Whether you’re approaching CARTAGENA from one of the numerous resorts along Mar Menor, inland from Murcia, or from Almería to the south, it’s not a pretty sight, even if the rusting mineworks that scar the landscape have their own austere appeal. It’s only when you reach the old part of town down by the port, with its narrow medieval streets, packed with bars and restaurants, that the city’s real character emerges.

Cartagena was Hannibal’s capital city on the Iberian peninsula, named after his Carthage in North Africa, and a strategic port and administrative centre for the Romans. International Nautical Week is celebrated here in June. In July, the Mar de Músicas festival presents some of the best in world music, and in November the city hosts both a nationally famous jazz festival and an International Festival of Nautical Cinema. The fiestas of Semana Santa are some of the most elaborate in Spain, with processions leaving from the church of Santa María de Gracia in the early hours of Good Friday morning.

The best way to get a feel of the city’s rich past is to stroll the streets: you’ll see a large number of modernista buildings. Most of these are the work of former Cartagenian and disciple of Gaudí, Victor Beltri (1865–1935). In particular, have a look at Casa Maestre in Plaza San Francisco; Casa Cervantes, c/Mayor 15; and the old Hotel Zapata, Plaza de España.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Spain features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Video: a 1 minute guide to Spain

Video: a 1 minute guide to Spain

From the Moorish marvels and flamenco heartland of Andalucía to Ibiza's bleached-sand beaches and hedonistic nightlife, Spain is a country you'll want to visit…

27 Jul 2017 • Colt St. George videocam Video
The 10 best summer festivals for escapism in 2017

The 10 best summer festivals for escapism in 2017

Festivals are a different beast in 2017. They used to be associated with drinking warm cider while watching crusty bands in your naffest clothes; now the best e…

07 Jun 2017 • David Hillier insert_drive_file Article
Why you should visit Palma in 2017

Why you should visit Palma in 2017

Forget package holidays: Palma is far more than just the gateway to Mallorca’s beach resorts. The Balearic capital is a dynamic city of stylish restaurants, c…

28 Feb 2017 • Helen Ochyra insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook