MURCIA Spain

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Murcia is not often visited by tourists. It is, after all, located in the remote southeastern corner of Spain and it doesn’t have any particular attraction that itself warrants you to go out of your way. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit Murcia. The coast is not far away, and neither is the historic city of Cartagena. So in that sense, a stopover for a day while visiting the region makes sense.

The incredibly ornate neo-moorish architecture of the Real Casino is one of the must-sees in Murcia, as is the cathedral and the relaxing area next to the river. There are also some nice shopping streets and great tapas bars, especially around the Plaza de las Flores. So if you are in the area, make sure to check out Murcia.

If you look up Murcia, you might see claims that it is Spain’s 7th largest city with 460,000 residents. But the city itself definitely doesn’t seem that big! The truth is that the metropolitan area of Murcia is not officially established which leads to an over inflated perception of its size. A much more accurate depiction of the city’s size can be seen in the population of the urban capital – around 170,000.

The main economic engine of Murcia is agricultural based. This can be seen in the “Huerta de Murcia” (“Murcia’s vegetable garden”) that surrounds the city. This extremely fertile area not only supplies high quality produce to local restaurants and bars but it also feeds Spain and the EU.

The agricultural importance of Murcia can be traced all the way back to its founding by the Moors in 825 AD. City planners took advantage of the Segura River and created irrigation channels to irrigate a vast amount of crops.

The Moors also built several palaces (alcazares) and a walled medina with 95 watchtowers.

After the city was conquered by the Christians in 1266, the Moorish heritage of Murcia slowly disappeared. Today, some remains of the minor alcazar can be admired at the Monasterio de Santa Clara as well as a small section of the defensive wall in front of the Veronicas market.

Top 5 Things to Do in Murcia

1

REAL CASINO DE MURCIA

The spectacular Moorish entrance, known as the “Patio Árabe,“ of the Real Casino de Murcia
Moorish entrance of the Real Casino de Murcia

The Real Casino de Murcia (5€ entrance fee) is one of the most emblematic buildings in the city and visiting it is one of the top things to do in Murcia. The casino is a splendid eclectic building where arabesque arches intertwine with French neoclassical style. It has been the meeting place of the local bourgeoisie since 1853.

Today, it is still a private club with around 1,500 members but it is also open to visitors. Although you can’t see every single room, you are allowed to tour about 10 rooms and patios, starting with its spectacular Moorish entrance, known as the “Patio Árabe.” Built in neo-nasrid style, its construction required over 20,000 sheets of gold leaf. Several Arab inscriptions can be read on it, such as "there is no one greater than Allah” and "happiness is within oneself".

Ceiling of the ballroom at Murcia's Casino, Spain
Ceiling of the ballroom at Murcia's Casino

The ballroom (Salón de Baile) is one the main highlights of the casino and its most famous room. Built in neo-baroque style, it features a gorgeous painted ceiling with five impressive lamps built in Paris in 1886.

The library is another highlight that looks like something from a Harry Potter movie.

Impressive wooden library inside the Real Casino de Murcia
Library inside the Real Casino de Murcia

Murcia’s casino also houses a restaurant which serves great food in an idyllic setting. If you have the opportunity, the “menu del día” for 18€ (lunch from Monday to Friday) offers an excellent value for the money.

2

CATEDRAL DE MURCIA

The cathedral, one of the top things to do in Murcia, Spain
The cathedral, one of the top things to do in Murcia

After almost a century of construction, Murcia’s cathedral (5€ entrance fee) was ultimately consecrated in 1467. Although the main construction was finished by then, works at the cathedral never stopped – expansions, repairs, new chapels, etc. The ornate facade is unmistakably Baroque while most of the interior is Gothic. However, since the cathedral was built over several centuries, you will also find hints of Renaissance and Neoclassic styles.

The Gothic cloister was actually built before the rest of the cathedral in the 14th century. Today, it is occupied by the cathedral museum. Inside, visitors can admire objects from the cathedral’s treasury such as paintings, sculptures, textiles and furnishings.

