Zaragoza (Spain) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main sights of Zaragoza with descriptions, travel guides and maps.
City of Zaragoza (Spain)
Zaragoza – a city in the north-east of Spain, the capital of the Aragon region and the province of the same name. It is located on the Ebro River in the center of a wide valley. Zaragoza is a treasure trove of historical and cultural gems really worth seeing: ancient Roman ruins, majestic ancient churches, beautiful mudejar palaces and museums with masterpieces by Francisco Goya, Serrano and Pablo Gargallo.
Zaragoza is a charming, warm city conveniently located between Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia and Toulouse. It is one of the largest cities in Spain in terms of population and economy. Zaragoza beckons with its rich culture, shopping, delicious food and ancient sights. It is a city of 2,000 years of history and boasts one of the greatest historical and artistic treasures on the Iberian Peninsula.
Things to do (Spain):
€78 per tour.
Five districts of Barcelona in three hours
The Eixample, Raval, Gothic Quarter, Born and Barceloneta – explore all the maps of the Catalonian capital!
€150 per tour
The Secrets of Tarragona
The history, legends and architecture of the ancient Catalan city on a guided tour.
Geography and climate
Zaragoza is located in the middle course of the Ebro River about 300 km from the Spanish capital Madrid. The rivers Juerva and Gallego flow through the city as well. The average height above sea level is about 200 meters. Zaragoza has a cold semi-arid climate. Winters are cool with frequent light frosts. Summers are dry and hot. The annual precipitation is very small – about 400 mm, most of which falls in April-May and October-November.
- The population is 665 thousand people (the fifth city in Spain).
- Area – 973.78 square kilometers.
- Language: Spanish.
- Currency – Euro.
- Visas – Schengen.
- Time – Central European UTC +1, in summer +2.
- The addresses of the tourist information centers are: Calle Eduardo Ibarra, 3; Glorieta de Pío XII; Plaza Nuestra Señora del Pilar; Av. Navarra.
Best time to visit
April through June and September through October are the most comfortable times to visit.
Zaragoza was founded by the Romans, who named the settlement Colonia Caesaraugusta. The name means “colony of Emperor Augustus. At first, veterans of the Cantabrian wars settled here. Soon Zaragoza became the most important urban center of the middle Ebro valley. A general Christian synod was held here in 380.
In the early 8th century Zaragoza was conquered by the Arabs. From that time the city was part of the Caliphate of Cordoba and was an important Moorish bulwark against the Spanish kings. After the collapse of the Caliphate of Cordoba, Zaragoza became the center of an independent Moorish state. In 1118 the city was conquered by the King of Aragon and Navarra and became the capital of the kingdom.
In the 15th century, after the unification of Spain, Zaragoza lost its importance, while remaining one of the most important and largest cities in the northeast. During the Napoleonic wars the city became famous for its heroic defense against the French. In the 20th century, Zaragoza’s economy began to boom thanks to industrialization.
How to get there
Zaragoza Airport is located 10 km from the city center. A new terminal was built in 2008. Planes from Alicante, Brussels, London, Rome, Paris, Frankfurt and other cities of Spain and Europe arrive at this air port. You can get to the city from the airport by bus, train and cab.
There are regular high-speed trains from Barcelona and Madrid to Zaragoza. Regular trains connect the city with Bilbao and Valencia. There are regular bus services to major cities in northeastern and central Spain.
Streets of Zaragoza
Zaragoza is a great city for shopping. The main streets are lined with a wide variety of stores. The main shopping area stretches from Residencial Paraiso to Plaza España. Souvenirs can be bought in the Plaza San Brun area. Behind the soccer stadium is the largest market in the city.
Zaragoza is famous for its gastronomy and tapas . Here are some typical Aragonese dishes:
- Bacalao al Ajoarriero – cod with garlic and eggs.
- Huevos al Salmorejo – eggs with tomato cream.
- Longanizas y Chorizos – a local type of sausage.
- Ternasco Asado – roast lamb.
- Pollo al Chilindrón – Chicken in sauce with tomatoes, onions and paprika.
- Cordero a la Pastora is a lamb dish.
- Migas a la Aragonesa – a dish with eggs and spicy pork sausage (chorizo).
- Borrajas – local vegetable with olive oil.
- Melocotón con vino – peaches in wine.
At night on the streets of Zaragoza
Zaragoza has a whole host of striking sights and cultural monuments.
Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar
The Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar is a grandiose cathedral and Zaragoza’s most famous landmark. This Baroque gem was built between the 17th and 18th centuries on the banks of the Erbo River. The church is located on the Plaza del Pilar, a spacious town square surrounded by historic buildings.
