Just Traveling Thru Cartagena, Spain

Rich History, Vibrant Culture, and Coastal Splendor in Murcia

We were onboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines 'Epic' on a repositioning cruise from Port Canaveral, FL to Barcelona with various stops along the way - the fifth stop being Cartagena.
Cartagena is 4,796.5 sea miles from Port Canaveral and 199 sea miles from Malaga. It is a major naval station located in the Region of Murcia, by the Mediterranean coast, south-eastern Spain. As of January 2018, it has a population of 213,943 inhabitants, being the Region’s second-largest municipality and the country’s sixth-largest non-Province-capital city. The metropolitan area of Cartagena, known as Campo de Cartagena, has a population of 409,586 inhabitants.

Travel Tile

Quick History Lesson: Cartagena has been inhabited for over two millennia, being founded around 227 BC by the Carthaginian Hasdrubal the Fair as Qart Hadasht (Phoenician, meaning 'New Town'), the same name as the original city of Carthage. The city had its heyday during the Roman Empire, when it was known as Carthago Nova (the New Carthage) and Carthago Spartaria, capital of the province of Carthaginensis. It was one of the important cities during the Umayyad invasion of Hispania, under its Arabic name of Qartayannat al-Halfa.

Much of the historical weight of Cartagena in the past goes to its coveted defensive port, one of the most important in the western Mediterranean. Cartagena has been the capital of the Spanish Navy's Maritime Department of the Mediterranean since the arrival of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century. As far back as the 16th century it was one of the most important naval ports in Spain, together with Ferrol in the North. It is still an important naval seaport, the main military haven of Spain, and is home to a large naval shipyard.

Cartagena Coat of ArmsImage is the property of Heraldry of the World

The confluence of civilizations as well as its strategic harbour, together with the rise of the local mining industry is manifested by a unique artistic heritage, with a number of landmarks such as the Roman Theatre, the second largest of the Iberian Peninsula after the one in Mérida, an abundance of Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine and Moorish remains, and a plethora of Art Nouveau buildings, a result of the bourgeoisie from the early 20th century. Cartagena is now established as a major cruise ship destination in the Mediterranean and an emerging cultural focus.

Where is Cartagena Spain?   Map

Cartagena is a port city on Spain's southeast Mediterranean coast, in the province & autonomous community of Murcia, southeastern Spain. It is the site of Spain’s chief Mediterranean naval base. It is 527 kilometers northeast of Gibraltar and 626 kilometers south of Barcelona
Click the map link (above) to see the area.

Exploring Cartagena

This was day 14 of our transatlantic cruise on the Norwegian Epic. The ship arrived in Cartagena harbor at 9AM, and as neither of us had ever been here - and - there was a major Roman Ampitheater ruin here, we were eager to go ashore and explore. Because of the relatively short stay here (passengers must be back aboard by 5:30PM) we made haste to go ashore as soon as possible.

Once the Epic was in position at it's pier and the passengers were allowed to go ashore, we set out for the Roman Theater.

Because the Cruise Dock is so close to the city, it was only a 700 meter walk to the Roman Theater entrance, and the street performers were already out & performing. Once we arrived at the entrance, we found that the line to get in was quite long, and we decided to walk around to the area above and to the rear of the Roman Theater.

Cartagena Roman Theater   Map

The walk to reach the area above the Teatro Romano de Cartagena was very steep, but once we arrived we had an incredible view of the theater area below as well as the city and harbor. The theater is very well preserved, and considering it's age, it looked like it could be used again today!

There was a kitten laying on a retaining wall, that greeted me in a friendly manner. I did not have anything that a cat could snack on, so all I could do was give it a friendly rub and we continued our explorations.

 Quick History Lesson 

The theatre was built between 5 and 1 BC, as has been proven by the dedication of the edifice to Gaius and Lucius Caesar, grandsons of Augustus, who had designated them as his successors.

In the 3rd century AD a market was built over the theatre, reusing its materials, with a semicircular open space which followed the plan of the orchestra. The market was perhaps abandoned after a fire caused by the Vandals in 425. A market quarter of the Byzantines was established on the site in the 6th century AD.

During the 13th century the Old Cathedral of the city was built over the upper seating section of the theater ('cavea'). In 1988 the first remains of the theatre were discovered during the construction of the Centro regional de artesanía. The archaeological excavations and the restorations were completed in 2003. In 2008 a museum, designed by Rafael Moneo, was opened.

