An ancient city with a name to match – it was founded more than 2,200 years ago by Carthaginian leader Hasdrubal – Cartagena is now one of Spain’s busiest commercial centres. Step ashore here, though, and you are immediately aware of its rich history. In fact, you see it even as you cruise towards the harbour as this is flanked by towering fortresses. Then, in the centre of the old town, you will find the original Carthaginian castle and sections of the old city walls.
But Cartagena is also a city which moves with the times hence the new harbour front development which includes the unique National Museum of Underwater Archaeology. As part of Murcia province, Cartagena cruise port is also an excellent base for visiting the city of Murcia itself and its distinctive Baroque cathedral; the 17th century religious sanctuary of Fuensanta; the Fortress at Lorca Taller del Tiempo; the spa resort of Balneario de Archena; and for touring into the mountainous interior or along the Costa Blanca to Alicante.
Generally the ship berths close to town, about a 10 mins walk. It is a nice town to wander around, do a little shopping and find a great little place where the locals drank and eat. The tapas are fabulous.
When you get off the ship go to the information booth on the dock side then take a gentle walk, to the centre. On the way are several life size statues which are fun to look at.
In town visit the Museum and Roman Theatre, a ticket costs €6pp (2014), you start in the museum and walk through the history of the theatre this leads you through passages and into the roman theatre were you are free to wander around at your leisure. After leaving here wandered the back streets and make your way up to the castle and gardens from here you have great views over the town and your cruise ship in the harbour below. If you want to visit the castle then it is €4.25pp (2014).
Another way of getting to the gardens is by the panoramic lift, €2pp to the top. At the top of the lift you get out onto a viewing platform with some limited views over the city, however across the passageway, open to the elements and you need a head for heights, you come to the gardens.
Now with the attractions you can combine tickets so if you are thinking about 4 museums the cost is €12pp, 5 museums is €15.
There is a Tourist Bus equipped with audio guides in various languages. It takes in the whole city from ancient Cartagena with its walls, buildings and archaeological remains to modernist Cartagena, a 30-minute journey departing from Paseo Alfonso XII just outside the port area.
There is a Tourist Boat. 60 min trip around the entire port area followed by Curra and Navidad lighthouses, Algameca Chica and Escombreras island. It goes from the Alfonso XII dock and is priced at individual: 5.75 euros, Reduced: 4.75 euros (2013)
For a meal the La Catedral is highly recommended. Not far from the port, right next to the Roman Amphitheatre. The restaurant is built over the remains of the Roman cathedral, and the staff will give you a guided tour, and are very passionate about the history. Has a glass floor to view foundations and even Roman remains in the toilet! Not open Monday.
By Peter Dagnall
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