The city of Cartagena on the Costa Calida is only 30 minutes away from Murcia. It’s a very interesting place to visit with a lot of history and plenty of interesting things to do. It’s the perfect destination for a day trip so if you are thinking of visiting, here are some things to do in Cartagena…
Visit the Roman Amphitheater
The one thing you have to make sure you do on a visit to Cartagena is go to the Roman Amphitheater. This 2,000 year old theater was only discovered in 1988, underneath the ruins of the Old Cathedral, which was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.
From the top of the theater you can take in the fantastic view of the stage – it’s amazing how clearly you can hear people on the stage from all the way at the back. You’re also allowed to walk across the stage to get a feel for how many people would have been watching the shows from their seats.
Most of the theater has been restored, with more excavation still going on to see what else there could be under the neighbouring buildings.
In the adjoining museum you can find out all about the history of the theater, how it was discovered, and also look at lots of artifacts found at the site
Visit the ARQUA Marine Archaeology Museum
There’s a lot of maritime history to learn about as this area of Spain used to be a trade route into Africa and the Middle East. Cartagena’s underwater archaeology museum, ARQUA, has a large collection of artifacts recovered from shipwrecks in the area over the last 500 hundred years.
You can learn about the processes of marine archaeology, how to locate and excavate an underwater site, and how to restore the remains that are recovered.
There are interactive displays for the kids to enjoy, a laboratory area, models of how the port would have looked over 2,000 years ago, as well as lots of display cases full of treasure found from shipwrecks.
Entry to the museum is free on Saturday afternoons and Sundays so it’s a good ideas to plan a visit at the weekend.
Take in the view from the Castillo de la Concepción
For amazing views of the city, head to the Castillo de la Concepción at the highest point of Cartagena. The castle is a Roman temple turned into a Moorish fortification, eventually turned into a fortress by the Christians.
You can get to the top via the glass lift or you can walk the road way, taking in the great views over the city as you go. Once at the top you can wander around the gardens, visit the museum and look out towers, and stop to rest in plenty of picturesque areas.
Explore the Palacio Consistorial
If you like Spanish buildings, you’ll enjoy the Modernist architecture in Cartagena. The 100 year old town hall, Palacio Consistorial, in the centre of Plaza del Ayuntamiento is one building you must see. You’re allowed to go inside to admire the sweeping marble staircase, plus there are also English speaking tours for only €1 where you’ll be shown around the building, including a visit to the Mayor’s office.
The Palacio Consistorial has been restored well, but if you take a closer look you can see bullet holes on the outside from the Civil War.
Go to the beach at Cala Cortina
Cartagena isn’t known for it’s beaches but does have one beach Cala Cortina, which is 4km from the city centre. This small sandy bay has several bars, restaurants, play areas, and a picnic area. If you want a relaxing day without sightseeing this is a good place to go. The beach does get quite busy in the summer but not as much as some of the more touristy beaches nearby.
Go on a boat trip
A boat trip is a brilliant way to see Cartagena from the sea. There are lots of boat trips from the marina every day, one of the more popular ones is the Barco Turistico (Tourist Boat). The Tourist Boat sails you past castles, fortresses, lighthouses, docks, and the guide is given in various languages.
On this boat trip you can stop off at Fuerta de Navidad (Christmas Fort) where you’ll learn more about the military history of Cartagena. Afterwards you can finish your trip around the harbour.
The boat trip costs €6 and lasts for about 45 minutes but you can stay at the Fort for as long as you like.
Eat & drink
Something you have to do in every Spanish city you visit is sample the local delicacies. Cartagena’s narrow streets are full of amazing tapas bars and restaurants, as well as lots more restaurants and cafes in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento .
There’s even a Tapas Tour if you want to be shown the best food on offer by a local.
The main shopping street in Cartagena is Calle Mayor, running from the port up into the town. The narrow streets around the city centre are full of unique clothes and gift shops, and there’s also a shopping mall if you want to visit some more well known stores. Espacio Mediterraneo Centro Comercial has all the popular high street shops like H&M, Zara, Primark, and more.
So, if you’re looking for a city with plenty of history, Cartagena is definitely worth a visit. We hope some of these suggestions will give you some good ideas of things to do in Cartagena on your next family road trip!
For more ideas, and to book tickets, tours and experiences in Cartagena, visit Get Your Guide.
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