One of the most appealing types of tourism is related to learning the language which is spoken in the place visited. This is an original and enjoyable way of favouring the blending of cultures as well as getting to know the essence of a people by approaching its most intimate feature: its way of expressing itself. Those who visit the Region of Murcia with that aim will find all the ingredients for a profitable, funny and complete experience.
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Welcome to Murcia, one of the most comfortable capital cities you can imagine. We will let you know about what you shouldn't miss in this multicultural city, where life is in the streets, and where tradition and modernity harmoniously coexist.
TO ONE'S HEART'S CONTENT
Going from one terrace to another, from one square to another, walking about the streets and enjoying life in the open air is one of the best ways of blending in with the Murcian atmosphere. The good climate, together with cultural blending, have made Murcian people learn how to enjoy the hubbub to the full. Having some 'cañicas' -small draft beers- while chitchatting is here a real pleasure. If you add a couple of typical tapas from the region, we're talking about luxury. You won't be able to say 'no' to marineras, caballitos, matrimonios or pasteles de carne. Other typical dishes are michirones, Murcian salad, pisto and even some raw broad beans from the huerta with dried and salted bonito or some tomato slices. If you have a sweet tooth, try the paparajotes: lemon tree leaves coated in a dough made of flour, eggs, milk and grated lemon peel, which are fried and then dusted with cinnamon and sugar. Having them with a little glass of sweet wine is an authentic Murcian pleasure. But don't let anybody kid you: you DON'T have to eat the leaves.
In May, two giant festivals take place in Murcia: WAM and Murcia Tres Culturas, which are two very different but just as appealing musical adventures, with music and arts for tolerance, social harmony, solidarity and sustainability. In July, Murcia proves to be a capital blend of refined sensibilities from all over the world with the Mediterranean International Folklore Festival, which is Spain's oldest festival. Cinema enthusiasts are in their element at Ibn Arabi International Film Festival, a little jewel in the Olympus of young, promising film festivals which takes place in March, offering a week of independent films and additional activities; it resuscitates some film treasures that are usually swallowed up by commercial film producers. In November, Murcia celebrates the Region of Murcia International Puppet Theatre Festival, Títeremurcia, a stunning display of creativity offering sentimental, romantic people and children the opportunity to enjoy stories and puppet shows, and filling the city with the best audience in the world.
GO FOR A STROLL
Murcia is perfect to walk around: wandering through Trapería and Platería -two charming streets in the old part of the city- and following the scent of fresh coffee, enjoying its nice squares, and watching the sunset from Paseo del Malecón, surrounded by gardens and orchards, really are priceless. Another good idea is to rent a bike and roll; you'll definitely come across something interesting which doesn't appear in any guidebooks. Whatever the reason for your stay, we suggest you make space in your diary and spend some time in the city centre's commercial districts, boutiques, marketplaces, street markets... And of course, at the Centro de Artesanía -Craftwork Centre-, where you will find your very own 'little piece of Murcia' to take home.
A GREAT SQUARE
Cardenal Belluga square, commonly known as the Cathedral's square, brings together some of the city's main symbols, such as Santa María Cathedral, the Bishop's Palace and the Moneo Building. You'll find it inevitable to visit the Cathedral's Museum, go up the Cathedral's tower, go through the arcades, and sit down at any of this emblematic square's terraces to watch the hustle and bustle while you enjoy the view and the typical cuisine.
MUSEUMS FOR ALL
Coming to Murcia and not visiting its museums is a crime. They are so different from one another that you can spend a whole day visiting them without getting exhausted. The city's most outstanding museum is probably the Salzillo Museum, which houses the most important and complete collection by this brilliant Murcian sculptor: it includes the Holy Week floats, the 556 pieces nativity scene, and a set of original sketches. Also outstanding are the Santa Clara Museum, housing the region's best Islamic art collection and the valuable historical and artistic heritage owned by the nuns of the Order of St Clare, and the Ramón Gaya Museum, an intimate gallery with the main works by the 20th century's most distinguished Murcian painter. Other relevant museums are the Cathedral's Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the Fine Arts Museum, the San Juan de Dios Museum... In case you want to spend the day with children, we recommend the Science and Water Museum and the University Aquarium too.
