The Roman Forum District is one of the largest urban archaeological sites in Spain. Here you are invited to stroll along the ancient streets of Carthago Nova, to explore the different rooms of the thermal baths complex of the port, where one of the highlights is the entrance portico with its original flooring, to discover how banquets were held in the Roman Empire by visiting the Atrium building, with its high walls and pictorial decorations, and to immerse yourself in the mysterious cults to the Egyptian gods Isis and Serapis in their sanctuary. In short, to step into the ancient Roman city and learn about different aspects of its daily life.
**FROM JANUARY 11 SPEC IAL OPENING HOURS, ONLY WEEKENDS (SATURDAYS AND SUNDAYS) FROM 10 AM TO 5 PM**
High season (1st July to 15th September)
Every day of the week 10.00 to 20.00.
Mid-season (15th March to 30th June and 16th September to 1st November)
Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 to 19.00 (every day during Semana Santa or Easter Week).
Low season (2nd November to 14th March)
Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 to 17.30.
The Roman Forum district closes:
- On 1st and 6th January and 25th December.
- On 5th January and 24th and 31st December the centre closes during the afternoon.
*Opening hours are subject to modification: please consult before planning visits.
** Groups with prior bookings will be given priority on admission.
General: 5.00 €
Reduced: 4.00 €
*Online bookings, under 12s, students up to 25 years old, Carné Joven and Carné Joven + holders, unemployed, pensioners, retirees, disabled, large families (2 or more adults + 2 or more children aged under 12), “familia numerosa” card holders and groups of 20 or more.
- Children aged under 3.
- Official tourist guides.
- Members of the Club Cartagena Puerto de Culturas (except activities).
*To benefit from the reduced admission fee it is necessary to show current valid documentation.
Approximate duration: 1 hour
- High season
11.30, 13.00, 17.00 and 18.30
11.00, 13.00 and 17.30
- Low season
Tuesday to Friday 11.00 and 13.00
Saturday and Sunday 11.00, 13.00 and 16.00
*These timetables are subject to modification: please consult before planning visits
Rules for Guided Tours (PDF - 422,33 KB)
Cartagena has a Plan is the new way to visit the city during more than one day as a couple or as a family. A getaway that includes accommodation in a hotel, hostel, tourist apartments, camping and rural houses along with tickets to museums of Cartagena Puerto de Culturas.Three, four, five-star and family plans ranging from 75 euros to 199. A perfect plan to discover all the treasures of Cartagena which the tourist will have to choose.
Virtual reality will allow you to walk through the real scenes of the old Carthago Nova. The Roman remains will come to life before your eyes, being able to see what the buildings were like and see what they were used for: how the Romans relaxed in the thermal baths, enjoyed a banquet or worshiped their gods.
With the help of an audio guide, explore the centre and history of Cartagena at your own pace, visiting the two main archaeological sites of the city, the Museum of the Roman Theatre and the Roman Forum District, as well as enjoying the beautiful examples of modernism or the military past.
Two nights for two people at the 3-star hotel Los Habaneros and two passes for two people "Cartagena Romana" that includes visits to the Panoramic Elevator, Castillo de la Concepción, Museum of the Roman Theater and the Roman Forum Quarter. Price 75 euros .
Two nights for two people at the 3-star NH Campo de Cartagena hotel and two passes for two "Cartagena Romana" that includes visits to the Panoramic Elevator, Castillo de la Concepción, Museum of the Roman Theater and the Roman Forum Quarter. Price 75 euros .
Two nights for two people at the 3-star Manolo hotel and two passes for two people "Cartagena Romana" that includes visits to the Panoramic Elevator, Castillo de la Concepción, Museum of the Roman Theater and the Roman Forum Quarter. Price 75 euros .
Two nights for two people at the NH Cartagena 4-star hotel and two passes for two people "Complete Cartagena". Includes visits to the Punic Wall, Panoramic Elevator, Concepción Castle, Augusteum, Roman Theater Museum, Casa de la Fortuna, Roman Forum Quarter, Christmas Fort and Civil War Refuge Museum. In addition to the tour by Bus and Tourist Boat. Price 120 euros .
