YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE CARTAGENA! I can’t imagine anyone not liking the city. You may be worried about visiting this city in Colombia, mais vous ne devez pas être. Surtout si vous vous trouvez dans la vieille ville de Carthagène. Il est vraiment un endroit merveilleux, here’s why:
- Cartagena is the safest city in Colombia.
- Ce n'est pas un piège à touristes. I was there November/December and although the tourists were there, it was not overcrowded like Venice.
- The locals frown on public drunkenness and are not afraid to put misbehaved tourists in their place (this is quite entertaining when it happens). This means that while you can party and have a great time, vous n'avez pas à vous soucier de touristes ou habitants désagréables.
- Ce n'est pas le Mexique. You’re not going to get sick from the food or water…unless you eat oysters at the beach…everything else is a-ok (even the super cheap ceviche). Voici une complète liste des choses que vous devez manger à Cartagena.
Cartagena is not perfect. It has plenty of issues, but even with the negatives I left ready to go back. I’ll walk you through some of the coolest spots in the old town (there will be other blogs for other neighborhoods), and give you some tips for your trip to Cartagena Colombia (they’re at the bottom of this post – so scroll if you’re in a rush).
Old Town Guide de Carthagène
Les chances sont si vous êtes dirigés vers Carthagène, vous passerez la plupart de votre temps dans laCiudad Vieja (the old town). This is where most tourists spend their time, and it is easy to see why. The old town and theCiudad Murallada (walled city) is a treasure trove of Colonial architecture, churches, gorgeous mansions, amazing shopping, and history. I loved the old city and spent plenty of time there…I could have spent even more and plan to quite soon. Cartagena is a very inexpensive travel location if you do it right.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CARTAGENA
You probably noticed if you googled “Cartagena” that a Spanish city pops up from time to time. This is the city that gaveLa Heroica her name, and the reason why Cartagena is known asCarthagène des Indes.Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1533, Cartagena was inhabited by the Karib, Malibu and Arawak. Spaniards came and took over. Cartagena’s location on the Caribbean made it an important trading post (many slaves were put to horrible fates here) and a great place for profit for the Spanish. This, à son tour rendu attrayant pour les rivaux de l'Espagne. The Spanish needed to protect themselves and built theCastillo San Felipe de Barajas. Les Espagnols ont tenu leur sol et l'église catholique prit de la ville. Cartagena était à un moment donné un centre de l'Inquisition des Amériques. In 1821 Simon Bolivar a libéré la ville de l'histoire moderne de l'Espagne et Carthagène a commencé.
THE OLD CITY OF CARTAGENA
The old city is more than just the walled city…but it’s small enough that you can walk it all in one
day night (you’ll end up heat stroked or sunburned if you attempt this during the daytime). There are three main neighborhoods in the old city: San Pedro, San Diego and Getsemani. San Pedro was where the rich people lived. San Diego was for the working people, and Getsemani has now become the hippest neighborhood after being known for being the place for prostitution. Cartagena values its travel dollars, so you should be safe all over the old city. At no point did I feel threatened and we had no bad experiences with thieves or pick pockets. There are always people on the streets and I had no issues at all. That being said, ne soyez pas stupide et aller de l'argent étalage, cellphones, or jewelry. Have fun, mais observer la prudence et vous serez très bien.
A VOIR DANS LA VILLE DE CARTAGENA DE VIEUX
Plaza de San Pedro Claver (1575-1612) – You’ll know you’re there when you begin to see some charming metal sculptures of people doing what Colombian people do: getting a haircut, playing games, etc.. These were made by sculptor Eduardo Carmona. Then you will notice a large sculpture of a man of the cloth in conversation with a slave. As I mentioned before, L'économie de Carthagène a été stimulée par le commerce des esclaves. Claver was a Spanish Jesuit priest who baptized and proselytized slaves that arrived from Africa. Il se considérait comme l'avocat des esclaves et a été canonisé à la fin des années 1800. The church dedicated to him is a Cathedral in the Italian style and totally worth a visit (especially since it’s pretty cool in there). Il y a aussi un musée où vous pouvez en apprendre davantage sur l'histoire de Carthagène et la traite des esclaves qui a construit la ville. At this plaza, you will often findPalenqueras selling fruit (perfect respite from the heat – watermelon, pineapple, papaya) and homemade sweets like cocadas. If you want to take a picture of or with a Palenquera, it is customary to make a small purchase beforehand. Heck, those internet points you win on instagram mean nothing to you, but the dollar you pay for that delicious watermelon will make a difference in their lives. You can also sneak into the Modern Art Museum to get a little shade.
