An important naval seaport due to the well protected harbor, Cartagena also offers beautiful Art Nouveau buildings. You’ll also find impressive Roman ruins. The combination makes for a lovely architectural walking tour.
Sometimes on longer cruises, Alan and I prefer to skip cruise excursions. Too many ports filled with history, cathedrals and museums burns us out. Taking a break to explore by ourselves is the solution.
During a Silversea Atlantic Crossing and Mediterranean cruise, that’s how we ended up creating a Cartagena, Spain walking tour that best suited us. With no goal of what to do and see, we simply strolled Cartagena’s lovely streets until a building or site attracted our attention—of course we had already read the daily program and Cartagena port information provided by Silversea.
Take our do-it-yourself Cartagena, Spain walking tour
The beauty of a do-it-yourself cruise excursion is starting out when we choose—no rushing out the cabin door at eight in the morning. So after a leisurely breakfast, Alan and I begin our free Cartagena walking tour.
With only two ships in port, Silver Spirit, and a larger Crystal ship, the marble paved streets of Cartagena aren’t too crowded with cruise tourists, yet. The streets gleam from the thousands of footsteps over hundreds of years that have polished the marble. Although we can turn right from Calle Real, pay a fee and enter the Roman coliseum ruins—the second largest on the Iberian Peninsula—Alan and I keep on walking.
Colorful art deco buildings line Cartagena’s marbled avenues filled with shops, cafés and other tourists. The main street, Calle Mayor, is pedestrian-only. The elegant promenade offers visitors a chance to stretch their legs in a beautiful setting.
Slipping down a side street, Alan and I escape into a quieter part of the city. Soon, we’re nodding to shopkeepers standing in doorways or listening to conversations in Spanish wafting through open windows.
Discovering ancient ruins in Cartagena, Spain
And then this walking tour of Cartagena takes an historical turn. Actually, it’s a turn up a flight of stairs. At the top, we discover an outdoor museum of ruins that are still undergoing excavation. The city dates back to 227 BC when a Carthaginian general, Hasdrubal the Fair, founded New Carthage.
Archaeological sites scattered about Cartagena offer glimpses of life in Roman times not to mention evidence of invaders like the Vandals, Visigoths and eventually Arabs. Next time, we’ll include the Roman amphitheater and the Punic wall on our DIY walking tour.
How to explore Cartagena in-depth
We chose a cursory look but if you prefer an in-depth exploration, consider these Cartagena guided tours:
- Art Nouveau Architecture Walking Tour
- Discover Cartagena by Bike
- Half-Day Roman Walking Tour
- Enjoy a 3-Hour Gourmet Tapas Tour
A port worth admiring
After exploring the city’s charms, we walk back down the hill, cross a busy street, then enjoy a walk along the quiet path that edges Pier Alfonso XII Cruise Terminal. Of course a seat on a bench to think about where we’ve been is part of our self-guided Cartagena walking tour. Stopping at one of the many tapas bars is another tasty option.
It’s an easy return to home aboard the Silver Spirit. On port-intensive cruises, Alan and I highly recommend taking a respite from the action for a do-it-yourself day on shore.
Tips for a DIY walking tour in Cartagena, Spain
When you visit Cartagena, a few tips will make your time even better.
- Bring a bottle of water from the ship or fill up your personal water bottle as it can be hot any time of year in Mediterranean climates.
- Wear a hat and sunscreen for protection from the strong sun—follow my skin cancer travel tips to protect your skin.
- Stop for tapas and a beer at Bodega La Fuente.
- Walk in the morning before the crowds build up.
Summer is a popular time to travel to Mediterranean cities. I recommend cruising in spring or fall for a less crowded—and more enjoyable—experience.
More cruise excursions in Spain to enjoy
Spain shore excursions offer something for everyone. From the mountaintop beauty of Montserrat to touring with faldo singers in Cadiz, discover some of our favorites: