The city of Cartagena in the region of Murcia is steeped in history and is a contradiction in terms in that it is bustling but tranquil at the same time. Situated on the Costa Calida, its mouth-watering architecture stands beside modern buildings as efforts to retain the foundation of its origins have transcended the ravages of time.
The mining industry in the area, remnants of which can be seen in the nearby hills, fuelled a thriving business which was shipped through the city’s natural port. The Carthaginians were hugely responsible for the development of the deep sea port as a large trading centre. The harbour as you see it today is accessible to cruise ships and navy vessels and includes the stunning Yacht Port marina with capacity for 310 yachts, speedboats, etc. Cartagena’s strategic position allows it to be one of the most prominent naval ports in the Mediterranean.
Getting to Cartagena
Accessing the city by car is easy, with numerous parking facilities, one of which is right at the seafront. Public transport is covered by numerous bus routes. The coastal route from Alicante which includes stops in Torrevieja, Orihuela Costa, San Pedro del Pinatar and many more is covered by Costa Azul. Cartagena can be accessed by train from large cities like Barcelona and Madrid.
The Romans conquered Cartagena in the 3rd Century BC and what remains of their amphitheatre is one of the numerous popular tourist attractions within this beautiful city. Many of these can be seen during the open-top tour bus route, with guided commentary. Another option for an insight into the history of the city is a boat tour around the harbour, also with commentary. A wonderful way to enjoy the harbour.
Be a local!
Those not wanting to follow the tourist trail can simply enjoy this small city as a local would. Sip a coffee in the shade of one of the tavernas, people watch as locals meet for cafe and tostada in the mornings. Taste the local wine, smoke a cigar, do what YOU enjoy!
Why not try a menu del dia! Introduced by law in Spain in 1965 as a boost to tourism and a great way for workers to get a substantial meal, mid-way through their working day, these set menus are advertised at affordable prices all over Spain. Check out different restaurants in Cartagena to get the best value. Usually, the ones in the back streets, away from the port and tourist attractions, are the places to go. Here you’ll find the ‘real Spain’.
Shopping in Cartagena can be an interesting experience. There is something for every budget, ranging from ‘euro shops’ to designer boutiques. Walk through the narrow Moorish streets and gaze at the merchandise, without even spending a cent. Window shopping at its finest!
Market day in Cartagena is a spectacle of colour, scents and bartering. Vendors display their goods in row upon row of interesting stalls. The Wednesday market, held all year round, except on fiestas, is located in Calle Ribera de San Javier.
With a large cafe/restaurant close by, rest your weary feet having haggled for goods you desire. As this market is geared more to Spanish locals, there would be fewer souvenir goods available but for residents, it’s a great way to get good merchandise, fruit and veg, electronic goods, makeup, shoes, clothes, to name but a few. Buy at more affordable prices than markets in more tourist areas. Get there early, before 9, to get parking and don’t be afraid to haggle. It’s all good humoured.
Carthaginians and Romans Fiesta
Don’t miss the biggest fiesta that Cartagena has to offer. You’ll feel like you’re on a movie set. The Carthaginians and Romans Fiesta, held in September, for a duration of 10 days. Observing the capture of the city by the Romans in 209 BC the fiesta involves stunning parades. Romans arrive by boat into the harbour and a huge battle is re-enacted on the camp set up near the Castillo de la Concepcion, with real actors simulating the combat very realistically. This is a sight to behold and with plenty of food and drink available at stalls set up around the camp, it has all the ingredients for a great evening!