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Cruises to Cartagena, Spain take travelers to an intriguing, historical city in the southeastern region of Murcia in Spain, which is located along the Mediterranean coast. Cartagena has a population of over 200,000 people making it the second largest municipality in Murcia. Cartagena has a natural harbor that has made it a coveted port city for centuries and today it’s home to an important naval base. Though less visited than other popular cities in Spain, Cartagena is a great place for travelers to explore its rich beauty and deep history expanding over 3,000 years.
Cartagena’s location and rich history provides visitors with a vast selection of things to do during a day in port. You can explore the city’s castle and its battlements, walk along the historic wharf where ships would dock hundreds of years ago, wander around the walled Old Town, admire beautiful beaches and plazas. Mediterranean cruises to Cartagena, Spain, will give you an opportunity to experience all of it firsthand.
Beautiful beaches are within close proximity to the city. Here are some top options to visit during a Cartagena cruise port of call: Playa de Calblanque, Cala Cortina, Playa El Portus, Playas de La Azohia, Los Nietos Beach, Playa de Fatares, and Playa Honda.
Many charming villages are a short distance from Cartagena, which make for a culturally beautiful way to spend a day in port. Some villages that are popular with tourists include: Murcia, Cabo De Palos, Lorca, Los Alcazares, Santiago De Ribera, and Caravaca De La Cruz.
Cartagena has a rich history that goes back to ancient Roman times. A great way to spend time in port is visiting some of the city’s historical sites, many of which can be seen on a cruise shore excursion. Here are some of the top historical sites you don’t want to miss: Conception Castle, Arsenal de Cartagena, Cerro del Molinete Archaeological Park, Bateria de la Parajola, and Pabellon de Autopsias.
Those who like to see ancient history will revel in visiting the Punic Wall in Cartagena, which dates back to the 3rd century BC. The Punic Wall was built by the Carthaginians and was the first defensive wall built in Cartagena. Visitors to Punic Wall can learn more about the structure in the Punic Wall Interpretation Center, and also see a protected part of the wall.
Get a feel for the central ambiance of Cartagena by walking down its Main Street: Calle Mayor. Vehicles aren’t allowed on this street, making it a peaceful one to amble down while you window shop, get a glass of wine or tapas, and admire the city’s architecture.
The Roman Theater located in Cartagena is a modern discovery made in 1988, but its origins date back thousands of years, and it is believed to have been built between the 5th and 1st centuries BC. While in port in Cartagena, you can visit the theater and its adjacent museum to learn more about the ancient structure that could hold 6,000 spectators.
If you’re a museum buff, you’re in luck as Cartagena has many interesting and varies museums. Some popular ones to visit include: Roman Theatre Museum, Fuerte De Navidad, Museo Naval, Museo Nacional de Arqueologia Subacuatica, Civil War Shelters Museum, and Museo Historico Militar de Cartagena.
If you’re looking for some local cuisine during your cruise to Cartagena, you’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants around Plaza del Ayuntamiento and the side streets off Calle Mayor. Local dishes are often heavily loaded with vegetables and you’ll find lots of fresh seafood dishes with salted fish being a traditional favorite.
For the Cartagena bar scene, head to old town, especially the area around Calle Cañón near the town hall and the adjacent street of Calle Cuatro Santos. For drinks with a seaview, look no further than the waterfront, which has several bars overlooking the water.
Cartagena gets its name from the Carthaginians, whose general Hasdrubal founded the city in the 3rd century BC. Cartagena was an important port of call to Carthage due to its strategic location close to rich silver mines. This gave Carthage a strategic and financial advantage in the First and Second Punic Wars. In 209 BC, Cartagena was conquered by Rome, which helped Rome to conquer Spain. For a time, Cartagena was also under Moorish rule. In the 16th century it moved into a new era as a stronghold naval base under Philip II of Spain. Cartagena played a part in both the Carlist Revolt of 1873 to 1874 and the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939.
Cartagena’s importance as a port city diminished in the 20th century as Barcelona, Malaga, and Alicante gained prominence. Today, Cartagena still exports some goods like olive oil and dried fruit, but is mostly known more as a tourist port and is home to institutions like ARQUA (the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology) and restored Roman ruins.
The Cartagena cruise port is called Pier Alfonso XII Cruise Terminal, and can accommodate even the largest cruise ships thanks to 344m of mooring space with a depth of 12m. The pier is located in close walking distance to the city center.
Cartagena does have a second dock called Muelle de la Curra, which is located farther south along the harbor. If your ship docks there, a shuttle bus is available to get to the city center.
Cartagena has a bus and train station within walking distance of the cruise port. If you are heading to the bus or train station from the city center and old quarter, it’s about a 10-minute walk. Taxis are also located just outside the cruise terminal.
When shopping for a memorable souvenir in Cartagena, look for artisanal boutiques and galleries that carry handmade items if you want a more authentic touch to your purchase. Popular souvenir items to get in Cartagena include ceramics and leather goods.
A great place to browse for souvenirs is Centro Regional de Artesania (located at 10 Calle Honda), which carries locally created ceramics, unique leatherwork and glasswork, rugs, clothing sewn by hand, and a variety of jewelry.
Many places in Cartagena accept credit card, and using a credit or debit card in Cartagena is a convenient way to travel. It’s also wise to have some extra cash with you in case of an emergency or if you are somewhere that doesn’t accept credit card.
Many credit and debit cards can be used for withdrawing money from cajeros automáticos (ATMs). There's usually a withdrawal charge of around 1.5% to 2%. Check with your bank or credit card provider before departing on your vacation to learn more about what fees you’ll be charged when taking out money overseas.
Most banks and building societies will exchange major foreign currencies and typically offer the best rates, though do your research beforehand of what the going rate is. Take your passport with you if you need to exchange cash. You can also exchange both cash and travellers cheques at currency exchange offices. Generally, currency exchange offices offer longer opening hours and quicker service than banks, but worse exchange rates and higher commissions.
Credit & Debit Cards
When using a credit card, you’ll often be asked to show your passport or some other form of identification. Among the most widely accepted in Cartagena are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Cirrus, Maestro, Plus, and JCB. Diners Club is less widely accepted.
Tipping is almost always optional in Cartagena. At restaurants, locals will usually leave a small amount and a tip of 5% of the total bill is considered generous. For taxis, most locals round up to the nearest euro. It’s also rare to leave a tip in bars.