Cartagena, with more than 3,000 years of history, has been the scene of some of the most outstanding passages throughout time. This Punic, Roman, military and art nouveau city offers nowadays so many things to see and do that it has become one of the most appealing destinations in the Mediterranean area.
In each of its corners and in each of its streets and squares, there are monumental testimonies of its splendid historical past. In the website of Tourism of the Region of Murcia the 10 essential tourist elements are highlighted to know the city of Cartagena:
The Interpretation Centre of Cartagena's History is possibly the best- starting point to visit this millenary city: Three thousand years of knowledge and history, together with the heritage from the most relevant civilisations from the past, in an hour's visit.
The Roman Theatre Museum is the city's undeniable symbol. It is a wonderful architectural ensemble, designed by Rafael Moneo, where every space is even more amazing than the previous one. It integrates Pascual Riquelme Palace, Santa María la Vieja Cathedral and, after the last corridor, the Roman Theatre, which is the most impressive part. An interesting detail: Carthago Nova Theatre, built in the 1st century BC by Emperor Augustus, was not discovered until 1990.
If you enjoy reliving history and stepping over the floor on which some important events took place in the past, you will feel like a child in the old Carthago Nova's Roman Forum district. It is a real privilege to visit this site, hidden underground for more than 20 centuries, where the thermal complex and the atrium building stand out. If you come with your family, we recommend dramatised visits.
The Underwater Archaeology National Museum houses the famous 'treasure of Nuestra Sra. de Las Mercedes frigate', a booty including 570,000 gold and silver coins from the 18th and 19th centuries.You will love to visit it!. If you keep wanting more, the Naval Museum is another interesting visit; its most outstanding parts are the exhibitions on navigation and shipbuilding and Isaac Peral Hall, where you will see the famous submarine which has been the symbol of this port city for more than 80 years.
Take a boat ride to the most evocative corners of the natural dock bordering the fortifications system of the bay. You will get incredible views. The route includes a visit to the Interpretation Centre of Cartagena's defensive architecture, where the history of the commercial and military role played by this Mediterranean crossroads throughout its long history is shown in depth.
Cala Cortina is Cartagena's urban beach. To get to it you just need to go through a tunnel and there you go! A wonderful Mediterranean cove will appear in front of you, with children's play area, seafront promenade, restaurant, loungers and sunshades. Besides having a refreshing swim, you can dive and enjoy the area's underwater life.
If you like hiking, route PR-1 will take you from Cala Reona to Calblanque: an easy walk at the end of which you should definitely bathe in the crystal clear waters of the beaches of this nature park. You'll need a cap, a pair of binoculars and a camera. Other must-see stops are Portús Beach and Cabo Tiñoso, destinations that scuba divers love - the seabed is as spectacular as the surface!
Among Cartagena's many different treasures, one of them is irresistible: its Holy Week. The Passion Week in Cartagena has been declared to be of International Tourist Interest. Its processions are hypnotic due to the rhythmic movement of thousands of hoods and the polychromy created by flower ornaments and small lamps, an effect that is even more impressive in the small hours. If you arrive in summer, we have a special suggestion for you: spend the day at Calblanque idyllic beach, and the evening at La Mar de Músicas festival in Cartagena, where you will enjoy art and musics of the world. And remember: the scenes are placed at strategic spots by the Mediterranean seaside with amazing views.
On Sundays, the street market takes place in Cabo de Palos, a picturesque fishing village next to La Manga del Mar Menor and less than 30 minutes away from Cartagena by car. Walking about the stalls, finding some bargains, enjoying the sea atmosphere and tasting a typical, delicious caldero rice dish -a fish rice dish cooked in a pot- at Paseo de La Barra, in front of the sea, is a perfect plan. Our advice: follow the seafront promenade and you will get to this locality's impressive lighthouse, which used to be a lighthouse-keeper school and is one of the best places to stare at the skyline by the Mediterranean.
Any time is a good time to pamper the palate. Typical from Cartagena are grilled fish, roast fish or fish baked in salt, michirones, the famous caldero rice dish, and rabbit, either with rice or ajo cabañil. The most typical salad is the cantonal salad made with smoked fish, including salmon, cod and harvestfish, together with capers, onion and olive oil. As a dessert: melon, prickly pear, arrope and tocino de cielo. To top it off, the famous asiático coffee, made with condensed milk and a little Licor 43, cinnamon, lemon peel and several coffee beans. The asiático cup is so original that it has become one of Cartagena's most singular souvenirs.
To make your visit to Cartagena easier, different itineraries have been designed to allow you to get to know the city's rich heritage:
Today it is possible to follow a route that can give us an idea of the possible appareance of Qart Hadast, Nea Karchedon, Cartagonova o Cartago Spartaria, or -one and the same thing- Cartagena in ancient times. The preservation of numerous remains in basements which are open to visitors, the presence of monumental remains integrated into the context of the modern – day city, or the section of the ancient pavementes that come to light from time to time, all encourage visitors to embark upon a tour of a more achaeological nature.
The verses of Cervantes, emblazoned on a large tile mosaic opposite the monument dedicated to the Heroes of Cavite, provide us with an introduction and point of departure for a tour of Cartagena's harbour, the authentic raison d'étre of the city throughout its long history. If we go to the quayside, in front of the monument to the Heroes of Cavite, we can get a glimpse of the enclosed circle that the bay of Cartagena offers, opening only via the narrow strait between the mounts of Galeras and San Julián, looming up like two protective colossi...
The industrial, mining and commercial bourgeoisie built their new residences according to the eclectic and modernist tastes of the end of the 19th century, and this profound renovation still marks the character of the city's old quarter today. The architect Victor Beltrí was the most representative of this modernist trend in the city with buildings such as Asilo de Ancianos, Aguirre House or Casa del Niño. Cartagena grew and, with the coming of the 20th century, part of the city walls carne down and the plan for uban expansion, in a grid lay-out, came into effect.
Now past the years of industrial conversion at the end of the 20th century, Cartagena looks to the future as a city which whilst maintaining its renewed industrial activity, is at the same time an important commercial hub with a clear focus on culture and tourism. The construction of cutting-edge buildings and the restoration of others that we have already mentioned, give a new air to the city.
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