If you’re planning a trip to Cartagena and looking for things to do, we’ve got you covered! Here are 10 kid-friendly things to do in Cartagena Colombia.
(But even if you aren’t travelling with kids, these are still my top ten recommendations!)
Cartagena has been on my bucket list for a few years now.
I’m not sure if I should admit this, but I was watching an episode of HGTV Island Hunters and as part of the episode they highlighted the town of Cartagena. It looked gorgeous, and not at all what I expected Colombia to look like!
A year later, as I was looking for airfare deals over Christmas, Colombia popped up again. I didn’t end up booking anything that Christmas, but it piqued my interest.
Another few years passed and then a friend mentioned that she had seen something on TV about how Colombia was turning around, had become much safer and tourism was increasing.
Fast forward to this winter. I was looking to go somewhere over March Break but now I also had two young boys.
We wanted to go somewhere warmer than our Canadian winter and were looking at Central America, but as we were limited to going over March Break, prices anywhere south were pretty pricey. Searching the map on Google flights, Bogota kept popping up as a reasonably priced flight. And when I realized how cheap the flights from Bogota to Cartagena were, it seemed too good to be true!
We flew into Bogota and had a few days there (read more about things to do in Bogota here) before flying to Cartagena.
Cartagena (Car-ta-HEN-ya) is one of the larger cities in Colombia and the most popular for tourists. Situated on the Caribbean coast, it’s warm year-round and makes a great place for a beach vacation.
Founded in the 16th century, the walled Old Town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thirteen kilometres of walls enclose a Colonial city filled with squares, cobblestone streets, colourful buildings and balconies covered in flowers and bougainvillea.
We had booked an Airbnb in the Old town for a few day and what a great choice that was. It was a short walk to the city walls or to the old cobbled streets that seemed to be busy with tourists and locals anytime of the day.
You could easily spend a week in Cartagena, but as we only had a few days on our family vacation, we had to make the most of our time.
Top 10 things to Do in Cartagena
1. Walk Along the City Walls
Definitely make sure to take some time to walk along the top of the walls. The views are spectacular!
Even with young kids, I felt safe enough walking along there with them. It was a mix of cobblestones so it wasn’t the easiest with the stroller (but we still did it numerous times a day!).
The boys loved exploring up there and looking out to the water. And the breeze up there was most welcome!
2. See the Clock Tower
Built in the 1600’s, the tower was once the main gate and entrance to the city.
Nowadays, it’s the main meeting spot for both locals and tourists. There’s a large square in front and it’s a great spot to people watch!
Most walking tours will meet here.
3. Visit the Museo del Oro
The Museo del Oro is a much smaller version of the world renowned museum in Bogota.
Featured are gold and pottery work of Cartagena’s indigenous people.
Although it is smaller, the collection is impressive and it is still worth a visit!
Best of all admission is free, and it’s air conditioned!
4. Explore Getsemani
If you have the time, the Getsemani area is definitely worth exploring a bit more!
Once a seedy neighbourhood known for drugs, prostitution and crime, it is now one of the up and coming areas.
Just outside of the Old City, it’s a neighbourhood like no other. The colourful buildings, hanging flags and amazing street food make exploring the area one of the best things to do in Cartagena with kids.
Filled with artists, students and locals, it’s a perfect place to wander and grab a snack while admiring the many graffiti covered walls! If you like street art, this is the place to explore!
You can book a walking tour here or explore on your own.
5. Visit San Felipe Castle
Located just outside the city walls, and a short walk from Getsemani is the imposing Castillo San Felipe de Barajas.
It’s a massive fort, the greatest fort every built by the Spanish on the South American mainland.
Built on a hill, like many forts, it’s a good climb to get to the top, but the views of the walled city are fantastic.
Some of the tunnels are open to explore – you can join a guided tour or do a self-guided tour.
6. See the Cathedral
Cartagena’s cathedral, officially known as the Basilica Santa Catalina de Alejandría is located in the center of the Old Town.
Its terracotta dome is visible from all over town and is one of the best photo spots in Cartagena (although, to be honest, almost any picture here is instagram-worthy!)
7. Take a City Sightseeing Tour
The double-decker hop-on, hop-off bus runs a loop through Cartagena with buses every 45 minutes.
Starting at the marina, the bus passes the fort and continues along the water to the beach, Bocagrande, the casino and many of the large hotels before returning back to the city centre.
Tickets are good for 2 days, and kids under 3 are free. It’s a great way to see the city, especially when it’s really hot, and kids won’t have to walk very far.
8. Spend Time at Plaza de San Pedro Claver
Hanging out at the main square and feeding the pigeons is one of the best things to do in any city, and Cartagena is no exception.
The Plaza de San Pedro Claver is in the center of the Old City, right in front of the church of the same name. You can tour the inside of the church as well as the Museum of Modern Art next door. While kids might not find this too interesting, it’s a great way to cool off during the heat of the afternoon.
And while the photo above doesn’t have any pigeons in it, believe me, there are plenty! Kids will love chasing and feeding the pigeons!
9. Enjoy the Rooftop Pools
At first glance I thought our rooftop pool was a little tiny and we wouldn’t really use it.
But after a morning of wandering the Old Town, it was a great way to cool off and spend the hottest part of the day.
You also get an interesting view from the roof!
10. Try Ceviche
Trying the fresh ceviche is a must!
Being on the coast, seafood is a given.
Ceviche is popular in many South American countries, but Cartagena is noted for it (at least in Colombia).
There are many places in Cartagena serving Ceviche and they all have their own twist. We tried a few different types but my all time favourite was Lulo Ceviche from Pezetarian.
11. See the Fruit Ladies
The fruit ladies are a common site all over the Old Town.
Traditionally, they came from a town a few hours inland and would carry their fruit into the city to sell.
Now they still sell their fruit but make most of their income through tips from posing for photos.
Be sure to tip if you pose for a photo! And do try the fruit – it’s delicious!
Things to Do Around Cartagena
While there are plenty of things to do in Cartagena Colombia with kids, if you have extra time, the Islas del Rosario and Isla de Barú make for an excellent day trip. Known for white-sand beaches, palm trees and coral reefs, the Rosario Islands are a perfect way to relax and soak up the Caribbean weather.
There are plenty of tours offered to these islands or you can take a day trip to Playa Blanca, which as it’s name suggests, also has gorgeous white-sand beaches. Located on the Rosario Islands, it’s also accessible from the mainland by a bridge.
Another popular day trip is to visit Volcan de Lodo El Totumo, or the Mud Volcano. Crawling down into a pit of mud sounded pretty interesting and unique, but with two toddlers (and as the only adult), I didn’t think it was a great choice for us. But it may be a good choice for families with older kids and if you decide to go, let me know how it is!
Final Thoughts: Things to Do in Cartagena with Kids
Cartagena is a fantastic place to visit with kids. It offers a mix of culture and history, and is a great warm-weather destination year-round. Whether you’re looking forward to relaxing on the beach, taking a day trip to the nearby islands or exploring the colonial town, there are plenty of things to do in Cartagena with kids.