If you want to enjoy a top-notch visit in Murcia, don't forget to go up to the Quitapesares terrace. Its viewpoint, next to La Fuensanta Sanctuary in El Valle y Carrascoy Regional Park, is even more perfect in the moonlight. You should complete the experience by trying some tapas or a glass of wine. If you go there during the day, you will be jealous of Murcian people for living next to this magnificent mountain range, which is fabulous for sports such as hiking, climbing, cycling and orienteering. On a small vantage point to the north, with opposite but quite as interesting views, is Terra Natura: a theme park with recreated natural habitats from throughout the world as well as a water park with toboggans, swimming-pools and an artificial river. One of its highlights is swimming with sea lions. Ideal for home-loving adventurers.
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN
If you enjoy staying out late during your holidays, we are pleased to tell you that Murcia's nightlife is one of the best among Spanish destinations. You'll find all kinds of nightclubs and bars, as well as restaurants opening till late, chiringuitos and affordable hotels. Most Murcian people enjoy being at a terrace in the city centre when dusk is falling: you can try it anytime throughout the year because of the city's mild weather and open character.
When was the last time you went to the theatre? Coming to Murcia and enjoying a great show at the legendary Romea Theatre is a winning bet: just sit down while the lights are switched off and start dreaming. Other relevant stages to get away from routine are the Víctor Villegas Auditorium and Conference Centre, the Teatro Circo, and the Puppa Clown Performing Arts Centre.
I spy with my little eye something beginning with...'C' for 'Cathedral' and 'Casino' -meaning social club-. The Cathedral is the region's most important temple and one of its main symbols too; it has more than 600 years of history and was built on the city's old Great Mosque. It is the perfect example of a monument with superposition of styles, from Gothic to Renaissance and impressive Baroque architecture. You will find it inevitable to go up its tower, admire its facade, and visit its museum and the Vélez and Junterón chapels. As a curiosity, Alphonse X the Wise's heart lies within an urn next to the High Altar. The Casino, as a social club, has been Murcia's social crossroads since the 19thC. Visiting this emblematic building, at the capital city's heart, is a real delight for elegance enthusiasts. It has become quite an institution in Trapería street, and is nowadays a culture and social harmony revitalising centre. You won't forget its Louis XV-style ballroom.
VISIT US IN SPRING
Visiting Murcia during its Fiestas de Primavera -Spring Festivities- is highly beneficial for your health; since the weather is simply perfect at this time of the year, and squares and parks are filled with colours, scents, barracas huertanas where you can taste the typical cuisine, and traditional events such as the Murcia en Primavera Parade, the Tunas -student music groups- Contest, and the Testamento Sardinero -Testament of the Sardine-. The two most important days within this week of festivities are Tuesday, with the Bando de la Huerta parade, and Saturday, with the Entierro de la Sardina -Burial of the Sardine- parade, both declared to be of International Tourist Interest. The day the Bando de la Huerta takes place, Murcian people as well as visitors go out in their traditional huertano costumes and enjoy a celebration which culminates in a great costumbrist parade. The Entierro de la Sardina is a spectacular parade, an unseasonable mixture of myth and carnival including floats from which thousands of toys are thrown to the little ones. The funniest funeral you can ever imagine.
Cartagena, with more than 3,000 years of history, has been the scene of some of the most outstanding passages throughout time. This Punic, Roman, military and art nouveau city offers nowadays so many things to see and do that it has become one of the most appealing destinations in the Mediterranean area.
On the top of one of the five hills of the city, in the Concepción Castle, is a good -possibly the best- starting point to visit this millenary city: the Interpretation Centre of Cartagena's History. Three thousand years of knowledge and history, together with the heritage from the most relevant civilisations from the past, in an hour's visit.
The Roman Theatre Museum is the city's undeniable symbol. It is a wonderful architectural ensemble, designed by Rafael Moneo, where every space is even more amazing than the previous one. It integrates Pascual Riquelme Palace, Santa María la Vieja Cathedral and, after the last corridor, the Roman Theatre, which is the most impressive part. An interesting detail: Carthago Nova Theatre, built in the 1st century BC by Emperor Augustus, was not discovered until 1990.
FEEL LIKE A ROMAN CITIZEN
If you enjoy reliving history and stepping over the floor on which some important events took place in the past, you will feel like a child in the old Carthago Nova's Roman Forum district. It is a real privilege to visit this site, hidden underground for more than 20 centuries, where the thermal complex and the atrium building stand out. If you come with your family, we recommend dramatised visits.
