Exploring Murcia – Cartagena
After featuring Cartagena in my first post about our sunshine break as guests of James Villa Holidays – 10 things I’ve learned about Murcia – I was really keen to see it for myself. Although it had a lot to live up to after the wonderful time we had in Los Alcazares! Cartagena is the second major city of the region, over 2,500 years old and only about 30 minutes drive from our resort along the AP-7. We parked in the underground car park by the Arsenal which was very central and kept the car cool – it was lovely not to get into an oven when we came back later!
The city has cleverly set up different themed tourist routes that you can follow to discover more about it’s history – including a Roman route, a Millennial route, and a Modern route – but after a trip to the tourist office in Plaza del Ayuntamiento next to the Palacio Consistorial (below) we decided to head straight for the Castillo de la Concepcion to begin our tour.
The Castillo or castle was built on the brow of a hill with the same name by King Alfonso X, in the 13th century and the site was an important strategic and defensive location for the city for centuries. You can see why as there are amazing views over the port and city centre from the top of the hill.
To get to the Castillo you can walk up a long winding road but we took the spectacular ride in a 45 metre high panoramic lift, connected to the castle by a footbridge. Not one for the feint hearted but definitely preferable in 29 degree heat!
I’m afraid I let my vertigo get the better of me but someone was quite happy to look down!
At the bottom of the lift we bought our tickets for the Castle and also the Roman Theatre Museum – it’s worth buying a joint ticket if you’re planning on visiting both as it saves both time queueing up and a few Euros.
Once we reached the top of the lift there were amazing views of the ruins of the Roman coliseum – don’t make the mistake of trying to visit it like we did though. It’s not open to the public. Instead there is a wonderful Roman Theatre Museum that has recreated a life-size replica of the theatre – more about this in a moment.
The grounds of the castle are beautiful with more stunning views. Inside you can watch a subtitled film telling the history of Cartagena and some wonderful live action videos showing the city through the ages. Well worth a visit.
After a packed lunch under the shade of the trees in the castle grounds we walked back down to Plaza del Ayuntamiento and the Roman Theatre Museum which is just opposite the Palacio Consistorial. This cleverly designed and rather wonderful museum includes Roman artefacts found in the archaeological excavations in the area including columns, pottery and decorative pieces.
Once inside you’re taken on a journey from the museum through an underground passage below the Church of St. Maria de Vieja to the impressive life-size replica of the original theatre which was built in the late first century BC.
I could have spent a whole morning just in the museum but the little people needed a break and the cafe next to the museum provided a welcome rest stop after lots of walking in the hot sun where they both tucked into ice creams while we had a couple of cafe con leche.
With only a morning in Cartagena we barely scratched the surface of this lovely city. There’s lots more to see and do including the port area, Christmas Fort, Civil Warshelters Museum, Punic Wall, Naval Museum plus a tourist bus and boat. We’ll definitely be back to explore again the next time we visit Murcia… especially with the gorgeous Villa Selina as our base.
For more information about Cartagena visit the Official website of the region of Murcia.