About Las Bóvedas
Las Bóvedas are one of the most famous of Cartagena’s landmarks.
History of Las Bóvedas
The literal meaning of Las Bóvedas is ‘the vaults’: they were built between 1792 and 1798 by a Spanish engineer called Antonio de Arevalo as munitions storage. Indeed the 47 arches and 23 vaults of Las Bóvedas were the last Spanish colonial project built within Cartagena’s city walls.
Cartagena was an important port city and was seen as a gateway to the rest of Latin America. It became a centre of political and economic power under Spanish rule, and was targeted by the English in the 18th century. Ensuring Cartagena was secure and well-defended was vital for Spanish expansion and prosperity.
During the Latin American wars of independence, when Cartagena was under heavy siege, Las Bóvedas took on a more sinister role as dungeons, and their proximity to the Caribbean Sea meant prisoners would often be knee deep in seawater. The vaults are said to be bombproof.
Las Bóvedas today
The site is a tourist attraction today, with few reminders of its previous military past. The vaults contain shop offering a range of souvenirs and Colombian arts and crafts, orientated for tourists. You can climb on top of Las Bóvedas for an excellent view of the sparkling Caribbean sea.
Getting to Las Bóvedas
Las Bóvedas is in the north of Cartagena, off Carrera 2. It’s a short, 15 minute, walk from anywhere in the historic area of the city, or if you don’t fancy walking, a taxi will be able to take you there easily (although bear in mind Cartagena’s narrow streets mean taxis can be extremely slow, although they might be air conditioned).