15+ Best Things To Do In Cartagena, Spain

Cartagena, the one in Spain not Colombia, is a small port city with a long and rich history. Its strategic location on the coast and closeness to the mineral reserves made the city an important hub for more than 2000 years. Over these years, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, and finally Spaniards, inhabited the area and each left its mark on the city. Nowadays Cartagena is full of ancient ruins, museums, and historic sites, which makes it a real paradise for history buffs. 

But don’t worry if history is not your jam and you don’t feel like visiting museums. Thankfully, it’s not the only attraction city has to offer! In this post, we’ll show you many great things to do in Cartagena, Spain and you’ll choose which ones interest you most. We’re sure that among all of them, every traveler will find something for himself. Without further ado, let’s go! 

Discover Best Things To Do In Cartagena, Spain
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Cartagena, Spain FAQ

Where is Cartagena, Spain located? 

Cartagena is located in the Region of Murcia in Spain, on the Mediterranean coast known as Costa Calida

What is Cartagena, Spain best known for?

Nowadays, without a doubt, Cartagena in Spain is best known for its numerous Roman ruins spread all over the city, and especially for its impressive and well-preserved Roman Theatre. Many travelers also will associate the city with Art Nouveau architecture which is filling the streets of the old town, its important naval history, and for being one of the most important harbors in Spain. 

Is Cartagena, Spain worth visiting?

Absolutely! Cartagena is definitely a city worth visiting. In our opinion, it’s the most interesting and beautiful city in the Region of Murcia. A charming old town full of art nouveau architecture, a bustling harbor, a picturesque coastal setting, a warm Mediterranean climate, archeological sites, ancient ruins, spectacular views, and delightful cuisine – all of that really tempts you to visit and see Cartagena with your own eyes. 

How do you get around Cartagena, Spain?

Cartagena is a walkable city, easy to get around on foot as most of the attractions are located close to each other within a short walking distance. Also, be aware that it’s a city with some hills and stairs to climb but it shouldn’t be a problem for those who are fairly fit and don’t have any mobility issues. In case of any problems. You can use public transport or a taxi.

How many days do you need in Cartagena, Spain?

Cartagena is a great destination for a one-day trip, a weekend getaway, and even a home base for longer stays to slowly discover the Region of Murcia. We started exploring Cartagena early in the morning, around 8AM, and without rushing we managed to see all we wanted in one day. But if you want to get to know the city even better we recommend staying at least for 3 days.

What time of year is best to visit Cartagena, Spain?

The best time to visit Cartagena in Spain depends on your personal preferences for things like crowds, weather, or desired activities. Summer months will be the hottest, driest, and most crowded. During the low season months temperatures will be more pleasant, there will be fewer crowds, and prices will be lower.

Is Cartagena, Spain safe? 

We can only speak for ourselves but we felt safe in Cartagena in Spain. Like in any touristic place, be cautious and take basic safety precautions, such as being aware of your surroundings and keeping an eye on your belongings, particularly in crowded areas and popular tourist spots.

Cartagena Spain Old Town Streets - Calle Mayor
Cartagena, Spain - view over city and the port from Conception Castle

Brief history of Cartagena, Spain

The history of Cartagena is rich, diverse and spans over two millennia. City was founded in 227 BC by Carthaginians and called Qart Hadasht (“New City”). In 209 BC it was conquered by Romans in the second Punic War and renamed Carthago Nova, which literally means “New New City” (very original, Romans, very original). During Roman times the city experienced a great boom and became a prosperous Roman colony. It served as an important port and trading hub. Most of the ruins that we can see in the city today date back to this period of time.

Later Cartagena was conquered by the Vandals in 435 AD, by Muslims in 714 AD, and finally by the Castilian army in 1243. In the 18th century, the city became a leading naval port in the Mediterranean. Cartagena played a significant role as a strategic port and naval base during the Spanish Civil War and World War II. A remnant of that time is for example Bateria De Castillitos, now abandoned fairytale-looking military fortress. Nowadays Cartagena is a vibrant Spanish city with many archaeological sites, naval history, and a charming old town full of art nouveau buildings. 

Brief history of Cartagena, Spain
Things to do in Cartagena Spain - visit old town streets near Roman Theatre

Best Things To Do In Cartagena, Spain

Travel tip. If you’re interested in visiting more than two Cartagena’s sites you might want to buy one of the combined tickets which allow access to the various sites at a cheaper rate. There are several options ranging from a 13€ ticket that allows access to 4 museums to the complete voucher that gives access to all the sites for 24€ (July 2023). You can buy them online or in attractions ticket offices. For current prices please visit puertodeculturas.cartagena.es website. 

Roman Theatre of Cartagena

Unquestionable number one thing to do in Cartagena is visit the Roman Theatre (es. Teatro Romano de Cartagena). It was built by Romans in the 1st century BC and could fit approximately 7000 people. The most peculiar thing about these very impressive remains is that… they were only discovered in 1988! Shocking, huh? Why is that you might ask? Looks like for many years the Roman Theatre of Cartagena was hidden beneath the Old Cathedral, which was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. Detailed restoration to what we can see today was completed in 2003 and was possible thanks to the fact that about two-thirds of the building materials were still on site. 

A visit to the Roman Theatre of Cartagena starts in the museum, where you can learn more about the city and site history and take a closer look at various archeological remains that were discovered during excavation. After passing through the museum, the star of the show will finally emerge – the impressive Roman Theatre itself. There you can freely walk on the grounds and imagine the plays being played there and how life could have been in Cartagena hundreds of years back. 

Entrance to the Roman Theatre of Cartagena costs €6 for adults (July 2023). Remember that the site is closed on Monday. For current prices and opening hours please visit teatroromano.cartagena.es website.  

Travel tip. If for any reason you don’t want to buy tickets but would like to take a good look at the Roman Theatre of Cartagena head to Parque de la Cornisa (best via Calle Dr. Tapia Martínez), located right above the ruins. Great views without spending a cent guaranteed!

Things to do in Cartagena, Spain - explore impressive Roman Theatre of Cartagena
Roman Theatre of Cartagena, Spain

Cartagena Old Town Streets 

Slowly strolling along city old town streets and getting to know its all nooks and crooks is another must-have thing to do in Cartagena, Spain. While getting lost is the best idea, here are some streets and squares which you definitely shouldn’t miss.

First on the list is Calle Mayor, a pedestrian-only main city street. It’s paved with beautiful marble tiles, and filled with many Art Nouveau buildings from the early 20th century. There you’ll also find many small shops, cafes and restaurants. Calle Mayor ends at Plaza Ayuntamiento, where the Town Hall of Cartagena and the entrance to the Roman Theatre are located. Charming Plaza de San Francisco is another great spot in Cartagena, filled with some huge trees bringing relief on hot days and more great, but a bit neglected, architecture to admire. 

Things to do in Cartagena, Spain Old Town - admire Art Nouveau buildings
Cartagena Old Town Streets with Art Nouveau buildings
Discover beautiful Cartagena Old Town Streets
Things to do in Cartagena Spain Old Town

While walking among Cartagena’s old town streets you’ll also notice some interesting pieces of street art. Some of the largest and most beautiful murals are near Museo Foro Romano Molinete. 

Things to do in Cartagena, Spain - discover amazing murals among old town streets
Murals in Cartagena, Spain Old Town Streets 

Molinete Archaeological Park

One of our favorite places in Cartagena is Cerro del Molinete Archaeological Park (es. Parque Arqueológico Cerro del Molinete), a tiny and well-maintained green area located on a small hill near Museo Foro Romano Molinete. It’s a great place for admiring stunning panoramic views over Cartagena and its surroundings. There are also some historical remains on site, and a few benches perfect to sit down and relax for a moment in peace. 

Molinete Archaeological Park in Cartagena, Spain - views over the city
Molinete Archaeological Park in Cartagena, Spain

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Conception Castle

Visiting Conception Castle (es. Castillo de la Concepcion) is for sure one of the best things to do in Cartagena, Spain. It’s located on the hill which in the past was home to a Roman temple, a Moorish fortress, a medieval fortress, and a Civil War siren that warned the population of bombing raids. Most of what we can see and explore today are the remains from the 13th century. 

Conception Castle is the highest point of Cartagena and you have two options to reach it: walking up the hill or using the panoramic lift. From the top, you’ll be able to admire spectacular panoramic views over the city and its surroundings. You can also visit the castle and learn more about the area’s history, and take a closer look over the city from even higher viewpoints. The truth is that there isn’t that much to see in the castle itself but the views and great photo opportunities might be worth the price. 

Entrance to Castillo de la Concepcion costs €4 for adults or €4.50 with access via the panoramic lift (July 2023). For current prices and opening hours please visit puertodeculturas.cartagena.es website. 

Castillo de la Concepcion in Cartagena, Spain - views over port and bay
Views over Cartagena, Spain from Concepcion Castle

Palacio Consistorial de Cartagena

On Plaza del Ayuntamiento, right in front of the entrance to the Roman Theatre de Cartagena, you’ll find one of the most picturesque buildings in the city, Palacio Consistorial. It was built in the early 20th century and has undergone several renovations and additions over the last few years. Currently, Palacio Consistorial serves as a city town hall. Take a moment to admire its beautiful facade from the square, and visit its interiors with a guided tour (for €1 only) if it’s something that might interest you. 

