Cartagena is sometimes referred to as the “Paris” of South America. Indeed, there is something of a Left Bank feel to the place. But Cartagena’s large collection of vintage Colonial architecture is very much about its Spanish heritage.
Distinctly more “up scale” than Granada, the old quarters of the city get a fair amount of visitors, both national and international. High end fashion stores, jewelry stores and restaurants dot the colorful streets.
The historic center is surrounded by fortified walls (circa 1500) which were built to protect the city against Pirate attacks. Cartagena’s location on the Caribbean Sea is a plus and there is a nice walk along the top of the fort walls.
There is a small museum of Modern Art which shows the work of local Colombian artists.
We are staying at a backpackers’ hostal in the Getsemani area which was the slaves’ quarters of the city, and certainly has more grit than the section inside the walls of the historic center. Perfect choice for us, as it is very much a real neighborhood with a lot of street activity.
It is a different environment completely to have been in the middle of the country, in the mountains around Medellin and Santa Fe and to now find ourselves up North at the edge of the Caribbean. African slave descendants make up a significant part of this population. The music, not surprisingly is a convergence of African rhythms and Latin notes. Our neighborhood, Getsemani, is home to a well known Cuban club, Cafe Havana, with live music several times a week.