Cartagena de Indias is the pretty girl from Colombia. One of those colonial cities that reflect its colors in the waters of the Caribbean.
From here I tell you that it is undoubtedly one of the places that I most wanted to visit on our trip to Colombia.
However, and despite its undeniable appeal, the historic center of Cartagena has disappointed me in some ways.
The neighborhood that became my favorite place in the old part of the city and where I had a good time was Gethsemane.
After meeting him, it is clear to me that there is much to do in Gethsemane, and that whoever passes by repeats it.
- The quiet streets of Getsemaní, the pleasant restaurants and the popular atmosphere make this neighborhood an attractive place to disconnect from the street vendors.
Souvenir shops and the huge groups of tourists that tour the walled area and other places to see.
In Cartagena de Indias.
But what does Gethsemane have so that it deserves to invest part of the stay in Colombia’s best-known colonial city?
Now I tell you about it and I show it to you, and surely you will also fall at his feet.
Things to do in Gethsemane
Until not many years ago, thinking about visiting Gethsemane was almost crazy.
This neighborhood, cradle of the rebellion against Spanish rule in the early 19th century, was taken over by pickpockets and prostitutes.
Today that has changed, the neighborhood has been reinvented and become the fashionable neighborhood of Cartagena.
Graffiti, breweries, boutique hotels and lots of music are part of the current landscape of this neighborhood.
Made up of just over 20 blocks and which is gradually entering the tourist map of those travelers who are looking for more than colonial buildings and shops in the city of memories.
In Gethsemane you can do many things.
- We went there more times than we thought. Tired of the taxi drivers, the hat sellers and the palenqueras determined to take a photo.
We found in Gethsemane the perfect place to enjoy this colorful city without anyone paying attention to us or wanting to sell us anything.
And it is also a must-see if you are walking from the center to the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas.
1 – Locate the center of Gethsemane
Since this Cartagena neighborhood is not very large, getting to its center is easy. You just have to look for the Plaza de la Trinidad.
It is the most emblematic place in Gethsemane and bears that name since the works of the Church of the Holy Trinity were completed in 1643.
Centuries later, from the City Council.
It was proposed to change the name of the place and call it Plaza de la Libertad to render this way tribute to the inhabitants of the neighborhood who participated on November 11, 1811 in the revolution that would result in the signing of the Act of Independence.
It seems that the thing did not materialize and the square maintains its name of yesteryear.
It is a perfect place to contemplate the life of the neighborhood.
The men sit in the shade of the church, the fruit vendors pass by tempting the passers-by with delicious watermelons, mangoes or papayas.
- And kids run after a ball or show their friends how skilled they are on their bikes.
As a witness to all this, the yellow façade of the church that gave the square its name and some colored buildings that give the place that Caribbean and casual look typical of many colonial cities on the seafront.
2 – In search of urban art
Talking about Colombia and not mentioning graffiti or urban art is almost impossible.
For example, among the places to see in Bogotá, the country’s capital, are his works of urban art. And of course, Cartagena was not going to be less.
- If there is a neighborhood where you can enjoy walls full of murals that tell the history of the city and its people, that is Gethsemane.
There are two specific streets, La Sierpe and San Juan, whose walls have become the perfect canvas for many artists.
There are also prominent graffiti in Plaza de la Trinidad and Calle del Espíritu Santo.
Postcards of the city, women’s faces, imaginary underwater worlds, …
Everything has a place in Gethsemane. Here it is not judged. Only admired.
3 – Drink coconut lemonade
I became a big fan of lemonade in Peru. And in Colombia I have had the opportunity to try others as delicious as those I drank in Peruvian lands.
As if that were not enough the pleasure of having a lemonade with very fresh mint, in Cartagena we discovered that they also add coconut.
- I recommend you stop at Palenqueras, a colorful building on the corner of Calles del Pozo and Carretero, next to Plaza de la Trinidad, and ask for one of those lemonades (10,000 pesos).
It is a restaurant and bar with tables on two floors, chairs on the street and tables on the balconies overlooking the square. Perfect for discreetly looking at everything that happens at your feet.
4 – Walking under an umbrella
That idea that was born in Águeda, a Portuguese city, to decorate a street with umbrellas has become popular throughout the world.
