Cartagena’s Plazas and Streets

Plaza Santo Domingo

This plaza is positioned in the core of the Old City. It is one of the most popular places in Cartagena. In the plaza you are able to see the Botero Statue (the legend is that touching the breasts of the sculpture ‘Gertrudis’ will bring long love relationships) and the oldest and most stunning church in Cartagena which is what the plaza was named after. Plaza Santo Domingo is a great place to escape the sun and heat, if you are there for Sunset you will see shops openings up and local musicians playing. There are also salsa clubs around the plaza. I thought it was a very interesting and beautiful plaza.

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Researched and written by Max

Pizza La Plaza

After a long bus trip from Santa Marta, no lunch and a 2 hour walking tour, everyone was tired and hungry.  So we walked to the closest place from where our tour ended for dinner, the Plaza Santo Domingo and decided that one of the restaurants would do for dinner.  Outdoor eating and relaxing with a cold drink sounded good and the kids liked the idea of pizza, so Pizza La Plaza it was.

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While waiting for our food, we were entertained by local musicians who seemed to know all the hits and happily played Andrew’s request of the Gypsy King’s Bolero and others.  There was a bit of a stream of vendors selling jewellery and other trinkets.  The kids enjoyed different juices and the parents cold wine and beer.

Our six large pizzas arrived and we did just get through it. I have to say they weren’t the best pizzas, they were bland and had very little sauce on them. But, we were in a very central, atmospheric location with music.  Price wise also a bit on the expensive side, but again you are paying for location.  There are plenty of cheaper restaurants around if you are not too tired to look.

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Written by Karen

Botero Sculpture

Fernando Botero, a Colombian artist, was born in Medellin, Colombia in 1932 and is famously known for his voluptuous people, animals and objects that he paints and creates sculptures of.

Although Botero comes from Colombia he moved to New York in the 1960s and later relocated to Florence, Italy in the 1980s, where he now does his sculptures.

In the Plaza Santo Domingo, opposite Iglesia Santo Domingo, is Botero’s bronze statue called, ‘La Gordita’, shipped from Florence, Italy in 2000 as a gift to the city. As you walk around Cartagena there are lots of street vendors selling imitation Botero works.  I thought his work was interesting especially his one of the Mona Lisa.

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Interesting Fact: Botero’s daughter who manages his work, rents her Cartagena home out for $3, 500 US a night, including a personal chef.

Written by Ava and Mum, Photos by mum

Iglesia de Santa Domingo

Click here to read about the blog on the Santa Domingo Church

Plaza de la Aduana

Plaza de la Aduana also called Customs House Plaza, is both the oldest and largest plaza in the whole of Cartagena. The plaza contains many beautiful colonial buildings with red rooves and elaborate wooden balconies.  A statue of Columbus can also be seen in this plaza, although he never set foot in Cartagena, Colombia was named after him. The statue was donated by an Italian immigrant who worked and lived in Cartagena and it is a replica of a statue in Genoa, Italy, where Colombus was born. It is quite an interesting and beautiful plazas.

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Researched and written by Max

Saint Pedro Claver Church (near the plaza)

Click here to read the blog on the church

Plaza de La Coches

The first name that the plaza had was Plaza Del Juez because where a banking corporation is today, a lawyer who went by the name of Francisco de Santa Cruz, stayed as judge to those who came to the city with the sole purpose to swear in the new governor, Don Juan de Badillio replaced Don Pedro de Heredia who was the founder of this great city. Don Juan de Badillio changed the name of the square to one that suited the new function of it, which was to sell African blacks who would be then sold as slaves, he named it The Slave’s Place. In 1585 he renamed the plaza The Square of Merchants because many merchants established in it. Later it was renamed The Plaza de la Yerba and then finally The Plaza de los Coches, named because of a law that allowed cars to park in front of the candy portal. In the candy portal many sweets are sold. It is a very interesting plaza with a big history.


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In the triangular plaza is a statue of the cities founder, Pedro de Heredia

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On one side of the plaza is an arched walkway with overhanging timber balconies.

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The women from San Basilio de Palenque selling their fruit in the plaza.

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Each arch in El Portal de los Dulces is an independently owned sweet stand.  The stands contain glass jars filled with a variety of sweets from different flavours of brittle, cocadas, coconut cookies, chocolate balls to other fruit flavoured treats.

Researched and written by Max

Torre del Reloj (Clock Tower)

click here to go to blog on the clock tower.

