For travelers who like a bit of culture on vacation, a Spanish holiday in Cartagena is worth considering. This port city in the province of Murcia is an eclectic mix of old and new. Evidence of its Carthaginian roots can be seen in some of its architecture, though its rule has long since passed.
In fact, the city has changed hands several times over the last few millenniums. As its name implies, it was founded by the Carthaginians. Specifically, it was General Hasdrubal the Fair who named the port "Qart Hadast," or "New City." He was lauded for his skill in obtaining the port in 230 B.C. However, Hasdrubal and the Carthaginians didn't hold it for long. By 209 B.C. it had fallen into Roman control. Since then, it has been influenced by other cultures. Today Cartagena's mix of cultural heritage makes it an attractive place for a Spanish holiday.
One noteworthy fact that visitors will not be able to miss: Cartagena is still surrounded by walls. It is a telltale sign that Cartagena was an important city. It is still home to a large naval station today. Forts stand throughout the city as a testimony to its place in Spanish history. Visitors who want to learn more about its naval heritage can visit the Museo Naval de Cartagena (Naval Museum). Though it's housed in a modern building, its contents speak of eras past. Visitors will find a complete history of the navy's activities in this port. Of special significance to locals is the room devoted to the life and career of Cartagena native Isaac Peral. A scientist and sailor, Peral invented the first submarine, which was launched in 1888. Peral's contributions to the history of the navy are noted even outside the museum. A number of streets and other sites were named after Peral.
History buffs will also enjoy the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology. Here, visitors will see artifacts recovered from under the sea around Murcia. It boasts the world's only collection of elephant tusks bearing Phoenician inscriptions. In addition to recovered artifacts, the museum holds models of ancient ships. The details of these antiques tell a story all their own and complement the history of Cartagena's seafaring past.
Visitors to the Municipal Archaeology Museum of Cartagena will find a detailed, chronological history of the city. It traces the city's roots from the Bronze Age right to the 19th century. The museum itself is a point of historical interest. It is located on the ancient Roman necropolis of San Anton.
Museums aside, visitors could spend days simply viewing ancient structures. The excavated Augusteum dates back to the first century A.D. It was used by the Romans for religious gatherings. Much mystery and lore surrounds the Augusteum, as well as speculation about more insidious uses. Tourists can also view artifacts like pottery, coins and building materials uncovered during the excavation process. The Roman Amphitheatre is a sight to behold. Once covered by a bull ring, the ancient structure has been unearthed and bears witness to the control of Cartagena by the Romans. Cartagena is also home to numerous cathedrals, castles and forts.
When visitors are bleary-eyed from the sights, they can relax on one of the many beaches along the coast. Between the balmy weather, the outstanding regional cuisine and the rich heritage of Cartagena, tourists can expect a well-rounded Spanish holiday.