cartagena in 1 day what to see how to get cartagena

Cartagena in 1 day – How to get and what to see?

After our stay in the nature of Minca, our tour continues to the city of Cartagena. Cartagena was a part of my 3-week itinerary in Colombia, which I was especially expecting because I had heard it was an exceptionally beautiful and interesting city.

How to get to Cartagena?

But to schematize, I give you below average bus times for the most used routes:

Trip Minca Cartagena

4h30 to 5h of journey (according to the Bus Company). Prices vary around 20 €. Company: Marsol.

Trip Santa Marta Cartagena

4:30 to 5:45 ride (depending on the bus company). Prices vary between 20 and 40 €. Companies: Marsol, Berlinas, Expreso Brasilia, Copetran, Unitransco.

Trip Medellin Cartagena

12h to 14h of journey (according to the Bus Company). Prices vary between 30 and 60 €. Companies: Expreso Brasilia, Rapido Ochoa.


The day we arrived, it was very hot, we were tired so we decided to rest around the pool and not to do tourism. It is therefore the next day early in the morning that we leave for a full day of visit.

Cartagena in 1 day – How to visit the city of all colors 

The first city in South America to be colonized by the Spanish, Cartagena also exploited thousands of African slaves who served as laborers to the conquistators. The people of Cartagena are therefore the result of a beautiful ethnic and cultural mix.

Located on the northern coast, facing the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena is the most visited city in Colombia. It is rich in colonial vestiges and displays beautiful colorful and flowery facades.

cartagena in 1 day what to see : colored houses
cartagena in 1 day what to see the colored streets
cartagena in 1 day my city tour

Cartagena in 1 day – Where to go in Cartagena?

The city center consists essentially of two main parts: the colonial city and the modern city (Bocagrande).

For more information, see my article: Districts of Cartagena

The historic district located inside the fortifications and the Getsemani district (where we stayed) are the most interesting neighborhoods for tourists.

Cartagena in 1 day – What to see in Cartagena?

The main attraction in Cartagena is its historic old town surrounded by walls. It is necessary to walk there and it without moderation by accessing it by the main entrance near the clock tower.

cartagena in 1 day in the historic center
cartagena in 1 day in front of the sea

Cartagena in 1 day – Our city tour map

Cartagena in 1 day – Our City tour itinerary

  • Clock Tower : it’s the entrance to the old town.
  • Plaza San Pedro Claver,
  • The Cathedral, near the Plaza de Bolivar, Iglesia de Santo Domingo and many other churches in the historic center.
  • The museum of gold is not exceptional but it has the merit of being free and air-conditioned (which allows a good cool break!).
  • The Palace of the Inquisition is the place where the Spanish Inquisition tortured, judged and condemned men, women, natives or slaves accused of crimes against religion. Located on the Plaza de Bolivar in the historic center, this real court of the Inquisition has become a museum that exhibits including instruments and torture facilities … a little morbid, certainly, but these horrors are part of the history of the city. Price: 20,000 COP (about 6 €).
  • The fortifications of Cartagena (Murallas) date back more than 500 years and a large part is perfectly preserved. You can walk along the ramparts and have a view of the Caribbean Sea but especially on the roofs of Cartagena.
  • Las Bovedas market: nice tourist market.

If you don’t want to walk, you can take the tourist bus to go around the city (square right in front of the entrance Clock Tower).

cartagena in 1 day what to see TAKE tourist bus

Cartagena in 1 day – Cheap restaurant

Here are the restaurants we tested:

The Plaza’s buffet: To eat fast and cheap (right next to our hotel in Trinidad). We had the Pollo Asado served with salad and dads for 12,000 COP is about 3 €. As a bonus, they offer you a huge choppe d’agua de panela that is refreshing!

The 2 pizzerias on the Plaza de la Trinidad: To eat hearty and cheap (15 000 COP is about 3.50 €).

Gastrolab on the Calle del Espiritu Santo in the Getsemani district to taste very good and large salads (around 5 € the dish). Attention, the preparation is quite long, we wait, we wait, again, again and we swallow everything in 10 minutes!

The restaurant Mar las las Antillas: To eat seafood including Ceviche. We chose the Ceviche del Mar de las Antillas (raw fish, raw shrimps, lime, corn, octopus and squid). Very good but served without accompaniment and therefore not rich enough for a unique dish at noon!

Cartagena in 1 day – Where to change money ?

“Never in the street!” we have been told over and over again … otherwise it is the scam insured!

To find secure exchange offices, go to the main square at the entrance to the historic district (near the Clock Tower) and go under the arcades behind the “dulces” (candy stands, cookies, caramels) … We had a great rate with Colombia Cambios (Local Centrao Portal de los Dulces # 4).

Cartagena in 1 day – Cheap hotel in Cartagena

First of all, you should know that the accommodations are more expensive in Cartagena than elsewhere in Colombia because the city is very touristy. And of course, the historic center and Bocagrande are neighborhoods rather reserved for affluent tourists.

For my small budget, I chose the neighborhood Getsemani very close to the historic center. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Cartagena that I loved. The Plaza de la Trinidad comes alive at night. The locals get together by mingling with tourists to spend part of the evening eating, ice cream, make music, have a drink … The atmosphere is really friendly and authentic! Look here below.

See this hotel on Booking

cartagena in 1 day CHEAP HOTEL IN CARTAGENA

I selected this hotel (hotel Plaza de la Trinidad) because it is close to the sites to visit (10 minutes walk to reach the historic center). So no waste of time in transport and no extra expenses. And yes we did everything on foot!

In addition, the hotel has a very small pool and its rooms are all air conditioned: it is important considering the temperatures in August… Price : 32 € per night with breakfast.

See this hotel on Booking

cheap hotel in cartagena

1 day in Cartagena – My impressions of Cartagena

Yes, I liked the colorful streets and the Getsemani district but …

  • Maybe it’s because of too many tourists …
  • Perhaps because of the overwhelming heat that exhausts you especially in the afternoon …
  • Maybe because of the attitude of the street vendors who harassed us from morning till night to buy a bottle of water, a sombrero, a souvenir …
  • Maybe because I had too much idealized this place … or because there was always too much traffic, too much noise …
  • I do not know … but Cartagena did not really charm me.

But our circuit does not stop there! Tomorrow we leave for the

island of Mucura!

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