Exploring Cartagena: the Old Town

Explore Cartagena Old Town

In December, our family spent a week in Cartagena, Colombia.

Explore Cartagena Old Town

Seven of us flew down from Canada, and Donatello’s parents flew in from Bogota. The nine of us rented an apartment with AirBnB that had four bedrooms, two kitchens, and two bathrooms.

Explore Cartagena Old Town


Explore Cartagena Old Town

Our rental was just out of the old town section of Cartagena. Instead, we paid a little less and stayed in Getsemani, a nearby up-and-coming neighbourhood. It was just a short walk from the old town and our street was residential, and really festive for the holidays.

Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town

The Getsemani area was decorated with dozens of beautiful, colourful murals, including this one bordering the Plaza de la Trinidad.

Explore Cartagena Old Town

The Plaza de la Trinidad was just a five minute walk from our apartment, and we ended up hanging out here in the evenings when all the locals and tourists would hang out. One tree in the plaza was hooked up with an outlet to supply power to vendors and entertainers at night, and to charge phones during the day!

Explore Cartagena Old Town

This mural of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, nicknamed Gabo, was in one of the alleys we passed through every day.

Explore Cartagena Old Town

So many of the houses and buildings were painted in such beautiful, vibrant colours that I couldn’t help but feel happy!

Explore Cartagena Old Town

At night, the walls of the old town were lit up with Christmas decorations. We would normally go out in the morning for a walk then return home for lunch and a break from the heat. After a few hours, we would venture back out to the lively squares and look for things to eat.

Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town

So many houses also had gorgeous vines and flowers planted outside.Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town

The Centro de Convenciones Cartagena de Indias “Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala,” which we didn’t visit, but we thought the architecture reminded us a lot of Riyadh,

Explore Cartagena Old Town

The Plaza de la Paz, the gateway to the old part of Cartagena de Indias.

Explore Cartagena Old Town

The Plaza de los Coches was lined with little stalls selling Colombian sweets. I bought a small tray that had little truffles, coconut sweets, and tamarind balls.

Explore Cartagena Old Town

Vendors plied the narrow streets. There were so many selling fresh limeade, fresh fruits, coconut water, and arepas. Everything, even though we were charged tourist prices, was really affordable.

Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town

The avocados were enormous! The pits of these massive avocados are the same size as the small avocados we get in Toronto. One avocado would easily feed the nine of us at breakfast!

Explore Cartagena Old Town

This was just outside the Plaza de la Proclamacion. Tomiko and I spent a few hours buying ourselves some emeralds, after which we had lunch at local chain Crepes and Waffles. The menu was massive, the dishes were delicious, and the prices were excellent. Donatello ended up eating at Crepes and Waffles four times during our one week in Cartagena.

Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town

The old part of Cartagena has gorgeous Spanish colonial architecture. We ended up eating here, bordering the Plaza de San Pedro Claver, on Christmas eve.

Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town

The Plaza de San Diego was a lively spot in the evenings.

Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town

One night, some of us decided to visit La Cevicheria for dinner. It is a really popular place so we ended up having to wait for a table for four. It wasn’t a bad wait, since we wandered around a bit, and then hung out on the street listening to buskers playing music from our teen years.

Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town

Plaza de la Trinidad is a happening place in the evenings. There were several bars bordering the square, and many food vendors selling arepas, burgers, grilled meat, and fresh juices. We ended up eating here a few nights, sitting on the steps of the church and people-watching. There also seemed to be a lot of buskers, especially mimes, at the square.

Explore Cartagena Old Town

Similar to a lot of other hot countries, the streets would come alive at night. Adults and kids alike would hang out on their front stoops, ride their bikes up and down the alleys, and play soccer. It seemed to be a relaxed, low-key neighbourhood, and I loved looking into people’s living rooms through their open front doors when we walked around.

Explore Cartagena Old Town

I sneaked a photo of this mime eating empanadas while Ryan was ordering some empanadas for us. So many mimes!

Explore Cartagena Old Town

In the mornings, fruit vendors passed by and we would flag them down and purchase amazing fresh fruit. Our AirBnB had a real Colombian kitchen, as some of the only appliances and utensils included a blender (for fresh fruit juice) and a hot chocolate pot and mixer.

Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town

We felt totally safe walking around the old town and Getsemani, even when holding my camera out. Most of us ended up buying Panama hats to help shield us from the punishing sun.

Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town

One morning, Donatello and his family took Tomiko to see the fort.

Explore Cartagena Old Town Explore Cartagena Old Town

Tomiko had come to Cartagena several times before, and I had spent a day here several years ago, but we were both happy to be back. It was great having a respite, however brief, from the cold Canadian winter. We ate our share of fresh fruit and street food and really enjoyed our visit.

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2 Replies to “Exploring Cartagena: the Old Town”

  1. That sounds like a wonderful trip! I love all the bright colors and those fresh fruits look so tempting.

  2. I so enjoyed viewing your photos. They are just gorgeous! What a wonderful trip filled with beautiful sights and sounds!

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