When you hear Spain, you probably think of famous cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, or Valencia. But one of the most underrated regional capitals in this country that is worth visiting is Zaragoza Spain. Where is Zaragoza located? It is in the northeastern part of Spain’s Aragon region, along the Ebro River, with the famous Third Millennium Bridge. Zaragoza is Aragon’s capital which used to be a kingdom of its own. This fifth-largest city welcomes tourists to a collection of magnificent palaces, monuments, and grand houses. Aside from the enchanting places you can visit, Zaragoza in Spain has one of the country’s best tapas and bar scenes. You’ll surely have a wonderful time during your Zaragoza, Spain vacation!
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The Zaragoza history had its fair share of conquests, re-conquests, civilizations, and wars. In the 5th century BC, Zaragoza started as an Iberian Settlement. Romans then conquered the town in 14BC, named it ‘Caesaraugusta,’ and served as a defense against the Visigoths. In 714AD, the city’s name was changed to ‘Saraqusta’ after being conquered by the Arabs and the Berbers.
While it is under Muslim control, many insurrections, rebellions, and Christian takeovers happened in the following 300 years. Saraqusta remained under Emirate rule until the early years of the 11th century. Then the Banu Tujibi dynasty took over until 1038 and was succeeded by Banu Hud until 1110. The Almoravids defeated Banu Hud and ruled the city until 1118. King Alfonso I marched into the city in 1118, renamed the city Zaragoza, and declared it Aragon’s capital.
Zaragoza especially thrived during the 16th-17th centuries. It was known as the city of traders. Progress continued to the 18th century wherein a lot of public works were completed. However, siege and destruction happened in the 19th century because of several wars. But the city rose again and became much more industrialized from 1950 onwards.
Continentalized Mediterranean—this is what the Zaragoza climate is known for. The climate is somewhat similar to Madrid’s because of its lower altitude/higher latitude location. Rains are often scarce within the Zaragoza, Spain weather. Winters have some cold periods while summers are hot and sunny.
Winter runs from December to February. The Zaragoza weather during this season is relatively mild and particularly dry. Expect cold nights and even fog formations, especially in December. The temperature can drop to -5°C (25°F). Snow is rare but can sometimes occur.
Summer runs from June to August or early September. The weather in Zaragoza, Spain, can be scorching and sunny at this time with few occasions of thunderstorms. The city is also prone to heat waves due to its location – in a valley and distance from the sea. The Zaragoza temperature can reach up to 40°C (104°F) and sometimes even more during this season.
Spring runs from March to May. It is the wettest time of the year in the city, but showers are short-lived. Zaragoza tourism can be slow-moving during this season, but it is believed to be the best time to explore the town.
Autumn or fall runs from September to November. Rains can occur at least 2 to 3 days per month. The climate remains warm, which makes it also an ideal time to visit Zaragoza. Tourism is also a bit slow during this season so, you might score great hotel deals.
Activities in Zaragoza, Spain
Being the fifth largest city in Spain, Zaragoza has a lot to offer to its tourists. The city has countless historical and cultural attractions. Here are some recommended things to do in Zaragoza.
Visit Zaragoza Old Town
Casco Antiguo or the Ancient District is joined by two major roads named Calle del Coso and Avenida Cesar Augusto. A trip to the Zaragoza old town will bring you back to the city’s glorious history, culture, and religious journey. The plethora of 18th-century buildings and Renaissance palaces have retained their ancient style. At the same time, they were modernized into new restaurants, bars, and house shops.
Stroll Along Plaza del Pilar
Continue your tour of Zaragoza by stopping by Plaza del Pilar. It’s one of the busiest and largest pedestrian plazas in Spain. This is where you’ll see most of Zaragoza’s important sights. Also, it serves as the venue for the city’s biggest annual festivals. And when you feel famished, there are plenty of restaurants in the area wherein you can replenish.