The Underwater Archaeology National Museum houses the famous 'treasure of Nuestra Sra. de Las Mercedes frigate', a booty including 570,000 gold and silver coins from the 18th and 19th centuries. The visit also includes many other elements which are maybe not as well-known but quite as valuable. We suggest you discover them step by step and then 'digest' the whole experience at the museum's restaurant, at a restaurant at the port, or at Santa Lucía fishing district. If you keep wanting more, the Naval Museum is another interesting visit; its most outstanding parts are the exhibitions on navigation and shipbuilding and Isaac Peral Hall, where you will see the famous submarine which has been the symbol of this port city for more than 80 years.
This boat ride will take you to the most haunting spots in the inner harbour, bordering the bay's fortifications. By admiring this wonderful view, you will be able to feel like general Scipio Africanus and imagine what he saw before the landing which made him conquer the old Qart Hadast. The itinerary includes a visit to the Centre of Interpretation of Cartagena's Defensive Architecture, where you will learn about history and legends of both the trade and military role played by this Mediterranean junction for more than 2,000 years of history.
A CHARMING BEACH
Cala Cortina is Cartagena's urban beach. To get to it you just need to go through a tunnel and there you go! A wonderful Mediterranean cove will appear in front of you, with children's play area, seafront promenade, restaurant, loungers and sunshades. Besides having a refreshing swim, you can dive and enjoy the area's underwater life.
HIKING OR DIVING?
If you're keen on hiking, the PR-1 route will take you from Cala Reona to Calblanque: an easy walk at the end of which you should definitely have a swim in the crystal clear waters of this nature park's beaches. You will need a cap, a pair of binoculars and a camera. Essential stops are Playa del Portús and Cabo Tiñoso, since the beauty and diversity of its seabeds have turned this area into one of divers' favourite destinations. You will like it so much that you won't feel like rising to the surface, but... Don't worry. When you do, you will be able to admire the magnificence of one of the Southeast's most important ecological landscapes.
FESTIVITIES AND FESTIVALS
Among Cartagena's many different treasures, one of them is irresistible: its Holy Week. The Passion Week in Cartagena has been declared to be of International Tourist Interest. Its processions are hypnotic due to the rhythmic movement of thousands of hoods and the polychromy created by flower ornaments and small lamps, an effect that is even more impressive in the small hours. If you arrive in summer, we have a special suggestion for you: spend the day at Calblanque idyllic beach, and the evening at La Mar de Músicas festival in Cartagena, where you will enjoy art and musics of the world. And remember: the scenes are placed at strategic spots by the Mediterranean seaside with amazing views.
UNDER THE LIGHTHOUSE
On Sundays, the street market takes place in Cabo de Palos, a picturesque fishing village next to La Manga del Mar Menor and less than 30 minutes away from Cartagena by car. Walking about the stalls, finding some bargains, enjoying the sea atmosphere and tasting a typical, delicious caldero rice dish -a fish rice dish cooked in a pot- at Paseo de La Barra, in front of the sea, is a perfect plan. Our advice: follow the seafront promenade and you will get to this locality's impressive lighthouse, which used to be a lighthouse-keeper school and is one of the best places to stare at the skyline by the Mediterranean.
Any time is a good time to pamper the palate. Typical from Cartagena are grilled fish, roast fish or fish baked in salt, michirones, the famous caldero rice dish, and rabbit, either with rice or ajo cabañil. The most typical salad is the cantonal salad made with smoked fish, including salmon, cod and harvestfish, together with capers, onion and olive oil. As a dessert: melon, prickly pear, arrope and tocino de cielo. To top it off, the famous asiático coffee, made with condensed milk and a little Licor 43, cinnamon, lemon peel and several coffee beans. The asiático cup is so original that it has become one of Cartagena's most singular souvenirs.
Lorca: the city of the sun, the city of one hundred shields... or one hundred names. Whatever you may call it, it definitely stands out for being packed with monuments: a Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque city.
THE FORTRESS OF THE SUN
This impressive Medieval castle, considered to be Lorca's greatest symbol, can be seen from far away. This space, where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together for centuries, is now a big theme area, designed for families to enjoy exhibitions, cultural activities and entertainment.
THE RECOVERED SYNAGOGUE
In the Archaeological Park of the Jewish quarter, you can visit the only Synagogue in Spain which was not turned into a Church afterwards, and admire its remains from the times when the Jews used to worship there by the end of the 15thC. Don't forget that next to the Archaeological Park is Lorca's Parador, where you can find a magnificent accommodation and also regain strength by tasting some of Lorca's typical dishes.
