to see life just happening - great restaurants, historical sights, street food vendors, street vendors, and families and friends just hanging out.

7. Iglesia de la Trinidad

Carrera 1 & Calle 15 Plaza de la Trinidad, Cartagena Colombia 664-2050
Excellent
51%
Good
36%
Satisfactory
12%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 611 reviews

Iglesia de la Trinidad

Reviewed By alexismday - London, United Kingdom

We accidentally stumbled onto the most gorgeous wedding service taking place in this incredible church. The music moved us to tears it was breathtaking. Architecturally it is stunning. Please do visit, maybe takr in a church service if you can (we did a few days later) and was marvellous. Wow.

8. Caribe Jewelry Museum & Factory

Bocagrande Calle 5 No 2-51, Cartagena 130012 Colombia +57 5 6654625 [email protected] http://www.caribejewelry.com
Excellent
61%
Good
26%
Satisfactory
10%
Poor
2%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1,873 reviews

Caribe Jewelry Museum & Factory

Reviewed By Orovalley2001 - Tucson, United States

We were given a chance to make our own emerald necklace and purchase some at a great discount. The mockup of an actual mine was very interesting.

9. Oceanario

Calle 31 69b69, 130001 Colombia +57 301 4141483 http://oceanario.co/
Excellent
54%
Good
27%
Satisfactory
13%
Poor
2%
Terrible
4%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 951 reviews

Oceanario

Reviewed By joserafaell89 - Bogota, Colombia

In San Martin de Pajarales Island (part of archipielago Islas del Rosario) this aquarium is a worth while place to visit any time. Well organized and presented, animals well kept and a great view f the caribbean sea!

10. Bomba Beach Club

Isla de Tierrabomba Km 1.5, Punta Arena, Cartagena 13000 Colombia +57 300 6780848 [email protected] https://www.bombabeachcartagena.com/
Excellent
68%
Good
17%
Satisfactory
8%
Poor
2%
Terrible
5%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 207 reviews

Bomba Beach Club

With the best view of the city, Restaurant and Beach Club just 10 minutes by boat from Cartagena, white sand beaches and delicious seafood. Once you arrive we lead you to a nice kiosko, with swing bed, hammoks and tanning chairs, those are for your personal use the whole day. As soon as you are comfortable and ready you can order a bite of fried plantains with cheese and hogao (tomato,onion and garlic sauce) a ceviche, a shrimp cocktail or a delicious lunch. From the beginning you can try our natural juices, margaritas (the best in the world), cocoloco, caipirinha, mojitos, beers and more. If you want to refresh you can enjoy our swimming pool or take a shower with fresh water in our outdoor showers. Access to the island is only possible by boat, but the trip took only 10 minutes, the boat leaves from Castillogrande beach behind Bocagrande hospital, there are usually many boats there, you must ask for Wendy she´s our host. We really recommend you to book in advance. Whats app!

Reviewed By edwN6099TC - London, Canada

Cartagena Columbia - Our best surprise, clean, fun, Port, went to Teirra Bomba island, private excursion to a private beach bar location the Beach Bomba, we got to arranged pick up area, there was 8 of us, quick boat ride and great beach, water, beer, food Pina's, etc

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