IT’S nearing the end of summer – sob! – but that doesn’t mean that the sun is disappearing yet. It is just a two hour plane ride away.
Spain is continually one of the best places to visit for a holiday in the sun. Every summer, we Brits return there for a glimpse of proper summer sun with more than a few trips to the beach.
Let me – Pillow Magazine’s Faye Smith – point you in the direction of this little forgotten city when you’re thinking of your next visit to Spain.
The Region of Murcia is one of the biggest in Spain, yet I had never heard of the small city centre before living there for the past ten months.
Compact into a city – of which you can walk from edge to edge within half an hour – Murcia offers a place of old Spanish culture with hardly any English speakers there (apart from the mounds of Erasmus students every year) complete with places to eat, drink, dance, shop and more.
Plus! – in September, you can find highs of 38 degrees. Summer perfection!
Café Martínez: Plaza de Santo Domingo – Bajo, 17.
My favourite café. I visited practically every day. From cups of coffee and tea to jugs of classic Spanish sangria, this café has a drink for every occasion. The food is also fantastic with a choice of classic tapas, pizza, salad, and sandwiches. A personal favourite: tortilla, choricitos, pizza and un bocadillo de atún (a tuna sandwich).
Lizarran: Calle Polo de Medina, 5.
With classic, traditional recipes from the North of Spain, this restaurant has pinchos aka really small tapas combined with a slice of crusty bread. Lizarran is as cheap as chips with their three small prices: it depends what type of stick you have. There are cold and hot pinchos of a large variety so there is something for everyone: meat lover or vegetarian, young or old. P.S. They have the best patatas bravas in town!
La Tagliatella: Plaza Julián Romea, 3.
An Italian restaurant. The best in town. You can find La Tagliatella in practically every city of Spain. It is a place of pizza and pasta galore which are made from scratch the moment you order. There are many toppings for pizza and you can choose the type of pasta you want along with the sauce. The spag bol is to die for by the way! There is a range of other Italian delicacies too! Whichever takes your fancy.
“Picnic Place”: Plaza de Santo Domingo.
Just created within the past few months, this little picnic place has delicious food such as mini burgers, chips, chicken wings, a range of tapas and more. Here, you can also buy cheap beer at a price of one or two Euros. Perfect for a mini break in the afternoon. The seating is picnic benches to complete the picnic feel.
Plaza de Flores
This pretty little plaza is a place where the locals love to spend their evening casually drinking and eating tapas. La Plaza de Flores is crammed with tapas bars where you can eat cheese boards, traditional tapas and more. More importantly, there are traditional Spanish wines, sangria and beer. The majority of the alcohol will be local too which means you can enjoy freshly made drink, and you know you are helping the Murcian community.
Pérez – Casas: Calle de Las Copas [Drink’s Street]
This is the party zone. In England, we party all night long. In Spain, they party all night… and all day long. Hard work? I think so. In this slight street, there are locals crammed having a laugh, socialising, drinking, eating… Here, you can enjoy a very Spanish pastime. It is cheap and cheerful too! Bonus!
A word of warning about Spanish nightlife: Nobody, I mean nobody, goes to a club before 1am. I used to go between 2am and 2:30am. Make sure you get some shut eye during siesta time.
Boutique: Calle Puerta Nueva, 9.
I swear the bar staff have to look like a model in order to even be considered for the job. That’s not the only plus. Open until 7am, Boutique has a large dancefloor that spills into two bar areas. The DJ plays a mix of Spanish and English tunes – depending on what night you go on. If you go on a Saturday, you can guarantee a night filled with music from the top ten club anthems. Brush up on your Spanish skills because there won’t be many English around, and make sure your wallet/purse is ready for the 7e per vodka mixer. For practically a quad-vod though, you can’t go wrong.
Teatre: Calle Isla Cristina, 6.
At the weekend, Teatre is the place to be. This is also the case throughout the week. It has platforms with white statues on, upstairs booths, a large bar in the centre of the club, and modern up-to-date music. Teatre is known for putting on nights: from monologue shows to sex shows. Believe me, I didn’t think it was true, but it was. I’ve seen the photos. Teatre has something for every taste. Again, get your bank card and your Spanish skills at the ready.
