Cartagena faces the Caribbean Sea to the west. To the south is the Cartagena Bay, which has two entrances: Bocachica (Small Mouth) in the south, and Bocagrande (Big Mouth) in the north. Cartagena is located at 10°25' North, 75°32' West (10.41667, −75.5333).1
The metropolitan area of Cartagena is formed by:
In this area is the Rafael Núñez International Airport, located in the neighborhood of Crespo, ten minutes' drive from downtown or the old part of the city and fifteen minutes away from the modern area. Zona Norte, the area located immediately north of the airport, is widely recognized as the district with the greatest prospective long-term urban development. It is the setting for the Hotel Las Americas, the urban development office of Barcelona de Indias, and several educational institutions.
The Downtown area of Cartagena has varied architecture, mainly a colonial style, but republican and Italian style buildings, such as the Cathedral's bell tower, can be seen.
The official entrance to downtown Puerta del Reloj (Clock Gate), which comes out onto Plaza de los Coches (Square of the Carriages). A few steps farther is the Plaza de la Aduana (Customs Square), next to the mayor's office. Nearby is San Pedro Claver Square and the church also named for Saint Peter Claver, where the body of the Jesuit saint ('Slave of the African slaves') is kept in a casket, as well as the Museum of Modern Art.
Nearby is the Plaza de Bolívar (Bolívar's Square) and the Palace of Inquisition. Plaza de Bolívar (formerly known as Plaza de La Inquisicion) is essentially a small park with a statue of Simón Bolívar in the center. This plaza is surrounded by balconied colonial buildings. Shaded outdoor cafes line the street.
The Office of Historical Archives devoted to Cartagena's history is not far away. Next to the archives is the Government Palace, the office building of the Governor of the Department of Bolivar. Across from the palace is the Cathedral of Cartagena, which dates back to the 16th century.
Another religious building of significance is the restored Santo Domingo Church in front of Plaza Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Square). In the square is the sculpture Mujer Reclinada ("Reclining Woman"), a gift from the renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Nearby is the Tcherassi Hotel, a 250-year-old colonial mansion renovated by designer Silvia Tcherassi.
In the city is the Augustinian Fathers Convent and the University of Cartagena. This university is a center of higher education opened to the public in the late 19th century. The Claustro de Santa Teresa (Saint Theresa Cloister), which has been remodeled and has become a hotel operated by Charleston Hotels. It has its own square, protected by the San Francisco Bastion.
A 20-minute walk from downtown is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, located in el Pie de la Popa (another neighborhood), the greatest fortress ever built by the Spaniards in their colonies. The tunnels were all constructed in such a way as to make it possible to hear footsteps of an approaching enemy. Some of the tunnels are open for viewing today.
San Diego was named after the local San Diego Convent, now known as the Beaux Arts School Building. In front of it is the Convent of the Nuns of the Order of Saint Clare, now the Hotel Santa Clara. In the surrounding area is Santo Toribio Church, the last church built in the Walled City. Next to it is Fernández de Madrid Square, honoring Cartagena's hero, José Fernández de Madrid, whose statue can be seen nearby.
Inside the Old City is found Las Bóvedas (The Vaults), a construction attached to the walls of the Santa Catalina Fortress. From the top of this construction the Caribbean Sea is visible.
African people brought as slaves used to live in this neighborhood. Parque Centenario (Centenary Park) was built in 1911 to commemorate a century of independence. The park also contains a local police station and a mid-afternoon pulpit for aspiring evangelists. Over the years the park has acquired a sloth, two gila monsters and a few monkeys. Cartagena's Convention Center, Third Order Church and San Francisco Cloister are in the area. The area has nightclubs. The Old City has the same architectural styles as the area surrounded by The Walls. From 2011 to 2013, the park was completely restored, and was closed to the public.
The Bocagrande (Big Mouth) area contains the bulk of the city's tourist facilities, such as hotels, shops, restaurants, nightclubs and art galleries. It is located between Cartagena Bay to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west, to include El Laguito (The Little Lake) and Castillogrande (Big Castle), two renowned neighborhoods. Bocagrande has long beaches and commercial activity found along Avenida San Martín (Saint Martin Avenue).
The beaches of Bocagrande, lying along the northern shore, are made of volcanic sand, which is slightly greyish in colour. This makes the water appear muddy, though it is not. There are breakwaters about every .
On the bay side of the peninsula of Bocagrande is a seawalk. In the centre of the bay is a statue of the Virgin Mary. Contestants of the Miss Colombia Pageant parade there during festival.
Originally constructed for foreign oil workers, Bocagrande consists mostly of the land acquired through land reclamation.
Cartagena features a tropical wet and dry climate. Humidity averages around 90%, with rainy seasons typically in May–June and October–November. The climate tends to be hot and windy. Strong cool winds occur from November through February.
Cartagena is rarely touched by hurricanes. Although the city is in the Caribbean, the mainland is quite far south, isolating it from the wind currents that feed the hurricanes.
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