Zaragoza Spain Travel Guide
By Ellie Quinn Belhaj
If you have been to Spain before and explored some of its cities, then you’ll know that this country is literally heaving with interesting cities to visit. Zaragoza is not overrun with tourists and offers an authentic city option to travellers who enjoy understanding more about the country’s culture, which can be appreciated by spending time in Spain’s cities.
Zaragoza blends authenticity, beautiful architecture, lovely Spanish food and is a relatively undiscovered cultural gem. Discover more below the questions in our expert, Ellie Quinn’s, personalised Zaragoza things to do guide.
Zaragoza is a city in Spain, in Europe. Zaragoza is the fifth largest city in Spain and is the capital of the province of Zaragoza.
The city of Zaragoza is also capital of the region (autonomous community) of Aragon. Both the city and autonomous community of Zaragoza are located in the north eastern part of Spain.
To the north east of Zaragoza is Catalonia (Cataluña) and to the south east is Valencia, and just below to the south is the autonomous community of Castille La Mancha.
Considering travelling to Zaragoza with children – then download the Colour & Learn free colouring page below: Where is Zaragoza?
2. What is Zaragoza famous for?
Zaragoza is famous for its tapas….and also for being the closest city to the birthplace of the important 18th century artist, Francisco Goya. Tapas are small snacks or appetisers that originated in Spain.
Who invented tapas? Legend tells us two different stories about how tapas came to be invented.
One story dates back to the 13th century and the other is from the 19th century. Although we cannot be sure which one is true, the funny thing is that both stories include Spanish Kings named Alfonso!!
In the 13th century, King Alfonso III (3rd) had been unwell and could only manage to eat and drink wine in small amounts. When he was well again he had enjoyed these small snacks so much that tapas became part of the lifestyle. He said all drinks should be served with these tasty tapas.
The other story says that in the 19th century, King Alfonso XIII (13th) was in the port city of Cadiz in the south of Spain. He ordered some wine and the glass came with a slice of ham on top of it. This was because Cadiz is a very windy city and even the sand flies around, so the ham was there to protect the wine. But the King enjoyed the ham with the wine so much that he asked for the same again. Of course, if it was good enough for the King, it was good enough for the people and so a trend was born!
Download the Colour & Learn free colouring page below: Zaragoza Tapas
3. What to do in Zaragoza: things to do
Zaragoza is a city located in the Aragon region of Spain and is the 5th largest Spanish City. I visited for a long Summer weekend and I found it to be a complete cultural gem and a really authentic Spanish city. Zaragoza is filled with museums, religious sites, beautiful Renaissance buildings, gorgeous Spanish streets and a range of amazing restaurants offering tapas and local food.
1. Zaragoza’s iconic Basilica del Pilar
Basilica del Pilar is Zaragoza’s most iconic building and main landmark, and its not hard to see why. The Basilica is huge and extremely impressive from the outside, inside and from above! It’s possible to take a lift up the Basilica del Pilar Tower, sixty metres high, to see a stunning view across the City, River and over the beautifully tiled Basilica Roof.
I would definitely suggest using the Basilica del Pilar as a starting point when you arrive in Zaragoza and to admire the Basilica from the outside, inside and from above!
2. Aljaferia Palace
Aljaferia Palace was one of my favourite places that I visited whilst in Zaragoza, due to its incredible history. The origin of the Palace is Muslim. The original tower was built in the 9th Century and the Palace followed in the 11th Century. It has been passed through quite a few hands and in the 18th Century, it was even used as a Military Base!
Now it’s open to the public to stroll around, there’s a gorgeous courtyard filled with orange trees, evidence of a mosque and the rooms inside the Palace have been preserved in all their glory featuring a lot of gold! Aljaferia Palace is just a short walk or taxi ride out of the historical centre of Zaragoza and well worth a visit.
3. Zaragoza great museums
If you like a good museum, Zaragoza is the City for you! It’s home to many museums including a Tapestry museum, a Roman Archaeological museum, an Origami museum and lots more which evolve around art and Goya in particular.
Photo credit: Mariya Prokopyuk
Goya is one of the most famous and important painters in the world, it is said he is the father of the modern Movement and Zaragoza is home to a lot of his work in its museums, churches and even statues on the street because, Goya was from the Aragon region of Spain. Zaragoza is very proud to have this connection and if you don’t know much about Goya or his work before you go, you will when you leave.
4. Zaragoza fiestas
It’s not just historic buildings and informative museums that make Zaragoza a cultural gem though. Zaragoza’s calendar is full of festivals which range from its main annual festival- Fiestas del Pilar held in October, to dance festivals, music festivals and an Urban street art festival called Festival Asalto which is held every year in September.
Artists from all over the world have one week to complete their street art designs in the El Gancho neighbourhood and afterwards, the art is there to stay. It’s really easy to spend a few hours getting lost in the back streets of El Gancho finding all of these beautiful pieces, whilst also coming across the local life of the residents of Zaragoza.
Photo credit: Juan EDC
Why not listen to a bit of music from Zaragoza to get you in the mood!
5. Amazing food and you can even get a special Tapas Card
Let’s touch on the amazing food in Zaragoza. As I said Tapas are very popular in Zaragoza, the tourist board have even brought out a Tapas Card for tourists, which enables you to try out a range of recommended restaurants and tapas dishes to ensure you get the most out of your stay!
The tourist board created the Tapas Card to help tourists around the city, however one thing I noticed and loved about Zaragoza is that there are no tourist areas of the city or specifically tourist restaurants. I think this is because Zaragoza is not a hugely popular tourist city, but also because the locals are really friendly and enjoy seeing people visit their city, so they like to mix with them. Therefore when you visit a restaurant in Zaragoza, you know you’ll be getting a real, local and authentic experience. Two restaurants I loved and would recommend going to are Casa Lac and Montal, both in the historical centre of Zaragoza.
Photo credit: Juan Tiagues
Make sure you look out for a green vegetable called Borraja on the menu, it’s popular in their dishes because its a vegetable that is only found in this region of Spain due to it growing there and not transporting well.
6. Zaragoza is full of friendly local people
Finally, one of the really special things about Zaragoza is its local people. I found them to be extremely friendly both whilst I was in Zaragoza, but also afterwards when I was posting about my trip online. They are very hospitable especially when eating in their establishments and visiting the icons of the City. They seem to really love their City and are very proud of it and it really shows!
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Ellie Quinn Belhaj
Ellie is a travel addict and travel blogger over at www.thewanderingquinn.com.
She believes that travel can be done in any form on a range of budgets, from a day trip around your local town to weekend City breaks to 1-2 week holidays to backpacking trips that last for months!
Ellie loves visiting lesser known destinations and experiencing the local culture, she is also a big fan of solo travel.
Visit Ellie’s blog:
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Ellie has also written two other articles about Zaragoza and created a short YouTube video, which you can discover below.