Beautiful Buildings & Colorful Things to See in Cartagena, Colombia

26

Oct

I got to go on a business retreat and spent a week in Cartagena! While I did quite a bit of work while I was there, we did go out in the city and have some fun. I absolutely loved how colorful Cartagena is, and I definitely recommend wandering around the side streets and seeing all the buildings you can. If you’re looking for beautiful and colorful things to see in Cartagena, Colombia, these were some of my favorite streets and sights ๐Ÿ™‚

Fair warning: There are lots of photos in this post because I couldn’t get enough of the pretty city ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope they all inspire you to visit Cartagena!

Beautiful and colorful things to see in Cartagena

Things to See and Colorful Streets in Cartagena, Colombia

Staying at Hotel Don Pedro Heredia

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Cartagena, Hotel Don Pedro Heredia is centrally located and has everything you need. And my favorite part was the rooftop patio where they serve breakfast because you can get some pretty good views of the city. I loved going up at sunrise and sunset!

Hotel Don Pedro Heredia

Room in Hotel Don Pedro Heredia

View from Hotel Don Pedro Heredia in Cartagena

View from Hotel Don Pedro Heredia in Cartagena

View from Hotel Don Pedro Heredia in Cartagena

View from Hotel Don Pedro Heredia in Cartagena at sunset

Tour of colorful Cartagena

We had a tour run by Scarlet Macaw Trips, and I definitely recommend taking a tour if you get the chance! It was so helpful to learn about the history of some of the beautiful buildings we saw.

Tour in Cartagena

Photo by Joyce Toma Fotos

Historic houses in old city Cartagena

Cartagena Cathedral

Historic houses in old city Cartagena

For a little history on Cartagena, it’s a walled city that was established by Spanish Commander Pedro de Heredia (who our hotel was named after) in 1533 in the previous location of the indigenous Caribbean Calamarรญ village. It grew in importance with exporting Peruvian silver. It survived attacks, pirates, and fires throughout the years, and after a fire burned it down in 1552, it was rebuilt in stone.

Horse drawn carriage in Cartagena

We saw so many horse-drawn carriages!

Historic yellow houses in old city Cartagena

Historic houses in old city Cartagena

Historic blue houses in old city Cartagena

Cartagena Cathedral and horse drawn carriage

Historic houses in old city Cartagena

Historic red house in old city Cartagena

Lizard door knocker in Cartagena

The British attacked Cartagena during the Battle of Cartagena de Indias, and the Spanish ultimately won. Interesting little tidbit: George Washington’s half-brother Lawrence Washington fought in that battle! Mount Vernon was named for his commander.

The “Silver Age” began after the Spanish won, and the city expanded more. Cartagena also played a big role in the slave trade, and many slaves came through its port. It also increased its political power, and many wealthy and powerful people moved from other Colombian cities to Cartagena.

Historic purple houses in old city Cartagena

Statue of woman in Cartagena

Historic houses in old city Cartagena

Historic houses in old city Cartagena

Historic houses with vines in old city Cartagena

Jose Fernandez statue in Cartagena

Colombia was under Spanish rule, and Cartagena was the first city to declare independence from Spain in 1811 (which I’ll get into more towards the end of this post!), but Colombia didn’t gain its independence yet. Spain still maintained control and sieged the city. It wasn’t until 1821 that the Spanish were defeated and Colombia gained its independence.

Historic orange houses in old city Cartagena

Historic colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Historic churches in old city Cartagena

Historic colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Historic colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Historic blue houses in old city Cartagena

Historic colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Today much of the historic part of Cartagena is made up of Spanish colonial buildings with some republican and Italian styles. It’s one of the best preserved colonial cities in the world, and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.

It’s amazing to see all the historic buildings in such great condition, and I really could not get enough of the colors! (As I’m sure you’ve noticed) I loved all the variety of colors and combinations ๐Ÿ™‚

Historic balcony in old city Cartagena Historic colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Historic colorful houses in old city Cartagena

City wall in Cartagena Historic colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Historic house with vines in old city Cartagena

Historic colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Historic colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Stone wall in old city Cartagena

Stone wall in old city Cartagena

Stone wall in old city Cartagena

Colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Historic theater in old city Cartagena

Historic brick building in Cartagena

Yellow houses in old city Cartagena

Green house in old city Cartagena

Town square in Cartagena

Horse drawn carriage in old city Cartagena

Historic church in Cartagena

Colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Blue houses in old city Cartagena

Cartagena Cathedral

Historic buildings in old city Cartagena

Historic street marker in old city Cartagena

Palenqueras women in Cartagena

Palenqueras are the black women with colorful dresses and bowls of fruit on their heads that you’ll see around Cartagena. Their history originates in San Basilio de Palenque, a small village near Cartagena run completely by former enslaved Africans, and in 1691, it was the first free town in the Americas.

