We didn’t have a lot of time in Cartagena, but we are so glad we had as much time as we did in Getsemani. Getsemani is a vibrant, up-and-coming neighborhood, making it an excellent base for your visit to Cartagena with kids. It’s just an easy 5-minute walk through the colorful market stalls of Parque Centenario to the world-famous Cartagena Old Town.
Getsemani has a great vibe. Its streets are filled with great restaurants, fun shops and boutique hotels & hostels. Despite these great reasons for visiting, the best part of Getsemani is the street art – murals are literally everywhere in this neighborhood.
As you wander the exciting streets to discover them, you’ll be delighted with the brightly colored umbrellas and flags blowing gently in the wind overhead.
Cartagena with Kids
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Things to do in Cartagena with Kids
If you are wondering what to do in Cartagena with kids, don’t worry, you have plenty of fun activities to choose from:
Old Town Cartagena
Cartagena’s premiere attraction is its walled Old Town. This amazingly preserved colonial town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a perfect place to put Google Maps away and simply wander the streets.
Enjoy following your eyes as you admire the beautiful colorful buildings complete with balconies draped with bougainvillea vines. There’s also great shopping and lots of dining options.
Old Town Cartagena has a couple of fun & vibrant plazas, including Plaza de Bolívar and Plaza Santo Domingo. If you’re looking for a good laugh and an even better picture, there is a bronze sculpture of a large naked woman by famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero in Plaza Santo Domingo.
Legend has it that you’ll get good luck if you touch her left breast… never hurts to try right?
If you need to escape the heat for a while, the Indoor highlights of the Old Town are the Palace of the Inquisition (although we thought it may be too graphic for the kids), Museo del Oro Zenú (a gold museum).
Be sure to visit the far western edge of Old Town, where you can walk atop the city walls for a short stretch. The views of the Caribbean Sea are very nice and there are lots of cannons for the kids to climb on.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
Since its founding in 1533, Cartagena has been a very important and desirable city. As such, it was attacked and invaded many times over by pirates and conquerors. Cartagena needed better defenses, so they built a series of defensive forts. The biggest and most impressive of which is Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas.
Located about a 10-minute walk from Getsemani, Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas towers over the land around it. Due to the short distance, we walked from Getsemani, but we had a slightly uncomfortable encounter along the way. We arrived safely without incident, but just in case we’d recommend taking a taxi or the Hop-On Hop-Off bus.
After paying admission, you walk up a winding road to get to the fort. Along the way there are many places to stop and look back on the excellent views of the city.
The San Felipe de Barajas Castle is a great place to visit with kids. There is tons of space for them to run and explore, big ledges to jump off of, cannons to climb on, tunnels to explore, etc. Our kids had an amazing time exploring and learning about the various parts of the fort’s defenses.
The Castillo can get very busy, but we got there shortly after opening and it wasn’t very crowded at all. This allowed our kids to be crazy without annoying other guests.
Exploring Getsemani on Foot
Old Town Cartagena is not the only interesting neighborhood to wander around. Getsemani is an incredibly interesting neighborhood to spend time exploring and discovering its wonders.
The entirety of the Getsemani neighborhood is a work of art. The roads are lined with canopies of hanging umbrellas, flags and lights, all swaying gently in the wind.
Any available wall space between the numerous trendy restaurants and hotels are filled with beautiful spray-painted murals. If you want to impress your friends, book the Getsemani Instagram Tour to get your picture taken by a professional at the coolest spots.
The food in Getsemani is varied, excellent and reasonably priced. In addition, there is more interesting shopping to be had than the standard knick-knacks found in Old Town.
We skipped visiting the Rosario Islands from Cartagena due to our trip to Isla Mucura in the Islas de San Bernardo. If you are looking for an easy visit to a beautiful Caribbean Island, be sure to check out the many day trips to the Rosario Islands.
A hugely popular Cartagena tour is to the crystal clear waters of Playa Blanca, which is considered by many to be one of Colombia’s most beautiful beaches. If you don’t have any beach time built into your Colombia itinerary, a day trip to Playa Blanca can’t be missed.
2-Day Cartagena Itinerary with Kids
Our original plan was to stay in Cartagena for one night before our Isla Mucara trip, then two nights afterwards. We ended up arriving in Cartagena one day early, so we had one full day in the city before and after our Caribbean island getaway.
Here’s how we spent those two days in Cartagena with kids:
Day 1: As I imagine most people do, we spent most of our first day aimlessly wandering the streets of Old Town, simply enjoying getting lost. We’ve spent a lot of time in South America and have seen a lot of colonial architecture, and Cartagena is simply the best. This beautiful part of town is huge and every street has a new surprise in store.
The colorful buildings are so beautiful with Bougainvillea flowers climbing walls everywhere you look. Heck – even the door knockers are so fun to look at and compare! You’ll have no trouble finding ways to spend your money here, with plentiful shopping and restaurants on offer.
Day 2: We spent the morning getting a little history and enjoying the city views at Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas.
Then we spent an afternoon exploring the delightful streets around our Getsemani hotels.
Getting into Getsemani, Cartagena with Kids
A private transfer is a nice treat when you arrive in a new city. With a private transfer, your driver will meet you at your gate, walk you to your waiting vehicle and drive you straight to your hotel.
If you’re up for it, a local taxi is much cheaper than a private transfer. Most of the licensed taxis in Cartagena are really small, compact cars. We figured we couldn’t fit ourselves, our two backpacks and four daybags into one, but our driver managed to fit all of our stuff into his dinky little car.
Our Cartagena airport taxi ride was uneventful and actually us cost 3,000COP less than the quoted price on the Uber app.
