Murcia and its attractions

Murcia (Sp. Murcia) is a city in southeastern Spain, the capital and most populous city of the autonomous community of the Region of Murcia, and the seventh largest city in the country.

It is an important service center wherein the tertiary sector has superseded its status as the quintessential agricultural exporter, thanks to its famous and fertile garden known as the Huerta de Europa. Among its most prominent industries are food, textiles, chemicals, distillation and the manufacturing of furniture and construction materials, many of which are located in the West Industrial Park, considered one of the largest on the peninsula and shared with the municipality of Alcantarilla.

It is also a vital center with a strong university tradition since the first university was founded in 1272. It is currently home to two universities: the public University of Murcia and the private San Antonio Catholic University, with around 50,000 students between the two.

The city is of uncertain origins; however, there is evidence that it was founded in 825 by Order of Abderramán II, probably on a previous Roman settlement. During the Middle Ages, Murcia became the capital and heart of Tudmir. Later, it was the head of different taifa kingdoms of increasing importance in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. Between 1243-1266, it was incorporated into the Crown of Castile as capital of the Kingdom of Murcia, becoming a city with a vote in courts and episcopal seats in 1291.

Its historical-artistic heritage include a famous Cathedral with a baroque façade and mainly Gothic interior, the famous Casino with sumptuous interiors, the dense sculptural heritage of Francisco Salzillo, and a large group of Baroque buildings.

In the cultural sphere, the city is known for its rich folklore, especially colorful during the Spring Festivities and the Holy Week processions, which was declared of an International Tourist Interest. The Council of Good Men of the Huerta de Murcia, an example of a customary court of irrigators of the Spanish Mediterranean, has been declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Tourism and main attractions

Religious architecture

Throughout the old town are numerous churches or monastic complexes of great value. In addition to the Gothic constructions already mentioned, such as the Cathedral or the Monastery of Santa Clara, the old Church of Santiago stands out with its Mudejar coffered ceiling.

From the Renaissance, in addition to the Chapel of the Rosary, the Colegio de San Esteban stands out. It was the first Jesuit school in Spain beginning in 1555 and is the current seat of the regional government under the name of the Palacio de San Esteban. From the early 17th century in the area, we find the church of San Pedro and the cloister of the old convent of La Merced. From the same century are the Church of Jesus, headquarters of the Confraternity of Los Salzillos, the church of the aforementioned Monastery of Santa Clara, the old Convent of San Antonio and the Chapel of the Arrixaca of the church of San Andrés.

While the Murcian baroque developed mainly during the mid-to late-18th century, it is necessary to review the first examples from the end of the 17th and the beginning of 18th century, such as the church of San Miguel and the convent of the Agustinas del Corpus Christi or the churches; convents of La Merced, Santo Domingo or Santa Ana; and the later churches of Rococo influence (after the impact that the works of the cathedral’s main façade had on the city) such as Carmen, San Nicolás de Bari, Santa Eulalia and San Juan de Dios (or also the Hospicio de Santa Florentina, the Major Seminary of San Fulgencio, the Minor Seminary of San Leandro, the façade and cloister of the Colegio de la Anunciata—poster Real Fábrica de Seda—or the Old College of Theologians of San Isidoro).

Neoclassical trends came to the city at the hands of the Church of San Juan Bautista, in addition to the churches of San Lorenzo and San Bartolomé, the latter two entering in the 19th century, completing San Bartolomé with a historicist facade and nave.

Civil architecture

From the Muslim period in Murcia, in addition to the vestiges of the Alcázar Siga, we find the remains of the oratory and royal pantheon of the Alcázar Mayor from the 12th century. It also has different sections of the Arab wall, highlighting the section of the wall de Verónicas and the one that is conserved within the Interpretation Center of the Santa Eulalia wall. Also noteworthy is the recent discovery of the Arrixaca suburb in the old garden of San Esteban from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Among the buildings of the city, as examples of the Renaissance, the Pacheco Palace and the facades of the ruined Riquelme Palace stand out. Due to the silk boom that Murcia experienced at the beginning of the 17th century, along with the Almodóvar Palace, there are examples of the Almudí Palace, a former municipal granary that is now an exhibition hall, and the covers of the ruined Contraste de la Seda. Late in the century, the Palace of the Saavedra, currently Colegio Mayor Azarbe, was built.

