Overview: The 63 Feria Artesanal y Cultural del Caribe (translation: The 63rd Caribbean Craft and Cultural Fair) in Cartagena is a great place to go for foreigners and Colombians looking for traditional and apparently authentic Colombian arts and crafts. You’ll also find plenty of souvenirs or gifts with a distinctly local flavour: toys, sweets, authentic Colombian-style hats, knick-knacks, leatherware, pottery, clothing, sculptures, paintings, and musical instruments. Be ready to haggle and don’t buy the first item you see: most items are sold by multiple vendors. We found one item at nearly half of what another vendor was selling it for.
Theatre and music: The fair also includes folklore music (Festival Folklorico) and popular theatre (Teatro Popular). There is a large stage set up at the back of the venue, presumably for music and drama productions. Neither of these appeared to be underway during our visit.
How much: You’ll pay COP 2,000 per person to enter. Typical Colombian fast food is sold inside: arepas al carbon con todo, perros calientes, salchipapas, pizza, etc. Prices are reasonable.
When: The 63rd edition was held this year from June 30th to July 31st. From what I understand its held twice a year, and will be back again in January during the peak tourist season.
Getting there: You’ll find it in the Chambacú sector, on the right side of Avenida Pedro de Heredia as you’re heading past the old fortress of Castillo San Felipe on your way into “Centro”. From the entrance to the Feria, you can see the huge new shopping centre “Mall Plaza El Castillo“. Check out the map made available on Quedesparche.com (a Colombian entertainment website similar to “What’s On”) – note that the price listed there is incorrect.
Special note: Its hard to know if all the arts and crafts sold at this fair are “authentic”. In this article I read online, some Colombian-style hats are made in China these days and sold at low prices, undercutting traditional hat-makers. In addition it erodes confidence in the market since unscrupulous vendors may claim they are made locally. According to the article, at least one vendor has gone to lengths to convince her customers that she is by showing them what a fake hat looks like. As for the quasi-governmental organisation Artisans of Colombia, it defines a craft as not made through a standardised or mechanised process, but by a craftsman or artisan using a special skill or knowledge.