And Getsemaní, the coolest neighborhood in Cartagena, could not be less. Don’t expect a wide avenue or a chic street here.
- This neighborhood is a popular place, of working people, and the street that they have covered with umbrellas is proof of this.
If you want to see it, look for the Narrow Alley. Communicate the streets of Pozo and Espíritu Santo.
It is a pedestrian alley with decrepit houses but where graffiti and bougainvilleas are not lacking.
And there is no doubt that these umbrellas have given a note of color and, above all, shade to the neighbors who bring out their chairs in the fresh air every day.
Surely the neighbors are a little tired of the expectation caused by umbrellas and of so many tourists walking around there.
So you have to try to be discreet and understand that this is not a show and that people live in those houses.
As a small tip, in the section closest to Espiritu Santo there are many fewer people taking photos, it seems that they are all concentrated in the other point of the narrow street.
5 – Dine in a garden
The streets of Getsemaní are narrow and the restaurants do not have space to take their terraces to the street. But almost everyone hides a secret: a back garden.
They are very small, but there are also very large and full of plants. Perfect for enjoying a pleasant evening with background music and candles on the tables.
- As few locals in the neighborhood accept reservations, dining (or eating) outdoors is a matter of luck. Or to wait.
You can get there, see the place, and if you fancy a dinner in their garden, say you wait outside until there is a free table.
This interests you:
6 – Dance zumba
Incredible but true. You can dance zumba in Gethsemane.
Free and on the street. Surrounded by Cartagena and tourists who dare to move their bodies no matter who looks at them.
If you dare, point out that these zumba classes take place every Sunday in the Plaza de la Trinidad from 8 to 9:30 in the afternoon.
I assure you that they are very fun. Either to follow them or just to see them.
7 – Take pictures with colored houses
Pinks, blues, greens, whites,… All the colors of the rainbow and more are on the facades of the houses of Gethsemane.
In addition, colors mix and you can find a house painted turquoise blue, with the yellow door and the bars of a deep pink.
- Does it seem strange to you? Well, go to the streets of this neighborhood of Cartagena and you will discover a world of color so fascinating that it will enchant you.
I wondered how my city would be painted in those colors.
And it certainly seemed to me that it would be much more cheerful and unique than the brick or gray facades we are used to.
So while I decide whether to paint the landing of my staircase in fuchsia or yellow, I settle for seeing the many photos I took of those brightly colored houses.
8 – Know the Plazoleta del Pozo
The second largest square in Gethsemane is on the street of the same name, on the edge of the neighborhood.
It is an important place for Gethsemane. Mainly because here was the well that supplied the neighbors with water.
Today luckily for them there is already running water in the houses, but a well is still the protagonist of the square as a memory of other times.
In addition to the well, in this square surrounded by restaurants you can see unique and fun sculptures that illustrate Cartagena life.
A boy chased by a dog or a man and a dog peeing on a lamppost. All are the work of Edgardo Carmona, artist of the city.
9 – Tripita y Media, the street of the colored flags
Some say that Tripita y Media is not in Gethsemane. Another however claim it for the neighborhood.
- Be that as it may, it is so close to the Plaza de la Trinidad that it is worth taking a walk. It is famous for its colorful banners, cheap Colombian restaurants and its non-tourist atmosphere.
It is not one of the most beautiful streets in the city, but you have to walk through it to see Cartagena’s life up close, the one that has nothing to do with travelers, although many of us want to be part of it.
10 – Live the night
If at night the center of the historic center of Cartagena can be rarefied by the presence of a multitude of «pelaos» (nickname for young boys in Colombia)
And prostitutes, Getsemaní is still a good place to go out for a drink. drink or dance.
In the streets of the neighborhood there are many bars and cocktail bars, restaurants with balconies that invite you to enjoy the night breeze, and of course, places where you can dance until late at night.
One of them is Cafe Havana, a corner of Cuba in Colombia.
The perfect place to dance to the rhythm of live music, have a drink or wonder if Hillary Clinton would be sitting in the same chair as you when she entered this venue.
All while the ceiling fans rotate to cool the atmosphere and people move their hips as only the Caribbean knows how to do.
- We finally decided not to go (we danced between regular and bad) but I was left wanting.
Of course, remember that entrance is paid and that nothing is exactly cheap there.
There are those who think that they are tourist prices. As if all of us who traveled were rich …