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Updated 2019: I have now visited Zaragoza twice in 2 years. Zaragoza is the 5th biggest City in Spain and sits in the Northern Aragon Region of the Country and from both of these visits I have found it to be a wonderful place to take a Spanish City Break, especially if you want to see a real and authentic side of Spain, and let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to do that?
Zaragoza is full of museums and religious sites so if you like this sort of thing then it’s perfect for you. If you’re not so keen on this there’s still a lot to do as you’ll see below! From checking out street art to tasting amazing chocolate and tapas, to exploring beautiful parks you can easily spend 2-3 days in Zaragoza having a relaxed and cultured City Break in Zaragoza.
If you’re wondering how to plan your day’s in Zaragoza be sure to check out my posts- 48Hour Guide to the Cultural Spanish City of Zaragoza & A Full Guide to Zaragoza, Spain
This Basilica is Zaragoza’s iconic building and it’s not hard to see why, not only is it huge but it’s beautiful! Although it’s very impressive from the outside you must go inside too because it’s stunning! It holds paintings from Goya, a famous painter from the Aragon region. There are regular services that you can observe and local’s pop into the Basilica all the time giving it a very speical feel.
The Basilica can’t just be seen from the outside and inside, you must go up one of the bell towers to see it from above! One of the four towers is open to the public where you can take the lift 60metres to the top to take in the most incredible views over the Basilica, the river and both sides of the city. It is possible to climb even higher to 80metres which is pretty cool considering the tower is 92 meters but this part is very small with windows so although it’s higher the picture opportunity isn’t quite as good.
This Plaza is one of the largest in Europe which isn’t surprising as it’s the length of the cathedral and many other buildings in the area. It’s a lovely place to stroll through at all times of the day and unlike many popular Plaza’s it doesn’t seem to get ridiculously busy. There’s a waterfall at one end which represents Latin America and a cool world statue (which I saw people leaning against, pushing and all sorts!) and there’s also plenty of seating.
This bridge is just the other side of the Basilica and run’s across the River Ebro. It’s also called the bridge of Lions due to the lions that sit on the pillars at the ends of the bridge. The bridge connects the historic centre with a more commercialized and residential side of the city. Walking along this bridge also gives you a great photo position of the Basilica with the river in front.
Just slightly away from the historical centre is a palace. It does look more like a fort from the outside but once you get inside it’s clear that it’s a palace with a beautiful courtyard filled with Orange Trees. The origin of the palace is Muslim with the original tower dating back to the 9th century and the palace constructed in the 11th century. This place as you can imagine holds a lot of history, later in the 18th century it was also used as a military base. It’s interesting as although the military base ruined a lot of the palace, flooring that was kept under filing cabinets etc were actually preserved by this and as you walk around its evident to see this within the rooms so make sure you keep looking down at the floor and up as the ceilings inside are beautiful!
To SEE my second trip to Zaragoza, have a look at my YouTube video here!
Built over the main mosque of the old Muslim City this incredible church is made up of a range of styles- Romanesque, Mudejar, Renaissance, Gothic & Baroque. It’s definitely worth taking a look inside to appreciate just how grand it is. Be sure to also check out the side of it as its covered in beautiful mosaic’s!
Housed inside Catedral del Salvador is a Tapestry Museum. It spans over a couple of floors and is home to a collection of impressive, huge, Flemish tapestries from the 15th to 18th Century.
If like me, you don’t know who Goya is (although I do now but i hadn’t heard of him before I visited), he is one of the most important painters in the world and it is said that he is the father of the modern movement. Locals are very proud that he is from the Aragon Region of which Zaragoza sits in Spain and therefore a huge amount of his art is in the city. This museum is mainly dedicated to paintings with works ranging from the 15th to 20th Century. The museum is housed in a Renaissance building and there is an audio-visual which plays regularly in Spanish, French and English which I would recommend seeing.
This museum is very deceiving as the entrance is just a small area in a plaza however downstairs are the Roman archaeological remains that belong to a market from the era of Emperor Augustus and when city had the name Caesaraugusta!
Didn’t think that Zaragoza would have a Roman Theatre? No neither did I but it does! Sat between normal flats and the roads of the city is one of the largest theatre’s of Roman Hispanic which would have held around 6000 people. I viewed the Theatre from the street between the bars and even this way it’s impressive but there is a museum attached to the theatre to find out more.
Pablo Gargallo was an Sculptor from Aragon and this museum is dedicated to his works detailing examples of the evolution of civilian architecture in Zaragoza in the 17th Century. The museum sits in the Plaza San Felipe along with a few other things that I have recommended in this list.