To make money, the women would wear their traditional African dresses and sell fruit in Cartagena. Today they make more of their money from posing for pictures than selling fruit, and their history has made them one of the national symbols of Colombia.

Palenqueras women in Cartagena

Photo by Joyce Toma Fotos

Medieval banner in Cartagena

Colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Church tower in old city Cartagena

Colorful doorway in old city Cartagena

Old green truck in Cartagena

Colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Historic church in Cartagena

Red wooden door in Cartagena

Colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Blue and purple house in old city Cartagena

Colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Horse drawn carriage in Cartagena

Horse drawn carriage in Cartagena

Blue and yellow house in old city Cartagena

Colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Blue and pink houses in old city Cartagena

Colorful houses in old city Cartagena

Blue and pink houses in old city Cartagena

Cartagena Cathedral

Town square in old city Cartagena

Church of St. Peter Claver in Cartagena

Iglesia de San Pedro Claver is dedicated to Saint Peter Claver, whose remains lie in the church. Saint Peter Claver was a Spanish Jesuit priest and missionary who dedicated his life to the enslaved people coming through the port in Cartagena in the 17th century.

Church of St. Peter Claver in Cartagena

Historic yellow building in Cartagena

Yellow clock tower in Cartagena Orange house in old city Cartagena

Pedro de Heredia statue

Cartagena Independence Day parades

Remember how Cartagena was the first city to declare independence from Spain? Even though it took many years before Colombia was officially independent, Cartagena celebrates its own independence day to commemorate its declaration of independence as a free state!

Cartagena Independence Day is November 11, but celebrations start much earlier. I was there at the end of October and early November, and children started to have parades every day. Our tour guide said that different schools have different days that they have their parade, and the music and costumes are unique to the parade. There were a few days that we ran into multiple parades around the city, and they were so much fun!

Independence Day parades in Cartagena

Independence Day parades in Cartagena

Independence Day parades in Cartagena

Independence Day parades in Cartagena

Independence Day parades in Cartagena

Independence Day parades in Cartagena

Our tour guide said that the parades get bigger and more elaborate closer to November 11 (and the biggest celebration is on November 11), so if you’re looking for a time to visit Cartagena, you should definitely consider going during November!

Independence Day parades in Cartagena

Independence Day parades in Cartagena

Independence Day parades in Cartagena

Other things to see in Cartagena (and food to try!)

If you have time while you’re wandering around Cartagena to visit the Chocolate Museum, I recommend it! It’s free to visit the museum, and it’s pretty small so it doesn’t take you long. They have a cool gift shop with tons of different kinds of chocolates, and you can sample some if you’re not sure what you want!

There are lots of more touristy restaurants in Cartagena, but try to find some local cuisine if you can! There are a lot of smaller restaurants and food carts you’ll see when you’re walking around, and if you need a snack I recommend buying some fresh fruit from a food cart.

Empanada in Cartagena

Emapanada restaurant in Cartagena

Cartagena has a big nightlife scene! You can’t walk around in the evening without being invited to a rooftop bar. I’m not the biggest nightlife person (I’m an early bird!), but on our last night, the group of ladies at the business retreat went to Alquimico Bar. It was a pretty cool place and the drinks were great!

Drinks at Alquimico Bar in Cartagena

Photo by Joyce Toma Fotos

Drinks at Alquimico Bar in Cartagena

Photo by Joyce Toma Fotos

Drinks at Alquimico Bar in Cartagena

Photo by Joyce Toma Fotos

So if you’ve been looking for things to see in Cartagena, I hope this has inspired you to wander around and see all the beautiful, colorful buildings ๐Ÿ™‚ And if you have the chance to go in November to see the Independence Day celebrations, I definitely recommend it!

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  1. Hannah says:

    Cartegena looks every bit as colourful as I imagined it. I love Spanish colonial architecture (have seen a lot in New Orleans), so that would be a huge draw for me!

  2. Melissa says:

    AMAZING PICTURES! Love the post. I am actually supposed to visit here in July 2021. Crossing all fingers!

  3. Shafinah says:

    Gahhhh I’d initially planned to go to Spain this or next year. I don’t think it’s gonna happen but those colours are SO IRRESISTIBLE!

  4. Cristina says:

    Cartagena looks amazing! I had never considered visiting it until now. I love how vibrant it is and I feel it hasnโ€™t lost its charm because of too many tourists like other places in the world. Also, your pictures are great ๐Ÿ™‚ I am saving your guide for the future.

  5. Venaugh says:

    Thanks for sharing such gorgeous pictures! Definitely looks like a lovely place to visit.

  6. Really look like a beautiful city to visit! The food looks yummy too, I think the first thing I would do arriving there would be to try the local cuisine!

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