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Cartagena ( ) is a mediterranean city and naval station in the Region of Murciamarker, southeast of Spainmarker.Cartagena has been the capital of the Spanish Navy's Maritime Department of the Mediterranean since the arrival of the Spanish Bourbons in the eighteenth century. As far back as the sixteenth century it was one of the most important naval ports in Spainmarker, together with Ferrolmarker in the North.

It is a walled town and has a fine harbour defended by forts. In the time of Philip II of Spain, it was a major naval seaport of Spain. It is still an important naval seaport, the main military haven of Spainmarker, and there is a big naval shipyard.

Cartagena had a population of 211,286 in 2007, making it the second largest city in the Region, the 6th among the non-province capitals of Spain, and the 24th overall.

Geography and climate

Geography and relief

Cartagena's Harbour seen from Concepcion's Castle.
The city of Cartagena is located in Spain, specifically in the southeast of Spain, in theRegion of Murciamarker.Cartagena constitutes a great plane inclined with limited direction NW-SE at the north and the northwest by pre-coastal mountain ranges (Carrascoy, El Puerto, Los Villares, Columbares and Escalona), and at the south and southwest by coastal mountain ranges (El Algarrobo, La Muela, Pelayo, Gorda, La Fausilla y Minera, with its last spurs in Cabo de Palos). The dominant materials in the composition of the land are sedimentary, like limestone, and metamorphic, like slate, marble, etc.

The Old Town is limited by five small hills (Molinete, Monte Sacro, Monte de San José, Despeñaperros and Monte de la Concepción) following the example of Romemarker. In the past there were an inner sea between the hills called the Estero that eventually dried up, on which were built the "Ensanche" (Expansion or New Town), at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Lighthouse of Cabo de Palos
The urban area is delimited or crossed by several watercourses, some of which go deep into the urban network during great part of their courses.


There is a predominance of warm and semi-arid climate.The marine position smooths out the temperatures, although the precipitations hardly surpass 300 annual mm.The annual average temperature goes up to around the 20°C. The coldest month is January with an average of 12°C. In August, the warmest month, the average temperature is of 35°C. The wind constitutes one of the more important climatic factors of the region.


Despite the intense mining, tourist and industrial exploitation that have suffered for centuries, the territory around Cartagena city hosts an extraordinary natural wealth and diversity, with a high degree of botanical endemic species. Part of its influence area is protected with different statuses of protection.


One of the various islets of Escombreras.
Cartagena’s coastal mountains concentrate one of the largest botanical biodiversities of the Iberian Peninsulamarker. There are present both European and African species, especially the Iberian-African starvation only present in southern coasts of Spain (mostly in provinces of Murciamarker and Almeríamarker), together North Africa. Stands out the tetraclinis articulata or Sandarac (sabina mora o ciprés de Cartagena—literally Cartagena's cypress in Spanish) endemic to Moroccomarker, Algeriamarker, Tunisiamarker, Maltamarker, and Cartagena, growing at relatively low altitudes in a hot, dry subtropical Mediterranean climate.Some species are seriously endangered like the siempreviva de Cartagena (Limonium carthaginense), the rabogato del Mar Menor (Sideritis marmironensis), the Zamarrilla de Cartagena (Teucrium carthaginense), the manzanilla de escombreras (Anthemis Chrysantha), the garbancillo de Tallante (Stragalus nitidiflorus) and the jara de Cartagena (Cistus heterophyllus carthaginensis).


Coral reefs in Cartagena
Between the animal species it is necessary to emphasize some threatened or endangered ones like the peregrine falcon, the Eurasian eagle-owl, the golden eagle and the Bonelli's eagle, the Spur-thighed Tortoise, the Greater Horseshoe Bat and, mainly, the Spanish toothcarp, an endemic fish from south-eastern Spain. In addition, the presence of the common chameleon (the only chameleon in Europe) has been documented for about 30 years, not being clear if it is a native or introduced species. Besides the previous ones, there are also present the greater flamingo, the red fox, the European rabbit, the European badger, the Beech marten, the common genet, the wildcat and the wild boar.

Protected areas

  • Mar Menor, a salty lagoon separated from the Mediterranean seamarker by a sand bar 22 km in length and with a variable width from 100 to 1200m. It has a surface area of nearly 170 km², a coastal length of 70 km, and warm and clear water with relatively high salinity, which does not exceed 7m in depth.
Natural Park of Calblanque.
It belongs to four municipalities including Cartagena. In 1994 it was included on the list of the Ramsar Convention (nº706) for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands. It is also a one of the Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI) by the United Nations.Its five volcanic islands (Perdiguera, Mayor or del Barón, del Ciervo, Redonda and del Sujeto) just like the Carmolí and San Ginés mountains, the Hita and Amoladora beaches, the Lo Poyo salt marsh and the salt mines of Marchamalo are protected as well.


