Trip planner—Everything you need to know about visiting Cartagena

 Walking around Cartagena gives you the chance to see the architectural designs.

Walking around Cartagena gives you the chance to see the architectural designs.

Cartagena: a city of contrasts

Cartagena is a port city along the Mediterranean which is full of contrasts. The downtown area is full of impressive architecture, marble, wrought iron, stone touched off by dark wooden accents. The downtown also happens to be the pedestrian shopping area, so you can mingle with your camera in hand as you head in and out of the shops.

As you head further away from the centre the buildings still have the elegant structure and “bones” but are now sagging somewhat and have a neglected feel. Truefully, I found some of these building almost as interesting to visit.

Cartagena is not a large city and you can easily walk to all the sights. There is surprisingly a lot to see in such a small city.

What to see in Cartagena

Take a lift:

Cartagena is built on a hill, so any help to get to the top to see some of the sights is appreciated. There is a glass elevator that not only takes you to the palace, but also to some of the best views of the city. Even if you aren’t going to tour the palace, a trip up the elevator is a great idea to get the view—and save your legs, because there is still plenty of walking to do.

From the top of the elevator, you will have a view of the port and any cruise ships that happen to be docked, as well as some of the Roman ruins in the city.

Need to know facts at a glance:

Where: c/Gisbert

Price:  1 Euro

Visit the Palace:  Castillo de Concepcion

Once you have taken the elevator to the top of the highest of 5 hills which are part of Cartagena, you can take in the views of the city, an old bull ring in ruins, the Roman ruins and the port. From this impressive viewpoint, you can also tour a castle that was built in the 13th century and learn about the extensive history of Cartagena. The interpretive centre in the castle takes you through the timeline of over 2000 years of documented inhabitance of this city. You will delve into the Roman settlement which included an amphitheatre and other ruins you can later visit, the Moorish times when the castle was 1st built as a fortress and how the name Cartagena came from Qartayanna al-Halfa, on to the crown of Castlille, and further building, using materials from both the Romans and Islam structures. In the 18th century, Cartagena became known for its naval power and flourished as such. And finally the modernist city of the 20th century and beyond.

Need to know facts at a glance:

Where: Calle de Escipion, 34

Price: 4.25 euros for adults  

Roman Ruins/ Amphitheatre

 Take yourself back in time 2000 years as you wander the Amphitheater in Cartagena

Take yourself back in time 2000 years as you wander the Amphitheater in Cartagena

Cartagena has a long and colourful history. The Romans built a city here appreciating Cartagena’s strategical setting. The remains of the amphitheatre and other Roman structures are easy to access and give you insight into the Roman culture 2000 years ago.

Need to know facts at a glance:

Where: Plaza Ayuntamiento, 9

Web: http://www.teatroromanocartagena.org/

Price: 6 Euros/adult

Port:

 The Cartagena port is a popular stop for cruise ships

The Cartagena port is a popular stop for cruise ships

The Port is a main stopping point for many cruise ships. On any given day you will probably see at least one cruise ship docked.  There is also a lovely tree-lined promenade to walk along.

Naval museum:

 The naval museum in Cartagena houses the Peral submarine, the 1st submarine ever launched. 

The naval museum in Cartagena houses the Peral submarine, the 1st submarine ever launched. 

The Naval museum is well worth a visit as Cartagena has a long and colourful naval history in a country which held the naval supremacy for centuries. The museum covers the history of the navy from 1728 until present time. Exhibits included information on cartography and navigation, artillery, flags and uniforms and naval construction.

The highlight of the museum is learning about Isaac Peral who designed and oversaw the building of the 1st submarine. It was completed and launched in 1888. The Peral submarine was refurbished and is now housed in the Cartagena Naval museum.

Need to know facts at a glance:

Where: Paseo Alfonso XII,

Price: Free, but with suggested donation of 3 Euros/person

Pedestrian downtown:

 The downtown area is worth a visit not only for the shopping and restaurants but just to have a look at the buildings.

The downtown area is worth a visit not only for the shopping and restaurants but just to have a look at the buildings.

I have already been singing the praises of the downtown pedestrian street, but it really is a place to go and soak in and appreciate. Don’t rush. Really take a look at the details of the buildings. Some have hand carved marble over the doorways, others have colourful ceramic tiles added discreetly into the design. The balconies are prominent on most of the buildings and are beautiful as well. My suggestion is you stop and get an ice cream or a tapa in one of the many restaurants, take a seat at a table that is on the street and enjoy the art of people watching while you soak in the environment of the city. When you are finished and full of energy, head off to the many shops.

Where to eat in Cartagena

Instead of listing a number of restaurants in Cartagena, I will pass on a tip from a local. She told me that if you walk through the pedestrian section of Cartagena there are numerous different bars and restaurants that offer tapas and full meals depending on your taste. So, take a stroll and pick your favourite. The price range among them is similar so it depends more on your personal taste.

Where to shop

 Ole con Ole shop has unique products from around Spain

Ole con Ole shop has unique products from around Spain

 

I was delighted to find a little tourist shop called Ole con Ole on the main pedestrian street that featured items that are actually crafted in Spain. This is not your typical souvenir shop that has thousands of dancing flamenco ladies and fans—all made in China. These are items that are produced in Spain— from leather goods to Craft beers, vermouth and wines, from jewellery to mugs and yes even fans (but with good taste). 

Where: Calle Mayor, 30

Instagram: oleconole_shop

And they will soon have an online shop up and running, so keep checking for it.