Zaragoza (Aragón, Spain)

Zaragoza is a city located halfway between the cosmopolitan Barcelona (currently, fifth major tourist destination in Europe) and the museums-filled Madrid (Spain’s capital).

Roughly speaking, Zaragoza is 300 Kilometers (200 miles) both from Barcelona and Madrid. That’s barely 3 hours driving your car through the A2/AP2 highway.

Zaragoza is connected with Madrid (75 minutes) and Barcelona (90 minutes) by high-speed train.

Having said that, I must admit that Zaragoza is not a major tourist destination in the world.

Having said that, I must admit that I like Zaragoza very much.

El Pilar de Zaragoza

Whenever I drive my little car between Barcelona (or beyond to the North) and Madrid (or beyond to the South) I stop for a while in Zaragoza (usually a longer while than expected) to stretch legs … and enjoy this surprising city.

Pilar square

Zaragoza deserves longer stays, of course, but this post is the result of just a 2 hours visit. I parked my car under El Pilar Square. There is a parking garage underground with always space available. Getting there from the highway takes no more than 5 minutes. Zaragoza is a very easy city to reach and visit.

El Pilar Square

Zaragoza has two cathedrals: “El Pilar” and “La Seo”.

The Basilica-Cathedral of Our Lady of El Pilar (“Nuestra Señora del Pilar”) is a Baroque jewel built between 1681 and 18something.

“La Seo” is the popular name of the “Cathedral of the Savior” (“Catedral del Salvador”)  This cathedral is the wonderful result of successive art styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Mudéjar … It is included in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites as part of the “Mudéjar Architecture of Aragón”.

El Pilar Square indications

Visitors are kindly requested not to take pictures inside the cathedrals. Hence, no interior pics in this post, but take my word for granted: both are worth a visit …

Just in front of La Seo’s façade there is a monument to Goya. (Goya was born in the province of Zaragoza)

Goya in Zaragoza

Goya is the local hero, and you´ll find him everywhere.

Zaragoza Goya

As a matter of fact, Goya is one of my heroes too. What a genius he was! I´ll devote one post to his life & paintings one of these days … but not today.

Today I am writing about Zaragoza, capital of the old Kingdom of Aragón.

Zaragoza detail 1

When King Ferdinand II of Aragón married Queen Isabel I of Castile, Spain (as a country) was born. This young couple made great things and had eccentric ideas. For instance, in 1492 they were the official sponsors and organizers of a crazy sailing regatta from Spain to a place later known as America. An Italian guy named Columbus was in charge of a Spanish flotilla of three vessels (Pinta, Niña and Santa María)

Zaragoza Renaissance

Walking through the old streets of Zaragoza produces a sense of happiness, improve the mood and can cause euphoria -at least in my case- I don’t know exactly why.

El Tubo street

The old and the new mixes very well in Zaragoza …

Zaragoza tranvía

There are good museums in Zaragoza, like the Museo Diocesano or the Museo de Zaragoza (with some Goya paintings).

Kings of Aragon Palace

The city is filled with churches from the 14th century, magnificent palaces from the 16th century and, a little far away from the center (no pics this time, sorry!), the awesome Aljafería Palace.

old streets of Zaragoza

There are surprising details everywhere …

Zaragoza palace of justice

Local fruit shops sell outstanding local fruits and veggies (Aragonese peaches are second to none)

Fruit shop in Zaragoza

Some shops are funny, like “El Maño” … (Note to the pic below: “frutas de Aragón” is a typical Aragonese recipe since ancient times; it consists on delicious fruits macerated and boiled in “almíbar” to later be dipped in a special chocolate)

El Maño shop

Local tourist offices are tranquil places most of the time, because there are no tourist hordes in Zaragoza; just intelligent and sensitive travellers (just like you, my dear reader)

Turismo Zaragoza

Zaragoza is a good place to ir de tapeo (in other words, to enjoy “tapas”)

de tapeo en Zaragoza

Tapas are an almost infinite variety of delicious appetizers, or snacks, or hors d’oeuvre in Spanish cuisine. They must be served with a beer or a good cup of Spanish wine (for instance, an Aragonese Somontano). Avoid Coke. Drink water if you drive. Tapas are inexpensive as long as you are able to stop eating them.

