Roman Theatre Cartagena

Cartagena (Spain) Cruise Port: DIY Excursion Exploring the Old Town

Cartagena (Spain) cruise port, though quite small, packs a historical punch that belies its size. Cartagena’s history is anything but small! The mighty Carthaginians, rocked up to the coast around 227 BC and founded a city they named Qart Hadast (meaning “New Carthage”). Fast forward a few centuries, the Romans swopped in and renamed it Carthago Nova (meaning “New Carthage) around 209 BC.

Finally, the Spanish took the helm sometime in the 5th century and Cartagena, as we know it today, was born. So in this relatively compact port, you’ll find layers of Carthaginian ingenuity, Roman grandeur and Spanish flair waiting to be explored. Intrigued? Read on to discover the must-see and hidden gems you won’t want to miss in this captivating city!

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Cartagena (Spain) Cruise Port: Is a DIY Excursion Easy? ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž (Easy Peasy)

View of Cartagena Old Town from cruise port
View from my balcony on Voyager of the Seas – that’s how close the cruise port is!

Thanks to its compact size, Cartagena cruise port is incredibly easy to navigate. Cartagena (Spain) practically screams “explore me on your own!”. Here’s why I rated a DIY adventure in Cartagena “easy peasy”:

  • Forget taxis, forget tour buses! The moment you step off your ship, the charming Old Town is practically waving hello. We’re talking a super short walk โ€“ so close you could even pop back for a midday snack onboard if you wanted to!
  • Compact and oh-so-walkable: Cartagena’s main attractions are all clustered together, making it a walker’s paradise. This is one of those awesome stops where I don’t even need to mention public transport options. The furthest attraction is a 20 minute walk away from the cruise port.
  • Harbour views with a side of history: Craving a change of scenery? Stroll over to the pier (right next to the cruise port) and hop aboard a scenic boat cruise. Get those cameras ready for epic views of Cartagena’s coastal fortifications.

Cartagena Cruise Port Essentials: All You Need to Know

  • Cartagena (Spain) Cruise Port Address: P.ยบ Alfonso XII, 30202 Cartagena, Murcia, Spain
  • Currency: Euros
  • Language: Spanish
  • Official websites: Turismo Cartagena is the official tourism website. The official tourist map is handy (PDF)
  • Recommended Transport App: Use Google Maps to navigate around the Old Town.
  • eSIM for roaming in Spain: For a great data connection without the huge roaming fees, use an eSim data pack from Airalo. I always recommend having a smartphone with a valid plan when youโ€™re at port touring independently. Get US$3 off your first eSIM data pack from Airalo when you use ROXANN1666 when you sign up or apply it at checkout
  • My Cartagena Cruise Port Map: ๐Ÿ‘‡ Click on the upper right hand corner to see a bigger version. If the map is not loading, click here to see it directly on Google Maps

Cartagena’s Must-See Historical Treasures

1. Roman Theatre (Teatro Romano de Cartagena)

Side view of the Roman Theatre in Cartagena, Spain

The Roman Theatre, remarkably discovered in 1988 under layers of history, offers a glimpse into Cartagena’s rich past. Built in the 1st century BC, this impressive structure once entertained up to 7,000 spectators.

The theatre’s design reflects Roman ingenuity and a love for spectacle. Its semicircular seating area was carved into the hillside, ensuring excellent views for all. Remains of a grand stage and decorative columns hint at the elaborate productions that would have captivated audiences.

  • How to Get There: 5 minutes walk from Cartagena cruise port. It’s the closest attraction to port. If you disembark early, make this your first stop. If not, then consider visiting later in the day, as there can be long queues in the initial rush.
  • Entrance / Ticket Office: Note museum entrance & ticket office is on Pl. Ayuntamiento, opposite the tourism office – marked on my map above๐Ÿ‘†. You’ll need to walk through the museum before getting to the Roman Theatre itself.
  • Opening Hours: Closed Mondays. May to September: 10am to 8pm Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 2pm Sunday. October to April: 10am to 6pm Tuesdays to Saturday. 10am to 2pm Sunday.
  • Tickets: โ‚ฌ6 for adults, โ‚ฌ5 for students & seniors, โ‚ฌ3 for kids
  • Downloads: Here’s the official museum guide & map, download to your phone here (PDF)

Tip: Not interested in the museum? Then take a stroll in Parque de la Cornisa behind the Roman Theatre and you can have a free panoramic view of the Roman Theatre.

2. Concepciรณn Castle: History with Breathtaking Views

Perched atop Conception Hill, this imposing castle offers panoramic vistas of Cartagena, its bustling harbor, and the vibrant coastline. Built on the remains of older fortifications, its foundations date back to the Carthaginian and Roman eras. In the 13th century, it was further fortified, becoming a key stronghold during the Reconquista – the religious campaign to reclaim the Iberian peninsula lost to Islam in the 8th century.

It’s worth a visit for the views itself! It’s free to walk around the castle grounds and there’s no need to pay for museum entry, unless you’d like to. Also highly recommended as a rest stop.

  • How to Get There: The road leading up to Conception Castle is a few minutes’ walk from the Roman Theatre. The walk is obviously uphill but it’s not that steep.
  • Opening Hours: Castle grounds are open during daylight hours
  • Tickets: โ‚ฌ4 for adults, โ‚ฌ3 for kids, students and seniors. Combine museum entry with the Panoramic Lift (see below) for โ‚ฌ4.50 adults โ‚ฌ3.50 kids, students and seniors.
  • Download: Here’s the official Conception Castle Museum guide & map, download to your phone here (PDF)

3. Panoramic Lift (to Conception Hill)

Panoramic Lift to Conception Hill in Cartagena, Spain
Image: Wikipedia

Not keen to walk uphill? Then the Panoramic Lift comes to the rescue. It will whisk you up 45 meters to Concepciรณn Hill, home to the historic Concepciรณn Castle and Torres Park. Take in the city’s iconic landmarks, including the Roman Amphitheater, 18th-century military buildings, and bustling harbour, all from the glass-enclosed cabin.

