If imagining it is amazing, going through it is fascinating. This is the Historical Center, a “jewel” of Cartagena de Indias that I never get tired of visiting and recommending. Its smell, its color, its aura, its vibe, its people, all of it seduces me. And to think it has been more than 20 years since I stepped on its soil for the first time, and I honestly feel that every day it captivates me more.
A city with countless faces, that is how I define this colonial sector of the city, where I never have reasons to get bored because it always has plenty of plans to do or places to visit, whether you come for work or for pleasure.
I will share with the readers of Dónde my last extraordinary experience on the tourist attractions of the colonial area. For three days I went out as an experimented hiker, really eager to enjoy with my camera, and wearing special and comfortable clothes and shoes. Remember that the Historical Center is easily covered by foot.
Churches, museums and old walls
Start the tour from the churches is a wonderful experience, especially if you are Catholic person like me. I leave the Movich Hotel Cartagena de Indias and head towards “Plaza de La Proclamación”. When I get to the corner of “Calle Vélez Daníes” with the “Banco de la República”, I turn to the right and Wow! How spectacular is the “Santa Catalina de Alejandría” Cathedral, with such a beautiful exterior architecture and what a great awesomeness. I cannot find words to explain what I contemplate, and I rush to go in by the side door. If on the outside it is beautiful, on the inside even more thanks to its striking, or rather, priceless altars and the replicas of the Stations of the Cross.
Feeling really impressed, I go out by the main door and head towards the “Museo del Oro”, eager to know the collection of the “Zenú” culture. It is worth to visit this place because the pieces of gold and ceramic that I observe are the reflection of an impeccable work. Later, I decided to leave and cross the “Parque Bolívar” to reach the “Palacio de la Inquisición”, which is the place where the “Museo Histórico” is located. Inside, I stare in amazement to the 18th century architecture, and I cannot restrain myself and start feeling the gates, balconies, roofs, and windows.
Now the turn is for the “Iglesia Santo Domingo”, located on the famous square with the same name. I decided to walk by the Cathedral and start taking lots of pictures until a paintings vendor makes me react and I keep on going my way. I approach the “Calle Santo Domingo”, and as I go the yellow color of the church catches my attention, that bright color that contrasts with the immense gates that by this time are already open. Another group of tourists come in and, just like me, get really impressed by the altars and the great size of the Christ of the Expiration. With faith I approach him and embrace him, delivering my soul and asking for a miracle. With the intrigue of visiting the well-known temple where years ago famous F-1 pilot, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Connie Freydell got married, I head to “Plaza Fernández de Madrid”. When I arrive, I notice that “Iglesia Santo Toribio de Magrovejo” is not so big, but it is charming and cozy, with an impressive 1665 architecture.
My next stop is at “Iglesia San Pedro Claver”. I do not walk for more than 8 minutes when the flight of the pigeons makes me feel I am getting closer. And I am not mistaken, this temple is, for me, one of the most striking, especially because it allows me to know the remains of “San Pedro Claver” that are preserved in the temple as the most valuable treasure.
When I had to choose between the “Museo San Pedro Claver”, the “Museo Naval del Caribe”, or the “Museo Histórico de Cartagena”, I decided to go into the last one. In this place, the exhibitions currently displayed catch my attention longer than the established time. By the quality of the works I notice that the city hosts great artists. There are seven museums and four churches that are worth visiting.
Feeling completely marveled, I decided to end my tour walking the 11 kilometers of walls and stopping at each bastion. It is an amazing route where you can delight your sight watching, to the right, lovely balconies and colonial roofs, and, to the left, the immense Caribbean Sea and its dreamy postcard views. The breeze hits me gently and I cannot stop shooting my camera; and, of course, the live videos I share on Instagram captivate my followers. The mandatory stop for everyone is in front of “Plaza Santa Teresa”, which I consider has the most striking background to get some selfies. Exhausted, but satisfied, I part to the hotel, but not before thinking about tomorrow’s tour.
