City Breaks

Guide to Zaragoza

Your guide to the best places to visit in Zaragoza, Spain's hidden gem.

A Guide to Zaragoza

A rich history, great nightlife and superb food are just some of the things you’ll find in Zaragoza.

Travel back in time

With a history spanning almost 2,000 years, Zaragoza’s architecture is beautiful in its eclecticism, having taken on Roman, Muslim, Jewish and Christian influences over the years. Many visitors to the city head straight to La Aljafería, which stands as one of the most important Moorish palaces of its kind in Spain. The palace was built in the 11th century and is in pristine condition due to renovations in later years. You’ll be able to walk through its marble and stone corridors and explore the pretty gardens of the palace’s inner court.

Perhaps the most notable monument in Zaragoza is the Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar. This Roman Catholic church was built in a Baroque style, with beautiful coloured tiles that line its rooftops. The church houses many important works of art and is also a hotspot for pilgrims who travel from all over the world to kiss the statue of Mary, as it’s said that she appeared to the Epistle of James here in 40 AD.

You'll find when walking through Zaragoza that its history is seen most abundantly in the old town, where the narrow streets are cobbled and historic buildings can be found at every turn. The Caesaraugusta Theatre Museum is a wonderful place to visit to see how the Roman theatres were constructed, and there still remains some of the theatre that was built here in the first century. Other fascinating spots include San Pablo church, which is one of the many examples of Mudéjar architecture in the city.

Shop ‘til you drop and enjoy delicious tapas

Zaragoza is ideal for exploring on foot, and you can easily spend a whole afternoon checking out the great shopping spots that are on offer. The city is adorned with squares and boulevards, all lined with shopping opportunities. Head to the Plaza de España, a beautiful large square with all kinds of shops from big department stores to smaller boutiques.

At the heart of the city you’ll find the Plaza del Pilar square, which is home to dozens of shops, as well as the city hall and the Fuente de la Hispanidad fountain, which is just one example of the city’s ability to seamlessly merge old and new design. If you’re after evening entertainment, venture to the streets of Calle de Temple, where much of Zaragoza’s nightlife can be found.

The wider El Tubo area is packed with great restaurants and bars, and is a fantastic place to try a variety of Spanish tapas. For an authentic dining experience, try out several different tapas restaurants before heading out to a local bar. On Sunday mornings, many of the city squares come alive in the form of open-air markets, and here you can find an array of stands selling everything from clothes, to souvenirs and delicious treats.

A city of creativity

Lovers of art are positively spoilt in Zaragoza, home of romantic painter Francisco Goya, whose works can be found scattered throughout the city. The Museo de Zaragoza is one of the city’s most prominent art museums, housing a fantastic collection of art covering a range of artistic periods. The building is in two parts, Fine Art and Archaeology, the latter welcoming you with bronze sculptures, Latin and Iberian inscriptions, and even remains from Aljafería Palace itself.

The Fine Art section of the museum displays many works from Francisco Goya, an artist of important historical value and a proud part of the city’s heritage. The rest of the art museum houses a range of works from Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque artists, as well as their unique collections that hold works from East Asia and further afield. The museum is free, and is a really immersive experience, which perfectly merges art and history.

If you’re a fan of sculpture you can head to the Museo Pablo Gargallo, which celebrates the life and works of the famous sculptor Gargallo. Alternatively, see the Museo Pablo Serrano, which expertly displays Pablo Serrano’s career through a series of drawings and sculptures, as well as an interesting look at his wife, Juana Francés, who was an important female figure in the avant-garde art scene.

Relax in the city’s green spaces

If you and the family need a break, or you’re looking for a romantic picnic spot, Zaragoza’s downtown district (Zona Centro) is dotted with beautiful parks. The city’s reputation for well-kept green spaces means that wherever you are in the city, you’ll never be too far from one of its many green havens. Along the river Ebro near to the old town, there is the Soto de Cantalobos park, which is thriving with wildlife and boasts some interesting plants, especially in the park’s forest.

One park in particular that’s worth visiting is the Metropolitan Water Park (Parque del Agua), a vast modern space that runs along the Ebro river. Thought of by many as the ‘lungs of the city’, locals and tourists alike come here to cool off away from the city’s heat. There’s plenty to do, from a kayaking trip through the park’s many channels to a trip to the freshwater aquarium. There’s also a children’s playground, and the whole area is great for cycling.

By far the largest park in the city is Parque Grande, a beautiful stretch of green just south of the city center. Here you’ll find carefully tamed bushes and large scenic fountains. Families with children should head to Parque Zaragoza Atracciones, a huge theme park packed with fun rides and things to do.

Getting there and around

Zaragoza sits smack bang in the middle of Madrid and Barcelona, about three hours in the car from both cities. With Eurotunnel Le Shuttle taking you from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes, planning your road trip has never been easier.

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