I loved Zaragoza after my first visit, and I love it even more after my second visit. This lesser known Spanish City is a complete gem and great for a long weekend trip on its own or as part of a bigger trip around Spain. The big Spanish Cities of Madrid and Barcelona are good to visit but if you want to visit a friendly Spanish City, with plenty of things to do, experience the local life and culture, Zaragoza is the perfect option.
Here is everything you need to know to help plan your trip to Zaragoza, Spain!
Where is Zaragoza?
Zaragoza is in the Northern part of Spain in the Aragon region and it’s the 5th biggest City in Spain.
Why visit Zaragoza?
It’s a lesser known Spanish City which means it’s not overrun by tourists but it still caters well to visitors and tourists. It’s small enough to see in just a few days but if you wanted to stay for longer there are plenty of things to do and it’s easy to get around. Zaragoza is home to an array of museums, important religious sites, a large number of beautiful Renaissance buildings. In addition to this the food and wine scene is incredible, plus the people of Zaragoza are extremely friendly and hospitable.
Another great reason to visit Zaragoza is because of all the festival and events they have on throughout the year. There seems to be a big event each month so it’s likely your visit will coincide with one of the cultural and fun events. The biggest event in the calendar is festival Fiestas del Pilar held every October for 10 days (more information on that below)!
How to get to Zaragoza?
Zaragoza’s airport is just a 15 minute taxi ride from the centre of the City so it means you can start your City Break quickly after landing.
From the UK there are direct flights to and from London Stansted a few times a week. There are regular, direct flights to and from many cities in Spain, and they have also have flights to and from popular Cities in Europe like Paris, Brussels, Milan.
Alternatively, if you cannot get a direct flight, due to Zaragoza being in the middle of Barcelona and Madrid, you can fly into one of these airports and get a fast train right into the City.
Trains from Barcelona to Zaragoza can take as little as 1hr 23 minutes and trains from Madrid to Zaragoza can take as little as 1hr 15 minutes.
There are also fast trains from the South of France and other places in nearby Europe so definitely don’t think that flying is the only way to get to Zaragoza!
When is the best time of year to go to Zaragoza?
Zaragoza benefits from a long Spanish Summer. I visited in June on my first trip which was very hot, nearly 40c late in the day. On my second trip I visited in the middle of September and the temperature was still reaching 30c late in the day.
Zaragoza has a big festival in October called Festival del Pilar and it’s known that after this the weather does start getting quite chilly and Winter arrives. I have heard that the wind in Zaragoza in the Winter is particularly cold due to the City being located in a valley. You may be pleased to hear that rain is pretty uncommon in Zaragoza all year round.
In terms of weather I would say the best time of year to visit Zaragoza is in Spring – April & May, and Autumn – September & October if you want to miss the sizzling heat of the Summer and the chilly wind of the Winter. But as long as you pack correctly, there’s not really a bad time to visit Zaragoza.
In terms of festivities, as I said their big annual festival of Fiestas del Pilar is on for 10 days throughout October so if you’re flexible with when you visit Zaragoza, I would recommend visiting in October to experience it!
In October for Festival del Pilar the City literally turns into a festival, there are parades and performances with lots of colour and happiness. The grand act of the festival is the Flower Offering Day on 12th October where the Patroness of the Hispanic world comes out onto the street, specifically into the Plaza (the huge Plaza del Pilar can be seen in the photo below) where citizens in regional dress place between 6 to 8 million flowers at her feet!
The flower offering has been happening each year since 1958 although the festival originates a lot further back that than. As you can imagine, October is a great time to visit Zaragoza if you want to experience a real local, Spanish Cultural event and atmosphere!
For more information and ideas for your trip to Zaragoza have a read of my other posts too:
Watch my time in Zaragoza in my YouTube video here:
Where to Stay in Zaragoza?
The quality of hotels in Zaragoza are really good and they benefit from being reasonable and competitive prices, especially compared to other cities in Spain. A double room in a well located, decent hotel can start from €40.00 a night in Zaragoza, and prices for a 5* Hotel can start from €80.00 a night, from what I have seen on Booking.com.
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 historic 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 be in! 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. In my opinion having this roof pool and terrace area really add’s to a city break in Zaragoza!
Another good hotel in Zaragoza is Hotel Sauce, it’s also well located in the historic centre and well priced. It’s a smaller, family run hotel with an extra friendly and cosy feel to it.
For a hotel that is brilliantly located, right in the centre of the historic city but has really low and competitive rates, have a look at Hotel Pilar Plaza.
For more hotel options in Zaragoza check out what Booking.com has to offer. I use this site to book nearly all of my accommodation thanks to the endless choices and flexible paying options.
