Alicante and Murcia are two cities (about an hour apart) in the region of Spain south of Valencia. Alicante, on the coast, attracts some tourists in the Summer (although not nearly as many as its neighbour, Benidorm), while Murcia is a somewhat unknown, though nonetheless beautiful and interesting, city! Both Alicante airport and Murcia airports are the nearest to this beautiful part of Spain.
I’ve been housesitting just outside of Murcia and have had the pleasure of spending time in both cities. Here are my top 10 highlights.
1. Hire a Scooter (Alicante)
Or (as I did) make friends with a local who owns one and convince them to show you the town in exchange for lunch! There is heaps to see and do in Alicante, but the city and its many beaches is quite spread out so a scooter is a great way to get around!
2. Explore the Old Town (Alicante)
I think these pictures speak for themselves. Alicante’s old town is full of old-style homes, many of which are very well kept. It sprawls from the city centre at sea-level up the side of the hill towards the Castle, needing many stairs to get from place to place. The outside walls of many homes are covered with flower pots, painted tiles and framed doors and windows, making for a beautifully colourful neighbourhood!
You can explore several plazas, churches and cathedrals as you wander up the stairs and through the tiny alleys.
3. Walk (or take your scooter) up to the Castle (Alicante)
The first fortress of Alicante, the large site of this castle gives you a 360 view of the city of Alicante. A wander around the fortress will show you the several old gun embankments, disused canons and inside you can see coats-of-arms of several local Alicate families.
You can actually catch an elevator up from sea level (through the mountain), or you can walk/cycle/scooter/drive.
4. Chill out at San Juan Beach (Alicante)
Take a walk along the loooooonnggg stretch that is San Juan Beach. You can play a game on one of the many beach volleyball courts, muck around on the playgrounds, eat at a wide variety of restaurants, sip a cocktail on the sand, slurp an ice cream. OR you can just lay down a towel chill out, taking in the sun, water, sand and Mediterranean atmosphere.
5. Eat Tapas! (both Alicante and Murcia)
When in Spain…!
There is no shortage of Tapas restaurants in either Alicante or Murcia. A good idea is to do a ‘Tapas’-crawl (like a bar-crawl but for tapas), trying one-two dishes at each restaurant as you walk around the town in the afternoon.
Up-market tapas we ate in Alicante at Erik Cafe Bistro – [marinaded grilled artichoke, Jamon and manchego; sirloin, liver, teriyaki sauce on bread; avocado, tomato, smoked sardine, olive oil on bread].
Basic, typical Murcian Tapas at Los Zagales, near the Cathedral, in Murcia. Typical Spanish tapas involve a lot of meat, cheese, eggs, bread and battered, fried foods. So they’re not great for anyone with food intolerances or vegan/vegetarian. In many cases I ordered a ‘bread’ tapa but just ate the filling/topping and left the bread.
6. Eat lunch at Los Arroces de Segis (Murcia)
Los Arroces is a fabulous restaurant open for lunch every day. It does a set menu featuring all of the local, regional dishes of Murcia and is the best place to try food true to the region. Read my blog post Mouthwatering Murcian Morsels to see photos and read about the delicious food!
After lunch, take a walk from the restaurant up to the Santuario de la Fuensanta.
7. See the view from Santuario de la Fuensanta (Murcia)
About a 20-30min walk from Los Arroces is the Sanctuario de la Fuensanta. The Virgin Fuensanta is the patron saint of Murcia and this ‘sanctuary’ is the main site of her worship in the city. The central, baroque cathedral was built in the 1700s and displays some beautiful stained glass windows. The site is also home to nuns who continue to serve the Virgin. Aside from the cathedral, the site provides magnificent panoramic views of Murcia, and a starting point for some hikes in the nearby hills which I highly recommend (although perhaps not in the heat of the day).
8. Shop at a Local Market (Murcia)
Every town has a weekly market. In Murcia it is on a Thursday, while in Alcantarilla (nearer to where I was staying) it is on a Wednesday. Local produce growers and producers come and sell their wares at the market, including fresh-cut Jamon (Spanish version of prosciutto), cheeses, olives, lentils, capers and more. There are also stalls selling cheap clothes, shoes, jewellery, toiletries and so on.
[Fresh veggies, cured meats, olives and sliced Jamon (Spanish version of prosciutto) fresh from the leg]
9. Spend a day wandering around the City (Murcia)
Murcia has a wonderful “Monument Trail” which you can find all the details for at the Tourist Office near the Cathedral. All the significant sites have a plaque with a blurb in both Spanish and English about the site, it’s history and the architecture. You can follow this around the whole city![The Cathedral; Restaurants in the middle of the street getting ready for lunch service]
Some of my favourite sites are the “Catedral de Murcia”, the University and the “Real Casino de Murcia” (which is a ‘club’ of sorts). You can enter the Casino for 5 Euro which includes an audioguide – I highly recommend![Library at the Real Casino de Murcia] [“Arab Room” and the “Ballroom” at the Real Casino de Murcia]
[Ladies Bathroom at the Real Casino de Murcia]
As you walk around you’ll also find yourself exploring narrow streets lined with boutique shops and cafes/bars which then open out into gorgeous plazas. It really is a lovely day of exploring.[Shopping street in Murcia; University of Murcia]
10. Pick some Local Lemons (Murcia)
The dry summers in Murcia are perfect for growing Lemons and other citrus fruits. Many homes in the city have a small grove of trees, and not far out of the city there are much larger groves and farms. The general ‘rule’, or custom so-to-speak, is that you are allowed to pick lemons from the trees so long as you can carry them in your hands as you leave the grove (ie. you’re not allowed to fill a bag). So go and get a daily lemon serve!
If you decide to fly into Alicante airport and need to get to your accommodation quickly or to the city centre why not pre-book Solhop airport transfers. They allow you to pay the fare on arrival instead of paying when you make the booking. You can also cancel anytime.