Attractions, especially those of an historical nature, are found throughout Cartagena City, its port and in the surrounding areas. Once an important Roman city, remnants of the Roman's architecture is evident in many of the city's historical landmarks, especially the spectacular Roman Theatre Museum. Another important attribute of the city for thousands of years is its cargo port. When exploring the surrounding natural parks and hiking trails, you will at times come across old gun batteries which were strategically placed to defend the port and city. Venturing further afield, visitors can enjoy the delights of La Manga and the Mar Menor lagoon.
Probably the most visited attraction in Cartagena is the Roman Amphitheatre and its museum. Buried for nearly 2,000 years, the amphitheatre was only discovered in the late 1980's. The amphitheatre and various levels of the museum can be explored at leisure or as part of a guided tour group. Visitors on a day trip to the city or cruise ship passengers looking for unique gifts to take home should definitely visit the Regional Artisan Centre. It lies in the heart of the city's old quarter and sells a wonderful range of local hand crafted arts & crafts. Also great if you don't have much time in the city, is the Cartagena Tourist Boat that visits many popular attractions.
As well as its historical importance, Cartagena has a rich military history and to this day is still home to one of the country's naval ports. The Cartagena Naval Museum showcases this history with exhibits both indoors and in its outdoor pavilion. Indoors there are various themed areas and exhibits with information in both Spanish and English. Young visitors will really enjoy the pavilion area where they can explore the Isaac Pearl submarine and other naval vessels. The coastal slopes around Cartagena are dotted with the remains of old fortresses and gun batteries. One of the most well preserved is the Portman Guns (Batería de Las Cenizas). There is no easy way to get to these huge cannons so you need to be up for a 40 minute hike to reach them.
The closest noteworthy beach to the city is Cala Cortina. It's about 20 minutes drive from the city centre and consists of two swimming coves. There are not many beach facilities during the low season but these do improve in summer. Backing the larger cove is Mares Bravas Restaurant. Fresh fish and seafood is their speciality and there's a lovely outdoor terrace with sea views. A slightly longer drive takes you to the numerous beaches and entertainment venues of La Manga and the Mar Menor. Whereas Cartagena's attractions are more historical, La Manga and the Mar Menor are all about fun in the sun. Much of the fun stuff takes place along the La Manga Strip.
This strip of land separates the Mediterranean sea from the Mar Menor lagoon and is lined with beaches, hotels and entertainment venues. The Mar Menor is also lined with beaches, and at its northernmost point are therapeutic mud baths. Slightly inland is the fantastic La Manga Club that has earned the reputation as Europe's largest sports and leisure resort. Close to the coastal area of the resort is Calblanque Regional Park. Here you can enjoy a variety of outdoor pursuits such as hiking and horse riding. To the west of Cartagena is Puerto de Mazarrón. All sorts of water sports and activities are on offer, including island snorkelling and thrilling scuba diving.