Today I’m starting a multi-part series documenting some of the places we visited during our September 2017 Western Mediterranean cruise, and I’m starting off with an unexpected favorite: Cartagena, Spain!
My least favorite part about vacation is probably the same as anyone else’s: coming home. There are the parts about coming home that are good: mostly that I get to see my puppy girls again, because I miss them so much when we are away! But I hate that part where in the weeks and months after the vacation, the memories start to fade. Living in the moment is important, but I want to make it a habit to start documenting more in the moment, not just with photos, but with videos and journaling. I hope that this series about our recent European cruise will be a first step in this process, and that today’s post in particular will also serve as a guide to Cartagena, Spain for those who have yet to travel to this stunning city!
Today I want to talk about a city we visited on our cruise which was not just beautiful in every way that a European city can be, but rich in a surprising depth of history. Cartagena, Spain was the final stop on our two week dream Mediterranean cruise last month. While the last port usually holds a lot of sorrow as it means our trip is almost finished, it was hard to feel melancholy in such a place.
In my usual type A fashion, I extensively researched the port in advance, and had picked out the destinations we would be visiting in town and already purchased and printed tickets at home. (Be prepared, am I right?) Our first visit was the Roman Theater, originally built between the fifth and first century BC. For those who have visited Pompeii, this is like a miniature version of the theater there. It is a style that is replicated all over the Roman Empire, and this one did not disappoint. When you visited the Roman Theater here in Cartagena, be sure to make the long trek up to the upper levels. The view is outstanding, with are some great photo ops!
Our next stop was La Casa de Fortuna, a home from a wealthy aristocratic family dating back to the first century AD. This was a fascinating little set of ruins, as it still has enough structure left where you can really visualize what it would have looked like in that time period. So much of the gorgeous tile is preserved, including the words “Fortuna Propitia” on the floor in the hallway, which gives the house its name. Be sure to visit earlier in the day if you plan to stop here, as it often closes early at 2:30pm.
It’s crazy to think that an ancient family walked and lived and ate in these halls. How cool is that?
Next up we headed down the street to visit the Punic Wall Interpretation Center. This was the highlight of the day in my opinion. The history that surrounds this wall is truly remarkable! The Punic Wall was a third century Carthaginian creation that encompassed the city. The architecture is really fascinating to see: they technically built this barricade from two separate walls, with barracks for soldiers and stalls for horses in between. In this way, enemies could not tell how large of a force they would be dealing with.
Along with a 30 meter section of wall that was uncovered, the San José crypt was also discovered, which holds remains from the hermitage of San José from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Sometimes you walk into a place and you feel transported. For me, this was a place like that. It was as if I could feel the presence of all these old souls: I felt as if I was suddenly carried back to the sixteenth century.
Our last “tourist” spot was Castillo de la Concepción. This castle allows you a beautiful panoramic view of Cartagena, which is truly breathtaking. Built some time during the thirteenth or fourteenth century, this castle is also featured on the shield of the city. If you are ready for a hike, the walk up is absolutely beautiful. If not, there is also a lift that tickets can be purchased for.
Overall, Cartagena was an unexpected surprise for us. We absolutely loved how much history there is around every corner (and the shopping isn’t half bad either!). If Cartagena sounds like a place you’d like to visit too, be sure to book your tickets for the tourist attractions in advance, in order to avoid waiting in long lines everywhere. You can buy tickets here. And if you’re planning any vacations soon, be sure to pick up my favorite must have travel products below! (I literally wouldn’t go anywhere without my Febreeze Fabric Refresher spray!)