A chain of mountains surrounds the plain which Murcia sits upon, a city of Arab origin whose existence is closely linked to the fertile lands around the river Segura. From among its streets of guilds emerges the tower of the Cathedral, one of the symbols of the city.
Although the lands of Murcia have been populated for more than 2,000 years, the foundation of Murcia capital did not come until 831, when the emir of Córdoba Abd-al-Rahman II ordered a walled city to be built on the banks of the river Segura and made it into the capital of the caliph’s province.
It was then when Arab Mursiya began to gain importance, until in the 13th century it became part of the Kingdom of Castile.
Visit the ancient zone
The old city sits next to the Segura, with historic streets which have retained the names of the guilds which once occupied them, such as the shopping streets of Platería, Trapería and Vidrieros (Silversmiths, Rags and Glass makers).
The square of Cardinal Belluga houses two of Murcia capital’s architectural gems, the Episcopal Palace (18th century), with a rococo façade and a churrigueresque courtyard, and the Cathedral. This temple, which was begun at the end of the 14th century, stands out because of the superimposition of styles.
Drawing attention, for example, is its singular and richly-sculptured baroque façade, and, along with it, the tremendous tower measuring 92 metres in height. Outstanding on the inside, meanwhile, is the Vélez Chapel, a magnificent example of the florid Gothic style.
The baroque style is well-represented in Murcia through religious buildings such as the church of la Merced, originally from the 16th century and rebuilt in the 18th century), the convent church of Santa Ana, the church of Santo Domingo, San Nicolás or San Miguel.
It is also worth seeing some of the city’s more significant 19th-century buildings. The City Hall, the Romea Theatre and the Casino. This last building has a Neoclassic façade and a beautiful Arab-influenced interior courtyard. The districts of San Pedro, Santa Catalina and the area surrounding plaza de las Flores provide some of the most picturesque corners of Murcia capital. A tour can end at the beautiful Paseo del Malecón walk, the city’s link with the land.
Murcia has a wide range of museums and exhibitions to offer. Outstanding in the Cathedral Museum is a spectacular processional monstrance from Toledo, while the Salzillo Museum contains a delightful collection of processional carvings by one of the most emblematic sculptors of the 18th century. In the Provincial Archaeological Museum we can admire vestiges of the different cultures to have passed over these lands, among them the Treasure of Finca Pinta, composed of Muslim and Christian coins. The Provincial Fine Arts Museum houses works by Giordano and Madrazo, among others.
Festivals, gastronomy and surrounding area
Murcia capital celebrates three festivals which have been declared to be of National Tourist Interest. One of them is Holy Week, during which the procession of the “salzillos” on Good Friday morning stands out. The Burial of the Sardine, part of the Carnival festivities, is prominent because of the spectacular nature of its parade of floats.
But perhaps one of the most deep-rooted traditions in Murcia is the Bando de la Huerta, which has been held each Easter Tuesday for more than a century and a half. This celebration extols the virtues of the region’s gastronomy and folklore, with processions, regional costume, tastings of traditional produce and readings of verses in “panocho” (the language of the fields).
Murcia’s gastronomy is based on the excellent fruit, vegetables and garden produce provided by its fertile fields. These raw materials are used to make stews and typical dishes such as ratatouille (with pepper, onion and tomato), chickpea and Swiss chard stew or “zarangollo” (courgette, egg and onion). As an accompaniment, you can choose from any of Murcia’s Designation of Origin standard wines:Bullas, Yecla and Jumilla.
One of Murcia’s main tourist attractions is its coastline, known as the Costa Cálida. Its 250 kilometres of coastline is shared between Mar Menor and the Mediterranean, offering any number of beaches where it is possible to do a wide range of water sports: sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, water skiing, diving, etc. Águilas and Mazarrón have some of the country’s best sea beds, whose transparency and visibility allow us to view the marine life in a zone where it is also common to come across remains of sunken ships. Cartagena is another centre of tourist interest where, as well as enjoying the coastline and its historic legacy, we can visit the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
Meanwile, the province inland offers historic towns such as Caravaca de la Cruz or Lorca. This town captivates attention because of its abundant examples of baroque architecture, seen in parish churches, convents, emblazoned houses and palaces. The Collegiate Church of San Patricio and the Castle of Lorca are National Monuments. Only a few kilometres from this town is the Parador de Puerto Lumbreras, halfway between the east coast and Andalusia, an exceptional place from which to approach the region.
The province of Murcia has a wealth of landscapes and environments protected through its regional parks. Beaches of golden sand, dunes and unspoilt coves along the coast are the settings we will find in Salinas y Arenales de San Pedro del Pinatar, Calblanque, Monte de las Cenizas and Peña del Águila, and Cabo Cope and Puntas de Calnegre. Inland hills and valleys, meanwhile, are the chief features of the regional parks of Sierra de Carche, Sierra de la Pila, Sierra de Espuña, and Carrascoy and El Valle. All are places to do environment-friendly sports and learn more about the nature of Murcia.