Things to Do in Cartagena
Built between the 5th and 1st centuries BC, Cartagena’s Roman Theater wasn’t discovered during modern times until 1988, following which a massive restoration took place. Come 2008, the newly discovered theater was opened to the public along with a museum, once again inviting visitors into a grand space that, during Roman times, welcomed some 6,000 spectators.
The theater is situated on a vista-rich city hillside, from which the stadium seating was carved out of the actual rock below. During a visit, you can explore the different corners of this conserved space, as well as check out the museum, which offers an in-depth overview of the archeological remains along with informative panels explaining the restoration (all in both English and Spanish).
To soak in the essence of Cartagena, plan to take a stroll down its Calle Mayor, or Main Street. The pedestrian-only avenue is the place to go to appreciate the city’s architecture, go shopping, or even to sit at a restaurant’s outdoor terrace as you watch the world go by.
Just steps away from the port and sea, the street begins at the grand, palm tree-lined Plaza de Ayuntamiento, or Town Hall Square, home to none other than the giant palace that is Town Hall itself. From there, travel past (or stop at) the Roman Theater Museum and onto Calle Mayor with its marble-tiled promenade. Along the way, you’ll walk by noteworthy architecture such as Art Nouveau masterpieces Casino de Cartagena, a fancy 19th-century social club, and Cervantes House (not to be confused by the famous author; this building was named after a wealthy businessman).
Fans of distant history will relish in discovering Cartagena’s Punic Wall, which dates back to the 3rd century BC. To explore its remains, head to the Punic Wall Interpretation Center, where you can not only see a portion of the salvaged structure (which is protected within the center) but also learn about its storied past.
The wall, of which 30 meters have been excavated, served as a city-surrounding defensive fortification built by the Carthaginians. The goal was to protect against Roman attack during the Second Punic War (though it ultimately failed). Apart from viewing the wall, you can also get up close to a later crypt, and learn more about it all via the center’s informative video and display boards. While the museum and archeological remains are rather small in size, the history is big, making it an intriguing visit for those keen to learn more about these ancient times.