Things to do in Cartagena, Spain - visit Palacio Consistorial de Cartagena
Palacio Consistorial de Cartagena, Spain

Yacht Port Cartagena

Just a few steps from the Roman Theatre and Palacio Consistorial de Cartagena you’ll find Cartagena Port. It’s a perfect place for a lazy stroll along the promenade while admiring calming sea views and yachts. There you can also give your feet a rest while sitting on one of the neatly prepared benches or eat some Mediterranean cuisine in one of the restaurants nearby. 

Beaches in Cartagena, Spain

Unfortunately, there aren’t many beaches in Cartagena itself. Actually, the city has only one beach, Cala Cortina, which is located about 3.5km from the old town. It’s a beautiful, but fairly small beach, which can get very busy on a sunny and warm day. Its waters are crystal clear, perfect for snorkeling. On Cala Cortina, you’ll find amenities like parking (small so it fills up quickly), restaurants, and toilets. You can get to Cala Cortina on foot or by car. 

Car safety tip. The curbs in the parking lot are surprisingly quite high so watch out and don’t run over them if you don’t want to lose your car bumper. Did we do that? Maybe… 

Beaches in Cartagena, Spain - Cala Cortina
Yacht Port Cartagena, Spain

Other things to do in Cartagena, Spain

Here are other options for things to do in Cartagena, Spain. We didn’t visit any of these places, but you might want to. Learn more about them and decide for yourself.

Roman Forum Museum

Roman Forum Museum (es. Museo Foro Romano) is located at the feet of Molinete Hill. It’s an archaeological site that brings to life the ancient Roman past of the city. There you’ll be able to wander through the well-preserved remains of the Roman Forum, a central hub of civic life in antiquity. With informative exhibits and interactive displays, the museum offers an immersive experience, allowing visitors to dig into the historical significance of this remarkable site. To learn more about the Roman Forum Museum visit puertodeculturas.cartagena.es website. 

Casa de la Fortuna

Casa de la Fortuna (eng. Fortuna House)  houses the remains of a small Roman villa from the 1st century BC. It’s a place that provides a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the past, featuring beautiful murals, mosaics, and many artifacts from daily life. To learn more about Casa de la Fortuna museum visit puertodeculturas.cartagena.es website. 

Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad

If you’re a church person, Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad (es. Basílica de la Caridad) might be an interesting place for you. The basilica’s most striking feature is its impressive dome which rises above the city’s skyline and is visible from many places.

Historical Military Museum

Historical Military Museum (es. Museo Histórico Militar de Cartagena) is an interesting destination for history enthusiasts and military buffs alike. It’s housed within a former artillery battery and showcases an extensive collection of weaponry, uniforms, and artifacts, providing a comprehensive overview of Cartagena’s military heritage. Actually, this museum is home to one of the largest collections of artillery in Spain! To learn more about the Historical Military Museum visit ejercito.defensa.gob.es website.

View over Roman Forum Museum from Molinete Archaeological Park in Cartagena, Spain
Blue dome of Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad in Cartagena Spain

Civil War Museum

Civil War Museum (es. Museo de la Guerra Civil) is a place where you’ll be able to learn about the most recent Cartagena history. It’s housed in a former bomb shelter and showcases a vast collection of photographs, documents, and recorded testimonies of those who lived during the conflict. All this amid the real sounds of war. The museum offers a great understanding of the conflict’s impact on the region and people’s lives. To learn more about the Civil War Museum visit puertodeculturas.cartagena.es website. 

Naval Museum

Naval Museum (es. Museo Naval) is a great place that covers Cartagena’s maritime military past and its strategic significance as a naval port. It’s housed in an old military arsenal and showcases a wide collection of naval artifacts, weapons, models, and exhibits, tracing the city’s rich naval heritage dating back to ancient times. To learn more about the Naval Museum visit puertodeculturas.cartagena.es website. 

National Museum of Underwater Archaeology

The National Museum of Underwater Archaeology (es. Museo Nacional de Arqueología Subacuática “ARQVA”) is a place dedicated to preserving and showcasing the maritime heritage of the region. The museum exhibits a diverse range of underwater archaeological findings, shipwreck artifacts, and ancient maritime treasures. To learn more about the Naval Museum visit culturaydeporte.gob.es website. 

