Cartagena, Colombia is one of those cities that feels completely different depending on the area in which you stay. Lodging in the city is broken up into three primary areas. Visitors to the colorful coastal city typically stay in either the Old Town Cartagena; Getsemani; or Bocagrande. First-time visitors often have a lot of questions about Cartagena including where to stay.
Staying in Old Town Cartagena
The walled city is perhaps the most popular area of Cartagena in which to stay. Also known as Old Town Cartagena, the walled city consists of the historic districts of El Centro and San Diego. The walled city is the heart of Cartagena. It is bustling with activity day and night, and is without question, Old Town is the primary attraction of Cartagena. With colorful buildings, shaded plazas, and historic churches, the walled city of Cartagena is positively charming and picture perfect.
Lodging in this historic colonial area is primarily made up of boutique, locally owned and operated “casas.” Casas in Cartagena are old homes, mansions really, that have been renovated and converted into boutique hotels with just a handful of rooms. The hotels inside the walled city of Cartagena are old, charming, and unique. There is something truly enchanting about staying in a building that is 400 years old. Although it is more expensive to stay inside the walled city of Cartagena, you will feel much more immersed in the culture.
Pros of staying in walled city
- Walking distance to everything including restaurants and bars
- Immersed in the culture and experience of Cartagena
Cons of staying in walled city
- Can be loud at times
- Small swimming pools if at all at most hotels
Staying in Getsemani
Located just south of Old Town, Getsemani is an up-and-coming area of Cartagena. A few years ago, you wouldn’t have wanted to visit Getsemani, let alone stay the night there. It was a hotbed for drug activity and crime. But this area of Cartagena is now becoming increasingly touristy. It is particularly popular among backpackers and younger travelers due to a budget-friendly lodging options and hostels. Although Getsemani still has colonial charm similar to Old Town Cartagena, it also has a hip, urban feel to it with beautiful street murals, food carts, and an exciting nightlife. With that said, it is still a district on the rise. While it may be safe, it is not quite as picturesque as Old Town. Many of the old, historical buildings are still rundown and in need of renovation.
Pros of staying in Getsemani
- Less expensive than Old Town
- Still within walking distance to Old Town
- Great street food and inexpensive restaurants
Cons of staying in Getsemani
- A bit more run down than Old Town
- Can be noisy at night near the main plaza
- Outside of the heart of the city
Staying in Bocagrande
Bocagrande is known as modern Cartagena. It’s full of high rise buildings and North American hotel chains. If you prefer luxury over character, Bocagrande would probably be more your scene. Many of the hotels have really nice pools and resort amenities. The hotels are located right on the water next to a public beach. Truthfully, the beach isn’t the greatest. It is crowded, the sand is dark, and the water isn’t really clear, but it is convenient if you want to be by the ocean. Most visitors to Cartagena take a day trip to the Rosario Islands if they want to go to the beach instead. You can actually get a decent deal on a hotel room in Bocagrande, but on the downside getting to tourist sights or Old Town requires a 10-15 minute taxi ride.
Pros of staying in Bocagrande
- Modern, westernized hotels (if that’s your travel style)
- Large swimming pools
- Less expensive than Old Town
- On the beach
Cons of staying in Bocagrande
- Must take a taxi to get to everywhere
- Lacks the charm and historical feel of Old Town and Getsemani
- The beach isn’t all that great
Where to stay in Cartagena: Old Town, Getsemani, or Bocagrande?
Where to stay in Cartagena, Colombia depends largely on your travel style and budget. If you can afford it, I highly recommend staying inside the walled city in the districts of El Centro or San Diego. It is a much more personal experience, and you are within walking distance to many of the main things to do in Cartagena.
Hotel Casa Quero
While we were in Cartagena we stayed at Casa Quero. Casa Quero is a charming boutique hotel located in the San Diego district of Old Town. It is conveniently located on a quiet and beautiful street inside the walled city of Cartagena. We stayed in the Grand Suite Condesa which has high, vaulted ceilings and lovely, antique furnishings. The room had a shaded balcony overlooking the street. It also had a large bathroom with a separate shower and tub, which is great when you travel with little ones that take baths instead of showers.
The hammocks and rooftop pool at the hotel were our favorite places to spend the afternoon when the heat became too unbearable to walk around and explore the town. Our stay also included a complimentary breakfast. The selection was limited, but the food and service were good.
Other family-friendly accommodations in Cartagena
Although we stayed at Casa Quero in Old Town Cartagena, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it, we considered hotels in both Getsemani and Bocagrande. Here are a couple of other options to consider if you want to stay in the neighborhoods of Getsemani or Bocagrande, Cartagena.
In Getsemani, we almost booked our stay at Armeria Real Luxury Hotel. The hotel offers townhome style accommodations, which would be great for families traveling with children. The rooftop swimming pool also overlooks the bay.
We also considered staying at the Hilton Cartagena in Bocagrande. Accommodations are reasonably priced and the hotel has a large swimming pool with a fun slide that is perfect for kids.
Ultimately, we decided to stay in Old Town Cartagena and do not regret that decision. But regardless of where you stay in Cartagena, the picturesque colonial city will definitely not disappoint!
Have you been to Cartagena Colombia? Or do you have a question about Cartagena’s Old Town, Getsemani, or Bocagrande neighborhoods? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.