Over the last few years, Getsemaní has cast off its nefarious image as the city’s seedy underbelly, a no-go area rife with drugs and prostitution, and embraced a dynamic cult of restoration and revitalization that has yet to morph into cookie-cutter territory. Known as the “people's quarter,” Getsemaní has always played a starring role in Colombia’s turbulent history. In 1811, Pedro Romero, leader of the radical group known as the Getsemaní Lancers, organized a revolt in front of the neighborhood’s church. Armed with guns and daggers, the Lancers laid siege to the Governor’s Palace, compelling the Royal Junta to proclaim independence from Spain. 

The “culture quarter” where poets, artists, dancers, and photographers flee the exorbitant rents of the old town, Getsemaní has rewritten its narrative. The neighborhood’s independent spirit finds expression in the jumble of hip new bars, innovative restaurants, dance clubs, and boutique hotels carved from candy-colored colonial homes. With a palpable edge (at night) and lacking the architectural prowess of the Centro Histórico, the cruise ship crowds don’t come here (just yet). But the backpackers do, along with adventurous-minded travelers looking to get under the skin of this magical city.
Vibrant street art has become a way of trumpeting the democratic spirit and talent of local residents. Along Calle San Juan and Calle de la Sierpe, crumbling 18th-century buildings are emblazoned with museum-worthy paintings, murals, and graffiti by emerging and legendary street artists such as Bogotá-based Lik Mi and Yurika as well as London-based artist Fin DAC, known for his signature “stencil women.” Calle de la Sierpe was the site of 2010’s Pedro Romero Vive Aqui (Pedro Romero Lives Here) street art project, and much of the street’s storied works date from that watershed moment, with new vibrant pieces added continuously. Faithful to the costeño experience, most of Getsemaní’s street art celebrates Colombia’s Caribbean landscape, exotic wildlife, and protagonists, including the emblematic palenquera women, but you will also come across works underscored with a sociopolitical or historic theme. 

Plaza de Trinidad is Getsemaní’s beating heart, where young and old convene on benches beneath the humble facade of a 17th-century marigold church to gossip, muse, flirt, play chess or dominoes, and put the world to rights over arepas and choclo (grilled corn). Under gangly palm trees, before the triumphant gaze of priest-hero Pedro Romero (immortalized in a series of bronze sculptures), kids play soccer, women serve potent mojitos from the back of a cart, and hips begin to swing as the sound of champeta music emanates from the myriad cafes and bars that line the square. 

If you visit on Sundays, Colombia’s passion for baseball (the nation’s second-favorite sport) finds expression. Avenida del Pedregal is closed to traffic and transformed into a pseudo baseball diamond. 

Certainly, for better and for worse, gentrification is afoot in Getsemaní, thanks to the recent addition of several luxury hotels.

To get there: A taxi from the old town to Getsemaní will cost around COP$8,000. It takes around 10 min. to stroll from the Torre del Reloj; walking is not advised late at night.