Things to Do in Region of Murcia
Built between the 5th and 1st centuries BC, Cartagena’s Roman Theater wasn’t discovered during modern times until 1988, following which a massive restoration took place. Come 2008, the newly discovered theater was opened to the public along with a museum, once again inviting visitors into a grand space that, during Roman times, welcomed some 6,000 spectators.
The theater is situated on a vista-rich city hillside, from which the stadium seating was carved out of the actual rock below. During a visit, you can explore the different corners of this conserved space, as well as check out the museum, which offers an in-depth overview of the archeological remains along with informative panels explaining the restoration (all in both English and Spanish).
To soak in the essence of Cartagena, plan to take a stroll down its Calle Mayor, or Main Street. The pedestrian-only avenue is the place to go to appreciate the city’s architecture, go shopping, or even to sit at a restaurant’s outdoor terrace as you watch the world go by.
Just steps away from the port and sea, the street begins at the grand, palm tree-lined Plaza de Ayuntamiento, or Town Hall Square, home to none other than the giant palace that is Town Hall itself. From there, travel past (or stop at) the Roman Theater Museum and onto Calle Mayor with its marble-tiled promenade. Along the way, you’ll walk by noteworthy architecture such as Art Nouveau masterpieces Casino de Cartagena, a fancy 19th-century social club, and Cervantes House (not to be confused by the famous author; this building was named after a wealthy businessman).
Explore the wilds of both the African Savanna and the Iberian Peninsula at Terra Natura Murcia, a ‘zooimmersion’ park that is home to over 500 animals. You can see several endangered species, such as the white rhino, ring-tailed lemurs, and Masai giraffes, before learning about the animals and lunching at the onsite restaurant.
The Royal Casino of Murcia (Real Casino de Murcia) is an extravagant architectural relic from the late 19th century, and features quite an eclectic mixture of design styles — from Modernist to Neonazari — that together are nothing short of dazzling. Located in the city’s old quarter, and just steps away from the main cathedral, the casino is a must-do stop on any Murcia itinerary.
Though a private social club, the recently restored building is open for tourist visits and events. While there, you can explore its many rooms and halls, including the Arabic patio, noted for its iron and glass dome; the lavish dance hall complete with paintings, gilt detailing, and giant, sparkling chandeliers; and the main gallery, a covered passageway illuminated by light that pours in from the windowed ceiling. More rooms and opulent corners abound, from the luxurious ladies’ room to the glamorous, wooden-shelved library.
To see and experience Murcia’s cathedral is a true feast for the eyes and senses. Its exterior is a vision of Baroque and Renaissance styles, with a bell tower that literally towers 95 meters over the city. The soaring structure houses 25 bells, each with their own name, and which have, in times past, together served to warn of various events from floods to wars and celebrations.
Built starting in 1394 on the site of a former mosque, the church is a mish-mash of styles given that its growth continued until the 18th century. Its Gothic interior is no less impressive than the exterior, featuring 23 different chapels — the most notable of them is Los Velez with its magnificent, star-shaped vaulted ceiling. The cathedral is also home to a museum, where you can discover a range of religious artifacts, as well as spy the excavated remains of the former mosque.
Fans of distant history will relish in discovering Cartagena’s Punic Wall, which dates back to the 3rd century BC. To explore its remains, head to the Punic Wall Interpretation Center, where you can not only see a portion of the salvaged structure (which is protected within the center) but also learn about its storied past.
The wall, of which 30 meters have been excavated, served as a city-surrounding defensive fortification built by the Carthaginians. The goal was to protect against Roman attack during the Second Punic War (though it ultimately failed). Apart from viewing the wall, you can also get up close to a later crypt, and learn more about it all via the center’s informative video and display boards. While the museum and archeological remains are rather small in size, the history is big, making it an intriguing visit for those keen to learn more about these ancient times.
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