ZaragozaZaragoza is the capital and largest city of Aragon in Spain, and one of Spain's five largest cities, but it is one of the least known outside of Spain. Founded on the river Ebro in times of the Roman Empire as Cesaraugusta, Zaragoza now holds a large cultural and architectural heritage attesting to 2,000 years of affluence and importance. The city is most known for its Basilica del Pilar, built to venerate the apparition of Virgin Mary to Saint James in earliest Christian times, which became a major cultural identity fixture of Christian Spain. The city was again put on a global map by the 2008 Expo, which left it with a whole new modern part developed further for various purposes after the exhibition closed.
Strategically located between Madrid and Barcelona on a high-speed railway line, Zaragoza enjoys relative economic affluence yet, due to its low profile, remains often overlooked by tourists and thus prices, such as for accommodation, remain much lower than in either of Spain's most famous cities. Therefore, it makes for a great stop along your way, or even a destination in its own right.
HistoryThe city on the Ebro river was founded at the turn of the millennium by the Roman Emperor Augustus, and named after him as Caesaraugusta. 2,000 years later, the architectural remains of large public buildings indicate Caesar Augustus’ influence over the city. Today you can still admire the city’s Forum, Thermal Baths, the River Port or the Great Theatre, archeological remains which reflect the splendour of the city as it was during the Roman Empire. It was on the banks of the river Ebro that Saint James (called Santiago in Spanish) reportedly saw the apparition of Virgin Mary on the pillar, which is seen as the pivotal moment in the foundation of the Spanish Christian heritage.
Zaragoza has a Continental Mediterranean climate, very dry, with cold winters and hot summers. With an average of 318 mm per year, rainfall is a rarity mostly occurring in spring. There is drought in summer with only a few storms in the late afternoon. In July and August temperatures are typically above 30°C (86°F), reaching up to 40°C (104°F) a few days per year. On those days you will quickly pick the idea of siesta: hiding away after lunch, during the hottest part of the day, to enjoy later the evenings and nights at a delightful 18-22°C.
Detailed weather forecasts including wind speed can be found in
When to visit
The major city festival is El Pilar that takes place every year the week of the 12th of October, with lots of concerts, performances and street animations. It is also the best time to see a bullfight in Zaragoza.
The Easter week, although not in the same league that the Andalucia or Calanda counterparts, is very scenic, with several processions going over the city centre every day with their dramatic sculptures, black-dressed praying women and hundreds of hooded people playing drums. It is a Spain's Festival of International Tourist Interest since 2014.
Zaragoza AirportIt is a relatively minor airport when it comes to passenger flights, but a major cargo hub seeing the world's largest airplanes land regularly. ZAZ receives regular flights, mostly by budget airlines such as Ryanair and Wizzair. Ryanair flies to its main bases across Europe, including London-Stansted, Bergamo, Beauvais and Charleroi, while Wizzair and several other airlines focus on Romania, where many of the local workers originate from. Other destinations are mostly seasonal flights to holiday destinations in Spain and abroad.
Transfer to/from the airport: The cheapest option is the airport bus 501 stopping at Los Enlaces, Delicias train station, Avenida de Navarra, and Paseo de María Agustín 7, in the city centre (45 minutes ride). The bus costs €1.85 and runs every 30 minutes M-Sa and every hour on Sundays and holidays. Alternatively a taxi will cost around €25-30 and take around 20 minutes to the city centre.
Nearby airportsAs Zaragoza Airport has limited flight connections, it can be more convenient to fly to Madrid or Barcelona airports, from where you can reach Zaragoza in less than 3 hours.
From Madrid Barajas Airport: go to Atocha RENFE train station either by taxi (30 minutes, around €25) or by metro (45 min, €2) and then take the high speed train AVE to Zaragoza (1hr 30min, around €50). A cheaper but not so comfortable alternative is taking an ALSA coach that runs between Barajas terminal T4 and Zaragoza every 2–3 hours (3hr 45min trip, single/return: €15/€26). If you are in terminals T1 T2 or T3, take the free airport bus shuttle to terminal T4. The bus to Zaragoza stops in the same place as the airport shuttle. The ALSA ticket counter can be found inside the terminal and a vending machine with ALSA tickets is close to the bus bays.
From Barcelona Airport: The easiest way is to take the half-hourly RENFE C-10 suburban train to Barcelona Sants (20 min, €2.20), and then take the high speed train AVE to Zaragoza (1hr 45min, around €60). If you already have your AVE ticket, you can get the suburban train ticket for free in the automatic vending machines, by typing the code for “cercanías” that appears in your AVE ticket.