Museo de Arte Moderno de Cartagena: L'historien de l'art en moi un mouvement de recul quand je suis entré à la chaleur et l'humidité. Cela étant dit ce musée possède une collection exceptionnelle et je les encourage à payer plus pour qu'ils puissent stabiliser la température dans le bâtiment. Son droit par la Plaza de San Pedro Claver et aménagé dans deux bâtiments l'un du 17ème siècle et l'autre du 19. Ils ont été utilisés pour stocker des armes, mais ont maintenant été connecté pour devenir le MAMC à la fin des années 70. La collection comprend deux artistes colombiens et internationaux. Mon artiste préféré était Enrique Grau. Il a fait don des pièces à Cartagena et vous donne une assez bonne idée sur l'artiste. Autres artistes qui ont attiré mon attention étaient Alfredo Guerrero, Augusto Rivera, Omar Rayo, et Olga de Amaral. Cost per adult ticket was $5.000COP (about $1.50USD) Calle 30, 4-08 – phone 0057 5230 2622
Plaza Santo Domingo – This is one of the most touristy spots in the city. Plaza Santo Domingo is located a block away from Plaza Bolivar. It is made up of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo and a bunch of restaurants that offer outdoor seating. This means that a bunch of young ladies will all work hard to sell you on going to the restaurant they represent. There are a few things I particularly liked about this plaza. First, l'église de Santo Domingo à partir du milieu de 1500. The church is a popular wedding location, we must have seen a different wedding every night we were there. This plaza is also quite popular for dance troupes, so you get some very inexpensive “dinner & a show”. Just make sure to have a little cash to donate to the performers. Finally, as a good Colombian should, I absolutely fell in love withGertrudis.Who is she? She’s La gordita de Fernando Botero, artiste visuel le plus connu de la Colombie. This Rubenesque reclining nude is made of bronze…it is said that if you rub her breasts, she will bring you luck in love.
Plaza Bolivar – This plaza is always full of people, both tourists and locals. A few spots here deserve their own write up, so they will get it. The plaza surrounds the equestrian statue of Simon Bolivar, George Washington en Amérique latine. Grab a seat, buy a fresh coconut and sip it under a tree. At night time, enjoy the nightly dance shows and live concerts. Si vous êtes dans les musées, check out the Cartagena Gold Museum (tiny, but free to enter). You can also check out the Museum of the Inquisition which has tons of torture devices and more gruesome items. The Cathedral of Cartagena is a nice place to cool down…and if you so wish, check out the sculpture dedicated to Pope John Paul II from his 1986 visit.
Palacio de la Inquisicion (At Plaza de Bolivar)- This is one crazy museum. It lives in a gorgeous home which served as the court of theSaint-Office.Ce n'est pas le musée moins cher pour ce que vous obtenez, but if you’re an architecture fan like I am…that will make it worth it. A word of warning. There are “guides” in the museum. Ils ne coûtent pas pas cher, et je ne pense pas qu'ils valent le prix. You can pay for them if you want to be entertained, but the museum is not huge, so a guide is not really warranted. That being said, this torture museum really puts things in perspective when you begin to see all the instruments of torture that were used by the church to get people toconfess they were witches. Il y a des choses assez horribles là-bas. The thing that freaked me out the most was theHérétiques fourchette.This device is a double sided fork, that is placed between your sternum and your chin making you super uncomfortable. Basically, you move, you are impaled by the fork. Je ne suis pas vraiment sûr de ce genre de personne que vous devez être à venir avec cette idée, mais je dirais un assez malade.
Plaza San Diego – I spent way too much time here, mostly because the ladies at thearepa con huevostand make the best ones in the city. I think I had one every other day. Seriously – these women are the best in the city, so do not miss them. I loved the square mostly because although there were plenty of tourists in this plaza, vous pouvez sentir l'énergie de la population locale. Prenez un siège à la place, enjoy your arepa con huevo and enjoy the music from local musicians ranging from kid rappers, to guitar trios playing boleros, to amateur violinists. Lorsque vous êtes prêt à passer à autre chose, hit up the Institute of the Arts and Sciences, check out las Bovedas, and the Teatro Heredia.
