To know everything there is to see in Cartagena is to immerse yourself in a sea of cultures. Civilizations have left their mark on the rich heritage that embellishes the old town. In the city you can find everything from Roman to Baroque, Neoclassical, Eclectic and Modernist works. There are also examples of contemporary art by artists such as Rafael Moneo in the Museum of the Roman Theatre.
The Carthaginian port has been the element that has marked the history of the city since its beginnings. It is an ideal place to start our visit of the places to see in Cartagena. The port has recently been renovated according to a modern urban plan. It is an ideal place to take a walk and admire the beautiful bay, enclosed between high mountains.
In the area of the marina you will find one of the most appreciated and significant elements of Cartagena: the first submarine of the Carthaginian Isaac Peral. Launched in 1888, it is the prototype of the modern submarine.
At the dock you can take a tourist boat that will take you through the waters around the Mediterranean, a different perspective from which to see Cartagena.
Also to be seen in Cartagena is the Muralla del Mar, or Wall of the Sea, or of Charles III. It was built when the city became the capital of the Maritime Department of the Mediterranean in the 18th century. If we head west bordering it, we will reach the Memorial to the Heroes of Cavite (1923). This is a very dramatic sculpture set.
Buildings and Museums
Another place to see in Cartagena is the Town Hall Square. This large space is dominated by the Palacio Consistorial, one of the main modernist buildings. It was built by Tomás Rico at the beginning of the 20th century. It is a building with a triangular floor plan and a white marble façade, with the zinc domes standing out on the roof. In addition, it is decorated with the emblems of the city. The imperial stairs, the plenary room and the mayor’s office are important.
In front of the Town Hall stands the Pascual de Riquelme Palace (19th century). It is part of the Museum of the Roman Theatre, by Rafael Moneo. The museum, which opened in 2008, shows various details of the theatre, its excavation and recovery.
In addition to the museum, the building joins the site of the Theatre, one of the largest in Spain, from the end of the first century AD. It was discovered in 1988. Both represent the most visited monument and museum space in the region of Murcia and the most special to see in Cartagena.
On the right side of the theatre are the ruins of the Cathedral of Santa María, a building from the end of the 13th century. It was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. Behind the stage are the remains of the Byzantine Wall (which has actually turned out to be a wall from Roman times). It is made up of a straight canvas and a semicircular tower made of sandstone blocks.
Nearby there is also a Roman dwelling with decorated floors. Other remains of the Wall, from the Punic period, can be found near Basterreche Square. There is also the Interpretation Centre of its site, which dates from the 3rd century BC.
A walk through its streets
From the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, we can enter the street with most character in Cartagena, the pedestrian Calle Mayor. There are many modernist facades. Among them, the Casa Cervantes, designed by the architect Víctor Beltrí, stands out. It has its viewpoints, modernist ironwork and a pediment decorated with allegories of trade, mining and industry.
Next to the Calle Mayor is the Casino, which although it was originally built in the 18th century, was renovated in 1897 by Beltrí. With modernist taste, he added bas-reliefs and artistic wrought-iron balconies to the façade.
At the end of the Calle Mayor is the Plaza de San Sebastián, where we find the building of the Capitanía General (18th century), with a neoclassical façade. There is also the Gran Hotel, the most representative building of modernism in Murcia. Next to it are the remains of the Decumano Máximo, the old Roman road that linked the port with the forum. This is another of the Roman treasures to be seen in Cartagena.
Passing through the gardens of the Plaza de San Francisco, we reach the Augusteum, in Calle Caballero. It consists of a set of remains from the old forum formed by two Roman buildings from 1st and 2nd centuries. There, tools, coins and other elements from Augustus age are exposed.
Nearby there is also the Casa de la Fortuna (1st century B.C.), a must see in Cartagena. This is another Roman building to see in Cartagena, with decoration of mosaics and wall paintings of great chromatism.
Taking Gisbert Street we will arrive at the Roman amphitheatre. If you take the elevator you will reach Torres Park and the remains of the Concepcion Castle. This was built under Arab rule and rebuilt in the time of Henry III of Castile (14th century). The Torre del Homenaje (Homage Tower) is still preserved from the castle and is currently being refurbished as the Centre for the Interpretation of the History of Cartagena.
As for the Amphitheatre (1st century BC), whose remains can be seen from the lift, it must have been of great dimensions. From its construction, which would complete the recreational offer of the Roman Cartagho Nova, only a large canvas of the foundation of the outer wall and some radial walls are preserved.
It is also advisable to visit the Civil War Museum-Refuge in this area. It is one of the most curious places to see in Cartagena. It consists of a series of galleries that were used during the conflict to protect against air attacks.
In relation to the defensive architecture, although a little further away from the historical centre, the castles, forts and batteries are impressive. The Batería de Castillitos, declared a Site of Cultural Interest, is particularly noteworthy. It is located in Cabo Tiñoso, in the municipality of Cartagena. You will enjoy a rugged landscape with cliffs and steep mountains, 250 metres above sea level. Property of the Ministry of Defence, it is abandoned and unused.
Cartagena’s variety of cultural activities
Cartagena also stands out for its wide cultural offer, based mainly on the large number of museums it hosts. Among them we especially mention the Ethnographic Museum of the Campo de Cartagena. There you will find vehicles, changing rooms and a long list of items used by our ancestors.
The Regional Museum of Modern Art MURAM is located in the sumptuous Casa Aguirre of the modernist architect Víctor Beltrí. A wide variety of sculptures from the time of French sculptor Auguste Rodin have been exhibited there. The Military Historical Museum is another example to be seen in Cartagena. It provides a historical overview of Spain and explains the origin of artillery and military bodies.
The National Museum of Underwater Archaeology was designed by Guillermo Vázquez-Consuegra and inaugurated at the end of 2008. Its mission is to make Spanish underwater cultural heritage known to the public. Among the pieces on display are a collection of Phoenician, Punic and Roman amphorae and a recreation of a Phoenician ship found in Mazarrón, on the island’s beach.
Now that you know the best places to see in Cartagena, you are ready to enjoy them to the fullest. You will love it!