Two nights for two people at the 4-star Sercotel Alfonso XIII hotel and two passes for two people "Complete Cartagena". Includes visits to the Punic Wall, Panoramic Elevator, Concepción Castle, Augusteum, Roman Theater Museum, Casa de la Fortuna, Roman Forum Quarter, Christmas Fort and Civil War Refuge Museum. In addition to the tour by Bus and Tourist Boat. Price 120 euros .
Two nights for two people at the 4-star Hotel & Spa Entremares and two passes for two people "Complete Cartagena". Includes visits to the Punic Wall, Panoramic Elevator, Concepción Castle, Augusteum, Roman Theater Museum, Casa de la Fortuna, Roman Forum Quarter, Christmas Fort and Civil War Refuge Museum. In addition to the tour by Bus and Tourist Boat. Price 135 euros .
Two nights for two people at the 5-star La Manga Príncipe Felipe hotel and two passes for two people "Exclusive Cartagena with route with audio guide through the monumental city". Includes visits to the Museum of the Roman Theater, the Roman Forum Quarter and the Tourist Boat. Price 175 euros .
Two nights for 4 people in tourist apartments Cartagena Spain, in the historic center of the city and a 4-person "Cartagena family" pass. Includes visits to the Panoramic Elevator, Castillo de la Concepción, Foro neighborhood with virtual reality, Roman Theater Museum and Tourist Boat. Price 120 euros .
Two nights for 4 people in a family room at the Loop INN Hostel Cartagena, in the historic center of the city and a "Cartagena family" pass for 4 people. Includes visits to the Panoramic Elevator, Castillo de la Concepción, Foro neighborhood with virtual reality, Roman Theater Museum and Tourist Boat. Price 160 euros .
Two nights for 4 people in a family room at the SUB-Up Hostel in Cabo de Palos and a subscription for 4 people "Cartagena as a family". Includes visits to the Panoramic Elevator, Castillo de la Concepción, Foro neighborhood with virtual reality, Roman Theater Museum and Tourist Boat. Price 170 euros .
Two nights for 4 people in a rural house in the La Nieta del Gasero complex and a "Cartagena family" pass for 4 people. Includes visits to the Panoramic Elevator, Castillo de la Concepción, Foro neighborhood with virtual reality, Roman Theater Museum and Tourist Boat. Price 199 euros .
Two nights for 4 people in a wooden bungalow at Camping Villas Caravanig and a "Cartagena family" pass for 4 people. Includes visits to the Panoramic Elevator, Castillo de la Concepción, Foro neighborhood with virtual reality, Roman Theater Museum and Tourist Boat. Price 149 euros .
Two nights for two people at the Cartagena Spain Luxury Apartments and two passes for two people "Complete Cartagena". Includes visits to the Punic Wall, Panoramic Elevator, Concepción Castle, Augusteum, Roman Theater Museum, Casa de la Fortuna, Roman Forum Quarter, Christmas Fort and Civil War Refuge Museum. In addition to the tour by Bus and Tourist Boat. Price 120 euros.
Tourism for all is one of the main objectives of Cartagena Puerto de Culturas. We are working to ensure access for as many visitors as possible. At present, the Roman Forum District offers the following facilities for visitors with special needs:
- Stair lifts are available.
- Adapted toilets.
- Audio-visual with sub-titles (in both Spanish and English) for people with hearing disabilities.
- Reduced rate for those with disabilities, presenting official proof at the box office.
- Guide dog access is allowed with the corresponding accreditation.
Enjoy your visit with the audio guides provided at the Roman Forum District: courtesy of new technology you can visit freely and comfortably at your own pace. The audio guide is available in 5 languages - Spanish, English, French, German and Russian - and costs 2.50 euros.
Virtual reality app
Walk through the neighbourhood of the Roman Forum using a virtual reality app with 360-degree views of the buildings in which scenes of everyday life are included, such as a banquet in the building of the Atrium, a bath in the cold room of the baths or a ritual being performed at the shrine to Isis. This visit allows you to really immerse yourself in ancient Carthago Nova and is available on rented tablets in 7 languages: Spanish, English, French, German, Russian, Portuguese and Greek. Price 5.50 euros.
