Región de Murcia – Cartagena – a Modernista architecture walk around the Casco Antiguo

After I finished work in Murcia I took the opportunity to travel the short distance to Cartagena for a couple of days holiday. I’d heard so many good things about the city that I thought I should come and see it for myself.

Although Cartagena is famous for its Roman amphitheatre, the biggest draw for me was the city’s beautiful early nineteenth century architecture, which is constructed in a style known as Modernisme, the Spanish equivalent of Art Nouveau. Cartagena experienced an intense period of construction after a highly destructive military bombardment in 1873, followed by a mining boom at the beginning of twentieth century. The city’s new bourgeosie wanted to show off their wealth and architecture was their way of doing it.

I’ve listed all the buildings in this post in geographical order so they can be viewed consecutively on an architecture walk. You’ll find everywhere mentioned on this map. There’s a key in the top left. Please do click on the photo galleries to enlarge them so you can see the fine details on these beautiful buildings.

Probably the first Modernista building many people will experience is the Estación de Cartagena, designed by Emilio Antón Hernández and built in 1908.

From the station you could either head west to Palacio de Aguirre (see below) and do the walk in reverse or northwest to see the fabulous facade of the Asamblea Regional, at 53 Paseo Alfonso XIII. Although it looks like a Gaudi creation, it was actually designed in 1987, by Rafael Braquehais the municipal architect of Cartagena, so the style can be described as Modernist Historicism, or even Neo-modernist. Sorry I don’t have a photo, but you can see it on Streetview here.

Just copy and paste the address of any of these buildings into the Streetview searchbox if want a better view of any of these buildings.

At the end of Paseo Alfonso XIII is Casa Zapata, designed by Víctor Beltrí in 1909 at 9 Plaza de España. As we’ll see, Beltrí is responsible for many of the Modernista buildings in Cartagena and this was one of his last works. I read that it’s considered to be an example of Noucentist style, a conservative movement that arose in opposition to Modernisme, so perhaps Beltrí’s attitudes were changing in later life. It’s hard to get close to the building because at present it’s occupied by a private Catholic school, the College of the Carmelitas, where incidentally some of my colleagues sometimes have occasion to work.

And down the road is Casa Dorda, 55-57 Calle del Carmen also by Víctor Beltrí. Go round the back to 44,46,48 Calle Jabonerías for the rear view.

Calle del Carmen is an important street running through the centre of town (now pedestrianised) so there are several other nice houses lining the street, like this one at #54.

Sorry but I couldn’t find any information about it, nor this one either.

Palacio Pedreño at 2 Calle Jabonerías was designed by Carlos Mancha in 1872 and was at one time proposed to be the new town hall. The interior is supposed to be lovely although I’m not sure how you’d get to see it.

One of my favourites is La Tartana at 14 Calle Puertas de Murcia which was built in 1906. Although often attributed to Beltrí it seems the actual architect was Francisco de Paula Oliver Rolandi. The style is more French Art Nouveau with its floral designs. The top two floors are a later addition. The ground floor is a decent tapas bar if you’re in need of a watering hole (see next post).

Nearby, the Gran Hotel at 31 Calle Jara is another Beltrí creation that was inaugurated in 1916. In its time it was considered one of the best hotels in Spain.

From here you can either continue west on a detour as I did, or continue south down Calle Mayor to the harbour.

I love the front door of 28 Calle Jara.

A couple of minutes walk and you get to Casa Maestre (Beltrí, 1906) in Plaza San Francisco which was inspired by Gaudí’s Casa Calvet in Barcelona. It was for sale when I was there, not sure for how much.

A couple of blocks away, Palacio de Aguirre (Beltrí, 1898-1900) overlooks Plaza de la Merced.

Next door is the Regional Museum of Modern Art (MURAM) through which you can also get access to some rooms of the Palacio de Aguirre that have been furnished in period style.

I can’t tell you anything about this neighbour at 11 Plaza de la Merced.

And I can’t place this straggler but I think it’s round here somewhere.

Back at Calle Mayor, I don’t know anything about #35 either.

I wanted to see the stunning facade of Casa Llagostera (Beltrí, 1916) just around the corner, but it was under refurbishment when I was in town in 2018. This may take some time as they’ve found the remains of the Roman port under the building so the interior is being remodelled to accommodate it.

Continuing south you come to At 15 Calle Mayor is the Casino de Cartagena, a former gentleman’s club. You are allowed in to the foyer area but the grumpy old custodian is there to stop you going upstairs.

Right next door is Casa Cervantes (Beltrí, 1897-1900).

Calle Mayor is so narrow that it was too hard to get good shots of the facades. You can get a better idea on Streetview .

The Art Deco style Bar Columbus is at 14 Calle Mayor if you fancy a break (see next post).

At the end of Calle Mayor in Plaza Ayuntamiento, is the Palacio Consistorial (Tomás Rico, 1907), which is the Town Hall of Cartagena.

You can see some of the interior via the ground floor entrance at the corner of the building, which takes you into the Tourist Information office. Guided tours are available to see the more ornate rooms and the beautiful staircase.

This little number is at 2 Calle Real.

Down at the waterfront, at 3 Plaza Heroes de Cavite, is the Antiguo Club de Regatas Cartagena. It was built by the architect Mario Spottorno in 1912.

Heading back inland, you can take in 1 Calle Cuatro Santos.

From here it’s not far to Casa Maestre if you haven’t done that detour already (see above).

And there are many, many more…

… most of which are in need of a bit of TLC.

So, if you want to buy a cheap Art Nouveau house, Cartagena is the place to come!

Checking out the Cartagena food scene next…

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