Cartagena cityscape
Colombia

Where to Stay in Cartagena: 6 Best Areas

User Avatar Author: Daniela Vaca
3 months ago - December 1, 2023

Reading time: 8 mins

Cartagena is an incredible city on Colombia’s northern coast, offering a mix of modernity, history, and authentic culture. With its cobblestone streets, colorful architecture, and vibrant nightlife, it’s no wonder Cartagena has become a top tourist destination in South America. Whether you are looking to relax on the pristine beaches, explore the city’s rich colonial past, or indulge in the local cuisine, Cartagena has many accommodation options for every type of traveler. In this blog, we’ll guide you through where to stay in Cartagena so you can make an informed decision and enjoy your trip to the fullest.  

Cartagena beautiful street view

Cartagena beautiful street view

The Walled City  

The Walled City, also called the Old Town, is the historic heart of Cartagena with its well-preserved 16th-century walls. It has well-preserved colonial architecture, beautiful balconies with flowers intertwined, and stone archways. It’s one of the best places to stay in Cartagena, and for good reason. The streets are filled with boutique shops, quaint cafes, and restaurants. There are hundreds of amazing restaurants but also equally good street food, including exotic fruits, such as papaya, mangos, and more, that grow here.   

This city is booming with history; every street and house has a meaning. During the day, you can find artisans selling their products so you can find the perfect souvenir, but at night, the streets are filled with performers. You’ll be close to all the main attractions, such as the Palace of the Inquisition and the San Felipe Castle, making it the perfect base for sightseeing.  

 

Cartagena Old Town facade

Cartagena Old Town facade

San Diego  

San Diego is a charming and traditional neighborhood in the historic heart of Cartagena that revolves around the beautiful Plaza de San Diego. It’s named after the San Diego Plaza and Convent, one of Cartagena’s most impressive colonial buildings. Its smaller houses flank the narrow, cobblestone streets, all painted with intense colors and beautiful flowered balconies. The best places to stay in Cartagena if you’re looking for a romantic ambiance, as it has many intimate restaurants and bars. The neighborhood is also home to the famous Teatro Heredia, a magnificent theater that hosts cultural events throughout the year.  don diego river tayronaka colombia santa marta caribbean

San Diego's cityscape

San Diego’s cityscape

Getsemaní  

Getsemaní is one of the most emblematic neighborhoods, making it where to stay in Cartagena. It is in the historic city center, known for its bohemian atmosphere, vibrant nightlife, and rich history. In 2013, the first Festival of Urban Cultures of Cartagena invited 25 national and international artists to capture the history and identity of the city, filling its streets with color and meaning.  

 It’s now one of Cartagena’s coolest and hippest areas, full of trendy bars, artisanal cafes, street art, and music venues. Walking through the streets of this neighborhood, you can find beauty just about anywhere. The houses are usually a particular color: orange, green, yellow, and blue; all the colors of the rainbow coexist in perfect harmony alongside the beautiful works of street art painted on the walls. Home to the famous Plaza de la Trinidad, a buzzing square surrounded by trendy restaurants and bars where you can enjoy a drink and a delicious meal.  

Getsemaní in Cartagena, Colombia

Getsemaní in Cartagena, Colombia

Bocagrande  

Bocagrande is a modern neighborhood characterized by its many high-end hotels, restaurants, buildings, and shopping centers. Also, it is well known for its golden beaches, perfect for swimming or sunbathing. It offers various activities, from relaxing at the beach to admiring the views from one of the many docks. 

The Dock Navas is one of the main docks in the city. Here are the boats and yachts that make their way to some of the most visited islands in Cartegena, such as the Rosario Islands. Bocagrande Beach is one of the most popular beaches; there is a path that crosses the bay where you can take a stroll, take some photos, and explore the city. Close to the colorful Manga neighborhood and the lively street market of Bazurto.  