After Qart Hadast was conquered by General Publius Cornelius Scipio in 209 BC, the city was renamed Carthago Nova. At first it was a “civitas stipendiaria”, meaning that it was subject to the payment of taxes to the Roman State, but its natural wealth – esparto grass, fishing, silver and lead mines - and its strategic location in the western Mediterranean soon led to it becoming one of the most important trading posts of the Roman Empire.
The granting of colonial status (Cologne Urbs Iulia Nova Carthago) in the year 54 BC marked the beginning of an intense process of urban development which culminated in the reign of Augustus (63 BC to 14 AD). This was when the new elites, made rich by trade and mining, brought about important developments within the city, with a new urban street network in which the streets formed blocks, or “insulae”. In this period some of the most important buildings of the 1st century appeared, the ultimate goal of the transformation being to design a city in the image and likeness of the capital of the empire.
At the end of the second century AD there was a demographic and economic decline in the city which affected all private and public buildings, modifying and reducing the urban area to the area around the port. It was here that a new urban renewal took place from the 4th century AD.
The Roman Forum district
The Molinete hill (arx Hasdrubalis) had already been laid out on terraces occupied by public and private buildings since the 2nd century BC. At the top were the walls defending the city and a temple, and with the urban renewal of the 1st century BC emblematic buildings for public life were erected at the foot of the hill, such as the forum, with its dynastic temple and the “curia” or local senate.
Between the port and the forum were several rectangular blocks, and in two of them what is now known as the Roman Forum District was built. This included a thermal bath complex with a porticoed courtyard, the Atrium building for the holding of celebration of religious feasts and the Sanctuary of Isis. These buildings may have been administered by one or more semi-public corporations. The squares and blocks of the Molinete were defined by the “decumani” (streets running from east to west) and “cardines” (north-south streets).
The thermal baths of the port
This is a thermal bath complex accessed via a substantial porticoed courtyard, or peristyle, with a central open-air space paved with bricks arranged in a herringbone fashion, (a technique called opus spicatum). This space served not only as an entrance, but also as a meeting and mixing place for the local elites; it was presided over by a statue of a figure carrying a cornucopia of Carrara marble topped with a basket of fruit, in clear allusion to the “pax romana” achieved by Augustus after the end of the civil wars. This horn of plenty is the only element of the sculpture which has been found. A painting representing a hunter was also discovered in the same place.
The thermal baths of the port were built in the 1st century AD along a simple linear axis. They feature the typical sequence of cold rooms (frigidaria), which also served as dressing rooms, warm rooms (tepidaria), where the hypocaust or heating system can still be seen, and hot rooms (caldaria) located below the present street. Finally, the complex contains another small warm room and a sauna room. In ancient times the thermal baths were large complexes in which leisure mixed with hygiene, and were used to strengthen social, economic and political bonds.
The Atrium building
The atrium building was built in the first century AD and may have been the seat of a religious group devoted to the celebration of ritual banquets in honour of the gods Isis and Serapis, who were worshipped in the adjoining sanctuary. Over the course of three centuries several alterations led to the original layout being modified, and in its final stage it was converted into a housing complex in which each of the rooms was home to a family. The building was in use until the late 3rd third or early 4th century, when a fire destroyed the entire block.
Occupying an area of more than 2,000 m2, the Atrium was organized around a courtyard of columns from which stairs led up to the second floor. Open to the central courtyard were four large rooms in which there are still vestiges of the decorations and where banquets were held, with the diners reclining on couches. The building also contained a hall used for worship, where the mural paintings which mimic the effect of marble still remain, and an altar which stood against the wall of the hall for worship. Service rooms stood on either side of the entrance corridor while there were shops in the exterior façade.
The most significant findings in the Atrium Building are the paintings of muses and the god Apollo, a painted text commemorating the reform of the building during the time of the Emperor Elagabalus in the year 218 and the paintings of female masks framed by garlands.
The temple of Isis
Archaeological excavations carried out in the area of the Molinete in 2015 and 2016 resulted in the recovery of another block of Roman Cartagena. This block was occupied by a sanctuary dedicated to the Hellenistic and Roman gods Isis and Serapis, according to inscriptions dedicated to these deities which were found in the area some years ago. The sanctuary, perhaps associated with the Atrium building, was in uninterrupted use from the last third of the 1st century until the end of the 3rd century, when it ceased to be sacred and was reused in an industrial capacity.