By trainZaragoza is served by the high speed train AVE that reaches Madrid in approximately 1hr 30 min, and Barcelona in about 1hr 45min. There are up to 19 trains a day in each direction for Madrid and 12 for Barcelona. Regular rates start at about €50 to Madrid and €60 to Barcelona, but you can get up to a 60% discount if you book through the web 15 days in advance.
A cheaper way to get to Zaragoza from Barcelona is using the Regional Express - a slow train going on an ancient track, stopping at every small village and some post-industrial ghost towns, and really astonishing landscapes. The ride takes 5 hours, costs €22.
Other neighbouring cities like Huesca, Teruel, Pamplona, Logroño, Bilbao or Valencia are connected by a few daily conventional trains.
For more information on train schedules and prices, visit the website of RENFE. Note, there isn't a single cafe/bar with wifi in the station.
All trains and buses arrive at Delicias station. The city centre is some 2 km away from, and can be reached using urban buses 34 and 51 or by taxi (10 min, around €10)
By busYou can reach Zaragoza either from Madrid or Barcelona in 3hr 45min. The coach company is ALSA and the single/return ticket costs around €15/€26.
Zaragoza is also well communicated with other main capital cities, such as Valencia and Bilbao.
There is possibility of getting to Zaragoza from France by bus. The main lines travel from Lourdes, Tarbes, Pau and Oloron.
For bus schedules from Barcelona, also try Barcelona Nord.
Zaragoza is very well connected by free speedways with Huesca (1hr), Teruel (2hr), Madrid (3hr), and by toll highways with Barcelona (3hr, €30), Pamplona and Bilbao. Traffic around the city is relatively light except on some weekends and holidays.
Free parking in the city centre is very scarce. Most streets have metered parking limited to 1 or 2 hours. Underground paying parkings are scattered in the entire city and usually have free places.
Distances to Zaragoza: Madrid 312 km, Barcelona 307 km, Bilbao 305 km, Lleida/Lerida 150 km
By bus or tram
Most bus routes have audio announcements and "next stop" displays inside the vehicle.
There is one tram line ("Tranvía") which runs from the north to the south west, through the city centre. The tram uses the same fare system as the buses - touch your card on a reader when boarding. More tram lines are projected to open soon.
Tourist busSightseeing bus is another option. It costs €7 (free if you have the Zaragoza card) and the ticket can be used the entire day.
By taxiThe taxi drivers are plentiful and mostly honest.
By bicycleThere is a shared bicycle system called Bizi. It has a fairly good website in English which allows you to get a temporary subscription online beforehand. This subscription is valid for three days and costs €5.28. As with most shared bicycle system, the first 30 minutes are free after which you'll pay €0.52 per additional 30 minutes. This is up until 2 hours, after which you'll have to pay a penalty of €3.16 per hour. The deposit is €200.
After getting a temporary subscription online, you receive a subscription number which, together with your pin code of choice, enables you to take a bike immediately upon arrival in Zaragoza.
Bike availability is usually good, and there are plenty of stations in the city centre, as well as near the Delicias train station and the expo area.
However, in January 2015, the screens of many bicycle stations were not properly working (broken, unreadable text, flickering). Since this makes it impossible to enter the subscription number and pin code and therefore also impossible to borrow a bike (though it probably still works for annual subscribers who have a contactless card), the system becomes somewhat unreliable.
Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the PillarThe more famous of the two cathedrals is the one on the bank of the river Ebro. Holding an additional rank of basilica, this cathedral venerates the Virgin Mary who reportedly appeared to Saint James the Apostle on said riverbank during his travels in Iberia. Mary appeared on a pillar, which led to her being venerated under this particular name and also gave origin to the unusual Spanish female given name Pilar. Saint James is believed to have had a small shrine constructed by the pillar, of which nothing remains, but subsequently a large basilica was built on the site in the 3rd century under the rule of the Roman Emperor Constantine. This basilica has been rebuilt over the years, and became a Gothic church in the 15th century. The present-day version of the church superseded it and was constructed on the orders of King Charles II of Spain between 1681 and 1872. The protracted construction has been caused by frequent redesigns, including a reorientation, additions of towers and cupolas. It also allowed for the domes to be painted by Francisco Goya a century after the construction started, and the vault paintings are now one of the main attractions on the inside of the cathedral.
