Murcia is a bustling, thriving city in south-eastern Spain, the capital of Murcia Province, an autonomous region on the Segura River.
The old city centre retains a great deal of historic charm, with narrow alleys and wide boulevards punctuated by beautiful plazas. The banks of the river Segura in the central area are lined with fine promenades, inviting a leisurely stroll and relaxing drink at one of the many excellent cafés.
The city itself has grown and spread considerably over the surrounding plain with large suburbs and industrial areas. An important hub within the national logistics network, and vital in the food chain supplying market garden vegetables to Northern Europe.
Murcia City has an International Airport, served by most other Spanish capitals and many major European cities.
Founded by the Moors in the 9th century, Murcia was the capital of a Moorish kingdom until it was taken over by Castile in 1243.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria dates from the 14th century and was restored in the 18th century. The city also has a university (1915).
The importance of the city over the years can be seen in its churches, palaces and other public buildings.
To experience Murcian Baroque architecture at its best, visit the churches of La Merced, San Juan de Dios, San Nicolas or San Miguel, and buildings such as the Bishop V Palace or the Palacio Fontes.
The Cathedral with its famous baroque design, the late Renaissance Junterones chapel and the Velez chapel, combining Gothic details and Moorish decorations, highlight the variety of architectural styles which can be seen.
In the Traperia, a pedestrianised street, you will find the Casino (built in 1847). Its entrance hall is in the style of a Moorish courtyard, with a richly carved ceiling and intricate stucco wall panels. The Casino also houses an elegant Viennese Ballroom.
Two further buildings that are well worth a visit are the Romea Theatre and the Town Hall.
The theatre has a wide range of productions all year and tickets can usually be bought on the day.
A variety of museums and exhibition centres include the Belle Artes public gallery or the Archaeological museum, which holds one of the best collections of Iberian art in the country.
The Salzillo Museum, contains beautiful carved religious figures by the famous artist. The cathedral museum is interesting for it's portrayal of the religious history of the City. The municipal museums offer a variety of themes and ever changing exhibitions. The Almudi Palace Art Centre, the Museum of Bullfighting and the Ramon Gaya Art Gallery are operated by the city.
Traditional Murcian pottery, embroidery, carpet making and papier mâchë toys can be seen at the Regional Craft Centre.
Murcia is a popular destination for shopping, with a great variety of small boutiques where you can buy ‘off the peg’ clothes whose price often includes any alteration required for a perfect fit. Larger stores and well-known franchise shops are to be found in the city centre.
Murcia has a fantastic array of restaurant cafés and bars, where you can enjoy the most sophisticated and simplest offerings of the region. Pastelerias invite you to forget worrying about your waste-line with their colourful golden displays.
The plains of Murcia are incredibly fertile, and produce a vast array of fresh fruit and vegetables, which make up the base ingredients of the regions cuisine. Rice is also staple here, and finds it's way into many dishes.
The abundant and varied seafood from the Mar Menor and the Mediterranean, along with game and farmed meat from the mountains complete the picture.
Some typical dishes include: Arroz y Conejo (rice with rabbit), Arroz de Verduras (Rice and Vegetables), Arroz y Costillejas (rice and ribs), Arroz Marinero (seafood rice) and Paella Huertana, a delicious vegetarian paella.
Non-rice dishes specialities include Potaje, a rich stew dish; Menestra, a dish of sautéed vegetables; Habas con jamón" (ham and broad beans and Caldo Murciano, a local soup dish. The king prawns fished in the area are also particularly fine, and the Huevas de Mújol, a type of caviar, is also a high delicacy of the region.
Many desserts and cakes, often based on the local almonds, are made here. Try the famous “Jijona” ice-creams which are still made traditionally and have genuine “Nougat” ice-cream, also made with the almonds of the region.
The fine wines from Jumilla and Yecla are known throughout Spain and beyond for their earthy, full bodied, rounded, fruity flavours.
Murcia enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate, very hot in the summer, and mild with frequent rain in the winter.
The surrounding plain is a fertile, irrigated land that produces oranges and other citrus fruits, cereals, olives, peppers, and market garden produce.
The city is a centre for transportation, trade, and tin mining. Other industries include food processing, distilling, and the manufacture of textiles, chemicals, apparel, furniture, and building materials. The cities silk weaving industry dates from the middle ages.