If you’re looking for reasons to visit Cartagena, Spain, then you really don’t have to look far. As the second-largest city in southeastern Spain’s underrated Murcia region, Cartagena doesn’t get nearly the amount of attention it deserves, and this is a real shame. Packing in everything from a classic Spanish charm, perennially beautiful weather, local gastronomic specialities and incredible history, Cartagena has so much to offer and should definitely make it onto your next Spain itinerary.
Not to be confused with its Colombian namesake, Cartagena, Spain is a dynamic and multifaceted city that is situated on Murcia’s Costa Cálida. Receiving only a fraction of the visitors as other coastal Spanish cities and regions, Cartagena is also the perfect place to visit if you’re looking to avoid tourist crowds and have a relaxing and stress-free visit to Spain. With plenty of outdoor activities, historic sites and delicious food to be had, Cartagena really checks all the boxes for a perfect Spanish holiday destination!
8 Reasons to Visit Cartagena, Spain
If you need any more convincing on why Cartagena is one of the best destinations to visit in the entire country, then look no further. In no particular order, these are some of the top reasons to visit Cartagena on your next trip to Spain!
Enjoy excellently-preserved Roman ruins
The Roman Theatre of Cartagena is one of the top tourist attractions in the city and it is truly incredible, however, it actually wasn’t even discovered until 1988! During excavation for a construction project, ground was broken on this incredible Roman amphitheatre accidentally.
With excavation being completed in 2003 and a museum opening in 2008, visitors now have the opportunity to tour this excellently-preserved ruin that dates back to the years 5-1 BCE. Open Tuesday – Sunday, the €6 entry fee includes the well-curated museum which will tell you all about the history of this fascinating site along with entry into the theatre itself.
And just a stone’s throw away from today’s city centre, you can also choose to visit the Barrio del Foro Romano, a Roman forum and remains of the city of Carthago Nova (New Carthage, where Cartagena gains its name). This is one of the biggest archaeological sites in all of Spain and it is absolutely fascinating.
Bask in the temperate climate
Situated on the Murcia region’s Costa Cálida, which literally translates to “warm coast,” Cartagena enjoys beautiful temperatures year-round, making it the perfect place for both some summer heat and winter sunshine.
The months of July, August and September are the warmest in Cartagena, with high temperatures averaging about 30°C (86°F) with plenty of sunshine. Conversely, the coolest months in Cartagena are in December, January and February, where the average high temperature is around 17°C (63°F) — still very warm when compared to elsewhere in Europe!
All in all, if you’re look for great weather and sunshine no matter what time of year you choose to visit, then Cartagena can offer that!
Indulge in local culinary specialities
One of the best things about visiting Spain, in general, is experiencing the delicious local cuisine. And though there are certain dishes that you will find throughout the country, Murcia and Cartagena, in particular, boast a few local specialities that are very much worth experiencing.
First things first, you must try caldero while in Cartagena. Though Valencian paella is more well-known, if you want to eat a Spanish rice dish while in Cartagena, please make it caldero. This rice dish, like paella, is so-named for the pot in which it is cooked. However, unlike paella, it is made with the plentiful seafood that can be found in the Mediterranean off the coast of Cartagena. There are plenty of restaurants in Cartagena that serve caldero, particularly for Sunday lunch, which is the traditional time to eat it.
Another local speciality is marinera. This is is a tapa of Russian salad topped with a salt-cured anchovy atop a rosquilla crujiente de pan (a crispy bread ring)! There are lots of great places to try both of these regional specialities, however, we recommend heading to La Uva Jumillana or the neighbouring Bodega la Fuente to try them out.
Finally, if you’re looking for a local alcoholic beverage that can only be found in Cartagena, then make sure to have a cafe asiatico. This drink consists of a shot of espresso, condensed milk, cognac and a local spirit call Licor 43.
Experience the Spanish coast with fewer crowds
Compared to coastal hotspots like Barcelona or even Málaga and Andalucía’s Costa del Sol, Cartagena sees far fewer international visitors, meaning that you can experience all of the splendours of a coastal Spanish getaway with only a fraction of the crowds.
Whether you’re interested in indulging in lovely strolls along the seaside promenade, popping into some of the many cafes and bars or simply enjoying activities on the water, you can be assured that there won’t be hordes upon hordes of international tourists cramming into your area.
People watch in one of many streetside cafes
One of the best reasons to visit Cartagena is to enjoy its wonderful cafe culture, as the city boasts countless lovely streetside cafes. Because of the perennially warm and sunny weather, most cafes have plenty of outdoor seating and, if you find yourself a good place for a coffee or a drink on Calle Mayor, the main pedestrian thoroughfare in Cartagena, you’re in for quite a treat.
There are great opportunities for people watching and observing locals out and about or on their paseos (walks) and simply taking in the laid-back nature of this lovely city. There is nothing more Spanish than sitting back and trying to take things slow, and Cartagena gives you ample opportunities for this!
Enjoy the beautiful modernist architecture
If you’re considering heading to Murcia as opposed to a more visited and popular destination in Spain, namely Catalonia, then you will be happy to find out that Cartagena boasts ample beautiful buildings in the same modernist architectural style famous in Catalonia. In fact, if you’re a fan of beautiful buildings, then the wonderful modernist architecture to be found through the city is one of the best reasons to visit Cartagena!
Strolling through the centre of the city will take you by a number of absolutely stunning modernist gems, including the Gran Hotel and the former Town Hall. The architecture of this small city really is something special and it is really worth taking the time to stroll about and admire some of the beautiful, grand buildings that adorn the streets.
Take in some fantastic street art
If you’re into public art, then you will also be pleased to find out that Cartagena has a fantastic street art scene and many beautiful pieces can be found just outside of the city centre. There isn’t necessarily a particular district where street art can be found, however, there are quite a few great pieces and murals to be seen close to the Barrio del Foro Romano.
If you love street art and appreciating public art, then you’re sure to find Cartagena especially delightful. Take the time to wander around some back streets and pleasant alleyways to see what works of art you can find and take in the artistic nature of this beautiful coastal city.
Explore Spanish market culture
Shopping in markets is a cornerstone to Spanish culture and there is really no better way to get an insight into how and what locals eat than by visiting a market or two. However, many visitors to Spain who stick to the more heavily trafficked cities only tend to experience tourist-centric markets like Madrid’s Mercado de San Miquel or Barcelona’s Mercado de la Boquería. And while these places certainly do have their merits, you can really get a great feel for a proper Spanish market at Cartagena’s Mercado de Santa Florentina.
Browsing the lively Mercado de Santa Florentia, which is located within easy walking distance of the city centre, is easily one of the best reasons to visit Cartagena. Not only will you gain a great insight into Spanish market culture, in general, but you also get to see what the local specialities and support local suppliers. The region of Murcia, in particular, is known for its fruit and vegetable productions, at times even being called “the crop garden of Europe.”
Take the time to head to the Mercado de Santa Florentina to see the top quality of seasonal produce that’s available in Murcia and to, maybe, pick up a snack or a picnic to enjoy while sitting on a bench along the seaside promenade!
There are countless reasons to visit Cartagena, Spain as the city so much to offer visitors. If you’re looking for the ultimate destination for your next Spanish getaway, then make sure to include Cartagena on your itinerary!
Are you interested in visiting Cartagena? Have you been before? Let us know in the comments!