If you’re looking for independent things to do in Cartagena, Spain, this may not be the perfect port. At least not at first glance. But it only gets better.
Cartagena, Spain is included on select Western Europe cruises. Cartagena was a strategic and historic port on the Mediterranean for well over two-thousand years. Roman ruins dot the city as well as the magnificently preserved Roman Theatre, right in the center of town. But it was the Carthaginians that actually built the city in 223B.C.E.
I was really looking forward to spending a day just walking around the city.
There were only eight shore excursions offered that didn’t involve a private car hire. Two of them sounded appealing; the Roman Theatre and Tapas Trail and Spanish Horse Ranch and Show. But I wasn’t in the mood for tapas tasting at 10am nor the motor coach ride out to see the horses. From the list of things to do in Cartagena, most were either too expensive, too early in the morning, too long a drive to get there or just not of interest to me.
In retrospect, either of those two shore excursions would have been worth the effort and the cost.
Instead, I looked out on the city from my stateroom and decided that, like yesterday in Malaga, I’d just take a walk into the city. Maybe buy a scarf, discover a quiet café or buy some bakery to bring back for the front desk staff. I like to do that when I’m on a Europe cruise.
Cartagena, aside from being a superb harbor, was also rich in minerals. Mining became a way of life in Cartagena in the late 1800s. The amount of wealth flowing into the city and into people’s pockets led to the architectural boom that’s visible today.
With an influence from La Belle Époque, beautiful Art Nouveau buildings with gleaming white marble façades and ornate ironwork dominated the city.
It was way too crowded to get through the first few streets without getting elbowed. I kept walking and eventually the crowds became thinner and suddenly I was in “real” neighborhoods. I spotted (more like smelled) a small bakery and dashed in there. All I could do was point and hold up 12 fingers to indicate what I wanted to buy.
Bakery box in hand, it was time to head back to the ship. I wanted to leave a few minutes to walk along the shoreline.
But as I headed toward the waterfront, I went right past the entrance to the Roman Theatre and the artifacts collection. Big mistake not to buy the ticket and tour the Roman Theatre. I learned a most amazing fact when I read an information pamphlet. This immense Roman ruin was just discovered in 1988! While doing construction work in the center of town, this theatre was discovered along with hundreds of remnants from 2,000 years ago. Next time, I’m going there first. There really are things to do in Cartagena!
I did have a few minutes to walk along the waterfront before turning left to the ship.
The wind has kicked up full force. It felt like we were listing several degrees but that’s probably because I was on the top deck. As you can see, we barely, and I mean barely, made it through the harbor passage. But of course we did.
One more sea day after Cartagena until we would make our pre-dawn arrival into Civitavecchia, the port for Rome. And the end of the cruise.
I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels, collecting recipes along the way. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath…stop for a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.