Cathedral of the Savior of ZaragozaLocated on the Plaza de la Seo, the cathedral is referred to as la seo ("the see") to distinguish it from the other cathedral, el pilar. La Seo has originally been constructed one the site one of the first mosques during the Moorish domination of Aragon, built perhaps as early as the 8th century, and destroyed to make way for a romanesque church in the 12th century. Zaragoza became an independent diocese in the 14th century and the church became its cathedral, immediately being afforded renovations in the gothic and moorish (mudéjar) styles. Many other reconstructions followed, due to both changing tastes and architectural necessities, as parts of the cheaply-built cathedral began to fail over time, including the collapse of the its in the 15th century. In the 17th century, the church has been involved in a canon law battle with the newly-reconstructed Basilica of Our Lady on the Pillar over which should be the seat of the diocese and thus the cathedral, which finally saw Pope Clement X declare them joint cathedrals with special provisions to make sure both enjoy equal status. La Seo is now a mixture of styles spanning between 12th and 19th centuries, and features an exquisite collection of tapestries. Entrance closes sometimes during the day when there's mass.
Iglesias MudejaresMudejar is a style that mixes Christian and Muslim tradition. Good examples of that are a part of La Seo cathedral, Magdalena church, San Miguel church and San Pablo church.
Iglesia de Santa María MagdalenaDistinctive for its square tower and polygonal apse, la Magdalena stands out within the old town of Zaragoza as one of the few relatively intact examples of Mudéjar architecture of the 14th century. That said, its interior was renovated in the baroque period.
Iglesia de San Miguel de los NavarrosAnother example of Mudéjar architecture, with a square tower and polygonal apse reminiscent of that of la Magdalena. It retained a richly-gilded Renaissance high altar by Damian Forment, but its tower did not escape a baroque intervention in the form of a spire.
Iglesia de San Pabloaddress: Calle de San Pablo 42The third Mudéjar church features a gothic portal and another altar by Damián Forment, as well as an pyramid-spired octogonal tower, whose shape is echoed by two lanters flanking the portal.
Basílica of Santa Engracia
Palacio de la AljaferiaA Moorish castle with intricate decorations including ceilings of gold. The castle now houses the Aragon regional parliament.
Las MurallasParts of the ancient wall that surrounded the city are still standing.
Caesaraugusta routeA route of 4 museums with a joint ticket is available in better price than separately. The route exposes monuments from times of Caesar August (I century B.C.):
Expo 2008In 2008 Zaragoza hosted an international expo for which a new area was opened with many new buildings designed by famous architects such as Zaha Hadid. It is now possible to stroll around this area. The only facility open to tourists is the aquarium.
Parque Grande José Antonio LabordetaA vast city park from 1929 with impressive features, arrangements and a monumental fountain staircase. Originally named after the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera, it was renamed in 2008 following the death of the prominent Aragonese singer-songwriter, activist and politician José Antonio Labordeta. The city's Botanical Gardens are included within the park's grounds.
Puerta del CarmenA surviving example of what once were 12 entry gates to the walled city of Zaragoza. The gate looks ancient, but was actually built in 1789 in neoclassical style, hence its resemblance to Roman ruins. The gate's dishevelled appearance documents its role in several sieges of the city and this is why the gate was not restored to its original glory - although minor repairs were carried out in 1997, when a bus collided with it
Puente de PiedraThe central bridge of Zaragoza, built in the 15th century and reconstructed many times afterwards to repair flood damage and reinforce the construction. Today it is restricted almost entirely to pedestrian traffic and features four pillars at its ends with lions, symbols of Zaragoza.
Zaragoza CardYou can buy a Zaragoza Card, a prepaid product for tourists visiting Zaragoza that combine many of the services tourists are likely to use in a prepaid package. You can buy cards valid over 24hr (€20) or 48hr (€23) online or at the tourist office. The card includes:
- Free entry to major museums and monuments.
- 24 hour unlimited use of the Tourist Bus.
- Prepaid public transportation (5 trips with the 24-hr card, 7 trips with the 48-hr card).
- Including guided tours and the services of the “roaming” tourist guides.
- One free drink and tapa in selected bars.
- The Parque Grande is excellent for a walk or a chill. Huge in size, you forget the city, and the many fountains adds to distraction.
Swimming pools for hot days
Summer days can be very hot in Zaragoza. If you prefer relaxing by the swimming pool over a sightseeing program, here are a few suggestions. Public swimming pools in Zaragoza are generally clean and well maintained. The entrance fee is some €3 for an adult. Open-air pools are open until 9 or 22:00 in the evening.
Centro Deportivo Municipal Acturaddress: C/ Pablo Ruiz Picasso s/nSeveral swimming pools, large lawn area. Few trees, hard to find a place in the shadow.
Centro Deportivo Municipal Saldubaaddress: Paseo de Mairano Renovales s/n50-m pool, the right place for serious swimming.