Isolated from the surroundings and the people outside the cult by an imposing wall, the sanctuary was dominated by a small temple housing a sculpture of the deity, accessed by a staircase and with a façade featuring four Ionic columns. Around the temple was an open courtyard with porticoes on three of its sides, to the rear were three chapels opening out onto the portico related to ceremonies in honour of the divinity and there were also spaces reserved for the priests and the furnishings of the sanctuary.
In the basement of the courtyard, in front of the temple, there were four vaulted cisterns (see video) to collect rainwater used in the purification rituals performed in the complex, such as the washing of the sculptures.
Between the temple and the chapels there was another oval cistern for storing rainwater. This deposit and other walls were built in the Punic era towards the end of the 3rd century BC, and were discarded when the temple was built in the last third of the 1st century AD.
A stretch of the Decumanus Maximus was found in 1968 following the demolition of the Guardia Civil barracks, along with the ovens that heated the tepidarium and caldarium in the thermal baths and the remains of a commercial area consisting of a portico with shops. They were built in the times of the Roman Republic and remodelled in the 4th century AD, re-using some of the original materials: the clearest example of this is an inscription dedicated to Numisius Laetus, a powerful family in Carthago Nova, which would initially have been in the Forum of the colony and was relocated to this area to form part of the wall of the thermal baths.
Exploitation of the site
The first excavations of the Decumanus were carried out by Pedro San Martín Moro, who in 1971 unearthed the first items of value found in the Plaza de los Tres Reyes. Subsequently, in 1997, the Town Hall of Cartagena installed a glass dome over the ruins to preserve them better, and in 2003 Cartagena Puerto de Culturas proposed that the site should be covered and the remains presented in an accessible format for the public.
Work began on the hillside of the Molinete in 1982 with a team of archaeologists led by Miguel Martínez, who continued the excavation of the baths and provided new data leading to a better understanding of the remains of the Decumanus. Since 2008 excavations have continued throughout the side of the hill under the direction of José Miguel Noguera and María José Madrid.
All of these excavations have been managed by Cartagena Puerto de Culturas in an ambitious project which was awarded the National Prize for the Restoration and Conservation of Cultural Assets by the Ministry of Culture in the year 2012. The architectural design of the project was undertaken by Nicolás Maruri and Andrés Cánovas.
The tour of the site:
- Carthago Nova and the Roman Forum district. This section places the Molinete Hill within the urban context of the Roman city.
- Audio- visual. Shows the key points of the urban development of the Molinete hill from the Roman construction to the opening of the Barrio of the Roman Forum museum.
- The thermal baths. Views of the characteristic different spaces of a thermal complex, with cold, warm and hot rooms.
- The peristyle. The porticoed courtyard which served as access to the thermal baths and in which the herringbone-style paving is still in very good condition.
- The Atrium building. A chance to visit the various banqueting rooms, admiring the height of the walls and its ornate decoration.
- Sanctuary of Isis and Serapis. The holy enclosure dedicated to the oriental gods whose images were guarded by the priests in the small temple which occupies the area.
- Decumanus. This area contains more of the facilities of the thermal baths with an oven and ancillary spaces, and it is also possible to walk along the Decumanus Maximus, the main road which crossed Carthago Nova from east to west.
- Martínez Andreu, M., (1997). “Las termas romanas de la calle Honda”, in Excavaciones arqueológicas en Cartagena, 1982-1988 (MemAMurcia), pp. 11-14.
- VV.AA. (2003). Arx Asdrubalis. Arqueología e Historia del Cerro del Molinete (Cartagena), Murcia.
- VV.AA. (2009). Arx Hasdrubalis. La ciudad reencontrada. Arqueología en el cerro del Molinete, Cartagena. Catálogo exposición.
- VV.AA. (2012). Cartagena Puerto de Culturas. Convirtiendo el pasado en futuro.
- VV.AA. (2016). Barrio del Foro Romano/Roman Forum District / Molinete/Cartagena. Proyecto integral de recuperación y conservación / Recovery and Conservation. [Premio Nacional de Restauración y Conservación de Bienes Culturales 2012] [National Prize of Restoration and Conservation of Cultural Heritage 2012].
- VV.AA. (2016). Cuaderno didáctico Barrio del Foro Romano, Molinete, Cartagena.