If there was ever a part of Spain I knew less and still need to discover more about, it is the Región de Murcia, and that part of the world is almost a black hole for holidaymakers, as either side of it, the touristic powerhouses of the Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol are notably more popular. Murcia capital however, is inland, and even less well-known, so let’s change that.
Murcia is located about 30km from the sea, where the nearest seaside town is El Mojón, right on the border with Alicante, (though San Pedro de Alcantara and San Javier are about the same distance). The nearest Major city on the sea is Cartagena, followed by Alicante 82km away from Murcia (I cycled between the two places). Lorca, and Elche are also close by, and all are accessible by bus and train pretty easily. Further out, there are multiple daily services by train to Valencia, Castellón de la Plana, Tarragona and Barcelona. As of 2022, only the cities on the Mediterranean Coast (excluding Andalucía) are directly connected to Murcia by train (even Madrid isn’t, though that is set to change with the upcoming AVE).
Murcia is served by an airport, The Aeropuerto internacional de la Región de Murcia, and that has regular flights from London, Manchester and Birmingham with Easyjet and Ryanair and is connected to the City via Interbus. The city itself has local bus services covering all the important areas of the city, and just to the north of the city centre, a Tram also operates, but it’s mostly pointless for any visitor. From my experience, walking was still the best way to get around.
Accommodation is pretty widespread around the city, with some conveniently placed near a tram stop, but the majority of the places require some sort of walk due to the roads in the centre being pedestrianised. You can find all sorts here, hostels to apartments and 4* hotels, with rooms in the hostels usually around 20€ a night. Prices don’t fluctuate that much in this city, even during Easter and Christmas time, just be careful when searching on a site like booking or Hostelworld, as they often generalise the search for the whole region. I stayed in The Cathedral Hostel, and it was a comfortable stay.
Being inland and near the desert, it’s not much of a surprise to read that Murcia is generally hot during most of the year. It can, and often does reach the low 20’s in winter, and is regularly in the mid 30’s in summer, often reaching 40. Just take into account that it can get cold at night, but rarely freezing, but houses are not as well designed for the cold compared to cities further north. Historically, Murcia has been one of cities most affected by flash flooding, and September- October has seen some episodes of torrential rain (a month’s worth in just a few hours) over just a few days affecting infrastructure, So there is a risk that could happen during your visit, though it’s not exclusively those months.
My experience of visiting Murcia is that you don’t need much more than a day to see most of the monuments on offer here, and almost all of them are within walking distance. Of course the centrepiece is the Cathedral of the city that has been built in 3 styles of the eras at the time. The tower is the 2nd tallest in Spain after the Giralda of Sevilla (the sagrada familia is also taller, but not a cathedral), and can be climbed for panoramic views. The most visited attraction in the city is actually the Real Casino de Murcia, on Calle Trapería, the most emblematic street in the old quarter. You can book guided tours in this building and experience the neo mudejar style architecture inside, but bear in mind, it is still an exclusive club, so access is limited. Other places include The Palacio Episcopal on the Plaza de Belluga, Plaza de Santo Domingo with the church of the same name, and the Monesterio de Santa Clara, which features a really decent museum.
It’s worth bearing in mind, that there is quite a mixture of old and new as well as neoclassical in the old part, which is bigger than you initially think, so don’t be afraid to explore. Further afield, the Río Segura has a lot of historical monuments and great views of parts of the old quarter, and the outskirts has more hidden gems, the Castillo de Monteagudo with a statue of Christ in top, and the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Fuensanta, are both about 5km from the city centre, but well worth a look.
The Metropolitan area of Murcia also has some hiking routes that are locally popular, Particularly in the south, near the Santuario, where you can reach viewpoints such as the Cresta de Gallo, Relojero, Castillo de Asomada. To the north, Parque Polvorines and Coto Cuadros are also places to hike, though not particularly rewarding with the same sort of views as the mountains to the south. All places can be reached by local buses.
Eating in Murcia is quite an experience, in a very positive way. Plaza de las Flores is the most popular place to eat in the city centre, but not exclusive at all to other parts of town. You’ll notice lots of striped terraces lining up around this area, and all the places I tried were great value for money and had a lot of variety, though even this place does have the odd bar that is isn’t worth it (Meson de Murcia for example). Most of the bars and restaurants have more than 4/5 reviews, but that whole neighbourhood is great. La Pepa is one of the hot favourites with the locals and opened after I visited, so check it out, if not, Pepico was decent. nearer the cathedral, Los Zagales was probably my favourite. One thing I did notice about Murcia, was that for a city as big as it is, it’s actually pretty cheap, and one of the cheapest major cities of the south.
Typical Murciano food that you should be able to find quite easily are Zarangollos ( scrambled egg with courgettes, onion, sometimes potato and usually served cold), Potaje Murciano (stew with beans) Gachasmigas (saw it, didn’t try it) paparajotes ( a typical sweet of the city) but the thing that stood out a mile that was everywhere in the city, was the Pastel de Carne, a beef, chorizo and egg pie, with flaky puff pastry, and at 2-3.50€ a pop, it was a perfect snack when wondering around town. You’ll also notice a green-labelled beer called Estrella de Levante being consumed everywhere. This is The main beer of the region as mainstream as Cruzcampo is for Andalucía, and is no thrills and easy to drink. Wine is also prominent in the region, both red and white, and despite not being particularly famous compared to others, it’s palatable and everywhere. Café Belmonte is an expresso with condensed milk and brandy and is also quite popular here.
May, like many other parts of Spain, is when major festivals take place, and the Banda de Huerta is one of the most important ones in Murcia, as part of the Fiestas de Primavera itinerary. September is another important month for Murcia, as the Fería de Septiembre takes place then. The same neighbourhoods with a prominent food scene, is also where the nightlife would take place. All I’m going to say, is that Murcianos like to let their hair down.
And that brings me to the people. They are on the whole nice people, but they aren’t particularly used to having many tourists, so just be aware of that, because English is not well-known there, and some fellow tourists I spoke too felt a little limited to what they could do, so making some sort of plan day and night when you are there wouldn’t hurt you. as I mentioned in a previous blog, the Murciano dialect is a tough one to crack, as it is difficult to understand them. It certainly took me by surprise.
I also must highlight something that you may notice, and that is the amount of people who look a little hard up is notably higher than most places I have visited so far. There were so many betting shops around, and a notable number even in the bus station. It’s worth noting that Murcia was at the time of my visit, the politically corrupt region in the whole country, where more than 60% of local governments were involved in some sort of scandal. I’m not sure how much that affects the population, but there are more beggars around compared to most parts of the country.
But yeah that is it for Murcia, a city that is a little out of the way, yet big enough to offer you an interesting experience. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the surrounding attractions as well as the city centre, and whole city is a melting pot of everything that defines what it is to be Murciano. See for yourself and enjoy a night or two a stones throw away from the Med.