A warm and vibrant city, Zaragoza is often left in the shadow of the better known Spanish resorts when it comes to tourism. However, with its rich culture and endless sightseeing opportunities it is certainly worth a closer look.
Zaragoza is the capital city of the Region of Aragon, and located on the banks of the Ebro River, halfway between Madrid and Barcelona. Whilst remaining relatively untouched by foreign tourism, as the fifth biggest city in Spain and its fourth strongest economy, there is plenty going on in this friendly municipality, with rich culture, gastronomy, shopping and sightseeing being just a few of the delights it has to offer.
Zaragoza’s history dates back over 2000 years, providing a breathtaking legacy of monuments of Roman, Moorish, Jewish and Christian style, which give the city its character and lie awaiting to be explored. Notable places of interest include Aljafería Palace, an amazing eleventh century palace located right at the heart of Zaragoza, and one of its few remaining Moorish buildings. This also provides a prime example of Hispano-Muslim architecture at its best. The Virgin of Pilar Basilica Cathedral is often referred to as the “pride of the city”, forming one of the most important Sanctuaries of Mary of the Catholic worldons. A shrine of Baroque art, the interior walls and ceilings are adorned with intricate murals originally painted by some of the country’s most celebrated Artists. The Cathedral of the Saviour, sometimes known as ‘La Seo’, is also steeped in history, and whilst forming part of the World Heritage Site Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon, also includes Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. Meanwhile, the famous Misericordia Bullring was the first in Spain to possess a retractable roof, protecting spectators from adverse weather. Today the eighteenth century arena is frequently used for markets and concerts, as well as the traditional bullfights.
“There is plenty going on in this friendly municipality, with rich culture, gastronomy, shopping & sightseeing”
Zaragoza extends a colourful and varied cultural programme, where the intense artistic character of the city can be seen reflected in plays, exhibitions, concerts, festivals and fairs continuing throughout the year. The Acuario de Zaragoza is well worth a visit for anyone who is interested in the fascinating life that exists under the sea. It is home to 60 tanks, filled with over120 species originating from the Mekong, Nile, Amazon, Murray-Darling and Ebro rivers. For a truly adventurous day out for all of the family, you should pay a visit to Dock 39, which is located in the southern part of Zaragoza. The popular activity centre offers a wealth of sports and leisure pursuits, from surfing to hiking, and ice skating to horse riding. Then there is the Zaragoza Amusement Park, situated only a short drive away from the city centre. Another perfect venue for families, the park features a variety of fairground rides and swimming pools, as well as secure playground attractions for the little ones. It is an ideal venue for parents to chill out at one of the bars or restaurants, while the kids have endless opportunities to burn off some energy!
Like many Spanish cities, Zaragoza is very proud of its delicious cuisine, which is reported to be simple, nutritious, and based around local produce such as vegetables, meats and exceptionally good wines. The region’s farms provide peppers, tomatoes, thistles, courgettes, onions and green beans, which form the basis of traditional dishes like chicken stew and cod ajoarriero. Zaragoza is well known for its pulses, especially white beans, as well as potatoes, various breads and olives. Country products like snails, frogs’ legs, and game meats give an authentic flavor to many dishes; not forgetting the wonderful fruits derived from the Ebro River Valley, which includes plums from the lower banks; pears and apples from Almunia de Doña Godina; cherries from the Ribota Valley; apricots and the sweet, juicy peaches from Burgo de Ebro.
Us girls will be particularly interested to learn that Zaragoza is a real shopper’s heaven, with a diverse range of stores scattered throughout the city. There are cobbled pedestrian streets lined with gift shops and boutiques, large indoor shopping malls filled with your favorite high street names, and several street markets operating throughout the week. Calle Alfonso is said to be THE place to go for anyone with a lust for shopping, housing sufficient stores, bars and restaurants to entertain you happily through from morning until night! The street links onto Plaza del Pilar, where you can find breathtaking views over the cathedral, becoming ever more stunning as the evening draws on.
Zaragoza is as colourful and lively by day as it is by night, with a selection of bars, disco pubs and nightclubs opening their doors until the early hours, at any time of year. The locals will be the first to tell you that they really love to party, so if its good times you are looking for you are certainly in good company here!
Staying with the party theme, Zaragoza is not short of its festive traditions, with the locals taking every opportunity to host a good old knees up. Celebrations during Easter Week for example, bring over one hundred thousand visitors to the city each year, whilst Christmastime is also a notable event throughout the Aragon Region. However, the most important annual fiesta for Zaragoza falls around 12th October, which marks the “Fiestas del Pilar”. The fiestas continue for a period of around ten days, and are meant to honour the Patron Saint of the city, the Virgen del Pilar. The Town Hall is usually responsible for organizing the entertainment programme, which typically features concerts, competitions, religious processions and the ceremonious offering of flowers.
Spring is the perfect time to pay a visit to Zaragoza, with the warm but comfortable temperatures averaging around 22 to 25 degrees from April until mid to late June, after which time things start hotting up! August in the city is possibly the best time to avoid, as a lot of the locals travel to other regions for holidays, leaving many places deserted and some smaller businesses closed altogether. Then during autumn again, from September to late October, is also a great time to go, and you might even catch the fiestas if you’re lucky!
So what are you waiting for? Book those tickets, get packing and go explore!