The Basilica is considered the first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is one of the most important pilgrimage centers in Spain. Legend has it that the Apostle James built a small chapel here dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which was the first in the Christian world. Other churches were subsequently built on the site and replaced by an impressive Baroque building in the 17th century.
The interior of the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar is impressive and contains valuable works of art. Inside the chapel of Santa Capilla, the work of the great Venturo Rodríguez, there is an image of the Virgin Mary del Pilar. Of particular interest are the alabaster altar and frescoes by Francisco Goya.
La Seo Cathedral
The Cathedral of San Salvador or simply La Seo is a grandiose church built on the site of the Roman Forum. During the period when Zaragoza belonged to the Moors, it was home to a mosque. The high tower was once a minaret. In the 12th century, the Muslim mosque was rebuilt into a Romanesque cathedral. La Seo Cathedral is a huge church with five naves, whose two apses with graceful sculpted arcades retain the original Romanesque character. Arab influence is seen in the chancel and in some of the arches, while the choir is Gothic in style. The church later received a neoclassical façade and baroque details on the tower.
The cathedral houses a magnificent tapestry museum. Its collection is considered one of the best in the world. There are 63 precious Flemish tapestries and six pieces of heraldic embroidery of very high quality, which date back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Church of De Saint-Pablo
The Church of San Pablo (Saint Paul) is a masterpiece of Mudejar style. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its exceptional architectural and historical value. The church was built in the 13th-14th centuries to replace a small Romanesque chapel. During the following centuries, the building was continually enlarged. The most notable feature of this architectural monument is its magnificent octagonal tower in the Mudejar style. Inside is a remarkable 16th century Renaissance altar by Formento.
Church of Santa Engracia
The Church of Santa Engracia is a Renaissance style church that was part of the Jerónimos Monastery. The building has a remarkable façade that is considered a jewel of Aragonese Renaissance architecture. The church was built in the 16th century by the Morlans.
Church of Mary Magdalene
The Church of Mary Magdalene – built at the beginning of the 14th century on the site of an ancient Roman temple. In the 17th century, the building received Baroque features. The most notable feature is the tower in the Mudejar architectural style. The interior has an unusual apse with overlapping arches and pointed windows. The main altar is decorated with sculptures and images by Arellano.
Church de San Juan de los Panetes
The Church de San Juan de los Panetes is another jewel of the Mudejar style. The church was completed in 1725, replacing the Romanesque church of the Order of St. John. The main highlight of its architecture is the octagonal brick tower with arched receptions.
The Alhaferia is an ancient fortified Moorish castle in the heart of Zaragoza. The fortress was built in the 11th century in the shape of a rectangle. Round towers stand out in the architecture, except for one, which is rectangular and called the Tower of the Troubadour. Today the Palacio de la Alhafería houses the headquarters of the Aragonese Parliament. The palace is open to the public.
La Lonja is a fine example of the Aragonese Renaissance, a splendid 16th-century building located in the Plaza del Pilar, opposite the basilica. La Lonja is the historical market of Zaragoza. The brick building, designed by Sariñen, has a rectangular plan and a decorative façade with rows of evenly arched windows.
The largest and most interesting museums in Zaragoza:
- The Roman Theater, one of the monuments of Roman heritage, which dates back to the 1st century.
- The Ancient Roman Museum is located on the site of archaeological excavations under the Plaza de la Seo. It contains exhibits and artifacts related to the Roman colony of Caesaraugusta on the site of modern Zaragoza. Here you can see the ruins of the Forum, thermae, elements of the old market and ancient buildings, and aqueducts.
- Pablo Serrano Museum is dedicated to the work of the famous Aragonese artist. The museum exhibits 140 drawings and sculptures that reflect the evolution of his art.
- The Asnar Museum is a wonderful museum of fine arts, which presents a collection of works collected by José Camón Asnar. The museum occupies a beautiful aristocratic house with three floors, designed around a magnificent courtyard. The building is considered one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in Zaragoza. On the first floor are paintings from the 15th-18th centuries, including works by: Francisco Goya, Blasco de Graenena, Pedro Berruguete, Pedro de Campaña, Juan Antonio de Escalante and Gregorio Fernández. The second floor is devoted to Francisco Goya and his engravings. The third floor is devoted to the works of 19th century artists such as Eugenio Lucas, Leonardo Alenza and Lucas Villamil.
- Zaragoza Museum – exhibitions related to the art, culture and history of the province. The museum’s collection covers various historical and artistic periods, from Moorish to Medieval and Renaissance up to the 21st century. Particularly noteworthy pieces in the archaeology section are the ancient bronze tablets with Iberian and Latin inscriptions, the bust of Emperor Augustus and antiquities from the Alhaferia Palace. The fine art department presents works of art from the 12th century to the modern period.
