"Cartagena" Top 5 Page for this destination Cartagena by maykal

Cartagena Travel Guide: 120 reviews and 450 photos

Cartagena. It's quirky. I like.

When massive cruise ships disgorge their hordes of passengers into a port, a place can become swamped and overcrowded (see Villefranche page). But Cartagena was spared that fate, possibly because of all the tour buses waiting to whisk passengers off to Alicante, and possibly because many on board took one look at the city from their cabins and decided not to bother getting off. I wish to thank all those passengers. It meant Cartagena was relatively tourist-free...in august!

I don't think Cartagena gets many tourists anyway...there aren't any big beach resorts nearby, and the old centre of Cartagena is not so obvious as many of the buildings are in varying states of disrepair. There's a lot of decay and crumbling...but there's also a lot of restoration work too. Those who do make it here, come mainly for the impressive Roman ruins...a huge theatre is the biggest draw, but traces of Roman history pop up all over the modern city.

I started my day with my family...we wandered along the waterfront to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, where there impressive town hall stands at the entrance to Cartagena's main street, Calle Mayor. The first few cafes and restaurants were full of cruise passengers, but it seems not many got much further. After a coffee, I decided to head off on my own, and took a backstreet off to the right. I didn't really have a plan, just intending to somehow find my way to the city walls and follow them back round to the sea. Away from Calle Mayor, the older buildings were not as well looked after...some appeared to have fallen in on themselves, while others stood empty, but every so often I'd turn a corner to find a plaza with unusual architecture on every side. I found a Latin American-looking church, a section of old wall with sculptures of little men climbing up them, a mosque with Moroccan shops around it, a hill with a sorry-looking ruin on top, and a disused bullring.

Climbing up to Cartagena's hilltop castle, I met up with my family again, who had taken the easy option...a lift, which I had somehow missed. On the hillside, the huge Roman theatre and the only place where I saw non-cruise tourists. My family decided they had seen all of Cartagena, and headed back to the ship....but there were three hours before we were to set sail, so I set off to explore a few more backstreets.

Cartagena seems to be one of those places that has been written off by my family, one of the many "not much there" places...which is a shame, as Cartagena looks to have a lot more to offer. A few hours ashore was not long enough to see the many museums (naval, archeological, civil-war...) or any of the forts spread out around the bay. The coastline to the south of Cartagena also looks spectacular, high cliffs and tiny coves, all fairly undeveloped too by the looks of it. Cartagena will never rival Barcelona or Seville or in fact any other major Spanish cities when it comes to tourism, but for an off-beat city break in a workaday port city with a fascinating history, Cartagena would be great.

  • Last visit to Cartagena: Aug 2008
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (18)

Comments (4)

  • JLBG's Profile Photo
    Aug 2, 2009 at 12:48 PM

    I am impressed at how much you have seen in such a limited time! The Roman theater has been heavily repeared since my visit. Your Arabic tip is excellent!

  • craic's Profile Photo
    Apr 17, 2009 at 9:52 AM

    i love the old people

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Apr 7, 2009 at 3:04 PM

    Very good comments and pictures of this city. If perchance we get to Barcelona-then this is a side trip for the beauty. Thanks

  • call_me_rhia's Profile Photo
    Sep 8, 2008 at 2:35 PM

    the "other" cartagena... looks promising, really. great opening pic



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