Palacio Municipal de Deportesaddress: Calle de Luis BermejoSmall pool, plenty of trees for shadow.
Shopping streetsZaragoza has much to offer in the way of shopping, with most central streets being lined with shopping opportunities. Shopping area stretches from Residencial Paraiso in Sagasta to the Plaza de España. The most exclusive shops are on Francisco de Vitoria, San Ignacio de Loyola, Cadiz, Isaac Peral and the streets crossing them. Craft and souvenir shops are located in the Jaime I and Alfonso I streets, starting in the Pilar Place, and at Anticuarios de la Plaza de San Bruno, where Sunday mornings a small flea market takes place.
Department stores and shopping centres
El Corte InglésThe iconic Spanish department store chain has its outlet in Zaragoza on Paseo de la Independencia close to Plaza de España
AragoniaA modern multi-functional centre in the southern district of Romareda.
address: Avenida De Navarra 180Shops, restaurants, cinema and free Wi-Fi access in a centre behind the Delicias station.
address: Calle de la Poetisa María Zambrano, 35Shopping mall where you can find everything including shops, restaurants a bowling alley and cinemas.
Mercado CentralOn a site which has been a market place since the Middle Ages. It is the perfect place to buy Zaragozan products as well as observe the atmosphere of a traditional Spanish market. Go there if you are looking for food and fresh produce
Plaza de Toros de la Misericordiaaddress: Calle Vicente Gómez Salvo, 58The place to go on Sunday as it is the venue for the traditional flea market
Rastro de ZaragozaLargest open-air market
What to orderSome of the best known regional specialities are:
- Bacalao al Ajoarriero, cod-fish with garlic and eggs,
- Huevos al Salmorejo, eggs with cold tomato cream,
- Longanizas y Chorizos, highly appreciated kinds of sausages,
- Ternasco Asado, roasted young lamb,
- Pollo al Chilindrón, chicken in a sauce of cured ham, tomatoes, onions and paprika,
- Cordero a la Pastora, lamb Shepherd's style,
- Lomo de Cerdo a la Zaragozana, cutlet,
- Migas a la Aragonesa, a dish made of crumbs scrambled with an egg and chorizo,
- Huevos rotos con foie, scrambled eggs with foie gras, often served with roasted potatoes and slices of smoked ham (jamon)
- Borrajas is a vegetable which can only be found in Aragon. It is usually eaten with olive oil,
- Melocotón con vino, peaches in wine, is a good option for dessert, though sometimes it is hard to find a restaurant serving this.
TapasZaragoza is well known because of its many tapas bars. A "Tabla" is a wooden plate in which different tapas like cheese and sausages are served, often with a bottle of wine in the price. The best place to get tapas is Puerta Cinegia and the adjacent , a group of narrow streets overflowing with small bars and restaurants.
Casa Lacaddress: Calle de los mártires 12An excellent choice for higher-end tapas
address: Calle Estébanes, 6Known for croquetas
address: Plaza Santa MartaA little bit more expensive but the food is of high quality.
Casa de Maraddress: Calle San Andrés, 9
Los Victorinosaddress: C/José de la Hera, 6One of the best tapas bars in town (although surely not the cheapest!) Try the Boletus Edulis tapa.
phone: +34 976 214082address: C/. PalomequeA classier, unusual take on a tapas bar, but not overpriced compared to some of the other "high-end tapas".It is advisable to call ahead, as this is a very popular restaurant.
Taberna La Piedraaddress: Cortes de Aragon, 64Delicious if a bit pricey. The Piedras and Solomillos are highly recommended. Great for beef lovers or lovers of very traditional Spanish food.
address: C/ Pignatelli 122Traditional Castilian-Aragonese cuisine restaurant in the old part of the city. Slow Food with great selection of meats.
phone: +34 976 292 600address: Calle Don Jaime I, 35One of the oldest ice cream shops in Zaragoza, established in 1934. Offer high quality Italian-style ice cream, and horchata de chufa.
Helados Italianos Aldoaddress: Calle Don Jaime IVery good ice cream shop.
Tareas of Calle de Espoz y Mina and Calle Mayor, which are a stone's throw from Plaza del Pilar, have plenty of varied bars from which to choose.
Cafe Pragaphone: +34 976 20 02 51address: Plaza de la Santa Cruz 13, El TuboGreat local favorite that has live music playing in the main bar, or you can retreat to the upstairs terrace and enjoy a tasty beverage overlooking the plaza.
La Cucarachaaddress: Calle del Temple 25, El TubollaLaidback and casual student hang out that doesn't really get going until the early hours of the morning.
