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Like many other cities in southern Spain, the Moors founded Murcia. The Arabs constructed an irrigation system from the Segura River, which formed the basis for the thriving agriculture around the city. Apart from the ancient city wall and the Moorish castle on top of the hill of Monteagudo, there is, however, not much left to see of the Arab influence in Murcia.
Construction of the cathedral in Castilian Gothic style started immediately after ousting the Moors, in 1394. Because of later additions and renovations, the church turned out to be a hodgepodge of styles. The base of the tower is built in Renaissance style, but the top is Baroque, just like the façade. One can also recognize Rococo and neoclassical influences. The cathedral is located on the central Cardinal Belluga Square with opposite the Palacio Episcopal (Bishop's Palace) from the eighteenth century.
Large part of the old city is pedestrianized. Between the cathedral and the Plaza de Santo Domingo runs the Calle Trapería, where you can shop till you drop in luxurious designer shops. If you don't have the money for this, you may solve this problem with a visit to the casino in this street. The casino has a beautiful patio in Moorish style. The Moors didn't build the casino though. It was built in the mid-nineteenth century, but the architects were inspired by the Alhambra in Granada. Don't forget to visit the Mercado Veronica, where agricultural produce from the surrounding area is sold.
In the eighteenth century, the famous sculptor Francisco Salzillo lived and worked in Murcia. Christianity was his main inspiration and his art is therefore carried along during the usual Easter processions. In the Museo Salzillo you can see several hundreds of his creations.
Bridges from various periods and in different styles span the Segura. The oldest bridge is the Puente de los Peligros, which is usually just called the Old Bridge (Puente Viejo). The bridge was built in the eighteenth century, after earlier bridges had been swept away by floods. This was the first bridge that could resist the periodic flood. The Puente Nuevo is an iron bridge from the early twentieth century and the latest addition is a bridge designed by the renowned architect Santiago Calatrava.
A road trip through the Ricote Valley is a nice day trip from Murcia. The route starts twenty kilometers outside the city near Santiago Pontones and along the way you will cross picturesque towns along the Segura. Thanks to irrigation, the green valley is striking against the backdrop of rugged, bare mountains. There are several vineyards within the valley, some of which you can visit and where you can of course sample the local wines.
The Sierra Espuña is covered by pine forests. Several walking and cycling routes have been mapped out through this regional park and there is also a rock wall of half a kilometer long and sixty to eighty meters high. This Paredes de Leiba is extremely popular among mountaineers. Some parts are manageable for beginners, but other parts of the rock are reserved for experienced mountaineers only.
Northwest of Murcia lie the historic towns of Caravaca de la Cruz and Cehegin. In the latter you'll find a beautiful medieval church, the Iglesia de Maria Magdalena, in a stunning environment. Caravaca's castle houses a Holy Cross (which explains the town's full name) which is said to have a healing effect.
The seaside town of Torreviejo with amazing white sandy beaches is located east of Murcia. Torrevieja is named after one of the four medieval towers that stood along the coast for protection against attacks by sea. The one best preserved is the Moorish Tower (Torre del Moro).
It is difficult to find a free parking space out on the street in Murcia's center. There are parking garages but it is best to park your car here well before the shops open up again at the end of the afternoon. Parking is prohibited next to a curbstone with a yellow line. At times this line is barely visible as it is worn out. Parking is allowed along a blue line, but you have to buy a ticket at a parking machine.
Murcia Airport is located near San Javier, 45 kilometers southeast of the city center. The airport can be easily reached by rental car: From the city center you first take the A30 freeway south and next the Autovia C-3319 east. The route and exit to the airport are clearly signposted.