Cartagena’s UNESCO World Heritage listed old town sits behind Spanish colonial walls and is divided into two areas, El Centro and San Diego. Inside the city walls around El Centro, the best thing to do is wander up and down the narrow streets. Just about every street is beautiful.
Many buildings have large balconies overflowing with flowers. Most buildings show the wealth of the city in its colonial past. Pay special attention to the elaborate door knockers and the metal knots on the doors. They tell a lot about the wealth and social status of the former owners of the homes. There is so much history within the walls of the old town.
Besides the simple beauty of the homes in Cartagena, there are several points of interest in El Centro. Directly behind the main gate is Plaza de los Coches. It was once used as a slave market. The statue is of Pedro de Heredia, founder of Cartagena.
Parque de Bolívar, formerly the Plaza de Inquisición, is a small plaza with many trees and benches. There is a monument to Simón Bolívar in the center, and several important buildings surrounding it. Read about what’s around the plaza here.
The most picturesque church in Cartagena is Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, built in the early 18th century. Its dome and bell towers are one of the symbols of the city and it is shown in many postcards. In front of the church is a small plaza with several interesting iron sculptures.
Behind San Pedro de Claver is the Museo Naval del Caribe. It’s housed in a former Jesuit college.
The largest plaza in Cartagena’s old town is Plaza de la Aduana. The city hall is located here along with a statue of Christopher Columbus.
At Christmas, the plaza is beautifully lit up as is much of the old city.
Another important church is Iglesia de Santo Domingo. It was built in the late 16th century and has a very nice interior.
Iglesia de Santo Domingo is located on Plaza de Santo Domingo, which is surrounded by several small shops and restaurants. It’s a great place to sit and people watch.
The Consulado de España (Spanish Consulate) is located on Plaza de Santo Domingo. It is housed in the former Convento de Santo Domingo. There is a small gallery inside. When I visited, a room near the entrance featured photos of the negative effects of Colombian rebel groups such as FARC and M-19.