The Clock Tower & Plaza de La Aduana – There are many tiny entrances into the walled city, its most famous is the Puerta del Reloj or Torre del Reloj (Clock Tower). As you go under the clock tower, you will see many artisanal crafts for sale. Ils sont prix assez bien, il est donc un bon moment pour aider l'économie locale. Once you go through the clock tower you will be at thePlaza de los Coches.Yes, you can pick up a carriage ride, but I find them inhumane (many of the horses are ridiculously skinny, and the carriages are made of heavy materials unlike those in New York). Ladies, you are not princesses, stop making believe you are. A quick walk from here, you will findPlaza de la Aduanawhere Christopher Columbus stands triumphantly over La India Catalina. J'ai tant de problèmes avec ce monument, but it does tell you a lot about the history of the city and Latin America. Walk a little more, and you will find yourself atPlaza San Pedro Claver.
Muelle del Pegaso en Cartagena de Indias – As you walk out of the city center through the clock tower, you will encounter the Muelle del Pegaso(dock of the Pegasus) which connects the Center of the old city to Getsemani. It is decorated with multiple pegasus sculptures, and sits in company of the Convention Center and the Camellón de los Martires. It was a lovely spot in December, especially at night when the area would be lit up and vendors sold arepas con queso, cerveza and other treats to locals. Vous entendriez souvent de la musique et divertis par des artistes de rue. One night, we ran into the Festival de Pasteles at the Parque Centenario. This was an awesome event. It ran a whole week and localpastelmakers competed for the title of the best Pastel of Cartagena. Their pasteles are quite similar to Tamal tolimense. I was in heaven. We went back twice, ate like pigs and had an amazing time. If you want to take a trip to Isla Rosario, you can grab a boat here, but we recommend that you plan this out ahead. A day trip is not worth it. If you head out to Islas Rosario, take at least 3 days.
Getsemani – This is now the hippest barrio in Cartagena. It is where independence was first declared and has recently seen a renaissance. It was once known for prostitution, seedy stores and clubs. Now, it is a lovely neighborhood with stunning graffiti and street art, killer restaurants, and is definitely a home for the local Cartageneros. We were there during December and on our nightly walks, nous verrions tous les gens du quartier à l'église locale en chantant la neuvaine. There were ton of restaurants, bars, and clubs.
India Catalina – Catalina had it rough. Elle a été enlevée par les Espagnols dans les années 1500 et a finalement fini de les aider à la conquête de la Colombie. The monument in her name sits on the harbor in between the Castillo de San Felipe and the Old Town.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas – Sorry Cartagena, but you gotta up the ante here. This is a stunning site, mais vous manque une tonne d'opportunités ici. Lisbonne Castelo Sao Jorge est botter le cul quand il s'agit de châteaux défensifs et ce n'est pas parce que la leur est meilleure, but because they understand how to use the space to envelop tourists in history and lore. Je suis en bonne santé physique et active, and I am a huge history buff…and I did not find this to be the most pleasant experience. The site itself is impressive, but the tourism board is missing out on many opportunities to make money while making visitors happy. Go, but make sure to wear sunscreen (bring extra). Wear sneakers, there is no way up, but walking. Make sure to wear a hat as there are no places to hide from the sun (unless you head into the bovedas – not the most comforting spots around), and make sure to bring a few frozen water bottles. The only shop is all the way at the top of the Castillo, by the time you get there, you will be heat stroked. Cartagena could create a better experience by setting up rest spots (tables, chairs, and umbrellas), guides throughout to talk to you about the history. They could also set up learning centers within the castillo (or at least more signs). Finally, their gift shop sucks. Nice people there, mais il est tout nacks nick. That would be the perfect spot to have a small wine/beer/frituras bar and a little music. Lisbon does this, and they do it quite well.
CARTAGENA TRAVEL TIPS
- Sun Protection: The Caribbean sun can be unforgiving. Make sure to wear sunscreen and a hat. Even though I wore SPF 30 on a daily basis, I ended up with a little skin damage. You can also carry around bottles of water, but stuff is so cheap there, I would just buy it on the street.
- Carry small bills: Local vendors (and taxi drivers) will try to get as much out of you as possible. Assurez-vous de porter le changement afin que vous ne finissent pas payer trop cher pour les biens et services.
- Stay away from the Emerald Shops: Colombia has great emeralds, but this is not the place to purchase them.
- Do eat on the street: Look for women and men with bags filled with Styrofoam containers. They come out around 11 and will yell “ALMUERZO”. That means lunch. These lunches cost a mere $2USD and usually include coconut rice (yummmy), a green salad, and a protein that can be chicken, or pork. So freaking good. Then grab yourself a coconut from a street vendor to wash it down with.
- Wear White: White reflects heat, so you will stay much cooler. Besides, this is the favorite color of the locals, so you will stick out less.
- Dress nicely: Les Colombiens ne portent pas chaussures de sport, and while Cartagena is more relaxed than say Bogota or Medellin, if you wear sneakers or flip flops you will totally stick out. At night time, step up your game. Gentlemen can wear white linen pants with a nice shirt, and ladies can wear a nice Summer dress.
