Fort/Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas The largest Spanish Fort in the Americas. San Felipe is the greatest and strongest fortress ever built by the Spaniards in any of their colonies. It was truly impregnable and was never taken, despite numerous attempts to storm it. The fortress is a 20-minute walk or a $6,000 peso cab ride from the old town. Entrance is free the last Sunday of every month between February and November for Colombian nationals. (666 4790; Av Arévalo; adult/child 6-13 pesos $25,000/10,500; reduced fees for Colombian nationals & residents, teachers; disabled, 62+ and under 6 free; Hours 8am-6pm) Wear a hat and/or bring an umbrella to ward off the sun as much of what you will tour is out in the open. Audio tour recommended.
Around the corner behind the fort off Calle 30 is a large pair of bronze old shoes, Los Zapatos Viejos. The monument is in honor of Cartagena poet Luis Carlos López (1879-1950), whose poem “A mi ciudad nativa” speaks to how one can love this city like one loves an old pair of (presumably well-worn favorite!) shoes.
The Monastery/Convento de la Popa This is on a 150 meter high hill, the highest point in the city, about 2km beyond Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, and has the best view in Cartagena. There is a zigzagging access road leading up to the convent (no public transport) and paths cutting the bends of the road. Take a taxi; the fare of about $40,000 pesos includes round trip transportation and 40 minutes waiting at the top while you tour the convent and admire the views. Walking to the top is not recommended for safety reasons and because of the heat. Tel: 666 2331; adult/child pesos $9,000/5,000; daily 9 am-5 pm. [NOTE: as of 22 March 2017 this is closed for 6 months; more information here.]
Inquisition Palace/Cartagena History Museum Downstairs focuses on the Inquisition & Tolerance; upstairs on the history of Cartagena; basic information in English. Centro, Calle 34 3-11, Plaza de Bolivar; tel: 664 7381, 664 4570; Mon-Sat: 9am-6pm; Sun/Holidays: 10am–4pm; Entry Adults = $17,000; Seniors/Children = $14,000 (Free last Sunday of the month from Feb to Nov)
Naval Museum This is a great museum. Written info is almost all in Spanish, but there is an app you can download to scan codes with your device for translations in English, Portuguese & French. Downstairs has a lot of colonial history; upstairs has more recent naval history. Be careful, they say this museum is haunted! Calle San Juán de Dios No. 3-62, near the Hotel Charleston/Santa Teresa, Centro; Open Daily 10am – 5:30pm. Entry: $8,000
Gold Museum/Museo del Oro The Gold Museum (421 0953; Calle 14 No 2-07; admission free; Hours Tues-Sat 9 am-5 pm, Sun 11-3, closed Mondays) is in the fine colonial mansion known as the Casa de la Aduana (Customs House) right on Parque Bolivar.
Museum of Modern Art Mon-Fri 9 am – noon, 3 – 7 pm; Sat 10 am – 1 pm, Sun 4 – 9 pm except the last Sunday of the month when it is 11 am – 4 pm (and free entry)
Teatro de Adolfo Mejía This is a former church turned theater; there are often free or reasonably priced concerts and performances here. Events are often posted (without much advance notice!) on Facebook, but there is no online schedule.
Centro, Plaza de la Merced (Carrera 4), # 38 – 10. Office hours (the office is around the back of the theater on Calle de la Chichería): Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to noon; 2:30 pm to 6 pm; inquire at the office for theater tours as well as upcoming events.
Gabriel García Márquez Monument The Nobel prize-winning author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, among other novels, lived most of his life in Mexico, but had a home in Cartagena’s Walled City (near the Sofitel Hotel Santa Clara). As of late May 2016, his ashes are interred in the Merced Convent, part of the University of Cartagena, next door to the Teatro Adolfo Mejía. You can visit the Convent and the monument to “Gabo” Monday to Saturday, 8 am to noon and 2 to 5 pm.
Casa/Museo Rafael Nuñez Rafael Nunez (1825-1894) was a poet, journalist, author of Colombia’s National Anthem, creator of the Banco Nacional, mastermind of its Constitution, and four-time President of Colombia. His former home is located in the Cabrero neighborhood, just to the northeast of the city walls (ie, in the direction of the airport, which is named after him). Tour this 19th century home Sat/Sun 10-4; Tu-Fri 9-5. Free. Informational signs in Spanish only but there is a brochure in English with translations of these signs.
The Parque Apolo is across the street and is open all day. The chapel in the park, La Ermita del Cabrero, was built by Rafael Nuñez and is a popular place to be married. It is open at mass times only and worth a look if you peek in just prior to mass (Monday – Friday 6 pm; holiday Saturdays 5:30 pm; Sundays 9:30 am, 5:30 pm, 7 pm).
Hours & prices listed above subject to change.