Cartagena, Colombia: The Old Town

Cartagena, Colombia

We came here on a cruise itinerary and easily took a taxi from the cruise port through to the old town where we were dropped off early in the morning at the Plaza San Pedro Claver and started off on foot exploring the old town for its shopping, architecture, history and just general culture.

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The new city section of Cartagena, Colombia as seen from the port.

It was nice to wander around before most of the visitors arrived and the old town woke up.  Streets were often fairly empty and we got to walk from one end to the other and through the old walls to the waterfront.

The streets of old town Cartagena, Colombia early in the morning.
The streets of old town Cartagena, Colombia early in the morning.

There definitely were areas of the town that attracted tourists and we quickly realized that it was nice avoiding them and the relentless hawkers trying to sell everything from photos and drugs to tours and trinkets.  There was plenty to see away from these areas though and I would still suggest seeing it all.

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Typical street with balconies and great historic architecture.

We never felt threatened at any time while walking through the old town.  But we certainly encountered machine gun carrying police – especially at Centro Uno just on the perimiter of the old town where we went to just get a bit of air conditioning and a relaxing sit.  We did go to the large supermarket by the Centro Uno – Exito – and we got a lot of souvenirs there – small packets of Colombian coffee for a fraction of the cost of a souvenir store in the port for sure.  Just was nice to meander around there and buying spices and other things.

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Just loved this shot which was so typical of much of the side streets in the old town.

We went to a small boutique hotel not too far from the main plaza – there are quite a few of them and this was nice but not worth hunting down but it was a nice rest stop after doing a lot of walking – in fact my partner got blisters after spending the day walking around the town – something he wasn’t accustomed to but there was so much to see and so many shops to explore.

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Later in the day street merchants popped up and pedestrian traffic really became quite busy.

I don’t recall what we ordered in a bakery but there were numerous bakeries and all had similar items and not a huge variety – it was a pastry that looked like it might be guava paste but it wasn’t.  Whatever it was, I always enjoy grabbing something I don’t recognize from a local bakery and this time I truly was rewarded with something spectacular.  We finally reached a point where we were just too hot to really spend a whole lot more time prowling around and decided to head back to the ship with still quite a bit of time left.

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Old town near the Centro Uno.

In all, I would suggest a visit to the old town knowing what you were getting into – which was an incredibly interesting other cultural experience steeped with history.  It was hot and we avoided tourist areas as much as possible and we lifted Colombian Pesos out of the ATM which you will need.  Next time, I can’t wait to visit the new town.

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2 thoughts on “Cartagena, Colombia: The Old Town

  1. One of my nephews lived with a family in Cartagena for a month while he went to a Spanish language immersion course. Of my 4 nephews he’s the one I most hope did NOT give them the impression he was a typical American! 🙂

    My sister and I have wanted to go there for years and then go to some of the islands to snorkel. I enjoyed your pics because I will never be up early enough to get pictures like that in my life!

    1. How great for your nephew to be able to do that for a month. I took so many great pictures (more a reflection on the destination and not bragging that I’m a great photographer) that it was impossible to publish them all. I’d love to go to some of the islands there and next time I will visit the new town and the beaches.
      Thanks for the comments. Cheers.

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