Cartagena, on the Colombian coast of the Caribbean, served as the main administration center for the Spaniards during the colonial period. The colorful historic center with its 400 year old colonial houses is what inspired writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
We stayed at the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara hotel which was originally built as a convent in 1621 in the heart of the walled city.
We went on a walking tour with Marelvy Pena-Hall where she showed us key landmarks of the walled city, places that were referred to in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s stories, as well as some of the nicer restaurants and boutiques. It is good to do this tour upon arrival so as to familiarise yourselves with the old city.
There is a fortress called the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. The castle is located on a hill with strategic views of approaches to the city both by land and by sea. It was built by the Spanish during the colonial era in 1536.
I didn’t find the fortress all that interesting. Instead, I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the Getsemani district which is a working class neighbourhood outside the walled city since the colonial times. This is where to go to experience the real life of Cartagena with locals hanging out on the art-filled streets gossiping in plastic chairs or playing board games. This is also where the hippest boutique hotels and restaurants are opening up. Check out Cafe Havana for a night of live music and salsa dancing.