Main entrance to Murcia's cathedral – Spain
Main entrance to Murcia's cathedral

Another highlight of Murcia’s cathedral is its bell tower. With its 93 m in height, it is the second tallest bell tower in Spain – the tallest being Seville’s Giralda. For 7€, it’s possible to take part in a guided visit of the tower and enjoy some great city views from its top.

3

TRAPERIA & PLATERIA STREETS

One of the most beautiful corners of Calle Traperia in Murcia's old town
Calle Traperia in Murcia's old town

Located in the heart of the old town, the Traperia and Plateria streets are the main historic commercial arteries of the city. A visit to Murcia wouldn’t be complete without going for a stroll along these streets, doing some shopping while taking in their charm and character.

The Calle Traperia is indeed a street with a long history. Right after the Spanish reconquest of 1266, the king decided to build a wall to divide the city in two: from the mosque (today, the cathedral) to the minor alcazar (today, the Monasterio de Santa Clara). The west side was for the Moors, the east for the Christians. However, the wall only worsened the coexistence of both groups and was quickly demolished. This created a long straight street, the Calle Traperia, which is very different from the rest of the traditional Islamic urban layout.

Its name, which can be translated as “Rags Street,” is due to the cloth trade established in its vicinity during the 14th century. To this day, the street is full of clothing shops. There is also some impressive architecture located on this street, mostly erected by the bourgeoisie during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Real Casino de Murcia is a great example of this kind of high-class styling.

The Calle Plateria, on the other hand, is of Moorish origin. It was one of the main west-east arteries of the Islamic medina. As with many other streets in the old town, it takes its name (“Silversmithing street”) from the guild that was active there during medieval times. Still to this day, there is a large variety of jewelries on it, among other shops.

4

PLAZA DE LAS FLORES

Restaurant terraces at the lively Plaza de las Flores, one of the top things to see in Murcia
Plaza de las Flores, one of the top things to see in Murcia

The Plaza de las Flores (Flowers Square) is the heart of the social life in Murcia. This lively plaza is packed with bars and restaurants. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a beer or glass of wine accompanied by a traditional “marinera”, the most typical tapa from Murcia.

WHAT IS A MARINERA?

The marinera is the most traditional tapa from Murcia. It is composed of a breadstick, covered with a generous scoop of Russian salad (potato salad) topped with an anchovy.

The Flowers Square is where Murcians meet friends and family to enjoy a couple of tapas at a terrace or have a nice meal. The atmosphere is bustling, specially on weekends.

The site was originally occupied by the Carnicería Mayor (city’s main butcher). Around it, florists started to put up stands to sell their flowers. Although the butcher building was demolished at the end of the 19th century, the florist stands continue to this day. There is even a fountain in the center of the square with a bronze sculpture called “the girl of the flowers”.

The emblematic Plaza de las Flores shouldn’t be missed and is one of the best things to do in Murcia. However, make sure to also check out its surrounding pedestrian streets and squares such as Plaza Santa Catalina, Plaza San Pedro, etc.

5

SEGURA RIVER, OLD BRIDGE & PASARELA DEL MALECÓN

Puente Viejo (old bridge) across the Segura River in the city of Murcia
Puente Viejo across the Segura River

The Segura river divides the city of Murcia in two. Throughout history, it has been responsible for many floods. It has also been very polluted in the past and seen as an embarrassment to the city. Today, however, the river is beautiful, clean and has become a popular place among locals to go walking, jogging, biking, etc.

The Puente Viejo (old bridge) spans across the Segura river. As its name indicates, it is the oldest bridge in Murcia and a symbol of the city. This stone bridge replaced a wooden one that was swept away in one of the many floods in the 18th century.

Historically, Murcianos were so scared of floods, that they gave this bridge the nickname of “Puente de los Peligros” (Bridge of Dangers). They went as far as to build a shrine dedicated to the Virgen de los Peligros (Virgin of Dangers) at one end of the bridge. To this day, many Murcians still make the Sign of the Cross every time they cross the river, directing their gaze to the Virgin.

Pasarela del Malecón (or Pasarela de Manterola) in Murcia city
Pasarela del Malecón (or Pasarela de Manterola)

Less than 200m up river from the Puente Viejo stands the Pasarela del Malecón or Pasarela de Manterola. This modern pedestrian bridge was built in 1997 and is named in honor of its architect, Javier Manterola. Its beautiful design resembles a huge sailing boat mast (30m high).