- The Pablo Gargallo museum is dedicated to the life and work of the famous Aragonese sculptor.
€150 per tour
Málaga Roman, Moorish, Catholic
See the symbols of the city and get to know the local cuisine on a historical and gastronomic walk
Eco-tour in the Catalan Mountains
Hike up the Montceni mountain range to the waterfalls and the 11th-century Aygwafred de Dalt church
What to see in Zaragoza
Zaragoza has impressive monuments of different architectural styles, the magnificent Pilar Basilica and Mudejar buildings stand out.
Zaragoza is the capital of Zaragoza province and the autonomous region of Aragón. The city is located in the Ebro River basin, about halfway between Madrid and Barcelona. Zaragoza is somewhat in the shadow of these Spanish tourist grands, although the city is clearly not lacking in first-class attractions. Some of its features were real revelations to me (and I think to other tourists, too).
City and people
The population of Zaragoza is about 700 thousand people. 12% of them are foreigners, dominated by natives of Africa. The dominant language is of course Spanish (Castilian).
The city is divided into 12 administrative districts. The main ones are Casco Antiguo (Old City), Centro, Margen Izquierda (Left Bank) and Delicias. The right bank Old Town has most of the attractions.
The city’s continental, semi-arid climate is characterized by sharp inter-seasonal temperature changes and low precipitation. It is very hot in summer, and fogs and frosts are not uncommon in winter. An unpleasant weather phenomenon in Zaragoza in winter and March is the cold north wind cierzo. During the hot August, many residents leave the city, some cafes and restaurants do not work. Therefore, the best time to visit the city are the periods from April to June and from mid-September to the end of October.
Prices for vacations in Zaragoza
Zaragoza hotel prices are lower than in larger and more popular Spanish cities. When choosing via (Booking.com) I was pleasantly surprised by the offer of a 3-star Hotel Pilar Plaza, located in the heart of the city – on Pilar Square. I booked a single room for 75 EUR per night. The hotel is located in an old beautiful building and provides a decent European level of service. It was not inferior to the service of 4-star hotels in Barcelona and Madrid.
Having saved money on accommodation, I did not use the menu del dia in Zaragoza. The main gastronomic place for me was Las Palomas Café, right on Plaza del Pilar, 16. Lunch cost about 13 EUR – 15 EUR, dinner with a good glass of wine about 17 EUR. It was convenient that the place was not closed for siesta. The menu included jamon, fish dishes, tapas and dessert. Tapas usually consisted of a slice of bread with a piece of meat, an omelet, vegetables, cheese and olives with sauce.
Among other establishments, I would mention Casa Colas restaurant at 10 dos Martires. It has good and simple food and reasonable prices.
In Zaragoza I was fascinated by the imagination of the city authorities who organized several options of urban tourist transport. For a fee of 7 EUR, you can ride around the city all day in a special bus just for tourists. And in BusEmoción buses sit not only them, but also the characters of urban legends in costumes of the corresponding era, telling about themselves. On the Megabús buses, a guide in a Roman tunic introduces tourists to the history of the city. Finally, the ride in the Taxi Turístico is accompanied by the audioguide’s text being broadcast on the speakers.
The basis of the usual public transport of Zaragoza – 47 bus routes. The cost per trip is 1 EUR. A reusable card costs 7 and its periodic charge is 5 EUR. The card allows you to get on buses of different routes within an hour. A few years ago in the city appeared streetcar lines.
Architecture of the city
The city has a mixture of several cultures – Roman, Christian, Arabic and Jewish. Zaragoza’s architecture was particularly affected by the mudéjar (Mudejar) style which dominated much of the Middle Ages in Spain. It combined Moorish, Gothic and, later, Renaissance motifs. Three of the buildings in the city, built in whole or in part in this style, are even included in the list of UNESCO.
The Palacio de la Aljafería was built in the 11th century for a Muslim emir, whose transformed name was given to the palace. The Aljafería is the best preserved Islamic structure in Zaragoza. The palace was later taken over by the Christian rulers and for a time was the seat of the Inquisition. The interrogations of possible heretics were carried out in a magnificent throne room with a very beautiful carved ceiling, built in the 15th century for the King of Aragon. The convicts were kept in the oldest tower of the palace, the Torre del Trovador (Troubadour).
This tower got its name only in the 19th century. It appeared in the play Troubadour by the Spanish playwright Antonio Garcia Gutiérrez, from which Verdi composed his famous opera.
