This is a trip I made a few years ag with a friend of mine. We decided to go to Murcia and Cartagena, in Spain. We went there in July/ August, and I have to say that it was extremely hot. And I know, we left in the end of July… but we were still surprised ;-). So if you are planning on going someday, maybe when you’re doing a road trip, I recommend you chose another month! Just avoid July and August. Something I already knew, but we didn’t had any choice.
So we left the 30th of July ‘till the 6th of August. We stayed three whole days in Murcia and two in Cartagena. Our flight left at 17h – but when we arrived at Murcia, there weren’t any buses left to drive us to the city center (or at least, that’s what we heard). So we took a cab (which costed approximately € 55) to take us to our youth hostel, The Cathedral Hostel. It was nicely located in the city center, in a quiet street, but it was actually really weird. The youngster at the desk where really friendly, but we never – or almost never – saw anybody else (maybe because they were all smart enough to avoid Spain in summer). Another thing that was “weird” was the surprisingly lesser choice of food at breakfast the further we stayed there… But everything else was fine. When someone – yes, one day there were other people – some guys from Belgium as well. You think us Belgians stick together, but think again! They stole our cooled water! But the boy at the desk was so kind to give us another (not cooled) bottle. So we absolutely have nothing bad to say about the Cathedral Hostel. The service was great.
After settling in in our room, we took a stroll along the neighborhood… at 22h30 it was still 29°C. Thank God there was air-conditioning in the room – which was noisy, but who cares?
The first day of our stay we visited a few things:
- The Iglesia Parroquial de San Juan Bautista
- The Catedral de Santa Maria de Murcia
- We walked passed the Plaza de Toros, the University
- The Casino de Murcia
- The Iglesia de Santa Domingo
Keep in mind that they are a big fan of the siesta in Murcia. So the Cathedral of Saint Mary itself is closed in the early afternoon. The museum stays open. We first visited the museum, then came back in the evening to visit the Cathedral. I would also recommend visiting the Casino of Murcia. It thought it was nice, with some Moore influences, nice rooms, a little library, … The people were friendly and helpful. I liked it. The Santo Domingo Church was also really nice to walk through. It’s a small church, but looks great. That day we also discovered the joy of frozen yoghurt and smoothies; which was our lunch for the next couple of days. The first day we didn’t want to give in to the heath and refused to stay inside. So at noon, and in the early afternoon, we stayed in the shadow of some trees in a park a bit outside the city center. After that, we embraced the siesta in the early afternoon as well and stayed in our youth hostel between 13h and 16h…
In the evening I wanted to go the 100 Montaditos – my one time favorite bar in Spain (memories)… but they didn’t had one. I was disappointed, but they directed us to Lizzaran, which is also a really nice place to eat tapas (also located in several places in Spain). So recommendable to!
The second day we decided to be lazy. It was too hot to do anything else. We heard there was a park nearby: Terra Natura. It’s a water park, combined with a zoo. We heard ‘water’ and we were sold. We got there by tram, rather easily. We first did a short tour in the animal park, but most of the animals weren’t to be seen – or sleeping or hiding away from the temperatures.
So we went towards the swimming pools. We didn’t want to pay for a seat, so we just layed our stuff on the ground, under an umbrella.
Before we left, we did another tour in the animal park. This time all the animals were awake. We also got a chance to feed the bears some carrots (thanks to a wild boar that escaped and got loose, so we couldn’t go to the next part in the zoo ;-)).
The third day of our stay in Murcia was actually a day too many… we walked around the city some more. Left the center and went more inwards. There are a lot of nice buildings to be seen. But none of them are worth visiting – or you’re not able to visit them. The worst part of this day was our final evening meal. I chose a place to eat, it looked nice, it was expensive… but the food was awful! Really… I wish I chose Lizzaran again. Too bad I can’t remember the name of the place we ate… otherwise I could warn you guys were not to go! After our ‘nice meal’ we wanted to find the party-place, but we never found it.
We left Murcia and went to Cartagena by bus: an experience at its own. We were a bit too early at the busstation and saw all kind of strange people (dis)appear. When the bus arrived we used our elbows to get a place next to each other. One arrived we left for our youth hostel Pension Rosa. Also… very weird. But very friendly. There were more people staying here.
Our first day in Cartagena was a day of history. We visisted:
- The Museo Teatro Romano (Museum + Roman Theatre)
- Barrio del Foro Romano (with Roman Thermae)
- A panoramic elevator
- The Castillo de la Concepcion
The four things were all included in one ticket (€9 at the time). I don’t know if we would’ve visited the Castillo de la Concepción otherwise. But I’m glad I did. It’s an interactive museum, nice for children as well. With a nice park surrounding the building. The Roman Theatre also was really nice to visit. Maybe don’t visit it at noon, but in the morning or the evening. It kind of gets hot there, with all the stones. In the Barrio del Foro Romano there were digging up Roman Thermae. I think you can get a guide to walk you around all the historical buidlings. But we didn’t use one and we were just fine. So it depends on what you want.
The second day we took a walk around the city. We went to the military buildings, walked next to the sea, sat on a wooden bench, … It’s actually a really nice city to just walk around and nothing as well. After a few hours we decided to take a little boat tour. I don’t remember exactly why… or were we went to, if we went to anywhere at all. But it was nice, with the wind in our hair ;-).
In the afternoon we went to one of the beaches. We went there by foot, which is doable if you like walking. After letting my sunscreen explode on my belly we got some peace and quiet at the very, very, very busy beach. But we liked it… keep in mind: it’s not a sandy beach, it was covered with little rocks. So do take a good towel if you want to lay down and do some sunbathing.
On our trip back to the airport, we took the bus again. I think we asked three of four times if the driver would notice us when we had to get off. We never were really sure if she understood us – although we said it in English and Spanish. In the end we got left in a rather… dead place. We got stuck in San Javier; which was at “walking distance” to the airport. So they said. But … which direction? Nobody knew. So we took a cab – after asking all the people we saw if there was a taxi-stand. Nobody knew, but thankfully a woman called one for us. And we made it. In one piece!
After our trip I dare say that three days in Murcia really is on day too many. I think one, and at the most two days, are really sufficient. I would say the same for Cartagena. Although I liked this city so much more! Maybe because it was next to the sea so we got a bit of a breeze here and there… :-).
I would say that both cities are worth visiting as a stopover when you’re doing a roadtrip – but I wouldn’t recommend them as a citytrip-destination.
If you think otherwise, or if you have some more tips: leave them in a comment!