16 favorite locations in Cartagena, Spain

This is your list of gems for a stay in Cartagena in the south of Spain. We tried and tested all the locations, and recommend you to see for yourself. Our favorite locations in Cartagena coming up!

Hiking around Cartagena

We spent four months moored in the marina Puerto de Cartagena over winter 2022/2023 and what a beautiful and exciting gem of a city this is! Apart from the cruise ships that come in every other day, taking advantage of the cruise ship dock being literally in the centre of the city, Cartagena is not a very touristy place. As there are no large beaches, you won’t find all the usual monstrous hotels lining the coast. There is one small beach though, just 2,5 km from the harbour. It has the clearest water, is very protected and is only used by locals.

But let’s get to it. From roman ruins to third-wave coffee shops, these are some of our favourite locations in Cartagena, Spain. Enjoy!

Cartagena favourite spots

La Fortaleza

This is the place for croquettes (croquétas). Sailing along the Spanish and Portuguese coast lines, we have tried our share of croquetas, and these are without a doubt the best. “Croqueta Mama” opens and closes her shop more or less as she pleases so don’t rely too much on the opening hours. Normally though, the small restaurant opens evenings at eight o’clock, where people are waiting outside to squeeze in for a table or to pick up their ordered croquétas in a box. There are three different croquétas on the menu every day, and they are all to die for. If you come on a day where the carrot/turmeric version is available, go for it!

El Cantón

A tapas bar at the end of the small calle where you had the croquettes. They have tables outside in a very narrow city terrasse, and a few tables inside. But be sure to book; they’re often full.


Great tapas and wine bar for pre-dinner drinks. We ended up spending the entire evening there twice, though. Check out their wine list, and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations.

La Uva Jumillana

Go there for the incredible vibe, cheap tapas and vermouth (vermú) on tap. This is where both locals and tourists come for a pre-dinner drink and tapa, and the menu reflects this: Your choice of a tapa plus your choice of a drink only sets you back 3,20 euro. The dishes are simple, but La Uva share their menu with the next door restaurant La Fuente so you actually end up with quite a lot of choices.

Algameca Chica

Surrounding mountains – perfect for hikes

Cartagena is a natural harbour. In Roman times, the town was built on five hilltops that were connected by a great city wall. Only land-connected to the east, a mountaneous entrance protected the harbour and the city to the south, and you can still find remnants of old fortifications on mountain tops along the coast. Most fortifications have been rebuilt and modified over time. But the mountains are so beautiful and many of the trails are really well signposted. We did a lot of hikes during our time in Cartagena, and we’ve covered some of the best routes in another post – see https://therookiesailors.com/top-five-hiking-routes-in-southeast-spain/

Castillo de San Julián

This castillo is located on the mountain that forms the east side of the harbour entrance. This means that you can walk up there and have amazing views of the city and the entire bay. The Castillo de San Julián is well-preserved but hasn’t been turned into anything tourist-friendly. It has been modified and used in several periods in time, but was effectively put out of use in the 1970’s.

Plaza de San Fransisco

It’s a beautiful plaza centrally located. Go there for evening drinks, hanging out or when there’s something to celebrate in the city. This place will be packed. Amazing giant mulberry fig trees, surrounded by beautiful old buildings. But if you look closer, you’ll see that a lot of the buildings are actually nothing but facades. Because when they started discovering all of these Roman ruins that make Cartagena really special, new building projects in the city came to a halt, and the city suffers from it. If you wish to build something in the city, the area needs to be excavated first. And this can take time and quite a bit of money. But owners are obliged to maintain facades – which is however not always being done properly.

El Rincón del Perlita

This small place is located at the Plaza de San Fransisco. It kind of reminded us of the party kiosks that we know from our time in Hamburg – really just a humble kiosk, but with cheap beer and great atmosphere. El Rincón del Perlita does have great beer though. And you can walk in and just grab what you like from the fridge and take it to one of the tables outside. If you’re in search for even better beer and can make do with a more modern looking, brighter bar, go to Mastia Craft Beer at the other end of the plaza. Don’t go to the vermutería on the corner – they have a great location, but nothing more than that.