Ancient history

The Roman Theatre of Carthago Nova, Cartagena.
The town was originally named Mastia. Possessing one of the best harbors in the Western Mediterranean, it was re-founded by the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal in 228 BC as Carthago Nova (New Carthage), for the purpose of serving as a stepping-off point for the conquest of Spainmarker. The Roman general Scipio Africanus conquered it in 209 BC. Julius Caesar gave the town Latin Rights, and Octavian renamed it in his honor as the colony Colonia Iulia Victrix N.C.

Molino del Campo de Cartagena
In 298 Diocletian constituted a new Roman province in Hispania called Carthaginensis and settled the capital in this city. It remained important until it was destroyed by the Vandals in AD 435. During the Roman period, it was the site of major silver mines, yielding revenue of 25,000 drachmae daily. It was known also for the production of garum, a fermented fish sauce, and for esparto grass.

Modern history

Cartagena was ruled, after Roman sovereignty, successively by the Vandals (409-425), Visigoths (425-550 and 624-714), Byzantines (551-624), Umayyads (714-756), Caliphate of Córdoba (756-1031), Taifa of Denia (1031-1076), Taifa of Zaragoza (1076-1081), Taifa of Tortosa (1081-1092), Almoravids (1092-1145), Almohads (1145-1229) and Taifa of Murcia (1229-1245) before Aragonesemarker conquest in 1245. At the moment Cartagena comprises part of the autonomous community of the Region of Murcia, and is the seat of the Regional Assembly (Murcia’s parliament).

Panoramic view of Cartagena.


Cartagena has 211,286 inhabitants (INE 2007) making it the 24th Spanish municipality by population (6th among the non-capitals). 182,021 people live in the urban area and 39,840 in the several satellite quarters.According to the official population data of the INE, 12.75% of the population of the municipality had a foreign nationality as of 2007.Its metropolitan area includes the municipalities of La Uniónmarker, Fuente Álamo de Murciamarker, Los Alcázaresmarker, San Javier, Torre Pachecomarker and San Pedro del Pinatar, and have a sum of 332,035 inhabitants.

Tourism in Cartagena

Cartagena's City Hall
Thanks to its strategic position on the Mediterranean, Cartagena has been inhabited by many different cultures which have left their mark on its rich cultural heritage during a glorious and turbulent history.The “Cartagena, Port of Cultures” initiative was created to allow visitors to enjoy a wide range of activities and visits, discovering the cultural wealth and rich history of the city. It’s one of the several projects to energize the tourist possibilities of this potential major cultural destination, frequently overshadowed by the mass-tourism due to the proximity of several holiday resorts, and the refinery and the industrial development which yielded a bad reputation to the city because of pollution, now fortunately eradicated.

Archaeological sites

Roman Ruins in Cartagena
Although there are some ruins from the Carthaginian ages, like the remains of the Punic rampart (built in 227 B.C. with the foundation of the city), most of its oldest monuments date from the ages of the Roman Empire when Cartagena flourished.Among its numerous Roman remains stands out the recently restored Roman theatre of Carthago Nova that is one of the landmarks of the city. Its building works started at the end of the I Century B.C. The Roman Theater museum was officially opened for the first time recently.Other roman remains could be found on several buildings and centres for interpretation, including the Roman colonnade, the House of Fortune, the Decumanus and the Augusteum.The Torre Ciega was built by the Romans for burials rights, and it formed part of the Necropolis.
Santa Elena Tower
The Roman Amphitheatre (I century A.D.) lies where the now abandoned Bullring was built, but only some of the surrounding walls and part of the rooms under the stands are still visible.Besides the Roman heritage, the archaeological sights include the remains of the Santa María la Vieja Cathedral irreversibly destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. It dates from the end of the XIII century. A decorated floor of a Roman house of the I century B.C. can be found in the crypt.Also a Byzantine rampart can be found, closer the Roman theater and the Cathedral.The Concepción Castle (now Centre for Interpretation of the History of Cartagena) was reconstructed in the XIII century using big structures from the Amphitheater.Apart from the Roman Theater museum there are two important archaeological museums as well, including the Municipal Archaeological museum and the also recently opened Arqua (National Museum of Maritime Archaeology).