Tabla de tapas

So, whenever I stop in Zaragoza, I visit lots of typical tapas-bars (“tabernas”) …

Taberna taurina

Each “taberna” in Zaragoza has its own special tapa …

Sardines in Zaragoza

Variety and charm are guaranteed …

Open air taberna in Zaragoza

Traditional tabernas abound …

Taberna La Republicana

Some tabernas have wonderful terraces where you can enjoy your tapas “al fresco” …

Tapas al fresco

The taberna that you can see in the pic below is 140 years old (clients are younger) …

140 years old taberna

A relaxed and fun ambience is norm in these tabernas …

Taberna interior Zaragoza

All the tabernas featured on this post are located in the center of Zaragoza, in an area known as “El Tubo”.

El Tubo, Zaragoza

In general terms, it is very easy to socialize with Aragonese people, as they tend to be good humored and easy-going …

Goyesca in Zaragoza

… although there are some exceptions …

Angry mañico

Good humor, joy of life and lots of stamina are clear characteristics of the Aragonese folklore. The “Jota Aragonesa” is a joy to watch (dance) and listen (instrumental music or song). This local musical genre was created in the late 18th century and it is very alive today. Quite a few classical composers have made use of the “Jota” in their works, from Liszt to Bizet (in his opera “Carmen”).

If you have time, patience and good mood, you can see and listen wonderful jotas by googling (YouTube) jewels like these:

– “La Dolores”, sung by Plácido Domingo, with outstanding Aragonese dancers (all of them dressed with traditional Aragonese costumes)

– Miguel Angel Berna dancing solo (arguably the best Jota dancer of Aragón)

(Note: Jota is not Flamenco)

Roman Wall in Zaragoza

Like most cities in Spain, Zaragoza has a big problem (politicians apart): It was founded by the Romans. That means that you cannot take a relaxing walk without running into old ruins here and there.

(Pic above: an ancient Roman defensive wall in the middle of the city. Pic below: Roman forum ruins/museum)

Roman Forum Zaragoza

Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus (just “Augustus” to his friends)  founded “Caesaraugusta” (from which the modern name “Zaragoza” derives) to settle there some Roman legion veterans from the Cantabrian wars. The foundation date of Caesaraugusta has not been set with exact precision, though it is known to lie between 25 BC and 12 BC.

Emperor Augustus in Zaragoza

In the pic above you can see how Emperor Augustus is still taking care of his old and beloved Caesaraugusta.

Main street in Zaragoza

Yes, I must admit that I like Zaragoza very much, and that’s why I publish this post today.

October 12, 2014

El Pilar Zaragoza



About Covetotop

A Mediterranean blogger
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14 Responses to Zaragoza (Aragón, Spain)

  1. Thanks for re-introducing me to this lovely city. I visited in 1970 and found it most enjoyable!

  2. Mike says:

    Great post and wonderful photos! I just moved to Logroño, Spain and want to get to Zaragoza at some point this year. Now, I really can’t wait to visit!

    • Covetotop says:

      As you may well know by now, Laurel Street in Logroño has superb tapas and pinchos (and wines, of course), and the whole La Rioja is really amazing. Zaragoza is superb too. Thank you for your kind comment!

  3. Trish says:

    I’d go to Zaragoza if my Spanish consisted of more than 10 words. And I’d learn Jota if they taught it to older people. Congratulations on a really interesting post! A lot of work.

    • Covetotop says:

      Most probably, 10 adequate words in Spanish are enough to enjoy Zaragoza. In some tabernas they tend to teach you Jota even if you don’t pretend to learn it 🙂

      Thank you for your –as always- lovely comment, Trish.

  4. Ah, those Romans… Not only did they leave ruins all over the place, they also set quite a trend: words as far and wide as “Zar” and “Kaiser” all derive from “Caesar”.
    Another excellent post, Covetotop!

  5. a ferreira says:

    I already had the idea that Zaragoza was well worth a visit, now I’m totally convinced!

  6. harri8here says:

    Wow C2T, such beauty, detail and humour. If I sell my book, I shall hire you for a month (at least) for a personal guided tour of your crazy gorgeous peninsula. HR8

    • Covetotop says:

      Thank you! Position accepted. I am sure that you will sell your book very well, consequently I am starting just now to practice my almost impossible to understand spoken English: Jelouuu … Guud mórnin … Guud afternún … 🙂

  7. We will be driving from Barcelona to Logroño next Saturday, and Zaragoza sounds like the perfect half-way stop. Thanks for the photo essay!

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