Cartagena de Indias is a Colombian city and capital of the department of Bolívar. It was founded on 1 June 1533 by Pedro de Heredia. Since 1991, Cartagena has been designated a historical and cultural tourist district. The city is located on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. From its foundation in the 16th century and throughout the Spanish colonial era, Cartagena de Indias was one of the most important ports in South America. Most of its artistic and cultural heritage comes from this era. On 11 November 1811, Cartagena declared itself independent from Spain. This day is a national public holiday in Colombia and is celebrated in the city for four days known as the ‘Fiestas de Independencia’ (‘Festival of Independence’).
Its historic centre, the ‘Walled City’, was declared a Colombian National Heritage Site in 1959 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
Cartagena de Indias has a relative humidity of +90%, with the rainy seasons typically from April-May and October-November. It is worth noting that although the climate tends to be hot throughout the year, the presence of a breeze makes it very pleasant and bearable. November to February are the windiest months. Cartagena de Indias has the advantage of never being hit by the hurricanes that affect other Caribbean capitals as it is situated further south and is part of the South American continent far from the hurricane corridors.
The main tourist sites include:
- The main entrance to the historic centre is the Torre del Reloj or Boca del Puente (clock tower or ‘bridge gate’), built on the city wall in the 19th century.
- The Getsemaní district and the Los Pegasos wharf.
- Within the walled city, you can find the Plaza de los Coches, presided over by the statue of Pedro de Heredia and surrounded by large colonial houses: the Casa del Marqués de Premio Real (House of the Marquis of Premio Real), the Casa de la Aduana (Customs House) and the Iglesia y Convento de San Pedro (San Pedro Church and Convent), built in the 17th century by the Jesuits and resting place of the remains of San Pedro Claver, one of the advocates of the cause of black people. Also found on the square are the current building of the Alcaldía Mayor (mayor’s office), the Casa de la Inquisición (Palace of the Inquisition), the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) and the Museo de Arte Moderno (Modern Art Museum), where you will find exhibitions by Colombian artists.
- The Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas (San Felipe Castle), a Spanish fortress built to protect the city from siege by pirates.
- The seaside resorts include Bocagrande, El Laguito, La Boquilla, Castillo Grande and the islands of Tierra Bomba and El Rosario.
- The city has a large international convention centre and two smaller convention centres, strategically located in well-known hotel chains in the city. These are used to hold business events, fairs, exhibitions and shows since they have modern audio-visual equipment and state-of-the-art technology which facilitate telecommunications nationally and internationally. The excellent infrastructure offered by these event centres makes Cartagena a hub for major congresses and corporate, political and institutional meetings.
Museums and cultural centres
Among the most important museums and cultural centres, we have the Museo de Oro (Gold Museum), Museo de Arte Moderno de Cartagena (Museum of Modern Art), Casa Museo Rafael Núñez (Rafael Núñez House and Museum), Museo Naval del Caribe (Caribbean Naval Museum), Museo San Pedro Claver (San Pedro Claver Museum), Casa Museo de Bolívar (Bolívar House and Museum), Palacio de la Inquisición (Palace of the Inquisition), Escuela de Bellas Artes de Cartagena (School of Fine Arts), Alianza Colombo Francesa de Cartagena (Colombian-French Alliance). We also host the International Film Festival.
Spain’s architectural heritage is reflected in Cartagena as one of the most beautiful cities of the new world. The Old City is surrounded by bastions – polygonal structures that are like lower versions of the city walls, which were constructed so that the city could defend itself and protect its riches against foreign invasions or pillages. The construction of what is now known as the ‘Walled City’ started before about 1600 and ended in 1796 under the leadership of the engineer Antonio de Arévalo.
- January: the Cartagena International Music Festival, a classic music event which has become one of the country’s most important festivals. It takes place in the Walled City over 10 days, during which classes and conferences are held and national and international artists are present.
- Hay Festival
- February: Fiestas de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (Feast of Our Lady of Candelaria), Festival del Frito (Festival of Fried Food).
- March: International Film Festival of Cartagena, Boat Show.
- April: Sweet Festival.
- June-July: Summer Festival, Sail Cartagena.
- November: Festival of 11 November or Independence, during which the Colombian National Beauty Contest takes place.
- December: Moonlit Jazz Festival.
- December: Cartagena Rock.