In Movich Cartagena de Indias I feel like a queen in the middle of luxuries and comforts that perfecly blend with elements of the city and the tradition of Cartagena. I close my night on the terrace with swimming pool and the unmatchable 360° view, observing an imposing panoramic, to never forget, and having delicious cocktails and author cuisine dishes that fuses Mediterranean ingredients with the best of the Caribbean Sea, and, of course, the best local products. A high gastronomy experience, framed by an exclusive atmosphere, with ingredients, aromas, textures and exotic flavors of great trajectory.
Squares of Cartagena de Indias
The Historical Center has much more than religious tourism, art, culture and history. It is also a nightlife destination through its colonial streets and squares with great gastronomy diversity and boutique houses to choose from. There is nothing more fantastic than corroborating that, from “Plaza San Diego”, “San Pedro Claver”, “Santa Teresa”, “Santo Domingo”, and “Fernandez Madrid”, the nights of Cartagena are full of life, and have a bohemian, magical, and amazing spirit. Those are the squares I chose, and from them, sitting with a margarita cocktail in my hands under the light of a candle, I observe the performance of street artists, the live serenades next to the tables, the vendors approaching with caution; I could also watch the photographers, the “palenqueras” that proudly walk wearing colorful outfits and carrying trays full of tropical fruits, tourists from all over the world, and, of course, the horse-drawn cars that provide the final touch to the atmosphere of these radiant places.
I arrive to another square with even greater nightlife, the “Plaza de Los Coches”, with its majestic “Torre del Reloj”, possessor of an absolute beauty. In there I can also find the “Portal de Los Dulces”, a place famous by the delicious sweet delicacies sold in there, and also because of the sound of drums, trumpets, bells and bongos coming from a renowned Salsa music bar. While I contemplate the striking signs of the more than five bars and clubs of the area, I found this nightlife area to party, but tomorrow is another day and I have to wake up early. I go out by the “mouth” of the Clock Tower and get to enjoy a marvelous 180° view, with the “La Bodeguita” dock, the “Bahía de las Ánimas, the Convention Center, “Los Pegasos” dock, the “Camellón de los Mártires”, and the “Parque Centenario” in the background. I am fascinated by everything I observe, and I stop to think about the architectural value of the whole Historical Center, the pride of Cartagena de Indias.
As the purpose of this last night is to party non-stop, I rush to visit Getsemaní, that colonial neighborhood that has recovered its essence, and where you can pick the favorite place to dance on and on, in a bar or a club that usually offer plans starting on Wednesday. “La Media Luna”, the “Avenida del Arsenal”, until “Calle de La Sierpe”, are the trendy places to share with friends, have a drink, have fun, and taste a delicious pizza in a restaurant, or maybe you can eat a hot dog sitting on the corner of “Plaza de la Trinidad”. After seven o’ clock at nigh, I approach “Plaza de La Trinidad”. I start by savoring some delicious pastas in Di Silvio Trattoria in “Calle de La Sierpe”, a true temple for Italian food and the perfect choice to have unforgettable moments. I have a glass of good wine to accompany the fine menu, and my palate is delighted with the first sip. This Italian corner surprises me with its exquisite flavors and magical atmosphere.
Before choosing the place to close the night, I approach the gates of “Iglesia de La Santísima Trinidad”, where the joyfull culture of the Caribbean mixes with the foreign one. Even though this place is noisy and crowded, it is also charming and cozy.
From the steps of “Iglesia de La Trinidad” I observe how easy it is for backpackers to relate to the inhabitants of this neighborhood. I admire the colorful facades of the Republican and colonial houses, the huge windows, the balconies, and the graffiti or murals that make even more pleasant the atmosphere. The “Champeta” music and the funk that I hear from far away remind me that the night is long and that the purpose of me coming here was to party.
In the “Media Luna” I concluded my new adventure through the Historical Center of the multifaceted Cartagena de Indias, the city with a thousand colors and flavors.