Baroque and Neo-classical buildings

The Campus Muralla del Mar an old military hospital was one of the first works carried out after the transformation of the city into the main Spanish naval base in the Mediterranean, and is now the seat of the Polytechnic University. In the vicinity there is the Autopsy theater which is where anatomy classes used to be given. The touristic rehabilitation offers the patrimonial interpretation of the nearby buildings at the time of its construction.
The Gran Hotel
These buildings prove the big military importance of Cartagena. Other Several baroque or neo-classical buildings of military origin include the Charles III rampart, the Arsenal, the Midshipman's Barracks (academy and naval barracks), the Naval Headquarter Palace (built in 1740 and subsequently reformed) and the Artillery Headquarters which also houses the Military Museum.There are many baroque or neo-classical Churches in Cartagena that worth a visit, including the El Carmen church, Santo Domingo church and Santa Maria de Gracia church.The Molina House with an austere appearance houses the Centre of Arts and Craft.

Modernist and eclectic buildings

It's surprising the great amount of art nouveau buildings from early 20th century, when the Bourgeoisie settled down in the city due to the growth of the local mining industry.Stand out the beautiful City Hall, the Grand Hotel, the Casino (all of them among the city's landmarks). The Railway Station has some outstanding iron doors and columns on the façade, and inside can still be seen the original ticket office, doorframe, ceiling and the lamps.Other modernist or eclectic houses include the Clares House, the Aguirre Palace (which houses the Regional Museum of Modern Art), the Cervantes House (relatively big in comparison with other modernist buildings), the Llagostera House, the Pedreño Palace, the Dorda House, the Zapata House and the Urban Expansion Company House.Several charming lively streets cover this area, like Calle Mayor (High street), the major pedestrian and commercial street of the city, full of boutiques and bars with typical "tapas", the Carmen Street, the Puertas de Murcia street and many more.The Caridad church is one of the most important churches of Cartagena since it's the temple of the patron saint of Cartagena. The interior is dominated by a dome, similar to the Roman pantheon of Agrippa. There are also several outstanding sculptures by the famous murcian sculptor Francisco Salzillo and his school.

Contemporary route

The Civil War shelter-museum lies on the galleries excavated out the Concepción hill (where is the Castle) to serve as air-raid shelters during the Spanish Civil War.Many naval and military attractions belong to this route like the Naval Museum and the world-famous Peral Submarine invented by Isaac Peral (born in Cartagena) that was launched in 1888 as one of the first U-Boats ever. It's shown on the Cartagena's promenade.The Monument to the Heroes of Santiago de Cuba and Cavite (1923) is a war memorial erected in honour of the Spanish sailors who died in combat with the US Navy in waters off Cavitemarker and Santiagomarker off the Philippinemarker and Cubanmarker coasts.

Other attractions include the Lift-Gangway near the former Bullring and the Concepcion hill, the Regional Assembly (the Parliament of the Region of Murcia) which façade has architectural influences of the Renaissance while maintaining a modernist air (typical in the Levant), and the Carmen Conde-Antonio Moliner museum that reconstructs the atmosphere in which these poets from Cartagena created part of their important works.

Tourist transport

Tourist Catamaran covers the Port showing the defense system and the port activity. It's possible to stop at the Christmast fortress that is a lighthouse and the Centre for Interpretation of the Defensive Architecture of Cartagena.Tourist bus covers a panoramic route which in addition takes passengers to the key sites of their tourist trip.


Although the city itself is only Port, its ample municipal extension includes part of La Manga del Mar Menormarker (the other part belonging to the municipality of San Javier), part of the Mar Menor, and part of the murcian mediterranean coast. Cartagena holds the record of the Spanish town with more beaches certified with the “Q for Quality” by the ICTE (Instituto para la Calidad Turística Española), with a total of ten, which are: Cala Cortina, Islas Menores, playa Honda beach, Mar de Cristal, Cala del Pino, Cavanna beach, Barco Perdido beach, el Galúa beach, Levante beach and La Gola beach.The wild and beautiful El Portús beach is also near the Cartagena’s municipal district.

El Portus nude beach, in Cartagena


  • Cartagena's Holy Week, declared of international touristic interest
  • Carthaginians and Romans, declared of national touristic interest. The main festivities of the city, a colourful Carthaginian and Roman parade full of events that reminds the famous Punic Wars and the conquest of the city by both Empires.

See also


  1. Hammond, N.G.L. & Scullard, H.H. (Eds.) (1970). The Oxford Classical Dictionary (p. 209). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-869117-3.

External links

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