This is a strip of sand that goes out into the ocean. The special thing about this sunbathing spot is that it’s surrounded by two different seas: Mar Menor and the Mediterranean. This strip of land is the perfect venue for a day out. It takes around 45 minutes to get there from the city centre.
Mar de Cristal: The Crystal Sea
The beautiful blue waters and the golden sand are a great combination for a spot of extra late summer holidaying. You can also experience water sports, golf and much more if you choose to stay in one of the nearby 5* hotels.
This is a favourite of the locals. During the summer this will be where they all are. If you want the beach all to yourselves, go in September!
If it’s a mix of beach and fiesta you’re looking for, head to San Javier or Los Naranjos.
Le Rien: Plaza de Santo Domingo
This little shop has a wonderful window display that draws you in to have a wander. It is definitely my kind of shop with beautiful accessories, one-of-a-kind dresses, stunning shoes and seasonal collections of bags, purses and travel accessories. The last collection whilst I lived there was based on Britain. You can also find an individual home ware section.
Nueva Condomina: Autovía A-7, Km 760, Churra.
Open 10am – 10pm. Think of Westfields, but smaller without The Village. Replace the English shops with Spanish, and the Nandos, Pizza Express etc. with Lizarran, Sirvent and other food places including Chinese, Italian and Brazilian. There is also a cinema. It’s in Spanish so don’t think you’ll be able to catch the latest box office hit in English. The Spanish high street stores are great! And cheaper than the British shops! If you want something from H&M and Zara, go to Spain. You will find nicer clothes at cheaper prices! This is definitely a place to visit for the shopaholic in the family. Just jump on the tranvía (aka the tram) towards Nueva Condomina.
La Catedral: Plaza Cardenal Belluga, 1.
Slap bang in the middle of the city lies the cathedral. It has one of the tallest towers in Spain. It was built in the fourteenth century and continues to stand to this day. Murcian people go to pray to Santa María (Saint Mary), Jesus and God during the mornings and late evenings. You will not be able to enter during the afternoon as it is closed for siesta. Inside is a magnificent alter with golden statues and pictures. There are also pieces of art, alters and statues surrounding the primary one. It makes it an interesting place to visit historically. During the summer months, there is also a museum where you can see the foundations of the cathedral and have a tour around the grounds, including a visit to the upper tower.
Plaza de Toros: Ronda de Garay, 48.
Bullfighting is still going strong in some parts of Spain. In the months between September and May, you can see a bullfight in Murcia. During the bullfighting season, between April and May, there are many shows to choose from. If you want to have a taste of the old, traditional Spain, I suggest you research a visit to the bullring whilst planning your trip to Murcia.
Every year, marquees are put up near the river at the top of Gran Víá for La Fería. During the month of September, there are parades, wine and food tasting, markets selling beautiful jewellery, delicious food and great knick knacks plus more including dance and music shows across the city and parties throughout the day and night. Book a last minute cheap flight to experience Murcia at its best.
Festival SOS 4.8
48 hours of music and art occurs during the first weekend of May. Artists from across Europe come together to give you a fantastic weekend. Last year The XX joined Justice and many more. Previous years have seen Pulp, Franz Ferdinand and The Chemical Brothers. Not to be missed!
Hotel Churra Vistalegre: Calle del Arquitecto Juan José Belmonte, 4 / Avenida Marqués de Los Vélaz, 12.
A simple hotel smack bang in the middle of the city, near Plaza Circular. It is an easy walk from Gran Vía, Plaza Santo de Domingo and other great attractions of the Southern city. It is not a bad price either. For example, four nights in November is £120 for a double room. You can’t go wrong with £30 a night for a little bit more warmth in the winter month.
Hotel Casa Emilio: Alameda de Colon, 9.
Situated across the river, further south of the city is a short walk away from Gran Vía, and near the main attraction of La Fería. It is slightly more expensive than Churra Vistalegre. This family run hotel has staff who are extremely friendly and helpful.