From the 18th century in Murcia, it is worth highlighting from the initial Baroque typology of the Palacio de los Pérez-Calvillo to the subsequent Rococo evolution of the Episcopal Palace, the Fontes Palace (headquarters of the Segura Hydrographic Confederation) and the Vinader Palace. From the end of the century, we find the Floridablanca Palace, currently the Hotel Arco de San Juan, the Campuzano Palace, and the Palace of the Inquisition, headquarters of the College of Architects, already from the 19th century.

From the eclecticism of the 19th century, the city has the Real Casino de Murcia, the Romea Theater. The building was inaugurated in 1862 but rebuilt by Justo Millán Espinosa after several fires, with the exterior from 1880 and the interior from 1899. Also of note are the Carmen de José Almazán station (1863), the old Hotel Victoria (1885) and the Plaza de toros de La Condomina, inaugurated in 1887 (also by Justo Millán).

Among the modernist trends that arrived in the city at the beginning of the 20th century, we should mention the Casa Díaz-Cassou (1900-1906), the Casa Almansa (1903-1908) that is currently headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce, the Mercado de Verónicas (1912-1916), and the later Casa Guillamón (1920-24), works by the architects Pedro Cerdán—author of the main facade of the Casino (1902)—and José Antonio Rodríguez. However, eclecticism continued to have a presence after turn of the century with La Convalecencia (1909-1915), Alegría de la Huerta (1919-21), the Artillery Barracks (1921-26), the Society of Hunters (1927), the Zaraiche station (1921-1930) and the Casa Cerdá (1934-36), as well as examples of New York inspiration such as the Nine-Story House (1914-41).

Within the avant-garde architecture developed in the 1930s, it is also necessary to highlight the five-story building on Calle Trapería, designed by the famous architect Pedro Muguruza, built in 1935 in a line of traditional regionalism of Muguruza’s previous work such as the old Post Office Building (1928-1931). Within rationalism, there is also the six-story house on Calle Trapería by José Luis de León y Díaz-Capilla (1934-1941)—which is also the building called “El Acorazado” in Plaza Santo Domingo (1934-35 )—and the Coy Building by Gaspar Blein (1935).

Bridges

Several bridges of various styles cross the river Segura as it passes through Murcia, from the oldest (from the 18th century) to several recently created by famous contemporary architects.

The Puente de los Peligros (or Old Bridge) (1742) is a stone construction from the early 18th century with an attached neoclassical chapel dedicated to the Virgen de los Peligros. It is the oldest bridge in the city and the first in Murcian history to overcome all the floods of the Segura.

The New Bridge (or Iron Bridge) (1903) is a metal bridge from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that receives the name “new” despite being the second oldest in the city.

The Puente de la Fica (1967-1969) connects the Polígono Infante Juan Manuel in Murcia (right bank of the Segura) with the Vistabella neighborhood, being one of the bridges with the highest road capacity.

The Miguel Caballero Walkway (or Puente del Martillo) (1970-1971) was the third bridge built that connects the Barrio del Carmen with the historic center of the city.

The Hospital Bridge (1973) was renovated in 1999 by Santiago Calatrava, who expanded it and gave it its current image.

La Pasarela del Malecón (1997) by Javier Manterola is a cable-stayed pedestrian bridge supported by a mast that is more than 15 meters high and located on an island in the river.

The Vistabella Bridge (or Jorge Manrique Footbridge) (1995-1997), also designed by Santiago Calatrava, is another pedestrian bridge similar to several of the architect’s footbridges.

The Los Dolores Bridge, which connects two high-capacity avenues Miguel Induráin and Los Dolores, is the last bridge downstream. Territorially, it is already outside the city district.

Also of special interest as an architectural element related to the Segura River is the popular Paseo del Malecón, an old defense wall against floods and avenues of water, of medieval origin but converted into a promenade during the 18th century.

Museums

Murcia has a large number of museums, many of them recently renovated, such as the Salzillo, the Bellas Artes or the Archaeological Museum. A highlight is the Museum of Santa Clara, inaugurated in 2005 inside the monumental complex of the Monastery of the same name.