Wander Around Zaragoza Central Market
First opened in 1903, Zaragoza’s Mercado Central is a public market and a National Historic Monument. It features columns, archways, and cavernous naves depicting the city’s monumental past, making it a perfect Zaragoza sightseeing spot. Even if you don’t buy anything, a visit to the central market is something worth treasuring. But if you are in the mood for picking out food and other ingredients, the number of stalls offering seafood, meat, vegetables, and baked goods won’t disappoint.
Museums in Zaragoza, Spain
Are you interested in getting to know more about the culture and history of Zaragoza? Want to see local artwork? Don’t fret because the Zaragoza Turismo has plenty of museums you can visit.
Museo de Zaragoza
The largest and most representative museum in Aragon is the Zaragoza Museum. Its vast collection portrays Zaragoza’s history from prehistoric times up to the 20th century. Visitors can view numerous pieces of fine arts, ethnology, archeology, and ceramics. Some important works of the Spanish artist Francisco de Goya can also be seen here. The museum was founded in 1836 with items from the Mendizábal confiscation. It has passed many venues until it reached its final home in the Plaza de los Sitio.
Museo de Goya
If you’re after the works of Francisco de Goya, then Goya Museum is the place to go. This is your chance to see up close 15 of his most well-known paintings, made from his humble beginnings in Zaragoza up to his last breath in Bordeaux. Visiting this museum will also let you into the life of Goya. The museum also holds 500 other art collections.
Museo del Foro de Caesaraugusta
Learn about the history of the old Roman city of Caesaraugusta through the Caesaraugusta Forum Museum. A trip to this museum will transport you to the times of Zaragoza’s commercial, economic, political, social, cultural, and religious activities. The museum is located on the site of the archaeological excavations below Plaza de la Seo. An audio-visual representation will guide you as you walk through the museum’s exhibits.
Monuments in Zaragoza, Spain
What to see in Zaragoza? Upon landing, your eyes will feast on the several displays of fine architecture. This northeastern part of Aragon is home to some of the best Moorish architecture outside Andalusia. Admiring architectural works is indeed an easy addition to your Zaragoza, Spain, things to do list.
Palacio de la Aljafería
A fortified Islamic palace is one of the most famous sights in Zaragoza, and that is the Aljafería Palace. Established during the 11th and 12th centuries, the building features Hispano-Muslim architecture. Its beautiful décor includes Arabic arches and intricate carvings. The palace served as a military barracks and palace of the Catholic Kings in the past. Guided tours of this unique landmark are available.
Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar
Another monument worth admiring in Zaragoza is the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar. This basilica features monumental Baroque-style architecture. The cathedral is believed to be constructed on the top of a marble pillar where the Virgin Mary appeared to Santiago, one of Jesus’ disciples. It was originally designed by local architect Felipe Sánchez y Herrera in 1681. Then, in the 18th century, the basilica was modified by Ventura Rodríguez by adding the ultra-baroque Santa Capilla and ten mini domes. Today, the basilica serves as one of the greatest Zaragoza attractions. It has a lift taking people to the northwest tower wherein people can take in spectacular city views.
Catedral del Salvador de Zaragoza
Another spectacular cathedral to visit in the Zaragoza region is the Catedral del Salvador de Zaragoza. Because it is located in Plaza de la Seo, this cathedral is also known as ‘La Seo.’ The cathedral was built between the 12th and 16th centuries on the site of the great Saraqusta Mosque Aljama. In 2001, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its precise representation of the Mudéjar architecture of Aragón. Other architectural styles of this building include Roman, Baroque, Gothic, and Renaissance.
Festivals in Zaragoza, Spain
In case you didn’t know, Spain takes festivals seriously. The country has the most holidays or ‘días festivos’ per year. That is why it wouldn’t be surprising that Zaragoza also has its offering of joyous events. One of the best answers to what to do in Zaragoza, Spain, is to join one of their festivals!
Las Fiestas del Pilar
In Zaragoza, the most important annual celebration is the Las Fiestas del Pilar. This event, held every second week of October, is in honor of the female patron saint of Spain. The tradition includes people offering flowers to the Virgin Mary on Plaza de Pilar. To make the celebration even more exciting, the city hosts concerts, theater performances, contests, sporting competitions, bullfights, exhibitions, markets, and more. An enormous display of fireworks is shown at the end of the festival.