Area around the Cartagena Roman Theater

At the far side of the Roman Theater we saw that the Castillo de la Concepción could be reached via another steep trail. This castle was even higher than the Roman Theater so we walked up and explored it in more detail. You can see in the above pictures, that several peacocks were making that incredible squawk that they are known for! Beautiful birds, but very loud!

The castle grounds can be explored for free, but to enter the castle requires an inexpensive ticket, which we purchased to allow us to explore the interior. Most of the interior has now become a medieval museum.

 Quick History Lesson 

The castle of Concepción or Asdrúbal is a medieval construction of the 13th or 14th century, located on the hill of the same name that rises above Cartagena and its port (Region of Murcia , Spain). This castle is the one that appears represented in the coat of arms of the city .

Wikipedia Logo  The above information was extracted from Wikipedia.

We decided to exit the Castillo by a different direction from which we got there, as we already knew that way was quite steep. As we went down the hill towards the city, we saw that there was a large elevator structure that would have allowed us to exit faster, but by then were nearly at the bottom of the hill!

With no specific place in mind, we decided to explore the city and see what we could find. Since the weather was so nice, and the city so walk-able, we enjoyed walking and exploring areas of the city. We wound up in the Plaza de San Francisco area, which is a nice park surrounded by shops of various types.

The tree in the plaza is a Moreton Bay Fig and was planted there in 1826.

Click here to view a Google Images set for the Plaza de San Francisco.

After we had explored as much ground as we could cover, and because the ship was scheduled to depart at 5:30PM, we decided to head back to the cruise port area.

The plaza was approximately 1.2 kilometers from the cruise port, and the walk took us past the Castillo de la Concepción and the Parque Torres - a pleasant walk.

Paseo Alfonso XII
City Hall of Cartagena
Palacio consistorial de Cartagena
Cruise Port Area
City Hall on Plaza del Ayuntamiento Cartagena
Paseo de Alfonso

The area that we walked through back to the Cruise Port was very well maintained and there were a number of beautiful buildings along the Paseo Alfonso XII. There are several large museums along the Paseo, including; the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology and The Batel Auditorium and Convention Center.

Some Useful Links
  • Just Traveling Thru European Travel Tips
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  • Cartagena History on the 'Britannica' site
  • Discovering Cartagena on the 'Culture Trip' site
  • Google Search Results list for "Cartagena Restaurants"
  • Google Search Results list for "accommodations in Cartagena"
  • Cartagena Spain Tours on the "Get Your Guide" Site
  • Amazon Search Results list for "Cartagena Spain"
  • Youtube Search Results list for "Cartagena Spain"
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Ports of Call

You should be aware that Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) varies where their ships go, as well as what ships they will reposition. To determine where NCL is sending what ships, you should visit their website. Our list of ports below, is based upon what the "Epic" did when we were onboard in 2019.

 Norwegian 'Epic' Cruise Overview
This is a large ship; 1,081 feet long, 155,873 gross tons in weight, and 133 feet wide. We cover the ship from bow to stern in our overview page.
Visit our Cruise Overview Page
 Ponta Delgada, Portugal
Ponta Delgada is located on São Miguel Island, the largest and most populous in the archipelago. 137,856 (2012) island population and 62.1 kilometers in length by 15.8 kilometers in width.
Visit our Ponta Delgada Page
 Funchal Madeira Portugal
This island is 599 miles from Ponta Delgada, with a population of 267,785. The island is 35 miles long and 13 miles wide and has 99 miles of coastline, but the shore is all rock and cliffs. It's a mountainous island; the highest peak is 1,862 meters/6,100 feet high.
Visit our Funchal Page
 Cadiz/Seville, Spain
This port is 659 miles from Madeira. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Western Europe, with archaeological remains dating to 3,100 years and was founded by the Phoenicians.
Visit our Cadiz/Seville Page
 Malaga, Spain
This port is 141.5 miles from Cadiz. With a population of 571,026 in 2018, it is the second-most populous city of Andalusia and the sixth-largest in Spain. The southernmost large city in Europe, it lies on the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) of the Mediterranean.
Visit our Malaga Page
 Cartagena, Spain
This port is 199 miles from Malaga. With a population of 213,943 inhabitants, being the Region’s second-largest municipality and Spain’s sixth-largest non-Province-capital city.
Visit our Cartagena Page
 Mallorca, Spain
This port is 334 miles from Cartagena and it is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in Spain. Population of 409,661.
Visit our Mallorca Page
 Barcelona, Spain
This port is 153 miles from Palma. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within city limits.
Visit our Barcelona Page



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