So torrid is the relationship, in fact, that locals have been known to resort to name-calling: Murcians are labelled ‘green bellies’ for the amount of vegetables they eat while Cartagenians are called aladroqu, a kind of sardine common to the area. Both belong to the region of Murcia (after which the capital city is named), a little-visited corner of south-east Spain. If it’s visitors they are fighting over, a short walk around Cartagena’s city centre reveals the green bellies have good reason to be worried.

Rich remains
One of Cartagena’s biggest drawcards is buried beneath it, making the entire city an archaeologist’s dream. Beneath the current city lies an old Roman city, parts of which are slowly being unearthed and preserved.

Any archaelogical sightseeing mission is best begun at the tourist information centre where you can view the remains of the Punic Wall, which marks the foundation of the city by the Carthaginians in 227 BC. The remains were only discovered in 1987, along with an 18th century crypt, and have been impressively excavated and preserved.

Another major discovery was a Roman amphitheatre which was covered in after being used as a public cemetery during epidemics in the 18th and 19th centuries and then later built over with a now disused bullring. It has only been partially excavated.

Take the lift up to Conception Castle for the best view of the Roman theatre, which was discovered by chance in 1988. There was no historical record of the theatre and an entire neighbourhood had been built over the top of it, much of which is currently being removed and the residents relocated. From a viewing platform you can watch workers painstakingly unearthing and restoring the structure, where rows of sandstone seats are taking shape. The project is due to be completed by the end of next year.

Military might
Due to its natural harbour, Cartagena has been an important military port since medieval times. A cruise around the harbour covers most of the main sights, including the Sea Wall, the Military Arsenal, the Artillery Park, the Military Hospital and the Marine Cadet School, as well as several imposing castles. The port is also the headquarters of the Mediterranean Squadron of the Spanish Navy and has a submarine school with a small submarine flotilla, which can at times be seen cruising in and out. Back on dry land, the Isaac Peral’s Submarine is perhaps the city’s most famous monument.

Architect’s delight
The lavish Modernista-style architecture is a distinctive feature of the city’s buildings, and one which they have maintained in more recent improvements, such as the ornate street lamps lining main roads. There are plenty of examples to be seen during a walk around town, many being the former homes of affluent mining owners, including Casa Cervantes, La Casa Maestre, the Aguirre Palace or La Casa Clares, some of which are open to the public. The Gran Hotel, the Consistorial Palace and the Railway Station are also fine examples of the urban and architectural development that took place in the shadow of the mining boom.

Culture in a glass
Don’t leave town without trying asiático, the typical coffee of Cartagena. This layered concoction is comprised of condensed milk, expresso, a shot of cognac and Liquor 43 – a potent alcoholic drink involving egg yolk made only in Cartagena – and topped with either cinnamon, coffee beans or lemon peel. It is served in a special glass which is made in a local glass factory specifically for serving this drink. The recipe was devised by miners needing a jolt to get started at 5am. When on holiday, however, this is best consumed immediately prior to a siesta.

Bonus points for: Preserving its history
Loses marks for: Name-calling