Between the two bridges it is possible to rent small boats to row along the Segura River. Check out El Tío de la Barca website for updated information on prices and schedules.

More things to see in Murcia

6

VERONICAS MARKET

Exterior of the modernist Veronicas market in the city of Murcia, Spain
Exterior of the modernist Veronicas market

The site of the Veronicas Market has been used for commerce since the 15th century. Goods entered and left the city through this point, and it was here that taxes were paid. The sober modernist building that we see today, however, was erected between 1912 and 1916, on top of an older market building.

Seafood stand inside the Veronicas market in Murcia
Seafood stand in the Veronicas market

Today, the Mercado de Veronicas is the most popular market in the city. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 8am til 3pm, with Saturday being the busiest day of the week. It is divided in two floors with a total of over 200 stands. On sale you will find all of the fruit and vegetables that Murcia is famous for as well as a variety of meats, fish and seafood, cheeses, nuts, olives, etc. There are also a couple of bars inside the market.

Although there isn’t much to see, an interesting part of history that can be found right next to the market is a piece of the Moorish defensive wall from the 12th century.

7

SANTA CLARA MONASTERY

Moorish patio inside the Santa Clara Monastery in Murcia, Spain
Moorish patio inside the Santa Clara Monastery

The Monasterio de Santa Clara la Real (free access) is a monastic complex of the Clarisas order in Murcia’s old town. This oasis of peace and tranquility in the very center of the city is one of the top things to do in Murcia.

The complex was built in the 14th century on top of the 13th century Moorish palace (alcazar menor). Today, it is a closing convent (convento de clausura) with nuns still living on it. Visitors are allowed to admire the Gothic cloister and choir (15th century), a Baroque church (18th century) and the remains of the Moorish palace, including a beautiful patio with a large pool (alberca).

The Museo de Santa Clara can also be visited. Its first section is dedicated to andalusí art and archeology while the second one is dedicated to religious art.

8

GLORIETA DE ESPAÑA & TOWN HALL

Murcia's Casa Consistorial (town hall) and Glorieta de España
Murcia's Casa Consistorial (town hall) and Glorieta de España

Murcia’s Casa Consistorial (town hall) occupies an exquisite pink neoclassical building beautifully framed by the flowers, palms and fountains of the Glorieta de España square in front of it.

During Moorish times, the site was occupied by the prince’s palace, part of the major alcazar. After the Christian reconquest, it was used by the court until its demolition in the 18th century. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it started serving as a town hall and the building that we see today was constructed.

Unfortunately, the town hall is not open to visitors and can only be admired from the exterior.

9

MALECÓN GARDENS & PROMENADE

The Paseo del Malecón (river-wall promenade) was originally created as a retaining wall for the waters of the Segura River around 1420, after the city suffered a couple of devastating floods. The 1,5 km long promenade that we see today running along the southwestern edge of the city, however, was built in 1745.

The Paseo del Malecón is located right next to the largest green area of the city, which includes the botanical garden and the cypress orchard. This makes it the perfect area to go for a walk or a jog.

The gardens next to the malecón, known as Jardines del Malecón, are used throughout the year to celebrate festivals and other events. During Murcia’s September Fair, for example, casetas (party tents) are set up everywhere and the party atmosphere takes over these otherwise tranquil and peaceful gardens.

10

ROMEA THEATER

Neoclassical façade of the Romea theater in Murcia's center
Romea theater in Murcia's center

The Romea Theater has been the most important show venue in Murcia for more than 150 years. It is named after Julián Romea, a Murcian actor and writer considered one of the greatest figures of the national theater.

Its beautiful neoclassical façade stands out for its pink color and eclectic influences, with the busts of Beethoven, Mozart and Liszt overlooking the square from the very top of the building. Another highlight can be found in its elegant interior which features an impressive painted ceiling.

The Romea Theater is one of the most important theaters in Spain. It’s highly regarded by both spectators and artists, due to its beauty, comfort and extraordinary acoustics.

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