The historic port of Cartagena is one of the deepest natural harbours in Europe. The city was born from the sea, and still worships it today.
It has a 3000 year history; Hannibal set out from here with his elephants and it was invaded by the Romans (still commerorated during a yearly festival). In the winding back streets layers of the ancient city can be seen underfoot, through glass panels.
The Roman Theatre, discovered in 1987, is considered one of the most important in Spain. Cartagena port is also home to the original prototype of the submarine, launched in Cadiz in 1888 by Isaac Peral, and this can be seen along the portside road.
The Marina and port is still busy today; the Marina has many beautiful yachts moored at the quayside and a wide variety of café bars and restaurants by the marina to sit out and look out to sea. Cartagena is regularly visited by some of the larger vessels, luxury cruise liners such as P&O´s Oriana often call into port as part of the Mediterranean Cruise.
The city´s heritage is kept various museums dotted along the waterfront. Visit the Castle on the top of the hill for a real feel for the history of the town. Cartagena is small enough to explore on foot, and you are guaranteed to discover something new every time you visit.
Festivals of Cartagena
Los Cartagineses y los Romanos
Every September Cartagena takes a step back in time and re enacts the battles and events that took place between the Cartagineses and Romanos who fought to gain control of one of the most strategic cities on the Mediterranean.
Every year the troops and legions attempt to outdo each other in the originality and magnificence of their costumes, which are certainly one of the highlights of this unique festival. Many different events take place throughout the fortnight recreating those that took place here thousands of years ago. These include the founding of the city, the wedding of Hannibal and Himilce, Tanit´s Oracle, a session of the Roman Senate, a Roman Circus, the disembarkation of the troops and the thrilling battle between two sides. The battle takes place alongside the imposing city walls which prove, for a while, to be impregnable to the legions trying to scale them and force the enemy into submission.
The showcase of the festival is the impressive General Parade of all the different troops and legions, which brings to like the real protagonists of the city´s origins. Few cities in Spain are able to recreate their history in such an authentic way and as such the festival plays an important educational role. But it isn’t just about history – the Festival camp is the home to the “field headquarters” of all the troops and legions, where you can enjoy typical food and join in the fun.
This colourful and lively festival is definitely one of the region´s biggest post summer attractions.
At Easter, Cartagena has one of the most famous religious parades in Spain. Dozens of groups of locals, dressed as penitents, march through the streets carrying enormous, lavishly decorated effigies of Jesus and Mary. The extraordinarily heavy effigies are carried at shoulder height and move at a snails pace – in silence, and in utter darkness (the street lights are turned off for the event).
It is a very moving sight, as well as being colourful and extremely unusual. Tourists come from all over Spain to see it, and is well worth a visit.