ROMAN THEATER Cartagena

Button for Hotel Search Hotel Search

Although Cartagena’s Roman Theater was built at the end of the 1st century BC, it was only used for a few hundred years. Afterwards, a market, a church and even houses were all built directly on top of the theater’s steps. As a result, the theater was completely buried and forgotten. In fact, there were neither written references nor archaeological data that even suggested its existence.

It wasn’t until 1988 that the theater was rediscovered. It all happened by mere coincidence during the excavation of a basement. However, it took another 15 years for the theater to be completely uncovered. Today, visiting the Roman Theater is, without a doubt, one of the top things to do in Cartagena.

Opening Times icon indicating when the monument is open
OPENING TIMES

Tuesday to Saturday: 10am to 6pm*
Sundays: 10am to 2pm
Mondays: closed
*Open until 8pm from May to September and during Easter

Admission icon indicating price of monument
PRICE

General admission: 6€
Senior citizens, students, disabled: 5€
School groups: 3€

Location icon indicating the monument address
ADDRESS

Plaza Ayuntamiento 9, 30202 Cartagena

VIEW MAP
Location icon indicating the monument website

Visiting the Roman Theater

The Roman Theater of Cartagena today – Murcia, Spain
The Roman Theater of Cartagena today

To get inside the theater, you will need to enter through the Roman Theater Museum building which is located a block away from the theater itself. The museum building sits across from the Casa Consistorial in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. Once inside, you will be lead through several exhibitions spaces and underground corridors before finally arriving at the top of the theater.

Stepping into the theater, you can tour it freely: walk along the aisles, up and down the stairs, all around the orchestra and the stage. If you are lucky, you might even see archeologists at work.

Get your ticket for Cartagena's Roman Theater here.

TIP TO GET GREAT VIEWS OF THE ROMAN THEATER (FOR FREE)

Starting behind the church of Santa María la Vieja or Cathedral of Santa María la Mayor, walk up to the Cornisa Park. From here you will enjoy fantastic views of the Roman Theater with the city in the background.

History of Cartagena's Roman Theater

Views from the top of Cartagena's Roman Theater, Murcia
Views from the top of Cartagena's Roman Theater

CONSTRUCTED BY CAESAR AUGUSTUS

In 44 BC the Roman city of Cartagena, known as Carthago Nova, was elevated to the rank of colony by the first Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. Shortly after, the emperor launched an ambitious plan to romanize the city. Among the new constructions was a monumental theater dedicated to his grandchildren Lucius and Gaius Caesar.

The theater was built around the years 5 and 1 BC and had space for approximately 7,000 spectators. It was one of the largest theaters in all of the Roman Hispania.

The theater was built directly into the rock of the hillside, taking advantage of the nature slope of Concepcion Hill. The construction is believed to have been very ornamental, due to the large amount of works found which were sculpted with Greek marble, probably in Rome’s imperial workshops.

ROMAN THEATER BURIED FOR CENTURIES

At some point the theater was abandoned. In the 3rd century a market was built on top, repurposing materials from the theater itself for the construction.

After the destruction of Cartagena by vandals in 425, the market was badly damaged and fell into disrepair. It wasn’t until the 6th century that the city lived through a re-birth under the Byzantine emperor Justinian I as Carthago Spartaria. The site of the theater became a commercial district. Unfortunately in the 7th century, the area was destroyed by battles one more time.

After the Christian reconquest, the site became one of the most densely populated neighborhoods of the city. It was then (13th century), that the cathedral of Santa Maria la Vieja was built on top of the byzantine commercial district.

From the 18th to the 20th centuries, the site was part of the fishermen neighborhood, which slowly became one of the most depressed and abandoned areas of Cartagena’s historic center.

Site of Cartagena's Roman Theater in 1991 – still buried under houses
Site of Cartagena's Roman Theater in 1991 – still buried under houses

THE THEATER REDISCOVERED – ON ACCIDENT

Finally in October 1988, the first excavations on the House-Palace of the Condesa Peralta took place under direction of archaeologist Sebastián Ramallo Asensio. The building was intended to house Cartagena’s regional crafts center. However, the layering of architectural structures hinted at the outstanding importance of the findings.

The people of Cartagena had to wait until 1990 for the launch of the first campaign to officially identify the still very partial remains of the theater. Needles to say, that campaign was a success.

After that monumental discovery, the main excavations took place between 1996 and 2003.

Site in 1997 - first glances of Cartagena's Roman Theater
Site in 1997 - first glances of Cartagena's Roman Theater

The Roman Theater Museum of Cartagena

Statues and columns in an exhibition room of the Roman Theater Museum of Cartagena
Exhibition room in the Roman Theater Museum of Cartagena

Cartagena’s Roman Theater Museum was designed by Spanish architect, Rafael Moneo, and inaugurated in 2008. Moneo’s project included not only the restoration of the theater but also its integration in the surrounding historic city center and the construction of an annexed museum and investigation center.

The museum is divided in two main buildings connected by an underground tunnel. It is accessed via the first building, the Riquelme Palace, which is located in the town hall square (Plaza del Ayuntamiento 9).

The visit will take you through a couple of underground corridors and exhibition rooms before reaching the imposing Roman Theater.

  • Corridor of the Theater's history - Shows the urban evolution of the site from the first century til today. Its purpose is to help visitors understand how the theater remained hidden for so many centuries. On display is also a collection of objects and remains found during the excavations: plates, jugs, pots, pans, casseroles and various household items.
  • Room 1 – The Theater’s architecture - Houses a collection of ruins that were excavated on site, including Corinthian columns and capitals carved in Carrara marble.
  • Room 2 – Theater and society - Houses an exhibition about the importance of theater in society. In Roman times, the theater didn’t only have recreational functions but was also used to spread political and religious propaganda. On exhibit you will also see a sculpture of Apollo, god of the performing arts.
  • Archaeological corridor – This underground corridor runs below the Santa Maria la Vieja church, until reaching the Roman Theater. Here it’s possible to see a section of the wall from the Islamic medina and the additions made after the Christian conquest, as well as the remains of a Roman dwelling prior to the construction of the theater itself.

Top Hotels in Cartagena

arrow to scroll to top
CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE OF THE BEST HOTELS IN CARTAGENA!
Wait, don't close me!

Has España Guide helped plan your trip?

If so, please consider booking your hotel through the links to booking.com found on our website or use the following link:
https://www.booking.com/index.html?aid=1802409

That way, you get the best rates on your hotels and at the same time, it helps us to continue contributing to this site. Everyone wins!