The most unexpected aspect of Cartagena is the stark contrast between its old colonial city and the new Cartagena of ocean-view towers.
El Centro, as it is known here, is the Old City or the Walled City. It is the heavily-fortified Spanish town that was the key strongpoint of the Spanish Empire on the north coast of South America, the Spanish Main, as it was then known. Protected by its thick stone walls that required almost one hundred years to complete, this jewel of Spanish Colonial heritage contains plazas, churches, narrow streets, balconied houses and monumental buildings in admirable states of preservation.
Outside the Walled City lies another Cartagena rich in opportunities for entertainment, shopping and fine dining.
To the south of El Centro is the neighborhood of Bocagrande distinguished by high-rise condominiums, the long city beach, extensive shopping on San Martin Avenue, and numerous beach hotels. Bocagrande ends in the neighborhood of El Laguito, and the premier emerald shopping center called Pierino Gallo Plaza. To the East of the Walled City is the Convention Center, and the bayside street of El Arsenal with its many late night bars and dancing venues; further along, over the bridge, the Club de Pesca restaurant and yacht club, and the Club Nautico Marina. Further still is Cartagena’s freight and cruise ship port. Nothing is separated by more than a short cab ride.