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Lined with palm trees and pretty flower beds, strolling along the honey-coloured tiles of Cartagena’s streets makes an inviting first impression as you step off a cruise ship.
Located in Spain’s Murcia region (and around 30 minutes from the International Airport), Cartagena is blessed with year-round sunshine and a warm climate, moderated by the Mediterranean sea air. If you’re desiring a short break or some winter sun, this Spanish city is a quieter alternative to the popular spots like Madrid and Barcelona, but with plenty of things to do.
Cartagena’s Roman Amphitheatre
Etched into the hillside and forgotten for almost two millennia, Cartagena’s Roman Amphitheatre remains was a relatively recent discovery for the city which now forms part of Murcia’s most popular museum.
Walking beneath the Amphitheatre’s restored archways and through excavated tunnels captures some of its grandeur back in its hey day, which is believed to be around 5 and 1 BC.
Inside there are fascinating sculptures and artefacts to discover, such as a bust of Apollo, commemorative lintels and a marble altar of Ciaus Caesar.
Castillo de la Concepcion
Overlooking the Amphitheatre remains is a hilltop castle where you can enjoy panoramic vistas stretching from the cruise ship port and its rugged coastline, to the city rooftops and mountainous rural landscape. You can visit the fortress via the pathways and gardens of Torres Park, accessed from a grand staircase near the marina.
Inside you can explore other intriguing periods of local history, such as the Middle Ages when Alfonso X of Castile conquered.
National Museum of Underwater Archaeology
You can dive into the region’s maritime history at the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology, located close to Cartagena’s Marina.
Shopping and Eating in Cartagena
Just minutes away on foot from Cartagena’s cruise ship port and marina is a grand palm tree filled plaza surrounding a monument to the heroes of Santiago de Cuba and Cavite. Many visitors choose to dine al fresco at one of the numerous cafes and bars around the square, before or after browsing the nearby shopping street, Calle Mayor, dotted with souvenir shops and some familiar retailers like the home grown Zara brand.
As you go north along Calle Mayor you’ll come across a couple of other squares along the way where you can stop off for some tapas, a refreshing beverage or ice cream.
If you’ve got Euros and time to spare, consider heading to the east of the city to the shopping mall, Espacio Mediterraneo.