Interpretation Center of the Punic Wall

The Interpretation Center of the Punic Wall offers a comprehensive insight into the history and significance of the Punic Wall, an ancient defensive structure dating back to the Carthaginian times, around 300 BC. To learn more about the Interpretation Center of the Punic Wall visit puertodeculturas.cartagena.es website. 

How to get to Cartagena, Spain? 

Cartagena is located about 50km from Murcia, 120km from Alicante, and 30km from La Manga del Mar Menor. The most convenient way to get to Cartagena is by car or by bus. 

Where to park in Cartagena?

If you’re traveling by car you can choose from many parking lots available in the city center. Most of them are paid. We left our car in this free parking lot located about 1.5km (15min walk) from Cartagena’s old town. 

Airports near Cartagena

The closest airport to Cartagena is located in Murcia City, about 30km away. The next one is located in Alicante, about 115km away. Both airports offer bus connections to Cartagena. To learn more about connections that might interest you visit rome2rio.com website.

To Cartagena by bus

You can reach Cartagena by bus. For example, a trip from Alicante will take about 3h (€8-13) and 45min from Murcia (€4-13). To learn more about bus connections that might interest you visit rome2rio.com website.

To Cartagena by train

Cartagena has a train station so you can get there easily by train from cities like Murcia, Alicante, or Valencia. You can check out a map of available connections on acprail.com.

Camping Cartagena 

If you’re traveling by camper, places like Área Camping Camper Park Caravanas Home, Camping Caravaning La Manga, and Naturist Camping El Portus might interest you. All of them are located in close proximity to Cartagena. 

Promenade and Yacht Port Cartagena, Spain
Things to do in Cartagena, Spain - admire city murals

Things To Do In Cartagena, Spain – Summing up 

Rich history, many archeological sites, charming old town, spectacular views… There are so many great things to do in Cartagena, Spain and for sure no traveler will be bored there. We hope you found our guide useful and you’ll have an amazing time in the city choosing the best attraction for yourself.  

Our video from Cartagena

Our opinion about Cartagena, Spain

For us, a visit to Cartagena was a one-day trip from La Manga del Mar Menor, where we were living for a few weeks. We visited the city in April and during that time it was fairly quiet and without huge crowds, which was a big advantage for us. During one day we managed to visit each place we had on our list, and it took us about 8 hours.

Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Cartagena and we think it’s a city with such a great vibe. The mix of new and old, beautiful and a little shabby was something that we really liked and found very photogenic. We really enjoyed strolling among Cartagena’s old town streets, relaxing in Cerro del Molinete Archaeological Park, admiring the views, and learning about the region’s history in the Roman Theatre museum. What we didn’t like about Cartagena? To be honest, nothing in particular comes to mind right now. 

Things to do in Cartagena, Spain - Happy Little Traveler Opinion

Restaurants, accommodations, and map

Check out various recommended places below.

Where to eat in Cartagena?

Here are your best, high-rated options in Cartagena:

Where to sleep in Cartagena?

LoopINN Hostel Cartagena, Spain

Loop Inn Hostel

Loop Inn Hostel is a vibrant and modern hostel located in the heart of Cartagena. With its lively atmosphere and friendly staff, it offers a welcoming and comfortable stay for travelers looking to explore this beautiful coastal city. The hostel provides various accommodation options, including dormitories and private rooms, as well as a communal kitchen, rooftop terrace, and common areas, making it a great choice for budget-conscious travelers and backpackers.

Apartamentos Turísticos Teatro Romano Cartagena Spain

Apartamentos Turisticos Teatro Romano

Apartamentos Turisticos Teatro Romano offers a fantastic stay in Cartagena. It offers modern and spacious apartments located just a stone's throw away from the iconic Roman Theatre. The apartments are elegantly furnished and equipped with all the necessary amenities for a comfortable stay, making it a perfect choice for both short and long-term stays in the city.

NH Cartagena Hotel Spain

Nh Cartagena Hotel

NH Cartagena Hotel is a stylish and contemporary accommodation option conveniently situated in Cartagena. With its modern amenities, comfortable rooms, and attentive staff, the hotel offers a comfortable and enjoyable stay for both business and leisure travelers. Its strategic location provides easy access to the city's main attractions, making it an ideal base for exploring Cartagena's rich history and culture.

Casa Poeta Pelayo Cartagena, Spain

Casa Poeta Pelayo

Casa Poeta Pelayo is a charming spacious apartment with a terrace and city views, nestled in the heart of Cartagena. The property with two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and two bathrooms boasts a very unique design making it a place for a very pleasant stay in the city.

Accommodations photos source: booking.com

Cartagena, Spain - Map of places

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15+ Best Things To Do In Cartagena, Spain

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