Other parts of the palace include the Patio de Santa Isabe (Patio of Saint Isabella), surrounded by elegant porticoes, and the beautiful Salón Dorado (Golden Hall). Nowadays, the Aragonese Parliament is located in the palace, so part of the rooms are inaccessible to the general public.
The address is Calle de los Diputados. The Palace is open from 10 to 18:30 – 20:00 hours (depending on the season) with a break at 14:00 – 16:30 for siesta. On Sunday visitors are free until 14:00 hours. During business hours there are several guided tours, except Thursday and Friday mornings. The ticket price is 3 EUR.
Church of St. Paul
The next Mudejar building designated by UNESCO is the church of San Pablo. Built in the 14th century, it was later rebuilt several times. However, the original style of the central nave and tower have retained their dominant position.
What is striking in the structure is the bell tower, which consists of an outer and inner tower, 66 m high. The upper part with windows and arcades, visible from different parts of the city, is decorated with ornaments. The interior is dominated by a 15-metre high high high high altar which combines silver and wood elements. The Gothic Tramontana portal features sculptures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Apostles Peter and Paul, and John the Baptist. The silver monstrance of the XVII century is decorated with precious stones.
The current church is located in the center of the historic quarter at San Pablo, 42. The nearest stops are Escolapios by bus and Cesare Augusto by streetcar. Opening hours are 9:00 am – 12:30 pm and 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Tourists are advised to come after the end of the morning mass.
Cathedral of the Redeemer
The Catedral del Salvador is also called La Seo after the square on which it is located. Like other religious buildings in Zaragoza, the cathedral was built on the site of older structures. The Christian temple is mentioned since the end of the XII century. Since then until the XV century Aragonese monarchs were crowned here. After that there were a lot of different reconstructions and extensions.
The chapel of St. Michael, added in the XIV century, is considered a masterpiece of the Mudejar style. Particularly memorable are the openwork wooden carvings of the ceiling and the filigree ornamentation of the outer wall of the muro de la Parroquieta.
The chapels of St. Augustine and St. Bernard are Renaissance. The tower is Baroque in style.
The interior of the cathedral is mainly Gothic. Its dominant feature is the 16-meter high altar. There is an impressive collection of 60 Flemish tapestries of the XV-XVIII centuries, one of the three best on the planet. Over 200 kg of this precious metal were spent on the gold keeper of the cathedral.
Address: Plaza de la Seo, 2. The cathedral is open daily except Monday:
- in high season – from 10:00 to 21:00 hours with breaks for evening Mass from 18:00 hours and morning Mass on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 and 11:30, respectively;
- in low season at 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday) and at 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Tickets to the Cathedral and Museo de Tapices (Carpet Museum) cost 4 EUR.
Basilica and Pilar Square
Pilar means “column”. Plaza del Pilar is known primarily for the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar. According to tradition, in 40 A.D. (even before her Assumption) the Virgin Mary, standing on a column of jasper, appeared to the Apostle James while he was praying on the banks of the Ebro River. She left him her own wooden statue and this very column. The following year, the latter was already part of the chapel built there, which became the first sacred structure on earth in honor of the Virgin Mary.
The basilica has another name: Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar. I was not mistaken: it turned out that Zaragoza is a unique city with two cathedrals. For a long time, the two beautiful structures competed for the right to be the city’s main cathedral. The church authorities made a strawman decision, dividing the cathedral status between del Salvador and Nuestra Señora del Pilar. Since both temples face Pilar Square, it is also referred to as the Cathedral Basilica.
The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Pilar is the main attraction of Zaragoza. Since the chapel was built, there have been several churches in its place. Its present main part in Baroque style was built in the seventeenth century and some elements were added in the twentieth century. The panorama of the cathedral is fascinating: it is the only reason to come to Zaragoza. The corner towers of the basilica with blue domes reach up to 90 meters high. Eleven domes covered with colored tiles point to the sky.
The interior has the same column of jasper from the original chapel and the main altar from the previous church from the 14th century. It is famous for the Retablo Mayor, the central composition by the sculptor Damian Formenta. The Santa Capilla (Holy Chapel) of the temple houses the main sacred thing, a 39-centimeter statue of the Virgin Mary on a column of jasper. Some of the vaults of the cathedral were painted by Goya himself.
Address: Plaza del Pilar. The Pilar Basilica can be seen for free from 7:00 to 20:30 – 21:30. The museum is open from 9:00 to 13:30 and from 16:00 to 17:30 (except Saturdays). Sunday and Monday are days off. Ticket costs 2 EUR. Observation decks on the tower are open from 9:30 – 10:00 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 18:30 – 19:00, except Mondays. For the ascent you have to pay 3 EUR.