The main museums in the city of Murcia are:

The Archaeological Museum of Murcia, which has its origin in the old Provincial Museum that was created by the Royal Order of the Ministry of Public Works on July 6, 1864 thanks to the contributions from the Provincial Monuments Commission. Its first venues were the Teatro de los Infantes (1864), the Contrast de la Seda building (1866) and the current Museum of Fine Arts of Murcia (1910).

The Museum of Fine Arts of Murcia (MUBAM), a museum institution whose origin dates back to 1864, when the Provincial Museum was created at the request of the Provincial Monuments Commission. In 1953, the archeology section was transferred to the current Murcia Archaeological Museum, giving rise to the Museum of Fine Arts that exists today as the pictorial and sculptural collections remain in this institution.

The Salzillo Museum, a museum space dedicated monographically to the works made by the Murcian Baroque sculptor Francisco Salzillo.

The Murcia Cathedral Museum, part of the cathedral building. It was created at the wish of Bishop Miguel de los Santos and inaugurated in 1956. It has the Tourist Quality Commitment.

The Museum of the City of Murcia, a museum institution that depends on the Murcia City Council and was inaugurated in 1999. It located in the old house of the López Ferrer family in the Plaza de las Agustinas opposite the Convent of the Agustinas del Corpus Christi.

The Monastery of Santa Clara la Real, a monastic complex of the Order of the Poor Clares. It has its origin in the 14th century, occupying what was the old Muslim Alcázar Siga (a minor fortress) from the 13th century. It is one of the most important historical buildings in the city as it has remains of the Arab palace (the most important of the Murcian Islamic art). The monastery also has a Gothic cloister and choir and a Baroque church.

The Arab wall of Murcia, the old defensive structure of the city, built during the Andalusian period.

The Hydraulic Museum of the Segura River Mills, located on the right bank of the Segura River next to the Puente de los Peligros, in the Carmen neighborhood.

The Museum of the Church of San Juan de Dios de Murcia, one of the headquarters of the Museum of Fine Arts of Murcia (MUBAM) that houses an important collection of religious imagery since the XV to XX centuries. The old church, dating from the 18th century, is located near the Cathedral in a traditional square in the old part of the city.

Parks

Among the main parks and gardens of the city, the following stand out:

Floridablanca Garden: Created in the mid-19th century on the previous 18th century venues of the city, it is the oldest park in Murcia. Located in the Barrio del Carmen, it is dedicated to the figure the Count of Floridablanca. It has several commemorative monuments (including to the Count of Floridablanca and the poets Pedro Jara Carrillo and José Selgas.) and lush centenary trees.

Jardín de la Seda: Located in the central neighborhood of San Antón, it is where the former Convent of the Diegos and later a silk factory—of which a chimney is preserved still today—was transformed into garden in 1990, undergoing a remodeling in 1999. It has sports areas and a central auditorium.

Garden of the Malecón: Located where formerly the orchards of the disentailed Franciscan Convent were, this park later served as the botanical garden of the Provincial Institute since 1845 and is situated right next to the Malecón promenade that gives it its name. Inside there are numerous sculptures in addition to the cover of the demolished 18th century house of the Huerto de las Bombas.

Jardín del Salitre or de la Pólvora: Located on the grounds of what was the Real Fábrica del Salitre de Murcia, this park was founded in 1654. Between 1816 and 1849, it was leased to private companies, passing into military hands until 1964 when it was taken over by the Santa Bárbara National Company. In 1987, the land transfer agreement for the municipality was obtained, making it a public garden in 1994 and generating a large green space in the center of the city.

Fofó Park: A garden built in the north part of the city in 1971, specifically in the Santa María de Gracia district, the initial project was the work of the architect Eugenio Bañón Saura. This project envisaged the creation of an auditorium, meadow areas and children’s play areas, including a small skating rink. At the beginning of 1972, the plantations were made, and in June of that year, it was opened to the public.

Isaac Peral or Three Cups Park: This is a park with a fountain in the center in the shape of three cups from which water falls from the top. It is located in the La Flota neighborhood and is one of the largest in the city. It has gardens, walks, a canine area, sports facilities (basketball/football courts), a stage for events and large children’s areas.

Festivals and culture

Murcia hosts celebrations of several festivals from different cultural backgrounds:

International Folklore Festival of the Mediterranean.

