When looking for places to visit that were close to Zaragoza, we were recommended Tarazona. The man in the Zaragoza tourist office told us it is pretty Medieval town dripping in the Mudejar style of architecture with a stunning cathedral, and he wasn’t lying.
The town is built in tiers overlooking the Queiles River and makes a great stop if you are passing through the region or if you are looking for a day trip from Zaragoza, it can tie in nicely with seeing the viral painting now known as Monkey Jesus in Borja. In this post, I’ll share with you my tips on what you should visit in Tarazona as well as how to get there and some other useful nuggets of information such as prices and opening hours of the main sites.
Where is Tarazona?
Tarazona is located at the base of the Moncayo massif, a small mountain range with its highest being San Miguel mountain that rises 2,314m. It is in the west of Aragon, Spain, a little over 85km from Zaragoza, the closet major city, and 130kms south of Pamplona.
How to get to Tarazona
By far the easiest way to travel to Tarazona is by car, especially if you wanted to visit a few other places at the same time. If you don’t have your own vehicle, car hire in Spain is really good value, especially if there are a few of you travelling. We were able to park pretty easily.
There is a free car park called Parking Carrera Zaragoza which is about a 5-minute walk from the bottom of the town and close to the Cathedral. It felt a bit sketchy as it was more like a Mad Max style wasteland than a car park, but there were plenty of other cars parked there and it was signposted as official parking, so we were happy to leave the car there and had no issue on our return.
If you do decide to hire a car, be sure to read my guide to the Spanish driving laws for lots of helpful information.
Travel to Tarazona directly by train is sadly not possible as they do not have a station. The closest you can get is a town called Tudela De Navarra to the north. From there it is a 45-minute bus ride to finish your journey to Tarazona.
A much better way would be to take the train to Zaragoza, as it is a stop on the main Madrid – Barcelona highspeed route, and you can catch a bus from there. There are two companies that run a bus from Zaragoza to Tarazona. THP Therpasa runs a bus every four hours and MonBus also run a bus twice a day, so you have plenty of scope for flexibility and can book a ticket on their website if you would like. If you happen to be in Zaragoza and want to enjoy a day trip to Tarazona, the bus is your best option if you don’t fancy hiring a car. The price of the bus between Zaragoza and Tarazona in between €6 – €10 and takes a little over an hour.
Top things to see in Tarazona
The Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Huerta
The Tarazona Cathedral or Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Huerta, to give it its Spanish name, is located on the far side of the river and one of the main attractions in Tarazona. It caught our eye the moment we saw it with the wide expanse of steps leading up to the impressive facade and multiple towers. Construction started on the cathedral in the 12th century and took nearly 300 years to complete. Although it seems to have been under constant renovation since then.
Tarazona Cathedral opening hours
Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m and on
Sundays: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Holidays – Hours will vary so be sure to check the Cathedral website for up to date information.
You can enter the cathedral via a side door but there is a fee to get in. It is $4 per person and then an optional $1.50 for an audio guide. We decided not to get the guide as we were feeling kind of audio-guided out having spent most of the weekend touristing, and cathedral audio guides can be a bit dry at the best of times. Instead, we opted to wander around and explore for ourselves. If you do fancy it, however, we were told it takes around about an hour to listen to all the key points.
While the outside of the building is truly a marvel, a mixture of baroque, Gothic and Mudejar styles, inside there was only really one thing that stood out, and that was the stunning altarpiece which is one of the most beautiful examples of late 14th-century Aragonese art. The rest of the Cathedral is pretty, with some really nice details such as in the roof of the dome and the tops of the columns, but nothing more than you would expect from a good looking cathedral.
I would recommend a visit as it is nice to look around and there aren’t many other things to spend your sightseeing budget on in Tarazona, but don’t plan on spending most of your day here.
The Palacio Episcopal
After we left the cathedral, we headed to the old town to take a look around and as we looked up from the river, the Palacio Episcopal, The Bishops Palace in English, just dominated the view. It was as if it was trying to break away from the surrounding building, leaning forward to stand out from the busyness of the view. It reminded me of the hanging houses of Cuenca.
The building was originally a Muslim Fortress, later to become a residence for the Kings of Aragon. These days it is the residence of the Bishop, although certain areas are accessible to the public to look around, but be aware, a lot is still under reconstruction. It is just €1.50 to get in and explore. Inside you can visit the Renaissance style patio and see a series of 16th-century episcopal portraits as well as an intricate Mudéjar ceiling. But to me, the best part is probably the views from the balcony.
The opening hours are a bit all over the place though, so be sore to factor this in if you are planning it as part of your Tarazona visit.
The Bishops Palace opening hours
Tuesday – Friday: 12 PM – 2 PM & 5 PM – 7 PM
Saturday: 1 PM – 2:30 PM & 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Sunday: 1 PM – 2 PM & 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM
Tarazona Town Hall
The town hall, or ayuntamiento, is stunning looking right onto the plaza mayor. The intricate facade features images of King Carlos the 1st and Hercules, among many other images. At least, that is what my research has taught me, unfortunately during our visit it was a massive tease as the whole place was scaffolded off due to a reconstruction of the square. It seems a lot of Tarazona is still under construction.
Originally the building was a stock exchange, but it has served as the town hall since the 17th century. The square would be a great place to relax with a coffee or a cold beer.
Marvel at the old bulling
Whatever your opinion on bullfighting, the “sport” has created some wonderful buildings such as the Maestranza, in Seville, and this handsome octagon. The fact that it is an octagon rather than round, make this one unique. It’s original construction dates back to 1792, but in the mid-nineteenth century, there was a new bullring constructed so this was no longer used. It is now a wonderful setting for street markets and festivals and much of the actual stadium are well preserved private homes.
The Jewish Neighbourhood and Barrio del Cinto
El Barrio de la Judería is made up of the streets and houses around the Bishops Palace and the Santa María Magdalena’s church. It is the bell tower of this church that you can see when you are looking up from the river below. This maze of steep, narrow streets are some of the best-preserved in the region and are certainly worth your time to wander and explore. However, it is worth knowing although they are very narrow with many arches, they are still active roads for residents, so you will have to keep an eye out for cars and kid younglings close.
Santa María Magdalena’s church
While it is another church, it the bell tower that makes this one special in my mind. It is the first thing you notice when looking up to the town and on closer inspection, it does not disappoint. The church itself is nice, it has everything you would expect, and this bell tower. You can see through the years how it has been altered and updated with the fashions of the time. Through the Romanesque architecture to the Mudejar style and then the Gothic architecture, it really is a visual testament to how styles change with time. What’s more if that you can also climb to the top for the best views you will find in Tarazona.
The price for entrance to Santa María Magdalena’s church is €1.50.
Final thoughts on visiting Tarazona
So I hope you have enjoyed reading through my recommendations. As I mentioned at the beginning, I while there is no doubt Tarazona is a beautiful town or small city, there isn’t much to hold you there for more than a day at most. I would recommend splitting your time between here and somewhere else in the area. Maybe some of the bodegas of Borja, or if you have a car you may even consider combing with Monasterio de Piedra National Park. Either way, I would recommend visiting if you wanted to enjoy a wonderful medieval town with some of the best examples of Mudejar architecture you’ll see in Aragon.
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