In the middle of El Centro in Cartagena’s UNESCO World Heritage listed walled city is Parque de Bolívar, formerly the Plaza de Inquisición. It’s a small plaza with many trees and benches. There’s a fountain and a monument to Simón Bolívar in the center, and several important buildings surrounding it.
Catedral de Cartagena
One building on the plaza is the Catedral de Cartagena. It was built between 1575 and 1612. The full name is Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Santa Catalina de Alejandría. At the back is a statue of Pope John Paul II.
The cathedral was closed during my visit but I was able to peek inside for a quick look.
If you look closely at the exterior of the cathedral on the side facing Parque de Bolívar, you’ll find a sundial.
Across from the cathedral is a government building of the department of Bolívar. It has impressive arches but was under construction when I walked by.
Museo del Oro Zenú
Also on Parque de Bolívar are two museums. One of them is the Museo del Oro Zenú, which tells the history of the indigenous people of the region.
The other, Museo Histórico, is housed in the former Palacio de la Inquisición, one of the most beautiful buildings in Cartagena. It was built between 1610 and 1776 and was home of the Punishment Tribunal of the Holy Office, where heretics were sentenced to death. On the side is a small window, La Ventana de la Denuncia, where citizens would come to accuse others of being witches, devil worshippers, or sometimes simply non-Catholics.
I visited the Museo Histórico with Marisol. While the building itself is beautiful, I wasn’t too impressed with the museum. It was COP$16,000 per person to enter. There were some rooms displaying torture devices used during the Spanish Inquisition and a few rooms upstairs explaining the history of Cartagena. There were some great views of Parque de Bolívar from balconies attached to those rooms. The museum is open daily.
Portal de las Reinas
On the south end of Parque de Bolívar is a bunch of tiles with the faces of each Miss Colombia. This is called the Portal de las Reinas.
Street vendors usually sit outside selling drinks and snacks. Try an arepa con queso and watch the tourists feed the pigeons and gawk at the iguanas.