Plaza de la Bolivar

Originally called Plaza de Inquisition because of the placement of the Palace of Inquisition in the Plaza, it was renamed after Simon Bolivar after he helped them get rid of the Spanish rule. The plaza has many attractive colonial buildings that have very nice balconies. In the centre of the plaza is a statue of Simon Bolivar, as said before he was one of the significant people who helped the local South Americans to be free of the Spanish law. This plaza is quite a good plaza with interesting history and magnificent houses. – Max


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Late afternoon sees the local men gathering to play chess in the shade of the overhanging trees in Bolivar Plaza

Written and researched by Max

Palace of Inquisition

Click here to read the blog about the palace of Inquisition

Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica (Cathedral de Cartagena)

Click here to read the blog about the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica

Plaza de la Proclamation or Proclamation Square

The plaza was originally called the square of the cathedral. It was later named Plaza del Cabildo. After that it was named Plaza del Palacioo only to be later renamed Plaza de la Proclamation on the important day when the town was gathered for people to sign the independence arc. The importance of the independence arc is this, at the end of the first decade in the 19th century people of Cartagena were divided between two groups the Toledistas and the Piñeristas groups. The Toledistas group was led by José María García de Toledo and the Piñeristas group was led by two brothers, Germán and Gabriel Gutierrez de Piñeres. These two groups fought over the presidency of the supreme government board, which was made to guide the fate of the Cartagena de Indias. The position for president was won by José María García de Toledo. The brother, in infuriation decided they would create a campaign to earn the peoples’ supports, their aim was the complete independence from Spain.

The brothers decided to gather people pressure the declaration of complete independence. On November the 11th of 1811 the supreme government board met at the government palace and discussed themes, the declaration of complete independence was proposed by Germán Gutierrez de Piñeres who was a member of the supreme government board. The mob that was waiting outside the Government palace entered it and managed to get those gathered to sign the Act of Absolute Independence from Spain

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One of the brightly coloured buildings in Proclamation Plaza.

San Basilio de Palenque

The Afro-Colombian woman dressed in many different colours, you will see them on the streets of Cartagena selling fruit in the main squares. These women are incredibly significant, they will be on the covers of guide books, magazines and will pose with tourists as souvenir pictures. They are however from a village which is known as the first free slave town in the Americas, the town is San Basilio de Palenque. This village is in the foothills of a small mountain range, Montes de Maria, south of Cartagena. Most people do not go there as it may not be in the guidebooks or that they don’t bother taking the time, this village however is one of the most historical places in the Americas. The village was founded in the 16th century by Benkos Biohó, who was a former African king, he was sold as a slave but escaped in 1599 from the port of Cartagena. He ran to the swamps south of Cartagena and then he made an army of other escaped slave and together they dominated the area around the small mountain range. Biohó enabled more escapes from Cartagena, in 1605 Biohó was proposed a peace treaty by the governor of Cartagena, the treaty was finalised in 1612 only to be violated by the Spanish in 1619. The Spanish captured Biohó and he was hanged in 1621. He now has a statue in the main square of Palenque that has him reaching with his right arm towards Africa, he has broken chains on his wrists. The village grew slowly with its small group but in 1691 the Spanish Crown issued a Royal Decree that freed the Africans in San Basilio de Palenque from slavery. This made San Basilio de Palenque the first free slave town. The village now has about 4,000 inhabitants.

The language the Afro-Colombian people speak in the village is the only creole lange in Latin America with a lexical Spanish basis and grammatical characteristics of Bantu languages. According to the traditions of the village, music plays very important role in culture. The Palenquera music is joyful and is expressed with dances, there are many dances in the culture.

The women from San Basilio de Palenque are happy to pose for a photo, just expect to pay a tip for the privilege. 

Written and researched by Max

The Streets of Cartagena

Cartagena’s streets are not only filled with a vibrant palette of coloured buildings but many have balconies draped with bougainvillea in hues of pink, red, white and purple.  The streets lined with two story houses once belonged to noble and wealthy merchant families.  Families that lived in Cartagena in both one and two story homes were relatively wealthy, those who couldn’t afford to live there, lived in Getsemani and other areas and could only enter the city to work via a drawbridge. (which was open at night to stop entrance) The buildings reflect Spanish, particularly Andalusian architecture.  Colonist used adobe, stone and wood to create terraced roofs, arches, balconies, inner courtyards and facades, reminiscent of Europe. A lot of the homes have now been converted to boutique hotels, upmarket shops and rentals.


Lolly hued homes.  The aldaba on the door and number of brass buttons indicated a families status in Cartagena.



Balconies enveloped in greenery


Bougainvillea laden houses

Cartagena’s narrow cobbled streets is also home to an eclectic array of vendors selling traditional foods, limonada, juices and tinto (sweet coffee) from their carts and San Basilio de Palenque women selling their fruits.  You can also find replica Botera artwork outside the Cathedrals and along the streets and well as makeshift stands selling jewellery and other trinkets in the plazas and sidewalks. 

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It is very easy to spend hours wandering the streets and yet feeling as though there is still so much more left to explore.

Written by Karen

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