Cartagena is one of Colombia’s main hubs and traveller destinations. Known affectionately as the ‘romantic city’, it’s a very touristy but nonetheless beautiful metropolis ideally located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
Cartagena’s main draw is its historic Walled City, or Old Town. This is a charming part of the city, where centuries old colonial architecture is preserved inside huge stone walls that separate it from the rest of Cartagena. Setting foot inside these walls is like stepping on to a movie set. Flowers sprout from the balconies of brightly coloured buildings, horses and carts wheel down cobbled streets, musicians sit on their porches singing… yep, it’s practically a Disney film. They don’t call it the romantic city for nothing! There’s also a plaza area that centres around Cartagena’s oldest church. We witnessed a white wedding taking place on our first day here *wipes eyes*, which is apparently a common occurrence.
For me, the Walled City does have a couple of setbacks. One, it is super expensive. Prices at the bars and restaurants in here are closer to those in London than they are the rest of Colombia. We looked on in envy at holidaymakers sitting in the sun with jugs of sangria, or dining in the fancy restaurants, as these things just weren’t compatible with our backpacking budget. Of course, it’s great that the number of tourists here means that Cartagena is able to generate this sort of economy, but we had to make do with just taking in the scenery! Secondly, the hawkers here are persistent and get annoying quickly. When you first enter the walls, you can expect to be swarmed by three or four men who will proceed to wave hats, sunglasses and cigarettes under your nose. Shake these off, and there’ll be a few more waiting just around the corner. Again, I understand the need to earn money, but the forceful nature of the salesmen here can be intimidating.
Walk just a short way out of the Walled City to the hip Getsemani neighbourhood, and prices quickly shrink. This area has lots of bars and cheap accommodation, making it the obvious choice for backpackers, and was my favourite part of Cartagena. I loved it! The streets are just as beautiful as in the Walled City (only slightly less polished), but the atmosphere is totally different. Weekends and Wednesdays are party nights, and everyone flocks to Holy Trinity Square to drink shop bought beer, eat street food and watch performers. Later on, the party moves on to the bars – including the world famous Café Havana, where you can dance salsa ‘til the early hours.