This festival usually occurs in the first week of January to commemorate the Biblical Three Kings. At this event, three Wisemen ride into the town on horses. They bring gifts and candies for Zaragoza kids. There is also a parade full of decorated floats and costumed characters. Plus, children’s theaters and shows are available.
Encuentro Internacional de Folklore
One of the most highly regarded festivals is the International Folklore Festival. Since 1986, Zaragoza organizes this music and dance event, inviting groups from all around the globe. It is the perfect opportunity to get to know the cultures of different international participants. Various concerts, theater performances, and workshops take place at this time. Opening ceremonies start by the first week of September.
International Jazz Festival
If you’re a Jazz fan, schedule your visit to Zaragoza city at the beginning of November. Why? So you can join the International Jazz Festival. Jazz musicians and groups from all over the world gather at this momentous celebration. Famous jazz artists like Van Morrison, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock have already been a part of this festival in the past.
Shopping in Zaragoza Spain
Zaragoza is a shopaholic’s wonderland. Here, you’ll not only find traditional stores but also encounter markets with unique offerings. If you think you still lack things to do in Zaragoza, Spain, visit one of these shops.
Puerto Venecia is the biggest shopping mall in Zaragoza. There are a lot of stores offering fashion and footwear, sports, jewelry, and other items. The mall is also a leisure destination as it resembles resort amenities with outdoor activities including a park, ice rink, zipline, and a double-static surf wave. Your group can even ride a boat on its manufactured lake. A visit to this mall will surely give you a one-of-a-kind experience.
Mercadillo Plaza de San Bruno Market
This square is located in the old part of Zaragoza. It is named after San Bruno, who was the founder of The Order of the Carthusians. A specific market opens here every Sunday from 9 am to 2 pm. Stalls offer antique and picturesque items. If you would love to get yourself something unusual from your Zaragoza trip, stop by this market. Score unique jewelry, clothes, accessories, and other perfect souvenir items.
A trip to Zaragoza wouldn’t be complete without dropping by Fantoba. This famous bakery has been around since the 18th century. They produce high-end pastry products with traditional guirlache as their best-seller. They offer other baked goods: puff pastry, artisan nougat, mini macaroons, cream-filled cakes, chocolates, biscuits, and more. The bakery itself is a work of art as the beautiful decoration of the architect Ricardo Magdalena is preserved to this day.
Day Trips from Zaragoza, Spain
There are several day trips from Zaragoza that will want to go on to tour northern Spain. Check out some of these other places you can visit while on your Zaragoza vacation.
An ancient village in Zaragoza that is worth exploring is Belchite. It is the best spot to have a tour if you have a particular interest in the Spanish civil war or anything within that period. Today, the ruins are still visible, serving as a reminder of Nationalism. Another point of interest is the olive forests, wherein olive oil producers get their raw olives. Discover the process of making olive oil when you visit Belchite.
Did you know there are 15 wine regions in Spain? The Aragon region is known for having some of the finest wines. You can prove the wines’ quality by joining a wine tour in Zaragoza. Sample popular red wines like Moristel, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon. White wines like Chardonnay, Garnacha Blanca, and Muscat of Alexandria are also top choices.
Make the most out of your trip to Spain by traveling to Andalusia. You will need to make it more than a day trip to get the most out of it. It is an autonomous community located in the southernmost part of Peninsular Spain. Walk into its charming towns and gaze at the abundance of unique architectural treasures such as ancient cathedrals and palaces. This place also has high mountain peaks and legendary beaches awaiting nature enthusiasts. See for yourself why millions of tourists head over to this desirable region. Some of the best cities to visit are Granada, Marbella, Seville, and Malaga.