Cala de Cortina; the local beach

Algameca Chica and Casa La Vaska

The entire area is kind of a free-spirited community, with self-built houses, balconies and pathways. It is really very charming, with huts and docks all along the small river bay, where fishermen tie their boats up. Casa La Vaska is a hidden gem of a restaurant, where you can pre-book the fixed menu for 20 euro per person. No website, no nothing, just a phone number and a small family-run place. The food is absolutely delicious, and you’ll definitely not leave hungry!

Bonus info! Take the scenic route to get there: Go to the entrance of the naval ship yard Navantia, and follow the road that takes you left around the hill. Before long, you’ll see a path on your right that says no entry. Enter here, everybody does it. Follow the path, keep left at the fork, all the way until you reach a crossroad. On the (Google) map, it says Subida al Castillo de Galeras. Here you leave the road, climb up a few rocks on your right, and soon you’ll find the small path that takes you along the side of the mountain, with stunning views of the sea and the cliffs. On your way back, you can walk along the dried out river bed back to your starting point.

Casa del Pescador

Being moored at the marina, we were really close to the fishing harbour just around the corner. A few spots are available for lunch and they of course serve freshly caught fish. Among these is the Casa del Pescador. While the interior looks a bit like a cafeteria, the food and the attention from staff is impeccable.

Calistenia workout area

If you’re in town for more than a day or two, you might want to work out a bit. If hiking is not your thing, we recommend this little training area, right next to the harbour, right of the roundabout Plaza de la Isla. Take advantage of the weather and do your workout outside.

Cala de Cortina

This is the only nearby beach, and it is perfect! Is has crystal clear water and is surrounded by cliffs and rocks, which makes the place perfect for snorkeling or spearfishing. You can do that right off the beach, just go to the part of the beach that is the furthest away from the parking lot. The depth drop quickly to 6-7 meters and you’ll see lots of fish right away.
If you get hungry, there’s a small restaurant on the beach.

Yacht Port Cartagena

Mercado de Santa Florentina

Every Spanish city of a certain size have an indoor mercado municipal, usually open every day from 9-14 except Sundays. Cartagena is no different. You’ll find a plethory of indoor stalls offering fresh fish and seafood as well as meat, cheese, fruits and vegetables. Especially fruits, vegetables and olives come at a bargain. In one end of the traditional market building, tucked away behind food stalls, you’ll find a small bar and cafeteria. Sit down at one of the few tables, mingle with the locals while you enjoy a coffee or a vermouth.

Coffee bars

We’re a bit nerdy when it comes to coffee, so here’s three coffee recommendations for Cartagena:

Pérez Campos – small, hole-in-the-wall coffee shop and roastery. Go there for a take-away coffee, but especially for their beans. The Ethiopian beans are an exceptional value for money find, if you like light roasted, freshly tasting coffee.
Mundo Novo Coffee Shop – here’s your third-wave coffee shop in Cartagena. All Scandinavian looking, they only do light roasted beans, and they are really good at it. The price tag is a bit higher though.
CaféLab – part of a small chain of modern coffee shops, the CaféLab is a great spot for a sit-down coffee and a banana bread. Their beans are just a little bit too dark, but the coffee is good, for sure.

Radio Bar

A good rockbar can be hard to come by in the south of Spain. But this is definitely one. The vibe, the music, the beer, the people – it’s just all very welcoming and very good. You’ll find it in a small side street in the centre of Cartagena.

Teatro Romano de Cartagena

Not to miss when you’re visiting Cartagena. The ruins of the old Roman theatre (built in the 1st century BC) weren’t even discovered until the 1980’s where they were found during a demolition project. Since then, the theatre has been excavated, restored and partly reconstructed, and it’s really something to experience. See if you can get into the old cathedral as well, it was added in the 13th century, and is only open to the public a few days a month, as it is still being restored. You can see the theater for free from the top, or you can pay a few euro to see the museum, which is quite cleverly built with an entrance a the Plaza Mayor, passing through a series of inter-linking levels, before you end up almost on the stage of the theater.

While you’re at it, go further up the hill to Castillo de la Concepción. No need to enter the museum on top, just come for the views and maybe to spot the peacocks that live here.

Amfiteatro Romano de Cartagena

That’s it! Well, a lot more could be added to the list, but this is it for now. We hope that we’ve inspired you and that if you go to Cartagena, you’ll enjoy these locations as much as we did.

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