THINGS TO EAT IN CARTAGENA
These are not listed in any particular order…but you cannot leave Cartagena without trying these lovely dishes:
- Arepa Con Huevo: My absolute favorite type of arepa. Find the arepa ladies at Plaza San Diego. There are others in the city, but these are better than any restaurant or stall in town. These arepas are made of corn flour, and filled with spiced ground beef and deep fried. Once they cook, they are filled with two eggs and fried again. They are possibly my most favorite indulgence (and they are super cheap). Je bave un peu en ce moment.
- Arepa Con Queso: These arepas are thick cheese & cornmeal cakes that are grilled (on butter) and topped with more butter and cheese. They are pungent, delicious, caloric and damn good with a beer. The best ones were at the carts of el Camellón de los Martires.
- Tasting Menu at Restaurante 1621 - Sofitel Santa Clara: Il est cher pour Cartagena, il est une bonne affaire par rapport aux normes NYC. The cuisine is French-Caribbean and puts the ingredients of Cartagena to the standards ofLa Technique.The service and wines were also wonderful. We paid $120 USD for dinner for two (two courses and dessert).
- Gelato at Paradiso: I was blown away. Gelateria Paradiso makes everything in-house with the best ingredients available. You can have something traditional like Cookies & Cream, something tropical like Tamarind, or something unusual like Basil. Il y a un goût pour tout le monde.
- Pasteles Cartageneros: I may have loved these because they were so much like Tamales Tolimenses (I may get hurt next time I go to Cartagena for saying this). They are hearty, delicious, and one is enough for two – but I’ve been known to polish one off on my own. They are made or cornmeal which is filled with pork, chicken, beef and a few veggies. The mix is wrapped in a plantain leaf and boiled. If you go in December, ask locals about theFestival du gâteau.Il se poursuit pendant une semaine et vous aurez la chance de goûter pasteles des meilleures Pasteleros de la ville.
- Limonada de Coco: Oh yeahhhh…there are few things better in the sweltering Cartagena heat than a delicious Coconut Lemonade. Je ne sais pas ce que l'enfer qu'ils font pour faire ce si sacrément bon, but I was ordering these at every restaurant in town.
- Fruit: Fruit is freakin’ delicious in Colombia and Cartagena has a bounty of it. You can get anything from pineapple, papaya, guava, uchuva, nispero, granadillas and much more. If you want to try a good variety, head to one of the squares and buy a salad from thepalenqueras.It will cost you very little and you will get a taste of one of each of the fruits at her table.
- Ceviche: Vous êtes à la plage. You better eat seafood. Quand il vient à vous ceviche avez beaucoup d'options. You can go to La Cevicheria, but if you really want the Cartagena experience, you need to head to Avenida Venezuela (between the walled city & Getsemani) and check out the Ceviche stands. ceviche incroyable pour environ $ 2USD.Rappelez-vous de demander sans ketchup ou Rosada salsa.Colombians love ketchup on their fish and I find this to be a sacrilege…just something to keep in mind.
- Arroz con Coco: You will be hooked and beg for the recipe. Coconut rice here is served at almost every meal. It’s made with real coconut and panela (basically pure unrefined cane sugar). It somehow works with main courses. Especially fried fish.
- Fried Fish: The fried fish in Cartagena is delicious. Most restaurants will offer whatever is the catch of the day. When you eat it, make sure to relish on the fins. Fried fins taste better than potato chips.
- Patacones con hogao: Fried plantains with hogao…
QUE FAIRE SI VOUS AVEZ DES MALADES DANS CARTAGENA
Tomber malade lorsque vous voyagez suce. Vous pouvez aller à un hôpital dans la ville, mais il y a une option beaucoup mieux. Il ya un service appelé SUIS-JE. Ce service est un service médical d'urgence de souscription pour les habitants. How does this help you? If you’re sick, vous pouvez appeler le service et demander un médecin. The bad news is that if they’re having a busy night they won’t get to you immediately (and you’ll have to call back until a spot opens up). La bonne nouvelle est que le médecin viendra à votre hôtel / hébergement, vous consultez, il, et prescrire tout ce que vous avez besoin. La meilleure partie, une visite nous a coûté $90.000 COP (less than $30USD). One note – you will need to call them from a landline or Skype. En Colombie fixes ne peuvent appeler des lignes fixes, and mobiles can only call mobiles…weird, je sais. Merci Dr. Ronald pour prendre bien soin de nous.