Places to Stay in Zaragoza, Spain
As the warm and bustling capital of Aragon, one day is not enough to tour around Zaragoza. Maximize your vacation by booking one of the many Zaragoza hotels available. If you want to have easy access to most of Zaragoza’s important attractions, it’s best to stay in the Old Town or Historical Center. Suggested hotels in Zaragoza, Spain old town are:
- Catalonia Hotel El Pilar,
- Hotel Alfonso,
- Apartamentos Sabinas Don Jaime.
The Zaragoza city center is ideal for those who are looking for a great nightlife experience. You can stay at Hotel Cesaraugusta or Hotel Zaragoza Royal.
Delicias is the place in Zaragoza for business travelers. Its location also has the best transport connections. Superb hotel choices here are Eurostars Plaza Delicias and Hotel Tryp Zaragoza.
If you’re after an affordable Zaragoza accommodation, you can find it in Ilunion Romareda.
Top hotel picks include Hotel Reina Petronila and Hotel Palafox.
Restaurants to Eat in Zaragoza, Spain
Food in Zaragoza is diverse, offering a collection of their cultural mixture. The Zaragoza Aragon Spain region produces its meats, agricultural products, cheeses, and wines of the highest quality. Some of the local delicacies include morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo (spicy sausage), and jamón (cured ham).
Meanwhile, traditional cuisines include Migas, stews made with borrajas (green vegetables), and ternasco (local lamb). Turrón de Guirlache, or a Spanish version of almond brittle, made with almonds and honey or sugar, is specially made during Christmas time. Barbecued meats are also common during fiestas in Zaragoza.
Tapas are also available in most bars and restaurants. When it comes to cheese, the most popular locally made is Tronchon. Truffle is also a unique product in Zaragoza and is present on most Zaragoza food menus.
There are numerous restaurants in Zaragoza, Spain, that can satisfy each one’s palate. Serving since 1825, Casa Lac is one of the oldest restaurants in Spain offering traditional cuisines. You can view their website here.
Casa Pedro, another ancient restaurant, also serves traditional food but with a modern twist. View their website here.
La Prensa is also a local favorite as they prepare creative dishes yet with traditional fare. Visit their website here.
If you’re after Italian and Mediterranean specialties, go to La Bocca Zaragoza. Additionally, you can head over to El Tubo Zaragoza district to dig into the best tapas in town.
Drinking and Nightlife in Zaragoza, Spain
Zaragoza offers a fascinating nightlife experience. Fun drinking sessions typically start late at night. Bars are incredibly jam-packed on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Start off with a glass of cerveza in Zaragoza from El Tubo district. You’ll also find bars and trendy nightclubs at Centro Zaragoza, particularly in El Casco. The Juepincho area, a traditional neighborhood in Zaragoza, is also an excellent place to enjoy drinks and tapas. Different calle Zaragoza options like Moncasi, Royo, and Zumalacárregui are the top nightlife locations among young people and are worth checking out.
How to Get to Zaragoza, Spain
The most accessible airport in the area is the Zaragoza Airport. It welcomes direct international flights to Zaragoza Spain, from London, France, Italy, Vienna, Romania, and more. Zaragoza, Spain flights to other parts of the country are also available. So, if you’re planning to go from Zaragoza to Madrid, Gran Canaria, or Ibiza, this airport has you covered.
Since Zaragoza Airport has limited flight connections, you have the option to land at Madrid or Barcelona airports instead. From there, you can go to the nearest AVE train station to take you to Zaragoza. AVE Madrid or Barcelona to Zaragoza trains can get you to Aragon’s capital within 90 minutes.
An alternative way if you’re coming from Madrid or Barcelona to Zaragoza is to ride a bus. Travel time will take approximately 3 to 4 hours. However, if you want to save on your travel costs, this is your best option.
Zaragoza: One of Europe’s Greatest Cities
Zaragoza is an inviting city surrounded by its prominent neighbors such as Valencia, Madrid, and Barcelona. Further north, you can visit Bilbao and San Sebastian. This gem is often underestimated, but the truth is that this town deserves so much more! Give it a closer look, and you’ll discover many delightful attractions and things to see in Zaragoza. Be sure to book a hotel in Zaragoza, Spain, and spend a few days getting to know more about what this city can offer.