Welcome to Cartagena, Colombia
Crooned ballads and the smell of fresh bougainvillea fill the air in Colombia’s most romantic city, Cartagena. Painted in soft hues of yellow and burnt orange, buildings in the Ciudad Amurallada (Walled City) evoke a fairytale setting, and visitors can’t help feeling like protagonists in their own private telenovela as they stare into the Caribbean from atop the city walls.
Catagena Radisson Hotel guests can stroll through peaceful streets lined with Spanish Colonial architecture, visit art galleries in Getsemani, or head to an open-air café for silky tres leches cake and a refreshing mojito. With its mix of trendy Bocagrande shops, its enviable beaches and its impressive history, Cartagena has ample reason to claim the title of South America’s go-to getaway.
Reasons to Visit Cartagena
- Ciudad Amurallada: The Walled City of Cartagena looks like something out of a pirate flick, with dreamy views around every street corner. To get a better sense of the city’s rich history, see the terrifying torture devices in the Palacio de la Inquisición or tour the Catedral Metropolitana, built in 1612.
- Bocagrande: A chic, sensuous vibe permeates Bocagrande, Cartagena’s modern Miami Beach lookalike. Stop by the city’s hippest bars and restaurants, or pick up designer apparel at the area’s beautiful boutiques.
- Castillo San Felipe de Barajas: Though the views of Cartagena are spectacular, it is the maze of underground tunnels that make this 1536 castle worth visiting. Take a guided tour to hear about the clever designs that made this defensive complex Spain’s most vital colonial fortress.
- Isla Baru and Islas del Rosario: Order coconut rice, lobster and shrimp to get the full Caribbean experience at these islands just off the coast of Cartagena. A scenic 45-minute boat ride places you in postcard-perfect teal waters with excellent snorkeling.
- Street Vendors: Though Bocagrande has plenty to keep the well-heeled in retail bliss, the city’s street vendors offer great values on handcrafted goods and clothing. Pick up a bright handwoven scarf or a summery white guayabera, a traditional men’s shirt.
- Colombian Coffee and Arepas de Huevo: After salsa dancing into the wee hours, soak up that last drink with a cup of black Colombian coffee and an arepa de huevo. These piping-hot discs of yellow maize dough are filled with an egg and deep fried.
When to Visit Cartagena
Though average temperatures rise to nearly 90⁰F year-round, Cartagena is built for the heat, with buildings designed to take advantage of sea breezes and a laid-back sensibility that encourages visitors to take it slow.
First held in 1960, the Cartagena International Film Festival descends on the city for six days in February or March and is one of South America’s biggest draws for film buffs. After rowdy Carnaval celebrations just before Lent, Cartagena displays a wealth of pageantry in traditional Easter processions all over the city.
During the first two weeks of November, the city throws a massive party to celebrate their independence from Spain. Book your Cartagena Radisson hotel and join the revelers in dancing through the streets, or cheer on your favorite contestant in the National Beauty Pageant, which takes place at the same time.
Cartagena Travel Tip
Since boats to Isla Baru and Islas del Rosario typically leave when they’re full, beginning at about 9 a.m., check the passenger list to see which boat is likely to leave soonest. More passengers on the manifest means less waiting to get started on your relaxing day trip.