Located in an area called Los Sitios, just outside of the historical Centre the Zaragoza museum is divided into 2 sections, Archaeology and Fine Art and once again you can see an example of Goya’s art and the building itself is very impressive with a beautiful courtyard.
This is one of the finest and best preserved Renaissance Aragonese Courtyards, built in the mid-16th Century. It is deceiving as the building you enter to see it is Ibercaja’s (a Spanish bank) head office but it’s good to see what is behind the facade.
Sat in the Plaza de la Pilar, this building it another impressive Renaissance building from the outside but is even better inside. Over the last few decades it’s been used as an exhibition hall which it is still used for today but it was built by the council as a Merchants Exchange or market during 1541-1551 so that dealings were not happening in the church.
Have you ever heard of an origami museum?? I hadn’t but Zaragoza has one! From the outside it looks like you’re about to walk into a church but the inside is a fairly modern building with a whole floor dedicated to Origami. It was interesting to see and it certainly looks tricky. The guy that runs the museum wasn’t there when I went but I’ve heard he’s extremely passionate about origami and the museum and does guided tours with a chance to have a go at the end!
On a clear day the sun set’s perfectly behind the Basilica del Pilar and the stone bridge. For the best view cross the stone bridge out of the historic centre, turn right and head down the path by the river.
Zaragoza is actually a great city to hire a bike in and explore by bike. Firstly it’s flat which makes it a lot more pleasant, secondly there are plenty of bike lanes and a lot of the locals use bikes throughout the city so the drivers are used to them. I hired a bike at La Cicleria who were really great and the quality of the bike was good too. Once you’ve been for a bike ride you can enjoy a drink in the cafe attached to the shop which I thought was pretty cool!
Whilst I was in Zaragoza I saw quite a few people out on Kayaks during the day and in the evenings. Kayaking along the River Ebro and seeing the sights of Zaragoza from that angle will certainly be a unique experience!
This is the Aragonese Institute of Contemporary Art and Culture. Understandably it’s an interesting building from the outside and completely different to the buildings which surround it. I didn’t visit the museum but I did head up to the rooftop one evening to see the city from above. This rooftop is free to enter and often holds concerts and has a bar which was cool and different to see.
This church sits in the El Gancho area of the city and dates back to the late 13th & early 14th century. It’s a mix of Christian and Islam which is a trait that a lot of the city holds. The highlight of visiting this church for me was having a guided tour by Sergio who runs the church, he has a huge amount of knowledge and is very passionate. You can visit the church by yourself or you can arrange a tour with him, the plus of going on a guided tour is not only learning more but being able to go to the tower which gives 360 views of Zaragoza from a completely different angle than the Basilica gives!
To SEE my second trip to Zaragoza, have a look at my YouTube video here!
I think it’s important to not stick to Zaragoza’s historical centre, therefore head up to Plaza de Espana where you’ll see the main road of the commercial area. It’s still home to many impressive buildings but understandably has a different vibe, you’ll know you’ve found it when you see a Zara and a Mango!
I stayed at 2 of the Palafox Hotels on my recent trip to Zaragoza. Palafox are a chain with 5 hotels in Zaragoza and 1 in Cadiz, and they must be the best hotels in Zaragoza because they were both luxurious, modern, comfy, well located and had the best breakfasts!
Hotel Reina Petronila is not in the centre of Zaragoza and is instead located in the new cultural and administrative centre of the city. It’s well-connected to the historic centre and the university area of the city via tram and it’s design is its biggest attraction. Every inch of the hotel from the outside to the inside, to the spa on the 11th floor has been beautifully designed in a sleek but comfortable way.
Hotel Alfonso is right in the middle of the historic centre of Zaragoza and I don’t think there is a better location to have! It’s located at the top of Alfonso Street which is a main shopping street that leads all the way down to the impressive Basilica del Pilar. The suites have their own private terrace’s with sun loungers as well as plenty of space inside of the rooms, and if you don’t opt for a suite you still have access to the rooftop pool and sun loungers which provide incredible views of the city. Having this pool and sun lounging area really add’s to a city break in Zaragoza, especially in the Summer as it can get very hot!
A Central Market is the heart of a Spanish city and the one in Zaragoza is not to be missed. Constructed in 1903 in the same place that the 13th century market was housed. It’s closed on Sundays but the rest of the week it’s bustling with stalls selling a range of foods!
I stayed just down the road from Calle de Alfonso Street so it became one of my favourite streets, probably because of the Basilica sat so prominently at the end, and the fact that it’s a calm, walking street!
Head into Plaza San Felipe which is just off of Calle de Alfonso and you’ll see a statue of a boy sitting down, look to where he is looking and you’ll see a tower painted on the wall, if you look in front of that there is a circle of bricks that are different to the rest of the flooring. The tower in the picture used to stand here at an impressive 95meters however it used to lean and locals working in the area where worried it would fall so they removed it.. Imagine if they hadn’t, could Zaragoza have been as popular as Pisa??
