Guide to Murcia
Until recently Murcia has been one of the least developed regions of coastal Spain.
News: The worst earthquake to hit Spain in 50 years occurred in Lorca, Murcia on 11th may 2011). Our thoughts and best wishes go out to everyone who suffered from this horrific catastrophe.
It was only the area around the Mar Menor, Europe’s largest salt water lagoon, which attracted the interest of developers during the early 'run for the sun' property boom years. But with other coastal areas running out of development potential, investors are now turning their attention to Murcia – a region which some industry experts predict will be one of Europe’s biggest growth areas over the next decade.
Murcia may have been overlooked by the package holiday market and foreign investors in the past because the region as a whole is nowhere near as lush and green as either Valencia or Andalucia. Much of it is dry and arid, except for the huertas (family farms) which use ancient Moorish irrigation systems to produce some of the country’s finest citrus fruit and vegetables.
But the region has its own special charm, not least because the coastline (so far) remains relatively unscathed by tourism and the major towns and small inland villages are still totally Spanish in character. This may all change in the not too distant future because some major developers are moving in with multi-billion dollar schemes for huge housing complexes and luxurious golf resorts.
Murcia already boasts some of the best golf and tourism facilities at the exclusive La Manga Club, alongside the Mar Menor. And with the promise of several more world-class18-hole courses to come in the near future, the region is setting its sights on rivalling Andalucia as the golfing mecca of Europe.
History of Murcia
But as Murcia looks to a lucrative future, nothing can detract from the beauty of its historic cities - the capital city of Murcia, the ancient naval port of Cartagena and the lovely renaissance town of Lorca, crowned with its eye-catching 12th century castle. All three are steeped in history and boast a wealth of fascinating museums, palaces, churches and ancient monuments.
The fabulous Cathedral in Murcia city (Right) is well worth a visit. You can spot it from miles away because of its 96-metre tower which houses no less than 25 bells. Construction work on the cathedral started in the mid 14th century, on the site of a Moorish mosque and lasted for another four centuries.
The city’s 18th century convent church of Santa Ana is no less attractive, partly because the Sisters of the Convent’s Closed Order bake cakes and sell them to the public through a revolving hatch (to avoid breaking their vow of no contact with the outside world).
Other places of interest include the magnificent 19th century casino and the Salzillo Museum which houses an impressive collection of life-sized polychrome sculptures. The figures were carved by 18th century Murcian sculptor Francisco Salzillo and beautifully painted in bright colours (polychrome means 'many colours'). The figures are carried through the streets during the city’s famous Easter processions.
For those who enjoy discovering 'the real Spain' away from the costas, Murcia is a delight to explore with its traditional villages where life continues much has it has done for generations. The hill town of Jumilla, at the northern end of the region, is famous for its very quaffable, full bodied red wine which has been produced in the area for centuries.
Places to see in Murcia
The Cathedral of Murcia
An important symbol of the city with its ninety- six meter tower and twenty- five bells. The Cathedral can be seen high above the city from miles around.
The Romea Theatre
Named after a famous local actor, Julian Romea, as is the square in which it stands, built at the northern end of the Arab city wall.
The Church of 'Nuestro Padre Jesus'
The main feature of this church is the set of eight processional floats belonging to the fraternity and the 556 figures of the world- famous Christmas Crib.
Dating back to 1847, the Casino contains a lovely library, the hidden secrets of the Lady's Powder Room, a magnificent Moorish patio and a splendid Neo-baroque Ballroom.
The Bishop's Palace
Worth a visit to view the central courtyard, main staircase, Bishop's Balcony (known as "El Martillo") and Palace chapel should be seen.
The Convent Church of Santa Ana
Not only an architectural pleasure but visitors are recommended to sample the delicious, freshly baked cakes which the Sisters of the Enclosed Order sell.