Rock and Blues Cafeaddress: Cuatro de Agosto 5-7, El TuboUnleash your inner rock god at this long standing favorite, where live music plays throughout the week.
address: Prudencio, 7Enjoy a beer while listening live music, theatre, poetry from Wednesday to Sunday
address: C/ Predicadores 70Refurbished in 2008, this hostel is styled in an old medieval building that retains its charms of previous years. Free internet and kitchen available for travelers, with dorms rooms from €16.60 per night.
phone: +34 976 97 90 28address: Av. la Jota, 2
Tulip Inn Zaragoza Plaza FeriaThe Tulip Inn is set in an industrial and commercial area on the outskirts of the city and thus recommendable to those travelling by car, who can shave off a few dozens of Euros off the price of the night in a proper modern hotel by choosing to stay in a remote location.
address: Pilar Miro, 1Convenient if you plan to use Zaragoza as a stopover on your Madrid-Barcelona train ride, as it is only 5 minutes by bus from the Delicias station (or half an hour by foot, if you feel like walking 2 km. Great value for an AC property, even if a bit older and quite away from the city centre (30 mins by bus).
Hotel Avenidaphone: +34 976 43 93 00address: Avenida Cesar Augusto 55Clean hotel near the central market.
Eurostars Plaza DeliciasThe hotel is actually a certain distance from the Delicias train station (note that there is another Eurostars hotel actually AT the very station), and the walk is not very pleasant, but the hotel is reasonably modern if certainly not luxurious.
Eurostars Rey FernandoOn the outskirts of the Platforma Logistica commercial / industrial park, the hotel overlooks a park but one needs a car to comfortably get between the hotel and the city of Zaragoza proper.
Eurostars ZaragozaConfusingly named, it is distinct from the other Eurostars hotels in Zaragoza and actually located at the Delicias train station although the name would not suggest so. Do not confuse it with the other hotels when booking, especially the remote and run-down Eurostars Boston. The hotel is modern and very practical for those arriving by train, but one needs to note that some rooms only have windows towards the Delicias station hall and no outside view.
Ibis Styles Zaragoza Ramiro IAs with the other Ibis Styles, breakfast is normally included in the room price, but watch out for some special prices that eschew breakfast.
Ibis Zaragoza Centroaddress: Calle de Sobrarbe 2A standard if a bit dated Ibis hotel, whose highlight is the location right in front of the Puente de Piedra, which means not only closeness to the historic centre across the river, but also fairytale views of the bridge and Pilar basilica from some of the rooms.
phone: +34 976 205050address: C/ Espoz y Mina, 33
NH Ciudad de Zaragoza
Melia ZaragozaAvenida Cesar Augusto 13. One of the most luxurious hotels in the city, this 5 star hotel is close to the Carmen Door.
NH Collection Gran Hotel de Zaragoza
phone: +34 976 237 700address: Marqués de Casa Jiménez, s/n.Inviting decor of beige stone/marble, dark wood and soft lighting. All the rooms with wireless internet, minibar, room service etc. The attention to detail is noticeable, from the construction of the building to the decor and service it provides its guests. It was designed by Pascua Ortega and constructed from materials native to the region using traditional methods.
- Madrid and Barcelona are easily reached by car, high speed train or bus.
- The Alsa bus to Madrid stops in Alcalá de Henares, a charming old university town, handy for Madrid airport.
- Monasterio de Piedra- Charming monastery built in 1194 dc surrounded by an amazing park full of waterfalls. 90 minutes by car. Excellent guided tours, a two-hour attraction.
- Fuendetodos- Birthplace of the great painter Franscisco de Goya. 80 minutes by car.
- Moncayo- A fascinating mountain view. 80 minutes by car.
- Monasterio de Rueda- Romanic monastery which belonged to the cirtencens order.
- Monasterio de Veruela- Romanic monastery which belonged to the cirtencens order.
- Aramon- As the Pyrenees are just 2 hours away from Zaragoza, head to the ski slopes there.
- Teruel and Huesca are easily reached by car, train or bus.
The following places are located in the Huesca province, not more than 2 hours by car and in the middle of the Pyrenees. Charming places in the middle of the nature.
- Loarre Castle- One of the best Romanesque castles in Europe, recently the site for Ridley Scott's film, Kingdom of Heaven.
- Ordesa National Park- is particularly spectacular in autumn and decorated with waterfalls.
- Alquezar- A small village situated in the Sierra de Guara National Park.
- Villanueva de Sigena- The Monastery of Santa María de Sigena is located next to the town. Birthplace of Michael Servetus, the discoverer of pulmonary circulation with a museum dedicated to his work.