We introduce you to a different way of experiencing Lorca Holy Week. The embroidery museums of the Paso Azul, Paso Blanco, Paso Encarnado and Paso Morado suggest you learn first hand, and throughout the year, about the artwork created by the locality's needlewomen, as well as experience the most stunning episodes of this unbelievable celebration thank to the audiovisual presentations of brotherhoods.
A WALK THROUGH HISTORY
If you enjoy walking through history, you shouldn't miss this itinerary, which will help you find out why Lorca is considered to have more monuments than any other locality in the region. If you're keen on culture, you'll be delighted by its museums, squares, palaces, singular buildings and churches. If you want to make the most of this route, we recommend you purchase the tourist bracelet, with which you can visit all the city's museums for free and benefit from discounts and special offers in shops and restaurants.
A SPECTACULAR HOLY WEEK
Lorca's Biblical Passion Parades are one of Spain's most spectacular Holy Week expressions, and that is why it has been declared to be of International Tourist Interest. Its chariots, horsemen, horses, floats, superb gold and silk capes, as well as the famous rivalry between Paso Blanco and Paso Azul, will turn your perception about the Holy Week upside down.
During the summer, even if it may sound odd, you will specially enjoy the nightlife in the City of the Sun. Every year, dramatised night visits, concerts and shows take place for you to enjoy your holidays. We suggest you turn your concept of sightseeing around: why not going out for tapas with a sunset background, enjoying a pleasant starlit dinner at the terrace of the castle, or exploring constellations with powerful telescopes? Suitable for the whole family.
Even if all roads lead to Rome, this one goes straight there. Going along this old road, which used to link Hispania to the Empire's capital city, is the perfect excuse to visit Lorca, walk on history and enjoy a great variety of landscapes by the river Guadalentín. Either on foot or by bike. At the Municipal Archaeological Museum, several milestone columns found at the end of this section are exhibited. Their aim was to signalise distance every mill passus or Roman mile.
Both interesting and unknown, Lorca beaches are a great option if you're looking for something different, remote and quiet. Here you can enjoy an underpopulated, wild seaside, virgin coves, chiringuitos and idyllic nature. Nine kilometres of fresh air, a light-blue sea and unexplored beaches at your disposal. Playa Larga, Los Hierros and Baño de las Mujeres are a few examples of tranquillity and a good option for bathers in search of something different.
PITCHERS AND RAG RUGS
If you come to Lorca, don't forget to buy a jarapa -a coloured rug made in the traditional manner- and a Jarra de Novia -a piece of pottery which used to be frequent at weddings in the countryside and the huerta, so that from its five lips the priest, bride and groom, best man and matron of honour could drink-. These useful and beautiful craftwork pieces are a luxury to decorate your house impossible to obtain anywhere else. If you're interested, you should go, among other places, to Lorca Craftwork Centre: there you will find temporary exhibitions, live demonstrations, and sale of handicrafts.
SUCCUMB TO TEMPTATION
If you go to any of Lorca's patisseries, you need to know about its most popular temptations. First of all, crespillos: a dough made of salted wheat flour, oil and paprika, with a thickness of less than a half centimetre; this is nanotechnology of a crunchy nature, which substitutes daily bread for many locals. Picardías also stand out: a very traditional small bite consisting of a hazelnut coated with caramel. Last but not least, the tortada: a cake of sponge cake, almonds, meringue and either custard or cabello de ángel, made with different floors. These desserts accompany Lorca's cuisine, in which meat, cold cuts, stews and vegetables have the leading roles. You definitely have to try it all!
Found on the shores of the Mar Menor, this town has for generations been considered the ideal place to relax as you enjoy its beaches and water sports. Today, Los Alcázares is one of the top tourist destinations in the whole region.
A THOUSAND-YEAR-OLD HISTORY
Found amongst modern buildings in the village of Los Narejos, are Las Balsas Romanas de Los Diegos (Roman pools). Hidden for nearly 2,000 years and only found by chance, it is not yet certain what they were used for. Although, it is thought that they were part of a bigger hydraulic complex associated to a settlement or from industrial exploitation. This thousand-year-old history is just around the corner!
