Going to South America has been high on my list for a long time. I’ve particularly wanted to visit Chile and Colombia, so I was excited to get the chance to stop in Cartagena, Colombia. This city has so much history to it and has beautifully colored buildings everywhere you look. I mainly was in Old Town, but I loved exploring the historic town of Cartagena.
There have been many battles throughout history for countries trying to gain control of Cartagena, starting in the 1500s. It was founded in 1533 by Spain and named after the same town in their country. Gold was a hot commodity at that time, and the rumor got around quick. Pirates and ships from other nations began invading the city to try to gain control over it. It was attacked over and over throughout the years until the city finally had enough at the beginning of the 1700s. The walls which are still standing were ordered to be built as a protective measure around the city. It remained under Spanish rule in 1810, when a Declaration of Independence went into place.
Pick Up Local Handicrafts
Colombia is a country of bright colors, which was reflected in the souvenirs they were selling. They had beautiful bags, scarves, shirts, and jewelry for sale. I was tempted to grab one of the bags below, but knew I wouldn’t have room in my suitcase on the way home. I got a few pieces of beautiful turquoise jewelry instead. Make sure you bargain when you’re here – it’s completely acceptable and expected.
Discover the Churches
Multiple churches are found in Old Town and have beautiful designs. If you have the time, I recommend visiting them all. The one below is Parroquia San Pedro
Hang Out in the Park
There are several parks throughout the city which are the perfect places to take refuge from the hot sun. This park had so much going on in it for how small it was. Locals greeted each other as they walked by and kids ran around playing. Plenty of vendors were selling food and souvenirs to tourists who walked by. There was also a group of locals in traditional costumes that came by to sing and dance in the middle of the park.
I took advantage of the vendors and got this shaved ice for only a dollar. I had to guess on what the flavors were since I didn’t recognize some of the Spanish words, but it was delicious whatever it was!
Relax at Outdoor Cafes
I hadn’t anticipated on how hot Colombia would be. I loved walking around, but needed a few breaks throughout the day in the shade. The outdoor cafes are the perfect place to have a drink and cool off. It’s also a good chance to people watch, which I love doing in foreign countries.
Try the Local Food
I loved the food in Colombia. They’re located on the water, so the number of seafood options at restaurants was huge. My favorite was a light lunch of shrimp ceviche with a side of plantain chips. I aways love trying the local beer, so at the server’s recommendation, I got a pint of Club Colombia to go with it.
There were street vendors everywhere selling food as well. As always, take caution when trying street food. I always make sure I see them cooking it if possible to know it hasn’t been sitting out in the heat all day. Arepas are one of the most popular street foods you’ll find in Colombia. They’re made of corn flour and can often be found topped with cheese.
Visit the Walls of Cartagena
Head to the edge of the city to see the walls of Cartagena that were put up to defend the city against invaders. I loved seeing the old structures and even canons that were left there as you look at a view of the new city. If you like history, visit the fortresses to learn more about how the city defended itself.
I was only able to stop here for a day on my Panama Canal cruise, but will definitely be coming back in the future to explore the city further and more of Colombia!
What do you like to explore most in a new city?
This post was sponsored by Princess Cruises, but all opinions are my own.
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