Cartagena Area Map
Cartagena spreads across Colombia's Caribbean coast. Except for their airplanes landing in the north, a majority of travelers' time is spent in the eastern area of the city. This coastal portion of Cartagena was the original city, complete with its striking architecture and other tourist attractions. Since its founding, Cartagena has expanded inland. Business and residential areas sit farther inland, but most travelers will be content to orbit around the old city.
The primary calling card of Cartagena's northern area is the Rafael Núñez International Airport, which is technically located in the neighborhood of Crespo, where most travelers arrive. Businesses and educational institutions sit north of the airport, while most tourists will head south to Cartagena's downtown area.
A majority of Cartagena's historic attractions are located in the downtown (also known as Centro) neighborhood. Visitors can expect to find primarily Spanish colonial architecture, though a variety of other buildings are scattered through the area. Downtown is also home of the majority of Cartagena's famous Old City Walls, as well as an abundance of religious institutions and street vendors.
Another area surrounded by the Old City Walls, the San Diego neighborhood boasts many historic attractions. This neighborhood is centered on the Plaza de San Diego, an excellent people-watching spot. Plus, a small army of street performers and food vendors are present to help pass the time.
One of the more expensive neighborhoods in Cartagena, Bocagrande is home to most of the city's hotels. The area presents a Caribbean twist on Las Vegas, with palm trees and casinos lining the interior streets, while crowded beaches run along the coast. Visitors staying here have an array of food options to choose between before they retire to their rooms, which typically boast views of the old city and water. Plus, Bocagrande puts travelers just south of many of the Cartagena’s attractions.
A hip neighborhood on the eastern side of Cartagena's old city, Getsemaní stands out for its authentic feel. The area is centered on the Holy Trinity Square, where travelers can listen to live music and grab food from the numerous stalls. Leaving the square, visitors can wind through the city's storied streets, which are known for their massive, vivid murals. Herds of backpackers stay at the area's hostels, but boutique hotels are also an option.
Following the Colombian government's 2016 peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, violent crime in Cartagena has drastically declined. That said, Cartagena is still plagued by many of the same petty crime that you'll find in other major metropolitan areas. Because street crime is the most common threat to tourists, visitors should take common sense precautions: travel with friends, be aware of your valuables at all times, and stay alert for pickpockets and other scams.
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