In Plaza San Felipe there is a restaurant and deli called Montal. I mention it later in the list for food but what you wouldn’t realise from the outside is that it holds a small museum dedicated to the tower. It’s really interesting to see pictures of it, and see the difference in the painted pictures.. it leans a lot more in some than others and really takes you back to what it would have been like a long time ago in the Plaza.
This Park is a 40 minute walk from the city or a short bus journey (I visited using the hop on, hop off bus), and it’s a great way to see a green area of the city. Not only that but the park holds the highest point in the city which you can walk up and see the park below and the city in the distance (although it’s not that high so it’s not a steep walk!).
Another way to see a green space of Zaragoza is by following the Canal Imperial out of the city. We hired bikes to see the area which is how I recommend you see it too as it will take too long walking, but it was is nice to bike away from the city, along the canals and through the attached parks.
This area was built as part of the 2008 International exhibition of Water and Sustainable Development. Zaragoza is very proud to have been home to this exhibition which lasted 3 months. The buildings are extremely modern and a complete contrast to the rest of the city, many of the building are in use these days and there are plans to make use of more of them. I visited as a stop on the hop on hop off bus and although it was slightly eerily quiet it was good to see.
Also built in 2008 and close to the Expo area is a water park. It’s home to a range of activities from rafting to horse riding to mini golf and is a great place for families!
Designed by the very famous architect Zaha Hadid, this bridge was also built as part of the 2008 expo as an exhibition pavilion. It’s a very interesting design from the outside and can be used to cross over the river.
The Aragonese Artisans Centre have regular exhibitions on. When I visited they had a Ceramic exhibition thanks to the 18th edition of CERCO which is held every year in Zaragoza. They displayed winners of past exhibitions as well as having the designs of the future edition available to be seen.
Whilst in Zaragoza I learned that it’s home to a lot of festivals. They have a huge festival in October called Fiestas del Pilar which lasts a week and people party in the whole of the plaza and the whole of the city (see the top 2 photos below)! They also have a street art festival in September (more about that below), and when I was there in June there was an urban dance festival so keep a look out for what might be happening when you visit!
Harinera is a cultural infrastructure which organises activities, workshops and concerts for the local citizen’s of Zaragoza. It’s home in the city was one a flour factory and has now been refurbished to a modern space for children to learn and small businesses to work. It’s an easy way from the city centre and in a nice area of the city to discover.
Although some activities are in Spanish only, visitors can participate in other activities that may be on during your visit like concerts, photo or painting exhibitions and cultural courses. It has an annual programme/agenda.
Zaragoza works to attract visitors (citizens and tourists) to other districts of the city in order to get the community involved in the project and encouraging people to get in contact with the cultural, social and urban exchange.
If you want another way to see the city from above then visit the Tourist office which is in the Tower of la Zuda where you can walk up to the fifth floor and see the view from the top. From the inside and on the ground floor it’s also possible to see Roman ruins that sit below the tower. Whilst you’re there, be sure to say hello to the friendly staff at the tourism office and ask them any questions you need answering.
I know this may seem like a touristy thing to do in a not so touristy City however I really enjoyed the bus when I was in Zaragoza as it’s a good way to see places that are slightly further out of the city like the Jose Antonio Labordeta Park I mentioned above and the Expo Centre. Not only that but there is an audio guide in various languages to give you information on what you are passing.
I did not associate Zaragoza with Street Art but this is another way in which it surprised me. Every September Zaragoza hosts an Urban art festival called Festival Asalto. Artists from all over the world take part and they have 1 week to complete their piece on a designated area of the city. In previous years they have done the street art in the El Gancho, a neighbourhood in the centre of the city so take a walk up Calle del Las Armas and head off on some of the side streets to see what street art you can find.
On my second visit to Zaragoza I was lucky enough to see the 2018 festival in action, to read more about it have a look at my guide to festival Asalto.
The 2018 Festival Asalto that I visited was located in the neighbourhood of Oliver. It’s a bit further out from the city centre and would require a taxi or public bus to get there but if you love street art I would recommend heading there to explore it.
For more details and to see more pictures on the 2018 festival in Oliver see my guide to Festival Asalto post.
If you are in Zaragoza on a Sunday morning be sure to visit the markets in Las Armas. It’s a fairly small market but there are plenty of local artisan stalls to look at and the vibe is very relaxed, friendly and local making for a great experience in Zaragoza.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to visit this Monastery however there’s always next time hey! It’s not particularly close to the city but the reviews online sound good and a good way to see more of the Aragon region, it’s also the home of Chocolate so if you go with the purchase of your entrance fee and when presenting the chocopass (see more below) you will be able to attend a chocolate tasting session! I found this link from TripAdvisor which details how to get there on public transport which might help you visit.
