Cartagena is Murcia's second largest city with a population of around 200,000 inhabitants. It is also one of Spain's lesser known cultural and historical gems. With its deep port and natural coastal defenses this key strategic naval City has a rich and often violent history spanning back to the Roman era. As a result, it is home to more than 12 museums, 10 key buildings of interest, 4 churches, numerous monuments and many archaeological sites including the impressive Roman Ampitheatre which was only unearthed in 1987.
The local tourist offices dotted around the city offer good value, museum packages which can be used at the various sites and attractions across a number of days during your stay. In addition, there is an superb open top City Tour Bus which visits all the key historical and cultural sites around Cartagena and takes about 30 minutes to complete. Once on board you are provided with a set of earphones so you can plug in and listen to the interesting and informative recoded tour guide which is available in several languages including English, French, Spanish, Dutch and German. Once you have finished your land based tour you can head for the Marina and jump aboard the City's Tourist Boat which takes you out and around the harbour pointing out the key defense points and the impressive Christmas Fort perched high on the clifftop above the port. You can either stay on board for the full tour or take a break here to visit the Fort before rejoining the boat for the 2nd part of the tour later.
Due to the importance of its strategic military location and deep harbour (the 3rd deepest in the world!) Cartagena has been fought over by many civilisations and cultures throughout the last 2200 years. It was one of the key military arenas of the 2nd Punic war between Hanibal's marauding Cartaginian forces from North Africa and the mighty Roman Empire in the years between 218BC and 201BC. To this day this key historical event's legacy still remains within the name of the City. Such was the importance of this Iberian port to the Cartaginians they renamed the city after their home of Cartaghe which was located on the coast of modern day Tunisia. Over generations “New Cartaghe" became Cartagena and today's new Cartaginians still celebrate and commemorate these momentous battles which took place more than 2000 years ago. Each September Cartagena's current residents don their bearskin cloaks, roman sandals, togas and full body armour to form 2 mighty armies and re-enact key events in front of 1000's during this very special 2 week long annual festival. These dramatic re-enactments take place throughout the city during festival time and follow the story through to its bloody finale with a full scale battle in the park outside the punic city wall. Of course nowadays, once the fighting is all done between the 2 great warring nations, they all shake hands and head to the festival encampment by the City's football stadium to share a few beers and party to the very small hours.
Cartagena's credentials as a key City in global maritime history is further supported by it being the birth place of Isaac Peral, the engineer who designed and developed the world's first electric powered submarine here in 1888. The actual Peral Submarine remains in the city and is on public display at the Cartagena Naval Museum.
Other impressive sites in Cartagena are the City Hall, The Castle of Conception, The Panoramic Lift, The Arsenal (home to the Spanish Submarine fleet) and the King's Palace which is the official royal family residence when they are visiting the area.
Cartagena is a truly beautiful port city with a stunning marina. It is also, in our opinion, more relaxed then many of those which are better known to tourists on the Spanish Costas. The narrow baroque streets of the “Casco Antigua" district are lined with the usual high street shops as well as designer boutiques and gift stores. Off the main streets you will find tree filled plazas with children's play parks, traditional cafés, stylish bars and a choice of superb restaurants serving traditional Spanish and International cuisine.
Whilst still much less familiar than cities like Alicante, Barcelona or Malaga, Cartagena has started to become more popular with tourists and many Cruise operators have now started adding it to their ship's Mediterranean itineraries. This is leading to more interest from foreign buyers and whilst we have started to see recent new developments in and around the City, property prices still remain relatively low. As it has stayed under the radar for so long Cartagena's new found popularity means it has the potential for a mini property sales boom over the coming year's so now could be a good time to buy here.