Cartagena is the second city of the Region of Murcia. What is lacks in size, it amply makes up for in history and interest – and tourist attractions. It has its own beach, excellent restaurants, festivals throughout the year, and museums – loads of museums!
It is easy to get to by car and parking is easy. Alternatively, you can jump on a train in the village of Balsicas and be in the heart of Cartagena in less than 20 minutes – and the trains here are clean and cheap!
It is hard to summarise the long history of this beautiful port city. Hannibal set out from here with his elephants to attack Rome. Rome in turn invaded and colonised the city for a few hundred years. Then came the Vandals, the Visigoths, the Byzantines, the Moors, and the Aragonese. It has been an important Mediterranean port for well over 3000 years, and this long history means that they are constantly digging up new layers of previously unknown or long-forgotten history.
Recently, they found the Roman theatre and spent years bringing it back to life and attaching a beautiful museum to it to display what the arquaeologists dug up and analysed. Being a port city, there is also a lot of history to be found under the sea, and in 2009 the Spanish National Underwater Archaeology Museum was opened to analyse and display some of the most interesting objects found around the coast over the years.
Cartagena has also been the Spanish Naval´s Mediterranean HQ for hundreds of years, and there is also a lage naval museum. Just off the front is the Spanish Civil War museum – Cartagena played an important strategic role in this conflict, and suffered some of the first examples of blitzkrieg in history as a result – the old air raid shelters under castle hill now house the museum.
All of these attractions are located within 15 minutes´walk of each other on the beautiful waterfront promenade – complete with bars, restaurants and cafés to rest your feet and brains after all that learning, and 5 minutes from the main shopping street for a little retail therapy.