This is a green vegetable which you can only get in this region in Spain as it grows there. It can’t even be transported to another area in Spain let alone another Country as it will not survive so keep a look out for it on menus. I had it fried as tempura which was good and I had it in another dish mixed with potato!
Zaragoza is actually famous for chocolate, it is said that in Monastery de Piedra the monks living in the monastery were the first people to try cocoa beans to make chocolate with in Europe. So the clever people at the tourism board have created a pass which currently 21 establishments are part of. The pass is €9.00 and it enables you to visit 5 of the 21 establishments in the city (plus a 6th pass for Monastery de Piedra) and collect different types of chocolate from them! Not only does this mean you get to sample lots of different chocolate but it pushes you to explore slightly more to find the shops that are listed and see the shops from the inside as some of them are very old and quaintly Spanish!
The Tapas and Pintxos is great in Zaragoza and so is the Tapas scene in general so be sure to experience it when you’re in Zaragoza. Thursdays are really popular for Tapas as well as the weekends and you’ll see lots of locals out enjoying drinks and food.
On Thursday evenings in the Juepincho area a lot of the restaurants and bar’s have a €2.00 deal on which includes a small drink of water, beer or wine, plus 1 Tapas which I would really recommend checking out.
If a Market and Tapas Tour is calling your name, have a look at this Zaragoza Tapas Tour run by Foodie Tours Spain.
This establishment is pretty much an indoor food market and it’s great. Around the edges of the room are many stalls, most of which are from restaurants in the city and in the middle area is tables and chairs and a bar. It’s a great way to view all your options before making a decision and see food in real life rather than choosing from a menu (this place will be good if your Spanish is bad as you can just look and point!).
I had a wonderful meal at Casa Lac which consisted of various courses, this restaurant is a bit of an institution and many important dinners and lunches are held here. There are 2 dining possibilities, downstairs is a fairly relaxed bar and restaurant area where you can choose from a range of tapas dishes and upstairs is more of a fine dining experience for a set price. Either way the food is incredible from here and the staff are very friendly and helpful to.
Another restaurant I visited and loved is Montal. Based in Plaza San Felipe it holds the leaning tower museum I mentioned above, it also has a deli which is what you may mistake it for if you didn’t know it was a restaurant but it has inside and outside seating in the Plaza and serves an array of Spanish dishes. It’s another restaurant that is very popular with locals too!
Tubo means tube and the reason the area is called El Tubo is because the streets in this area are very small and narrow. This area is one of the main bar and restaurant areas of the city so you’ll be sure to find somewhere serving a good Cerveza. It’s interesting too as in the 90’s it was a no-go area and has only been cleared up fairly recently using an initiative started by the shop and bar owners in the area.
Although tapas and Spanish feel restaurants are what you need to eat and visit whilst in Zaragoza there are also a number of cool cafes which would rival some of London’s cafes. I really liked Doña Hipolita which is in Plaza San Felipe and I heard it does the best red velvet cake! I also really liked the look of a place called Botanic so be sure to check these out!
If you’re looking for a good brunch spot in Zaragoza, La Clandestine is it. It’s open all day serving lunch and dinner but it seems to be a popular place for brunch and I can see why as it’s very trendy. They offer a brunch package as well as being able to order individual options. If you do want to go here for brunch I would recommend booking in advance.
I walked passed El Buque whilst visiting the Sunday markets in Las Armas and really liked the look of it. It’s a bar and grill with mostly outdoor seating located. It’s really colourful with lots of street art and looks like a great place to eat and have an afternoon drink in the Summer.
I hope you find this list helpful and it has proved to you that there are so many things to do in Zaragoza, Spain and that it’s the perfect Spanish City for a City Break!
If you have any questions on Zaragoza please let me know in the comments below or by tweeting me @wandering_quinn!
Be sure to check out Zaragoza’s official tourism site too to help you out with any further information.
To SEE my second trip to Zaragoza, have a look at my YouTube video here!
For accommodation in Zaragoza for all budgets have a look on Booking.com.
More of my Zaragoza posts:
I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a total travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010 and has visited over 55 Countries. (Yes I’m a Country Counter!)
I love travelling, visiting new places and meeting new people but what I also love is sharing my experiences to help you travel better which is why I pour so much love into this travel blog.
I hope to inspire you to visit new places, make you realise you don’t need to spend that much money to travel and give you helpful tips on how to get to places and what to do there!
In the Summer of 2018, I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time so if this is your dream too, follow along because I post lots of content around how I did it. And it really is amazing!
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