What to see in Cartagena, Murcia
When it comes to choosing a destination for a trip or a getaway, there are some characteristics that are more important than others. The circumstances of each place weigh in a particular way depending on the profile of the type of trip: family, couple, active tourism, gastronomic.... When it comes to finding reasons to visit Cartagena, the list is very long and covers almost all types of travellers. The latest urban development and remodelling of the city means that it shines with its own light as if it were just another of the lighthouses that surround this historic enclave. We have come up with a selection of 10 places to see in Cartagena so that you can start preparing your trip.
The tourist resources of a city like Cartagena are inexhaustible, as it is a city with a wealth of heritage and history to the reach of very few Spanish cities. Cartagena was founded by the Carthaginians under the name of Qart Hadasht (New City) under the command of Asdrubal El Bello in 277 B.C. The Romans later changed the name to Cartago Nova, a name that evolved into the present-day Cartagena.
The legacy of Cartagena and its historical heritage is, as we have already said, unfathomable. In Cartagena there are traces of Iberian, Carthaginian, Roman, Byzantine, Visigothic, Muslim, Christian and Cantonese culture. It was also the seat of Byzantine power in Spain. Much of Cartagena's importance in history is due to its location. A privileged location that made it a strategic enclave, being like an object of desire or a treasure in the most rugged Mediterranean.
The natural harbour of Cartagena is sheltered by the surrounding mountains - the five hills - and is surrounded by two protected natural areas such as Calblanque and Cabo Tiñoso. Both are two of the favourite places for tourists and a paradise for sun and beach lovers in the months of June to September.
Why visit Cartagena?
Among the selection of things to visit in Cartagena, the most important are those that highlight the historical and archaeological heritage of the city: a real treasure in which we invite travellers to immerse themselves. In addition to the most beautiful places in Cartagena, visitors should also find space for culture and folklore, gastronomy and traditional festivities.
The appearance of the city in a number of novels and essays has given an account of the beauty of the city and has allowed the atmosphere and flavour of the most authentic Cartagena to be put down on paper. There are currently several literary routes that cover the places described by renowned authors in their books. We can stroll through streets and squares reviewing the texts of writers such as Carmen Conde, José Hierro, María Dueñas, Arturo Pérez-Reverte or Hans Cristian Andersen, among others. A real pleasure for the senses that allows you to get to know the city in a different way.
Cartagena's attractions and places of interest
In order to make your visit easier and to help arouse your interest in the beautiful Mediterranean city, we are going to list the main plans and places to see in Cartagena and its surroundings, so that you can make the most of it:
The historical and archaeological heritage of Cartagena
It is said that starting a building site in Cartagena means the beginning of an adventure that may lead to the discovery of new archaeological remains. Such is the historical grandeur of the city that from time-to-time new ruins emerge, some more modest, but sometimes of a monumental nature. The remains of buildings or stretches of ancient roadways emerge from the ground, forcing us to think about the historical magnitude of this city. Within the historical heritage there are a minimum of 5 sites that must be seen in Cartagena and which we have grouped together in this section. Any one of them is worthy of being included in a selection of beautiful places in Cartagena that you cannot miss.
Municipal Archaeological Museum
This museum was inaugurated in 1982 in its current location and is the main point of interest for archaeological activities in the city. It was erected on the site of a late Roman necropolis and is now one of the most outstanding sections of the museum. You should also see the collection of funerary epigraphy or the section dedicated to Roman mining. The Museum is undoubtedly one of the places of interest to visit in Cartagena.
Roman Theatre Museum
Discovered by mistake just over two decades ago, it reflects the importance of Cartagena in the ancient history of Spain like few other constructions. During the years 1996 to 2003, the almost total excavation of the Theatre was completed, allowing its grandeur and splendour to be on display. The renowned architect Rafael Moneo designed the museum which leads visitors inside the theatre and serves as a presentation and introduction to the theatre. Today the museum and theatre host a wide range of activities for all ages.
La Concepción Castle
The Castillo de la Concepción is located on one of the five hills surrounding the city, the Monte de la Concepción. Inside the castle we can visit the Centre of History and Medieval Cartagena. The castle is a unique place to have the best panoramic view of the city, so it is a good starting point to help us understand part of the 3,000 years of Cartagena's history.
Museum of the Roman Forum Molinete
This museum is one of the largest urban archaeological parks in Spain and occupies three floors where you can see all kinds of pieces from the Roman period found in the forum and in the city. More than 300 pieces are distributed throughout the museum, the most important pieces being the paintings of the muses and Apollo, the horn of plenty and the painting of a hunter.
Domus of the Portico
This museum houses the remains of the walls of a Roman dwelling and not the remains of a Byzantine wall as originally thought. This room has recently been remodelled and features Roman mosaics. Yet another touch to savour Cartagena's past.
The National Museum of Underwater Archaeology (ARQUA) is a public institution responsible for researching, conserving and disseminating Spanish underwater cultural heritage. In addition to the museum's cultural agenda, its temporary exhibitions and a tour of the sections of its permanent exhibition, the so-called Treasure of the Odyssey should be highlighted. A collection of gold and silver coins (more than 570,000 units) belonging to the frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, sunk in the early 19th century, which Spain recovered judicially in 2012 after a lawsuit in the American courts. You can't miss the Roman lead ingots or the Mano Sabazia (1st century BC), a small piece that corresponds to an initiatory cult that served to protect seafarers.
In the port itself and next to the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology, the Auditorium and Conference Centre of Cartagena "El Batel" has been standing since 2011. This imposing building was designed by the architect José Selgas and is currently the epicentre of the events and cultural programme of the port city. Theatre, congresses and concerts take place within its walls, contributing to the port's importance as the nucleus of everything that happens in the city.
The mining industry and the countryside, as well as the development of trade and business in the area are responsible for the golden ages of the city of Cartagena throughout its history. Each era has left its mark through monuments, buildings and palaces to see in Cartagena. One of the city's finest moments came during the 19th century and is reflected in a fine collection of modernist-inspired buildings. The Casa Aguirre, which houses the Regional Museum of Modern Art (MURAM), the Casa Cervantes, the Gran Hotel and the Palacio Consistorial are a clear example of the splendour of that period and a stop on our tour of the most beautiful places in Cartagena.
Isaac Peral's submarine in the Naval Museum
Although it is not the prototypical coastal city, we have already seen that the heart of Cartagena is located in the port area. If you visited the city a few years ago you will have noticed that Isaac Peral's famous submarine, one of the city's great personalities, is no longer on the Paseo Marítimo. In 2013, taking advantage of the refurbishment of the ship, it was moved to the Naval Museum, becoming one of its main exhibits. The building that houses the museum was built in the 18th century as the Prisoners' and Slaves' Barracks.
Cabo de Palos and the Mar Menor
A few kilometres from Cartagena is Cabo de Palos, where a pretty fishing village has been developed to enjoy the gastronomic delicacies of Murcia around an impressive marine reserve. A paradise for diving and snorkelling enthusiasts. Cabo de Palos is the prelude to the Mar Menor, one of the great focal points of national tourism and an attraction for active tourism. The whole area around the Mar Menor is ideal for water sports such as paddle surfing, kayaking, windsurfing and sailing, as well as other sports such as cycling, golf and tennis. The good weather, the calm waters and the proximity to Cartagena are enough argument for a getaway during your visit to the millenary city.
If you need more ideas or plans to see in Cartagena on your next visit, don't forget to mark the dates of its most traditional celebrations on your calendar. The festivities of Carthaginians and Romans and Easter Week are well worth a stay in Cartagena to soak up the most deeply rooted customs.