On Pilar Square is the original Fuente de la Hispanidad fountain. It was opened in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America. The fountain symbolizes the close ties between the Spanish-speaking countries. The composition of the waterfall-fountain shows a map of South America, and the reservoir has its outlines.
The architectural ensemble of the square includes a monument to the great Spanish painter Francisco Goya, who lived most of his life in Zaragoza. In addition to the sculpture of the master, the composition features two machas, the artist’s favorite objects.
Monuments of Roman architecture
The predecessor of Zaragoza was Caesaraugusta, a Roman city founded even before Christ. It flourished in the I-II centuries. At that time the city had a port, forum, theater for 6 thousand spectators, thermae (baths) and a bridge, surrounded by a huge 3-kilometer fortification.
Of this heritage of Roman architecture have survived two sections of the wall, the ruins of the theater, forum and thermae and a swimming pool. Beside the ruins of the ancient buildings, there are four Museo (museums) situated near each other and dedicated to the buildings of the ancient Caesaragusta.
- The Teatro Caesaraugusta (Theater of Caesaraugusta), address is San Jorge, 12;
- de las Termas Públicas (public baths) – San Juan y San Pedro, 3-7;
- Del Foro de Caesaraugusta (Caesaraugusta Forum), address – Plaza de la Seo, 2;
- Del Puerto Fluvial (river port) – Plaza de San Bruno, 8.
Museums can be visited with a single ticket, which costs 7 EUR. For a separate visit to the theater museum you have to pay 4 EUR, and for the other three museums – 3 EUR. All museums are open from 9 am till 9 pm (Sunday till 2 pm) and closed on Monday.
Collections of museums present items found during archaeological excavations. The first two museums have a “living” component in the form of open-air ruins. For example, the exhibition of the theater museum includes the surviving floors, columns, fragments of sculptures and part of the stage. The Baths Museum shows the remains of ancient Roman thermae and a swimming pool. And the forum and port of the Roman city were on the site of the current La Seo Cathedral. Nevertheless, upon entering the forum museum below the cathedral, you can see its ruins and fragments of the water system.
Above were the most notable sights of Zaragoza. There are many other palaces and buildings worth seeing.
Surroundings of Zaragoza
With a long stay in Zaragoza, it is possible to explore interesting places relatively close to Zaragoza. The most convenient option is a day tour from Zaragoza that includes a visit to Loarre Castle, the Monastery of St. Juan de la Peña, and the Aragonese cities of Hueca and Yaqui.
The impressive Castillo de Loarre on a rock ledge is 35 km from Zaragoza. It was built in the XI century on the foundations of former Roman buildings. Once there, you can walk around the inner rock labyrinths and tunnels, climb the tower observation decks. The castle takes tourists from 10:00 to 16:30 – 20:00 hours (depending on the month). In November and December is closed on Mondays.
The Romanesque monastery is also from the 11th century. San Juan de la Peña is located in the mountains beneath a grandiose overhanging rock. From a distance it seems to be supported by elegant columns.
The capitals of the arcade of the inner courtyard are decorated with sculptures on biblical subjects, geometric and floral ornaments. Many Aragonese and Navarrean kings were buried in the monastery’s pantheon.
Fans of the works of the great Spanish painter Francisco Goya will be interested to visit the village of Fuendetodos, where he was born. It is located 50 km from Zaragoza. In the building where the painter lived, his house-museum is open.
Las Fiestas del Pilar, Zaragoza’s main feast, is dedicated to the aforementioned apparition of the Holy Virgin to the Apostle James. She is the patroness of the city and all of Aragon.
The Festival of Pilar is held during the week that includes October 12. For two centuries, until the middle of the twentieth century, it was an ordinary religious feast. It reached its present level thanks to the ceremony of the Laying on of Flowers and, later, of the Laying on of Fruit, introduced at that time. It takes place in front of the statue of Our Lady of Pilar on a huge pedestal. The obligatory condition for the many participants is the national attire. It is not only locals – during the festival week the population of Zaragoza triples.
An important component of the festival is the procession of huge, big-headed puppets called Gigantes y Cabezudos. Gigantes are dancing couples, such as Don Quixote and Dulcinea. The Cabezudos are satirical characters teased by the townspeople.
Other events of the festival include a beer festival with German guests, bullfighting, national dances, fairs, concerts, theatrical performances, and fireworks.
Zaragoza was the fifth Spanish city I visited (after Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and Seville). The disparity between the absentee view and the actual impression of the city there was the greatest. Zaragoza pleasantly surprised me with sights that any European city can be proud of. My advice to those planning a trip to Spain: Zaragoza is definitely worth a visit.