Bocagrande landscape

Bocagrande landscape

El Cabrero  

The best areas to stay in Cartagena, el Cabrero, a quiet and residential neighborhood. It’s known for its pristine beaches, narrow streets, and impressive villas. It is an excellent option for a more secluded and exclusive experience. With its picturesque seafront and a handful of upscale restaurants and bars, El Cabrero is the perfect place to unwind and relax. A path overlooking Cabrero’s lagoon, filled with mangroves, is a common place to sit and admire the view. One of the symbols of El Cabrero is Apolo Park, inaugurated in 1994; it is perfect for taking a walk, enjoying the smell of almond trees, or a picnic on the grass.   

Residential neighborhood El Cabrero

Residential neighborhood El Cabrero

Manga  

Manga is a residential neighborhood with a mix of colonial and modern architecture. It’s known for its spacious plazas, buildings, and stunning mansions. You’ll be close to the Walled City and Getsemaní while enjoying some peace and quiet. Discover unforgettable sunsets along the bay, go fishing, or take a walk in one of the many parks.  

The Calblanque Regional Park has protected dunes, cliffs, and salt flats in a natural environment. Visitors can see different species of birds, plants, and fish unique to this area. But in the northern part of Manga, passing the Venetian bridge, we find the Encañizada. On its surface, you can admire different types of birds that coexist among the dunes that form it.  

 

Manga waterfront landscape

Manga waterfront landscape

Discover the Enchanting Islands, Near Cartagena  

Cartagena, a vibrant city, holds numerous hidden gems waiting to be explored. One of the most incredible experiences is embarking on a journey to the nearby islands. Imagine a paradise with white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, snorkeling spots, and thriving greenery. These are some additional places to stay while not enjoying being in the center of Cartagena.  

The Islas del Rosario form a group of various islands located near Cartagena. Stunning sandy beaches offer a variety of activities, from unwinding on the shore to discovering the underwater world with fantastic coral reefs. The park’s coral reefs, mangrove habitats, and lagoons support more than 1,300 species. A natural trail lets you get up close and personal with this incredible species. Among the main highlights is the opportunity to visit the aquarium, which boasts a vibrant assortment of over 100 marine species.  

Baru Island is a beautiful, preserved paradise offering a serene getaway. This haven shows captivating archaeological marvels and provides exceptional opportunities for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts. The island is perfect for everyone; you can ride a jet ski, go fishing, or go on a sailing tour, among other activities. Be sure to try some of the island’s delicious food, such as coconut-infused rice and fried fish rosario islands archipelago colombia cartagena

Islas del Rosario's impressive Skyview

Islas del Rosario’s impressive Skyview

Experience a scenic river cruise 

Looking for an extraordinary and thrilling way to uncover the mesmerizing charm of Colombia? Embark on a captivating river cruise along the majestic Magdalena River. As Colombia’s most significant river, the Magdalena River unravels a beautiful tapestry of history and breathtaking natural landscapes. The Magdalena River teems with various plant and animal species, granting an extraordinary chance to witness Colombia’s most breathtaking scenery. 

 You can explore amazing rainforests, cascading waterfalls, serene lakes, and more along its banks. As you voyage along the river, watch out for a diverse array of wildlife, such as monkeys, jaguars, eagles, and exotic birds. From December to March, the dry season proves the perfect time to take a river cruise. During this period, the weather is pleasant and sunny. 

Small boat in Magdalena River

Small boat in Magdalena River

Cartagena is The Ideal Place to Stay   

Cartagena is a city that offers something for everyone and various accommodations depending on what you’re looking for. Whether you want to stay in the heart of the historical center, surround yourself with the trendy vibes of Getsemaní, or find a peaceful retreat in Manga or El Cabrero, Cartagena has it all. If you’re looking to stay outside Cartagena, the islands are a must-see for anyone seeking to immerse themselves in the astounding natural beauty of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.   

The abundance of pristine beaches and crystal-clear water offers a chance to unwind. Where to stay in Cartagena can include embarking on a river cruise along the Magdalena River, unveiling a unique encounter with Colombia’s beauty, history, and culture. Furthermore, the diverse culinary delights ensure there is something to fulfill every palate. Each area offers a unique experience that will make your trip unforgettable.  

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