Murcia Tres Culturas International Festival: Takes place in May and was created with the idea of overcoming the barrier of racism and xenophobia, seeking the meeting, understanding and reconciliation between cultures and peoples. The denotation of three cultures alludes to the coexistence between the Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures in the Iberian Peninsula during some periods of the Middle Ages. Every year, the festival has a guest country, and although it revolves mainly around music, it also includes exhibitions, colloquia and conferences.

Warm Up: Formerly called SOS 4.8, a festival created by the Ministry of Culture of the Autonomous Community to project a more modern image of the city and place it on the national scene of festivals, which has been done successfully. Since 2008, editions have been held, which take place the first weekend of May at the Fica Fairgrounds, in the Vistabella neighborhood.

Animal Sound: A festival of electronic and urban music that takes place every year at the Fica Fairgrounds for two days in June. Every year, it has important national and international artists.

Lemon Pop Festival: An indie music festival held during September. It has almost 20 years of history, and important artists such as Vetusta Morla and Nacha Pop have passed through its stages.

Holy Week: Processions that are famous for the images of Salzillo and their unique character. In the traditional-style processions, the Nazarenes wear a Huerta attire and give candies, monas and beans to the people who attend the processions. It has been declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest.

Spring Festivities: Celebrated the week following Easter Sunday. Concerts and parades take place throughout the week and the peñas huertanas install in the gardens of the city the so-called “barracas” where you can taste the local cuisine. Among the many events, on Tuesday, the Bando de la Huerta and on Saturday the Burial of the Sardine stand out, both declared of International Tourist Interest.

September Fair: Takes place during the first fortnight of September. It includes numerous festive events and culminates in the pilgrimage of the Virgen de la Fuensanta. On these dates, the Moors and Christians Festivities are celebrated, which commemorate the Muslim foundation of the city and the Christian conquest.

Cuisine and restaurants

Murcian cuisine has influences from neighboring La Mancha, Valencian and Granada cuisine. However, the region of Murcia belongs to the Spanish Levant, and this can be seen in the marine character of some dishes, its distinguishing ingredients being rice and some salted fish preparations called mojamas.

In the case of Murcia, there is an abundant orchard in the interior (representing the riverside and gardener cuisine), an attachment to pork products identified with the slaughter of the pig (La Mancha cuisine) and an abundant cuisine of fish and seafood. It should be noted that the basic elements of Murcian cuisine are peppers and tomatoes. One of the most unique preparations is Murcian meat pie.

There are seven Michelin list restaurants in the city:

  • Odiseo, Avenida Juan de Borbón 224 – 2º, 65 – 120 EUR • Modern Cuisine (One star)
  • Barrigaverde, Maestro Salvador Ortiz 6, 30 – 60 EUR • Regional Cuisine, Market Cuisine
  • La Pequeña Taberna, Plaza San Juan 7, 20 – 40 EUR • Regional Cuisine
  • Local de Ensayo, Policía Angel García 20, 45 – 60 EUR • Creative, Contemporary
  • Alborada, Andrés Baquero 15, 20 – 45 EUR • Traditional Cuisine
  • Pura Cepa, Plaza Cristo del Rescate 8, 19 – 30 EUR • Traditional Cuisine
  • Keki, Fuensanta 4, 18 – 37 EUR • Modern Cuisine

Shopping

The centre of Murcia is an ideal place to go shopping, as well as to stop along the way and enjoy a break in any of the dining establishments.

The names of the streets Platería, Trapería, Jabonerías, tell us about the artisanal trade activity and an important commercial tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages.

Food market Mercado Veronica is a must visit as the Murcia region is known for its fresh and tasty produce.

Bargains can be made at the souvenir and flea market on Jeronimo de Roda behind the El Corte Inglés department store.

How to get to?

Region of Murcia International Airport (RMU) is located 17 km from the city centre, in the suburban district of Corvera. The airport operates several international and domestic routes. It was opened 15 January, 2019.

Main information

Area: 881 sq. km (municipality)

Coordinates: 37°59′10″N 1°7′49″W

Population: 459 400

Languages: Spanish

Currency: Euro

Visa: Schengen

Time: Central European UTC +1

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