You will not find a taxi with child seats in Cartagena. We had a decent amount of car travel planned for our Colombia trip, so we brought two travel friendly Mifold Booster Seats with us.
For more thoughts and ideas on bringing (or not bringing) car seats, read our Traveling with Car Seats post.
Hotels in Getsemani, Cartagena with Kids
Due to our earlier than planned arrival, we ended up staying at three different Cartagena hotels – all in Getsemani.
Given we were booking a room only a few days before Christmas, we considered ourselves lucky to grab a Family Room with three singles and a double bed at the Hotel San Felipe. After three very hot nights with no air conditioning in Minca, we turned that room into an icebox!
One downside is the street noise. It’s located on the corner of two rather busy streets, with a lot of honking going on. The noise lasted well into the night and none of us slept very well. The breakfast had a good selection, including pancakes and strawberries.
Our second Getsemani, Cartagena hotel was the Hotel Casa de la Trinidad. This small boutique hotel was on a much quieter street two blocks away. We stayed at this hotel due to its high rating on Booking.com and for its Quadruple Room – with a double bed and two singles.
The room was much smaller than the previous night. We couldn’t hear any street noise from our room which was a welcome change from the night before. They offered a small selection of breakfast choices, mostly combinations of eggs, ham, cheese and toast.
Our final Getsemani hotel was Balcones de Venecia. It’s located along a beautiful street with umbrellas and colorful little flags streaming in the wind. Our room was nice and quiet and the beds were comfortable. We all enjoyed a few good nights of sleep and their delicious breakfasts!
Our only complaint was a mix-up at check-in as the Family Room with a balcony we reserved was unavailable. They provided an alternate room and compensated us for the difference in value.
We booked most of these Cartagena hotels using Booking.com as their Top Picks for Families make it easy to find good family-friendly accommodation.
Many families, including us, enjoy the amenities of staying in a vacation home rental such as separate bedrooms, a kitchen and laundry facilities. As luck would have it, we ended up in three different hotels this time, but there are plenty of Cartagena vacation home rentals for you to consider for your family trip..
Getsemani Restaurants with Kids
Cafe Stepping Stone
Our first meal in Getsemani was at Café Stepping Stone. We had arrived early afternoon from Minca and we wanted an easy, light lunch. We were thrilled to find Café Stepping Stone a block from our first hotel.
This small café, run by three Australians, gives disadvantaged youths a chance at developing their skills and confidence. The food is fantastic and affordable as well. Celine and I each ordered a Colombian açai bowl, while the kids split a large bowl of granola & yogurt, with a side of peanut butter toast.
We enjoyed this place so much, we made it our first meal again after we returned from Isla Mucura.
Given we had a late lunch, we wanted a light dinner as well, so we stopped in Pa Antojarte for a few gourmet ham and cheese sandwiches. We also grabbed a few side orders of salchipapas, which our translator, on our Lost City trek, said was the food we must try while in Cartagena with kids.
Salchipapas are a popular Colombian snack consisting of sausage (hot dogs), French fries, cheese, ketchup and mustard. I gotta admit, I expected better. Perhaps our guide oversold it? In any case, the sandwiches were really good, so if you are looking for a light lunch, swing by and try for yourself…
We ate our second lunch at La Sandwicheria along Calle 31 in Getsemani between Carrera 9 & 10 (it’s not in Google Maps yet). This cute little sandwich shop only has a few tables. The kids had ham and cheese croissants while we had larger ham and cheese sandwiches.
After returning from Isla Mucura (where we ate mostly fish), we were worried the kids hadn’t had enough food. They always eat pizza until they are stuffed, so we walked down to the dynamic and colorful Plaza de la Santisima Trinidad. We grabbed an outside table at Getsemani Pizzas.
The pizza was good, but the street atmosphere was reason enough to come here.
We were really tempted to go to Stepping Stone for lunch a third time, but we forced ourselves to find an alternative and we found a great one.
Beiyu is a café with a similar offering to Stepping Stone, with many amazing healthy options on the menu. The açai bowls, coffees and smoothies appear to be the most popular dishes on the menu.
The location we went to was full, so they directed us to their secondary, bigger location a few blocks away. Our açai bowls were so good, and Celine’s avocado salad was equally good.
Caminante – Cartagena Street Kitchen
We put a lot of thought into our final dinner in Colombia. We’ve had so much excellent food on this trip, it was hard to decide. Ultimately we decided we hadn’t had enough arepas on our trip, so we walked a few blocks to Caminante – Cartagena Street Kitchen.
This place was perfect for our final meal (in fact, we still talk about it today)! We tried a variety of arepas, including shredded pork, shredded chicken and pork belly. We also had a selection of empanadas along with some excellent coconut lemonade. The kids tried a little of everything and walked away full. We devoured the rest and walked away happy.
If you are looking for a cold, sweet treat to beat the hot Colombian sun, we recommend you try a paleta – a popular ice cream treat on a popsicle stick. We tried La Palatteria in Old Town and were impressed by their quality and huge selection.
More Colombia with Kids
- 3-Week Colombia Itinerary with Kids
- Minca with Kids
- Tayrona National Park with Kids
- Colombia with a Toddler
- Using Credit Cards in Colombia
- Ciudad Perdida Trek: A Comprehensive List of Tips for 2020
- 3 Days in Rodadero with Kids
Dan Brewer is an intrepid family travel blogger with a passion for exploring the world's most captivating destinations. With 58 countries under his belt and a sense of wanderlust that knows no bounds, he has made it his life's mission to share his travel experiences and insights with fellow families who love to travel.
When Dan isn't traveling with his wife and kids, he's either out enjoying the Canadian Rockies he calls home or working on one of his three travel sites (Family Can Travel, Travel Banff Canada and Ultimate Sports Road Trip).