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Cartagena – a place with a rich history

Cartagena (Latin: Carthago Nova) is a Spanish city and a major naval station located in the Region of Murcia, by the Mediterranean coast, south-eastern Spain (220,000 inhabitants).

Founded over 2000 years ago by the Carthaginian Hasdrubal, Cartagena ows it’s importance to its protected harbour. The city experienced its heyday during the Roman Empire, followed by occupation by the Visigoths, Vandals, Byzantines and Arabs until it was conquered in 1245 by King Alonso X.

Every culture has left its mark in the city, from the Roman amphitheatre, the second most important on the Spanish peninsula to churches, the 18th century rampart of King Charles III which encircles the old town and the castle of La Concepcion.

Punic Wall

Cartagena is a city best explored on foot. You might want to start your sightseeing trip at the Plaza Bastarreche (opposite the bus terminal and Renfe) where you will see a tall glass and wood building which houses the remains of the Punic Wall. Go inside and have a look through the glass floor, then descend to explore the crypt and ancient tombs encased in the rock walls.

Casa Fortuna

Head further down Calle Duque San Diego which leads you past Casa Fortuna, an ancient Roman villa with decorative wall paintings and objects which reflect domestic life in the 1st century BC. On your left and from afar you can already see the amphitheatre and the castle de la Concepcion on top of the hill.

The same street ends in Calle Mayor, a pedestrian zone and main street of Cartagena. Here you can admire several of the outstanding art deco buildings like Casa Llagostera and what was once the Grand Hotel. Turn right and have a little rest in the Cafe/Restaurant La Tartana, one of Cartagena´s most popular places with a pretty interior of mirrors and chandeliers. Head back along Calle Mayor until you come to Plaza del Ayuntamiento and the impressive Town Hall.

Museum and Roman Theatre

Opposite, in the pink building, is the entrance to the fabulous museum and Roman theatre. The entrance lies at sea level, but the theatre itself has been hewn into the hill many meters up. You go past show cases and then along paths and tunnels on several levels until you alight at the top tier of the amphitheatre which once had room for 6000 people.

Harbour trip

Cross the avenue and climb down to the quay where you find the starting point of the tourist boats which will take you on a 30 minute trip around Cartagena´s spectacular port. You will see cruise ships as well as containerships and the two fortresses which guard the entrance of the port. Looking back you get a great view of the panorama of Cartagena, the rampart and the castle.

Carthaginians and Romans Festival (Fiesta)

During the second half of September, Cartagena relives the battle between Carthaginian and Roman occupiers during the 2nd Punic War in a colourful festival and re-enactment of the fight which ended with the victory of the Romans and the ascent of Cartagena to wealth and importance.