COME FLY WITH ME
Aviation fans will fall in love with the Municipal Aeronautical Museum of Los Alcázares, which is dedicated o the fact that it was the first seaplane base in Spain and one of the pillars of the Spanish air force during the first half of the twentieth century. Weapons, military uniform, aircraft propellers, anti-aircraft guns, hundreds of snapshots and important figures make up one of the most comprehensive military aviation collections.
A FAMED SPA FOR THE FAMOUS
Built in 1902 and witnessing the town thrive, The Hotel Spa of La Encarnación, has kept the same conservationist charisma from the early twentieth century. Some of the most distinguished people of that era stayed here, including King Alfonso XIII and The Duke of Galliera (El Infante de Orleáns). A visit to the hot springs hotel, which would use the waters of the Mar Menor for its therapeutic treatments, is a special experience due to how well it has been preserved and indeed its overall charm. If you do manage a visit, make sure you have a drink in the scenic terrace that overlooks the sea.
HUERTA AND SEA
In the early twentieth century the people of the Region of Murcia began coming to Los Alcázares to enjoy their holidays and recharge their batteries with the famous novenarios (Huertanos used to bathe themselves 9 times in the Mar Menor as they believed it had healing powers). As a result, over the years a close partnership formed between the Huerta and the sea. Nowadays to celebrate this relationship, la Semana Internacional de la Huerta y el Mar (the International Week of the Huerta and the Sea) takes place in the second half of August. Performances and traditional, cultural events are held in the park of the Peñas Huertanas where you fill find a craft fair and the chance to sample the traditional food in their Huerta styled huts. All in all, making it one of the most anticipated and fun summer occasions.
ARGH ME HEARTIES!
Every Easter, the town of Los Alcázares recreates the raids of the Barbary pirates that were carried out on the banks of the Mar Menor during the 16th and 17th Centuries. Take a tour of the medieval market, see the pirates ashore on the beach or just stroll the streets of the city with the pirates, jugglers, falconers and the many more colourful characters. It's quite an experience!
A CALDERO CONVERGENCE
On the 12th of October, in between a series of cultural and sporting events which are designed to celebrate the municipal independence of Los Alcázares, a celebration of one of the most typical dishes of the Region of Murcia takes place: Caldero (a fish and rice dish). Even at daybreak you can already see the beach full of cooking equipment to prepare the rice. Let the seaside atmosphere wash over you as the smell of the sea mixes with the smell of the Calderos that the locals are preparing on the shores of the beach. But if you aren't able to make it that day, don't worry. All of the local restaurants offer excellent Calderos throughout the year, just make sure you enjoy them whilst overlooking the sea!
LIFE'S A BEACHHUT
In the summer months, a never-ending line of huts and bars will await you on the beach. Here, you'll discover some of the local tapas; octopus, marineras (a potato and tuna salad upon an anchovy topped breadstick), matrimonies (salted and pickled anchovies) and steamed mussels. All of which you'll learn, taste so much better whilst eaten overlooking the sea. As the night goes on, some of the huts will transform into livelier bars and get the party started with live music, allowing you and your friends to continue enjoying yourselves.
ASSUME YOU'LL HAVE A GREAT TIME
On the 15th of August it is the local holiday for the patron saint of Los Alcázares, Our Lady of the Assumption, who is commemorated in a beautiful procession that starts at sunset on foot, and concludes with a boat ride to the soundtrack of fireworks, music and raw excitement. Crowds of worshippers and curious tourists gather in tribute to her and to be part of one of the most meaningful and popular festivals in Mar Menor.
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN
One of the things you must do in Los Alcázares is take a walk along the promenade at sunrise. A walkway between the palm trees allows you to enjoy one of the finest views of the Mar Menor and it's at this time when you can see the beautiful range of colours that blend into the horizon. It's a real treat for all the senses! Then, when this fantastic sight makes way for the day to begin, you know it's just the right time to enjoy a nice, refreshing dip in the sea. But if you're not an early riser, don't worry. The horizon puts on another magical show of light and colour at dusk, a real eye pleaser!
As well as being a big touristic resort, the waters of the Mar Menor are amongst the most highly regarded in Spain to host regattas. Due to the good weather and the warm, calm, and shallow conditions it boasts, you can practice all kinds of water sports here all year round. There are many teaching schools that cater for all levels so that anyone can go sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, kite surfing, speed boating and surfing and stand-up paddle boarding. No matter how old you are!