4/6/2023     by Justin Gibson

Three of Our Favorite Sites When Visiting Cartagena

While all of Colombia is filled with idyllic charm you simply can’t prepare for, few locales encapsulate it as thoroughly as Cartagena. With one part history and one part carnival-energy, this coastal city exists in a permanent state of allure and offers something for everyone. We’ve gone ahead and listed three things you'll want to see for yourself when you visit. 

San Felipe Castle

Since 1536, the city of Cartagena has played tit-for-tat with invading forces: Pirate raids on the city’s abundant profits were a constant concern in those early days. The city responded in force with the construction of walls and forts encompassing the town, with the most impressive sitting atop a 130-foot-tall hill — a spot that commanded sweeping views of the city and coastline.

San Felipe Castle — home to both captivating history and stunning views.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of it. Pirate raids were a constant in the years that followed. The fort received additions to become a proper castle sometime in 1657, and then fell to French privateers in 1697. And then was besieged by the British in 1741. And then by the Spanish in 1815 during the Spanish American Wars of Independence.

Today, San Felipe Castle is a decisively more tranquil affair; the closest thing you’ll see to an army is the throngs of sightseers patrolling the walls for the perfect snapshot overlooking Cartagena. This UNESCO World Heritage Site still boasts 68 cannons and is often employed by the Colombian government as the site for cultural and social events.


Gold Museum

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Examples of pre-columbian gold at Cartagena's Gold Museum.

Part of Cartagena’s historic profits came from the extensive amounts of gold and silver exported from Colombia to Spain. An excellent way to see this lustrous history for yourself is at Cartagena’s Gold Museum. This museum houses a legitimate treasure trove of ancient gold artifacts from the indigenous cultures present before Europe’s colonization. It doesn’t take much studying of these decorations and religious artifacts to see that goldsmithing was perfected by the Zenu people. Bonus: It’s an open secret that the air conditioning here is near-arctic, making it a refreshing reprieve from the sunny Cartagena weather.


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An idyllic plaza tucked away in the Getsemani neighborhood of Cartagena, Colombia..

While all of Cartagena seems romantic, the neighborhood of Getsemani might just take the ponqué. Situated just outside the city walls, the pace of life here is calm, tranquil even, with any given street seemingly framed as an egalitarian bohemian scene. Artists, musicians and other creatives stroll cobblestone streets, sit at park benches and café tables enjoying tasty arepas and lively conversation. Street musicians serenade the passing foot traffic; every inch of the neighborhood is either vibrant murals (be sure to check out the open-art gallery Street of the Snake) or soothing pastel. Time slows not due to the typical reasons — there’s just no hurry here. Life is good.

An ideal way to visit Cartagena is on a river cruise through the heart of Columbia with AmaWaterways. Not only will you have plenty of time to experience the sights and flavors listed above, but you’ll also enjoy their signature view-enhancing balconies and of course — elegantly appointed staterooms and suites. Our agents know AmaWaterways well, so we can help you choose, plan and book your cruise vacation to perfection.

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Artist's Rendering of AmaMagdalena, AmaWaterways newest ship


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