Cartagena is an ancient city in southeastern Spain, which is part of the autonomous community of Murcia. It is located on a plain between mountain ranges on the shores of the azure Mediterranean Sea. In this city, people do not pay attention to the time, so they are in no hurry. Once you arrive here, you should spend the day exploring ancient ruins and buildings, enjoying delicious national food, and sunbathing on local beaches. Subsequently, Cartagena is a small Spanish town with antiquity elements, simply created for hiking. No wonder more than a hundred cruise ships land here annually.
The city's main attractions are related to Cartagena's historical heritage from ancient Rome and the Middle Ages. It is also impossible to pass by the local beaches and lagoons.
After a couple of centuries, the Carthaginians arrived here and renamed the settlement Qart Hadasht. It became the capital of the surrounding lands and the starting point for raids on Roman possessions. However, the Romans were able to displace the Carthaginians and renamed the city again, this time Carthago Nova. It became a full-fledged Roman colony with a theater and a court.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Carthago Nova came under the rule of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. The city was renamed again (Cartago Spartaria) and made the capital of the Byzantine province in the country. It came under Arab influence and was called Qartayannat-al-Halfa. The new masters rebuilt the city after its destruction by the Visigoths.
Cartagena took its modern name in 1296 after the Spanish king conquered the territory and annexed it to the Kingdom of Valencia.
In the 16th century, it became part of the United Kingdom of Spain. The city served as a base for its ships for the next two centuries.
Cartagena began to revive the Spanish navy in the 19th century after the loss of all the colonies.
In the 20th century, thanks to the mines, it became one of the leaders in the Spanish mining industry. At the same time, the city continued its development in the field of energy and shipbuilding and became one of the largest settlements in the country.
The best time to visit Cartagena
Before Easter (April-May), during Holy Week, solemn processions are held in the city. They illustrate the last days of Jesus' life. Participants in the celebration carry incredible religious sculptures on special platforms. Songs and music accompany all this.
In September, the city holds an unusual festival — Carthaginians and Romans during which people dress up in historical costumes and reenact battles. For ten days, the streets of Cartagena are transformed with flags and marching camps.
Tourists usually get to Cartagena from the international airport in Alicante (125 km) or from the domestic one in San Javier (25 km). You can reach Cartagena by train, bus, or rental car.
Entrance to museums and ancient Roman ruins is almost always closed on Mondays. Before visiting, you should check the opening hours.
Things to do in Cartagena
- Feel like a spectator of the ancient period, sitting on the ruins of the Roman theater, discovered only in 1988. There used to be the Cathedral, which was destroyed during the Civil War in 1939. No one even suspected the existence of an amphitheater on this site until the construction of a regional craft center began. It is one of Spain's largest ancient Roman structures — its stands, up to 14 meters high, could seat about 6,000 spectators.
- Taste the local cuisine. Caldero is a dish of rice cooked in fish broth with sea fish. Bacalao is balls of dried salted cod. Michirones is a stew of beans, potatoes, sausage, and jamon served in a clay pot. Murcia salad is a mixture of tomatoes, onions, olives, eggs, and canned tuna dressed with olive oil. Рaparajotes are deep-fried lemon wedges sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
- Check out the main cathedral of Cartagena — La Catedral de Santa María la Vieja. It was built in the 12th century, but in the 19th century, its foundations were ruined, and the northern gable collapsed. It was then reconstructed in the Romanesque style, but during the war in 1939, the temple was destroyed by bombs and has not yet been completely rebuilt. It is located in the same area as the Roman theater.
- Learn the secrets of maritime treasures at the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology. Here you can find a variety of finds from the seabed — ancient amphorae, coins, ancient artifacts, and even the carcass of a Phoenician ship. You can see how the treasures are raised from the bottom on multimedia stands.
- Relax on the beaches near Cartagena, some of the best in Spain. Seven of the coasts are awarded the Blue Flag, and a dozen and a half have the Spanish quality standard "Q" mark. Palm trees surround the Mar de Cristal beach, and it has an extensive infrastructure with showers, changing cabins, equipment rentals, a sailing school, bars, and restaurants. The Cabo de Palos peninsula has picturesque coves that are the best place to go diving. Here you can see reefs and colorful fish and explore the remains of shipwrecks.
- Touch the ancient walls of the Roman Casa de la Fortuna. In the 1st century BC, it belonged to a wealthy family. An atrium, bedrooms, banqueting room, and study were located in an area of about 200 square meters. The house has perfectly preserved mosaics and authentic drawings.
- Walk through the main square of the city, Plaza San Francisco. There are cozy restaurants, cafes, old houses, and sprawling trees. The most notable building is Casa Maestre, constructed in the Catalan modernism style and reminiscent of Antoni Gaudi's works.