Cartagena is Colombia’s charming port city on the Caribbean coast. The city was founded in the 16th century and possesses a romantic old-world appeal. It’s filled with historic squares, cobblestone streets and colourful colonial buildings.
If you’re touring Colombia and wondering what to see in Cartagena in 24 hours, we’re here to help. We’ve laid out the perfect itinerary that covers the city’s main highlights and includes plenty of sightseeing tips.
The historic charm that embodies this city by the sea makes it an ideal vacation destination for anyone planning a trip to Colombia. Let’s get into the best way to enjoy a short trip to Cartagena.
Downtown Cartagena, Colombia is enclosed by the iconic city wall. Construction of the wall began in 1586 to protect the city from continual pirate attacks.
Inside the historic walls, you’ll find many of the city’s top attractions that represent the best of Cartagena. The Colombian culture shines through and you can feel the history of the city resonate off the walls as you wander the colourful colonial streets.
Walking tours are popular in this area and will provide you with even more insight and fun facts about the city. You’ll also find some of the best restaurants in Cartagena here.
Plaza Santo Domingo is one of the main squares in the historical centre of Cartagena. The area has a very lively atmosphere and is surrounded by restaurants, cafés and bars.
It also houses the beautiful 16th century Santo Domingo Church, the oldest church in the city. Inside you’ll find a beautifully ornate altar and many hand-carved religious statues. Opposite the church is the Botero Statue, the city’s famous statue of a fat lady.
The Palace of The Inquisition is a museum that explores the Inquisition in Cartagena as well as the history of the city. The palace was completed around 1770 and built in Spanish colonial style.
On display throughout the museum are historic artefacts, including coins, maps, weapons, furniture, church bells, and torture equipment used on victims during the inquisition. With over 200 years of history, this is a uniquely fascinating attraction to check out when you travel to Cartagena, Colombia.
The Museo Del Cacao offers Colombian chocolate products and a small museum that speaks to the history of chocolate in South America. It also offers workshops where you can make your own chocolate products.
The gift shop carries a wide range of chocolate products, including soaps, tea, coffee, chocolate bars, and more. Free samples are also offered, so you can taste before you buy.
The Bóvedas Market also referred to as “The Vaults”, was once a series of cave-style prison cells. Today, the area houses a quaint local market. It’s a great place to pick up some unique Cartagena souvenirs.
There are many different stalls selling local products and the prices are very reasonable. Most store owners are also willing to negotiate. You’ll find souvenirs of all types: Cartagena art, crafts, jewellery, clothing, and more.
Located just outside the walls of the old city, on the hill of San Lázaro, sits the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. The castle is amazingly well preserved and a major landmark in Cartagena.
Construction of the castle began in 1536 and in 1657 it was significantly expanded. Today, visitors can walk around the castle, learn about its rich history, and admire the spectacular panoramic views of the Cartagena skyline.
The Los Zapatos Viejos, also known as “Old Boots”, is a large bronze sculpture of a pair of shoes in Cartagena city. The monument is a tribute to Luis Carlos Lopez, a famous Cartagena poet.
The shoes are displayed in front of the beautiful Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, making it the perfect place for a photo opportunity. Take a picture next to the shoes, or climb inside.
Getsemani is Cartegena’s most colourful and lively neighbourhood. This former slave quarter has transformed into a charming and hip area of the city. It offers a slew of cafés, restaurants and bars, and is a prime area for people watching.
Take a slow stroll and admire the street art, pop into a café for a casual cappuccino, and soak in the diversity of the city’s most trendy neighbourhood.
The Pier Los Pegasos is a landmark in Cartagena that includes magnificent pegasus statues, a waterfront pier, and a lovely seaside vibe. The statues are located just outside the walled city, in front of the sea.
It’s a great place to visit on vacation. You’ll find lots of vendors selling different products and it provides a very unique background for photos.
The best way to end your time in Cartagena, Colombia is by watching a breathtaking sunset over the Caribbean sea.
There are two places where we recommend enjoying this activity. The first is at Café del Mar, an extremely popular open-air bar that overlooks the sea and the skyline. Or, grab a beer from a local street vendor and join the locals on the wall. You’ll get the same views, but without the hefty price tag.
Cap off the perfect day by watching the changing colour of the sky as the sun fades into the sea.
Cartagena is a South American bucket list destination that should be high on everyone’s travel list. Even if you’re only able to spend a quick 24 hours in Cartagena, you’ll discover the magic of the city right away.
Cartagena has a romantic atmosphere, a lovely coastal location, and a stunningly well preserved Old Town that make it one of the best places to visit in South America.
Admire the marvellous architecture and the blazingly brightly painted buildings, get lost in the streets of the walled city and indulge in the Colombian cuisine. Even the smallest of details add to this quaint Colombian city’s overall charm and allure!