Colombian history started here The Old & The New in Cartagena
The first things visitors to Cartagena see, the features of the city that dominate, are defensive walls everywhere. Centering the cities highest point is the old castle of San Felipe de Barajas. In the late 16th century, Phillip 2nd of Spain wanted his Caribbean forts and cities protected against invasion. The first walls around Cartagena were built of wood and clay, many of which still exist. In 1656 construction began on San Felipe, in honor of Phillip the 4th. That construction continued until 1800.
Built in 1656, the first section of the fort is referred to as el bonete, the bonnet.
San Felipe de Barajas has had a military presence off and on for 400 years.
More than 60 cannons, dozens of gun emplacements, and 6 foot thick ramparts protected the fort from assault first from the French in 1697, then the English in 1741. Because of its unique place in Colombian, and world history, San Felipe de Barajas is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
Following the unsuccessful assaults on San Felipe, a fellow named Antonio de Arévalo took charge of reinforcing the fort's ramparts. Arévalo built additional walls, and a new section of emplacements for cannon. He ordered an intricate system of tunnels built below the fort. The tunnels served two purposes: They offered escape if an enemy breached the walls, and they contained explosives to collapse the overhead sections of the fort if an enemy got that far. Fortunately Arévalo's tunnels were never tested. On a typically hot and steamy day in Cartagena, today the tunnels offer a third purpose, an escape for tourists from the oven-like heat.
Modern, vibrant, historically rich Cartagena Colombia.
If your travel plans take you to Cartagena, Castillo de San Felipe is a must see, especially if you have an interest in Colombian history. It's no exaggeration to say that it started here. After Colombian independence from Spain in July 1810, Castillo de San Felipe was all but abandoned, and fell into disrepair. Various sections of the old fort were demolished, others were used for commercial purposes. The fort was returned to the people of Colombia in 1887. Restoration has taken more than 100 years, with funding from the city of Cartagena, and the government of Colombia. Today repairs and maintenance of the fort are sustained by entrance fees of visitors. A restoration entity called ETCAR, for Escuela Taller Cartagena de Indias, Workshop School of Cartagena, has been given responsibility for the cities fortifications.
Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is open every day from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
A video of the fort's history is available in the upper parapet, east of the large Colombian flag.
San Felipe is not wheelchair and/or stroller friendly.
Take lots of water, and stay hydrated.
There is, of course, a gift shop on the upper level.
Baños are also available on the upper level.
Cost of admission: $20,000 COP (About $6.50 USD) Older visitors, and Cedula holders free.
More information about San Felipe and restoration.