  • Getting There from Cartagena Cruise Port: Once you disembark, walk towards Old Town and through the park towards Gisbert Street (see my map above). It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the cruise port to the panoramic lift. The walk is entirely on flat ground.
  • Opening Hours: Daily from 10am to 8pm (July 1 to Sept 15). Otherwise closed Mondays, 10am to 5:30pm – 7pm depending on season. Double check opening hours here.
  • Tickets: For just the lift, โ‚ฌ2 for adults, โ‚ฌ1 for kids, students and seniors. Combined tickets with Conception Castle Museum as above.

4. Punic Wall: Witness Cartagena’s Carthaginian Origins

This surviving section of the Punic Wall was built in the 3rd century BC by the Carthaginians. Originally renowned seafarers and traders from North Africa, the Carthaginians used Cartagena as their strategic stronghold on the Iberian peninsula. The Punic Wall consists of two parallel walls, made of huge sandstone blocks.

  • How to Get There: about 10 minutes walk from Old Town or about 20 minutes walk from the cruise port
  • Opening Hours: Daily 10am to 8pm from July to September. Otherwise closed Mondays. 10am to 5:30 – 7pm. Check opening hours here.

My Take: This is slightly out of the way but still only 20 minutes walk from the cruise port. If you’re keen to see this, my recommendation is to see the Old Town first and see one of the three Roman ruin sites before seeing the Punic Wall. Then you can take the alternative route through Parque del Batel back to the cruise port.

5. Roman Cartagena: Roman Forum, Augusteum and House of Fortune

For those fascinated by Roman history, Cartagena offers a few more hidden treasures – all are within walking distance in the Old Town:

  • Roman Forum: Located in the Molinete Archaeological Park, the Roman Forum was once the bustling center of civic and religious life in Carthago Nova. Though still being excavated, you can explore the remains of thermal baths, a grand banquet hall, and various other structures that hint at the grandeur of Roman life.
    • Opening Hours: 10am – 8pm daily from July 1 to Sept 15. Otherwise, closed Mondays. 10am to 5:30 – 7pm depending on season.
    • Tickets: โ‚ฌ6 for adults, โ‚ฌ5 for kids, students & seniors
  • Augusteum: Dedicated to Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, the Augusteum was a temple complex showcasing the might and importance of the Roman Empire. Discover the remains of this sacred space, revealing fragments of sculptures and inscriptions that would have glorified the legendary emperor.
    • Opening Hours: 10am to 3pm Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Mondays.
    • Tickets: โ‚ฌ2.50 for adults, โ‚ฌ2 for kids, students & seniors
  • House of Fortune: To get a peek into Roman Homes, step inside the House of Fortune. It’s a remarkably well preserved Roman house that shows what domestic life was like in Roman Cartagena in the 1st century.
    • Opening Hours: 10am to 3pm Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Mondays.
    • Tickets: โ‚ฌ2.50 for adults, โ‚ฌ2 for kids, students & seniors.
    • Virtual Tour: Enjoy this virtual tour if you’re not sure whether you wanted to visit.

Christmas Fort: A Scenic Boat Adventure

Cartagena Bateria de Castillitos fortification
Photo by Yasileni

If you’ve still got an hour or two to spare after your DIY tour, hop board the tourist boat and soak up the beauty of Cartagena from a different perspective. Glide past the harbour, admire the city’s historic waterfront and see the imposing fortifications that line the coast.

These hour-long round-trip cruises will stop at Christmas Fort ((Fuerte de Navidad). An option is to hop off, see the fort and catch the next boat in an hours’ time. (Note this is the only stop on the hour long boat trip, so it’s not a hop-on-hop-off cruise.) The boats have an open top-deck, perfect for soaking up some Mediterranean sun!

Original built in the 17th century for defence purposes, the Fort offers stunning views of the Cartagena coastline. There’s also a museum with an interactive exhibit showcasing the city’s impressive network of fortifications throughout history, making it a great stop for those curious about Cartagena’s defensive past without getting bogged down with too much history.

  • Finding the Pier: Boat trips leave from “Barco Turistico“, to the left of the cruise port, with your back facing the harbour. It’s only a few minutes’ walk away and marked on my map above.
  • Departure Times: Daily 11am – 3pm on the hour, then 4:30pm to 7:30pm hourly during summer months. Double check schedule here.
  • Tickets: โ‚ฌ6 adults, โ‚ฌ5 for kids, students and seniors. With admission to Christmas Fort, it’s โ‚ฌ8 for adults, โ‚ฌ6 for kids, students and seniors. Purchase online tickets here. Tickets are dated, timed and for a specific boat trip.

I hope this guide has inspired you to make the most of your day in captivating Cartagena! Whether you’re drawn to the echoes of ancient civilizations or prefer a scenic boat cruise and an intriguing fort, Cartagena has something to delight every cruiser. Have a wonderful time exploring this vibrant port city!

And if you found this blog post helpful, I would really appreciate it if you can share it with your fellow cruisers in your roll call groups. Let’s help everyone experience the best that Cartagena has to offer!

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