Cartagena museums (and other old stuff)

Come on, who doesn’t love a shiny cabinet and something old and crumbly?

Cartagena is rich in museums and old stuff generally, which means plenty of mornings can be spent wandering the various exhibits before enjoying a guilt-free ice-cream (everyone knows you should reward a cultured mind)

Here’s a little guide:

Inquisition Museum (could also be known as the Torture Museum)

It’s an expensive museum, but big – besides the nastiness of the Spanish Inquisition you also get a thorough history of Cartagena and a walk around a beautiful colonial building. The methods used to identify witches are beyond reason and the instruments of torture sadistically creative. Out in the courtyard there’s a hangman’s noose – only trouble is, the place is so pretty and peaceful, it doesn’t have the chilling effect it should.

Palacio de la Inquisición
Paid: COP$13,000
Location: Simon Bolivar park

Museum of Modern Art

For a place with ‘modern’ in the title, the Museum of Modern Art feels a bit dark and fusty – mostly due to the art it houses. It all comes down to taste, but I found the only vaguely absorbing piece was the Alejandro Obregón (I like this now deceased Colombian painter because he spent a large portion of his childhood split between Colombia and, er, Liverpool and was mates with Garcia Marquez) That aside, the place possibly needs a revamp.

Museo de Arte Moderno
Paid: COP5,000
Location: San Pedro plaza

Pedro Claver’s House

St Pedro Claver was a nice lad – a Jesuit with, amongst other things, boundless energy and a huge heart, he was one of the few to treat slaves as humans. Apparently he would share medicine, food, tobacco and tots of spirits among the terrified new arrivals (all waiting to be sold) and fight for their rights long afterwards. Anyway, his old house is worth a visit – his bed is really small and, although I find Christian art a bit miserable, the garden is lovely with tame parrots and a sundial.

La Casa de Pedro Claver
Paid: COP$8,000
Location: San Pedro plaza

Naval Museum

Being British evokes mixed feelings in the Naval Museum – for one, they revel in the defeats we have naturally erased from our history books. However, on a more positive note, no-one builds ships like we did and this museum is testament. Pirates and galleons aside, the best thing about the museum is its location in the old city hospital. Walk up and down those former wards and it’s all too easy to imagine the hundreds of poor souls who had a last, breathless, glimpse of the Caribbean Sea before being enveloped by cholera.

Museo Naval
Price: COP$7,000
Location: Next to the Hotel Charleston, not far from San Pedro

Gold Museum (Cartagena)

I’ve been lost in the vastness of the Gold Museum (Bogotá) three times now, so you’ll forgive me if I haven’t bothered with this offshoot in Simon Bolivar park. On the plus side, I doubt there are any parrots and non guilt-free ice-cream tastes just as good anyway.

*I state the price I paid. Sometimes I get ripped off, sometimes not. Just don’t pay any more.

A tame parrot in St Pedro Claver's garden

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