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Murcia Cruises

About Murcia, Spain

Even to Spaniards, Murcia is not a highly known city. And that’s a shame, because if they knew what a cultural treasure it was, they might come to appreciate their shared heritage all the more. The charms of Murcia lie in its embrace of its rural pleasures. Surrounded by farmland and huertas, or fertile market gardens, Murcianos are never at a loss for produce freshly plucked from “Europe’s orchard,” as this fertile corner of Spain is often called. They, in turn, seem to live by the patient cycle of the harvest, going about their days at a leisurely pace.

The Moors founded the city in 825, though Carthaginians and Romans had developed vital settlements closer to the Mediterranean. To survive in the semi-arid climate, Moors introduced a vast irrigation network for the growth of crops and for city use. Soon, they established their own Kingdom of Murcia and called the city its capital. Later, the Moors were expelled by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1243, leaving Murcia virtually unpopulated. The victory gave Castile access to the Mediterranean Sea and cut off the expansion of the Kingdom of Aragon, which had been progressing southward along the coast. Murcia remained a vassal kingdom until 1812 and became an autonomous region of Spain in 1982.

Murcia Lifestyle and Culture

The pace of life is slow and easy in Murcia. By many accounts, the city has found the ideal balance between relaxation and productivity, with many residents preferring an extended siesta time over putting in long days on the farm or at the shop. The city is graced with quiet streets, green parks and some of Spain’s most hospitable people, many of whom step out each weekend for a long paseo, or stroll. Murcia takes on a youthful spirit during the academic year, when students flock back to the University of Murcia.

Murcia is perhaps best known for its huertas, its many market gardens that have shaped the region’s long agricultural history. Fruits, vegetables and flowers are all grown for export, but they also find their way to local kitchens and restaurants. The tradition is commemorated each year during the Bando de la Huerta, the Orchard Parade, during which locals dress up in customary huertano clothing. The Three Cultures International Festival is another popular event full of music, dancing and even lectures. This unique celebration was founded to embrace all three cultures that have coexisted on the Iberian Peninsula for centuries: Christian, Jewish and Muslim.

Murcia Sights and Landmarks

A major centerpiece of the city is the Plaza Cardinal Belluga. Here, the 18th-century facade of the Cathedral of Murcia is considered a masterpiece of Spanish baroque architecture; its original building had been constructed over an old Arab mosque and styled as Castilian Gothic 300 years earlier. The bell tower is a mix of Renaissance, baroque, rococo and neoclassical. Also on the plaza, the Bishop’s Palace strikes a colorful pose. The Glorieta, an 18th-century landscaped city square, has long been a gathering place for locals, with its attractive setting on the banks of the Segura River. The ayuntamiento, or city hall, of Murcia, enjoys this scenic location.

Other structures reflect more of Murcia’s rich history. The Gothic-baroque Santa Clara monastery, once an active monastic institution, today is home to a museum that houses the remains of the Alcázar Seguir, a 13th-century Moorish palace. The 17th-century Almudi Palace proudly displays its interior columns imported from Tuscany. And the elegant stone bridge, the Puente Viejo, has spanned the Segura River since 1742.

Murcia Entertainment and Activities

Murcia is a walker’s paradise. Many of its streets in the Old Town are car-free, making exploration easy and pleasant. And there is a long history of Jewish influence here. Trapería Street was named for the trapos, or cloths, purveyed by Jewish merchants. It is also the address of the Casino of Murcia, opened as a private gentlemen’s club in 1847. Its facade is a splendid example of modernism. Inside, an elegant ballroom is adorned with five crystal chandeliers and a Moorish-style patio calls to mind the royal chambers of one of Spain’s grandest palaces, the Alhambra. Amble along Plateria Street, named for the plata, or silver, that was once traded in its shops by Jewish residents.

To admire the statuary and figurines of one of Murcia’s finest wood sculptors, stop by the Salzillo Museum, a fine collection of his ecclesiastically themed work. In the foothills of the Sierra de Carrascoy, visit the sanctuary of the Virgin of Fuensanta, Murcia’s patron saint. View the 17th-century baroque chapel and enjoy fantastic views over the city from this scenic hillside.

Murcia Restaurants and Shopping

The Spanish province of Murcia is widely known for its close connection to the earth. The region’s huertas, or market gardens, produce a rich crop of fruits, vegetables and wines, all of which show up in local dishes.

In Murcia, you’ll find more European and Spanish chains than privately owned boutiques, but many have a long history. Adolfo Domínquez has been a purveyor of fine clothing, bags and shoes for men and women since the 1950s. At Loewe, find well-tailored leather goods, produced by the company for 150 years. If the shoe fits at Camper, in business since its first store opened in Barcelona in 1981, you can go home with fine European footwear.