The city of Cartagena is one of the most beautiful and lively cities in the Region of Murcia. Its thousand-year history dates back to the 2nd century BC and its streets are lined with innumerable vestiges of its splendid past that make it an open-air museum that is so worth a visit.
Cartagena was settled on five hills located around a wide bay that forms a natural port that at some point in history became one of the most important in all of Europe.
But if Cartagena's historical and artistic heritage is worthy of admiration, its natural landscapes are no less. On both sides of the city, you can find two wonderful protected areas: the beaches of Cabo Tiñoso, to the south, and the regional park of Calblanque, which separates Cartagena from La Manga del Mar Menor, just 15 minutes north from downtown Cartagena.
1. Roman Theatre
If there is a place in Cartagena that you shouldn’t miss, it would be the great Roman Theatre. It was not until 1988 when the suspicions of archaeologists and historians gave way to excavations that finally uncovered a reality that has become the greatest pride for the city.
Built around the year 5 BC, the theatre held a capacity of more than 7,000 spectators, which tells us about the enormous importance that Cartagena had in times of the Roman Empire. After many centuries buried, oblivious to the development of the city that continued to grow on its old stones after falling into disuse, today it can be enjoyed in all its splendour.
The theatre is found next to the ruins of the old cathedral, which has its roots in the 13th century, and the archiepiscopal palace, since both were built on top of it, taking advantage of the stones of this great Roman monument at a time when it was dying from having been abandoned. The entire complex is accessed from the Roman Museum of Cartagena, located opposite the Town Hall, through an underground tunnel.
2. Peral Submarine
Although it is likely that as soon as you enter Cartagena, when passing by the Higher Technical School of Naval and Ocean Engineering, you will come across the famous submarine located in the middle of a roundabout on Paseo Alfonso XIII, do not fall into the trap! It is a replica!
The original Peral submarine, designed by scientist Isaac Peral and launched in 1888, was the world's first fully functional electrically powered torpedo submarine. Today it is in the Naval Museum of Cartagena and is the great jewel of its exhibition. A visit that the little ones would love!
The Naval Museum of Cartagena is a military museum located in the city's port and exhibits a large collection of historical pieces of navigation, among which are a letter from 1492 by Christopher Columbus himself after arriving in America, or a world map from the year 1450, an authentic jewel of world cartography.
3. Town Hall
Cartagena's naval boom in the transition from the 19th to the 20th century helped the city to enjoy a privileged economy that can still be sensed in its historic old town, given the large number of noble buildings worthy of any European capital.
But if there is a building that stands out for its richness and slenderness, it is the town hall, the seat of the Cartagena City Council. It is a modernist-style building with a triangular floor plan, built between 1900 and 1907. Its façade is completely clad in white marble and the striking zinc domes stand out in the style of the great French palaces.
Its interior is also worth a visit where you can enjoy its exquisitely decorated central courtyard.
4. Historic old town centre of Cartagena
Beyond the theatre or the town hall, Cartagena has numerous buildings of interest that embellish the urban nature of the old part of the city in a network of pedestrian streets and small-town squares, retaining their charm despite the somewhat decadence of much of it. the buildings of the city tell of a present time in which the role of Cartagena is less glamorous than it had been in the past.
The historic old town is separated from the sea by a 16th century wall that starts from the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the starting point for any tour of the city. From there you can visit the complex of the Roman Museum of Cartagena, the port or visit the Calle Mayor, the main commercial part of the city.
Don’t miss the churches of Los Californios and Los Marrajos, headquarters of the two great brotherhoods of Holy Week (Easter) in Cartagena, a festival declared of international tourist interest, which house a beautiful collection of works of art; and why not have a coffee in the Gran Hotel? in the Casino or in the square in front of the Aguirre Palace while you imagine the glorious past of this charming city.
5. Roman Forum
Another of the attractions of the historic old town of Cartagena is the site of the Roman Forum, one of the largest urban archaeological parks in Spain that helps us to get an idea of what the ancient Roman city of Carthago Nova was like.
Inaugurated in 2012, the archaeological complex allows you to explore the remains of one of the main roads of the ancient city, the Decumano (east–west-oriented road), and stand on the exact locations of what were such outstanding places such as the baths or the Sanctuary of Isis or the Curia (a court of justice). Next to the site, you can visit the museum where more than 350 pieces, mosaics and construction remains, that were extracted during the excavations and are exhibited.
Here you can check the schedules and buy your tickets in a couple of clicks.
6. The coast of Cartagena
But in addition to the abundant history and culture, Cartagena can boast of a wonderful coast line with endless small corners and coves that are very different from one another, that are worthy of admiration. These can be found from north to south!
La Manga del Mar Menor is an exceptional strip of sand of almost 10 kilometres that separates the Mediterranean from the great lake, lagoon or Salt Lake or, in short, small sea that is unique on the continent. At the gates of La Manga, you cannot miss the exceptional Calblanque Nature Park.
To the south of the municipality, is the area of Cabo Tiñoso, a beautiful nature park of small coves and paths on the edge of the sea that converge in the curious Batería de Castillitos, a military fortification that is about to turn a century old, but seems as though it could be taken from medieval times due to its historicist style on the edge of the sea. Would you like to go on an excursion?