What to see in Cartagena, Spain

Cartagena: a Spanish city port and a major naval station located in the Region of Murcia, by the Mediterranean coast, south-eastern Spain. It is the Spanish city with the most beaches: Cala Cortina, Islas Menores, Honda beach, Mar de Cristal, Cala del Pino, Cavanna beach, Barco Perdido beach, El Galúa beach, Levante beach and La Gola beach.

Cartagena

I didn’t see much of Cartagena as it was an afternoon stop on our trip to Murcia. Nevertheless, it’s a very interesting historic place. It has Arab, French, and mostly Roman influence.

The weather was really nice in Cartagena, about 21 degrees Celsius (approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Cartagena’s climate is classified as warm and semi-arid. I asked a taxi driver whether it was typical for it to be so nice in January. He said it’s not “normal,” that it’s usually a little less warm. But if memory serves, the weather was about the same in Cartagena around this time last year…

It was off-season when I visited, but when compared to other coastal cities during winter time — like Alicante and Valencia — Cartagena looked pretty desolate. I went to the nearest beach, Cala Cortina, and spent an approximate of two hours in heaven.

Cartagena Roman Theatre

Cartagena: Cala Cortina Beach

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The city hall…

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Small groups of tourists still gathered at the city’s main sights, like The Roman Theatre and its museum. An ancient Roman theatre, which is said to have been built around 5 and 1 BC. (Read about it here)  Luckily, I took lots of pictures.

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Let me tell you about Murcia, Spain

To think that I almost skipped this city….

Teatro de Romea

Teatro de Romea

Last year, when most of my coworkers (all Spaniards) at the language school said that they had never been to half of the places I’ve been to in Spain, I was a bit shocked. It’s so easy to move around here that I expected them to have visited everywhere. Then again, I can understand why they don’t feel the need to visit every city in their country. Still, I trusted them with suggestions for what to see in Spain.

There was a lady, particularly, who had traveled all over and was very knowledgeable. Everything she described was always accurate. Like, when I asked for her opinion about Castellón de la Plana, for instance; she said it was a “ciudad muy fea” (very ugly city) and there was nothing to do. She was right. But, unfortunately, I found out only after I had already visited. Then, one day I asked her about Murcia. She said it wasn’t worth the trip; she said it’s not a pretty city, that there was nothing special to see. So, I basically crossed out Murcia from my to-visit list.

Well, on our eternal search for sunshine—it’s been rainy and cold in Madrid— we narrowed this trip down to Murcia and Cartagena and, what do you know…it was so worth the visit!

Sure Murcia is another major city of Spain (a lot of people prefer smaller cities), but there are still many historic buildings, so much art and culture to appreciate. The architecture around there is just as beautiful as it is everywhere else in Spain.

It is also a “university town” and the young atmosphere can be felt everywhere you move. Except for La Muralla, the downstairs bar at hotel NH Rincon de Pepe—it looks really nice in there, with some original Arab walls of Murcia and all, but we looked like babies next to everyone else. It was kind of odd. But yeah, going back to how fun Murcia actually is, take for instance this blunt approach:

Pharmacy vending machine with personal lubricants and sex toys

Pharmacy vending machine with personal lubricants and sex toys

Interesting, huh? I have not seen this type of vending machine anywhere else yet.  Have you?

Moving on… when visiting Spain, visitors tend to go for the cathedrals and things of that sort because they’re enormous and just plain gorgeous. I’m sure the cathedral of Murcia isn’t any different inside, but I just couldn’t bear to see one more church 🙂 It’s overwhelming! LOL. (We did sit down at Plaza del Cardenal Belluga—the place of the cathedral—for tea one morning.)

Murcia Cathedral, Plaza Cardenal Belluga

Murcia Cathedral, Plaza Cardenal Belluga

Murcia

For me though, the highlight was the vibe of the city, the ah-mazing cuisine (lots of tapas restaurants), and the fact that it was warm even in the winter.

Also a highlight, the moment I could feel my face turn hot red when my dear boyfriend made me tell the bartender at bar La Muralla that she ripped him off. Well, I’m paraphrasing. I kindly told her that the change she gave him was short by 10€. She asked if we were sure while grabbing some money from the register. That’s when my boyfriend double-checked, realizing that he was incorrect. I was embarrassed, so I asked for a shot of tequila. Ha ha. She then gave me that drink free of charge… The reason? I’m still debating.

And finally, the menu translation of one of the restaurants where we ate (which was also, maybe inadvertently, showing a movie of cannibalism!) Yikes.

Chops or Sternum of kids, anyone?

Chops or Sternum of kids, anyone?

I also enjoyed walking through the city’s old town and its many stone and historic little roads and main spots, like Calle Traperia, Teatro Romea, eating at Plaza de las Flores (the hotel where we stayed is also around here), Plaza de Santa Catalina, and Plaza de San Pedro (all three next to each other).

The casino of Murcia, I’ve heard (and peeked a little), is stunning. Speaking of casinos, we tried to go up to the casino at hotel Rincon de Pepe but were not allowed inside because I didn’t have my passport or any identification on me. (Yup—the day I decide to leave my ID behind is the day I’m asked for it…) That being said, it is worth noting that ID is a must if going to the casinos in Spain!

Overall, I loved Murcia. I wish I had seen more, but our stay was short. Maybe it’s because it’s winter, but it was one of the least touristy places I’ve been to in Spain—and that was perfecto. Ignore travel books that haven’t given Murcia the credit it deserves. When in Spain, do go to Murcia!