If you are on a budget or want a hostel vibe, Zaragoza does have a number of hostels around the city. Have a look at Hostels on Hostelworld.com here.
Where to Eat in Zaragoza?
Zaragoza is known for its gastronomy so whether you’re wanting Tapas or a 3 Course meal, you’ll be sure to get some really good food in Zaragoza.
Here are the top places to eat in Zaragoza from my experience and where I have been:
Casa Lac – I had a wonderful meal at Casa Lac which consisted of various courses, this restaurant is a bit of an institution in Zaragoza 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.
Montal – Based in Plaza San Felipe you may mistake it for a deli 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!
La Clandestina Cafe – 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.
Puerta Cinegia Gastronomica – This is 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 are tables, 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 is good if your Spanish is bad as you can just look and point!).
Baobab – This is a Vegetarian restaurant and even if you’re not vegetarian I still really recommend you visit. They offer fresh, healthy but delicious food for a great price. The staff are friendly and it’s located in the student area of the city.
Doña Hipolita – For a cafe vibe for lunch or a coffee and cake, be sure to head to Doña Hipolita in Plaza San Felipe. There is seating inside and outside and the interior of the inside is really cool and colourful!
El Buque – I haven’t eaten here but I passed by it 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 in the Summer.
In addition to this, if you are Vegetarian or Vegan you’ll be pleased to know that Zaragoza has some great restaurant options, check out my Vegetarian and Vegan Guide to Zaragoza for more yummy options that I have not mentioned above!
Where to Eat Tapas in Zaragoza?
The Tapas and Pintxos is great in Zaragoza and so is the Tapas scene in general so I wanted to create an extra section for this so you know where to get the best Tapas 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. The image below shows which establishments are part of it and where they are.
These are the places around the city I have visited for Tapas in Zaragoza and really love so be sure to visit a few of them on your trip to Zaragoza:
If you would like to do a private food tour in Zaragoza, have a look at the below tours and options:
Where to Drink in Zaragoza?
Zaragoza has a good number of bars and they are very popular and busy on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. What I love about the bars and about Zaragoza in general is that there are no ‘tourist’ places, the locals and tourists will eat and drink in the same places.
El Tubo is a good place to start and to visit for drinks in Zaragoza as it’s 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.
Another area that has been cleaned up recently is the Juepincho area. I’ve mentioned it above as a good place to visit for Tapas on a Thursday and it’s also a good place to visit for a drink too.
To hear about why I love Zaragoza so much, have a look at my YouTube video:
What to see and do in Zaragoza?
Zaragoza has a lot to offer, it has many museums, churches, cathedrals and parks.
I wrote a list of 50 Things To See and Do in Zaragoza so be sure to check that out for an extensive list but my favourite, must see and must do things in Zaragoza are:
Basilica del Pilar – See it from the outside, inside and above.
The Basilica del Pilar is incredible! It’s absolutely huge and it’s very easy to appreciate from the outside. Going inside is a must do though as it’s so grand and because it’s so big and has so much detail it takes a while to see it all. The inside also holds paintings from Goya, a famous painter from the Aragon region.
After you’ve been inside the Basilica del Pilar be sure to go up the tower to see it from the top and see panoramic views across the city.
Explore Aljaferia Palace.
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 too!
Visit the Goya Museum.
If there is just one museum you visit in Zaragoza I would make it the Goya Museum because the city, and a lot of what you see in the city will make more sense once you have visited and learned more about Goya. If like me, you don’t and didn’t know who Goya is, 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.
For more ideas and recommendations on museums to visit in Zaragoza see my post – things to see and do in Zaragoza.
See local life in Mercado Central.
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!
Walk down Calle de Alfonso.
I love this street because of the Basilica sat so prominently at the end, and the fact that it’s a calm, walking street so definitely take a walk down here when you’re in Zaragoza.
See Parque Jose Antonio Labordeta.
This Park is a 40 minute walk from the city or a short bus journey (I visited using the hop on, hop off bus which I would also recommend using), 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.
Find some Street Art.
You may be surprised to hear that Zaragoza has a lot of street art. This is mainly due to the fact that every year for many years there has been an Urban Street Art festival in Zaragoza called Festival Asalto. It’s held in different parts of the city each year and although some of the pieces only last a few weeks or months, others last a few years.
The area of El Gancho was home to the festival a few years ago so there is still a lot of street art around Las Armas which is pretty central. I went to the 2018 festival which was held out of the city in Oliver, although it’s still very accessible if you want to see it on your trip to Zaragoza too.
For more details on the festival and where you can see the street art, read my guide to Festival Asalto.
Wander the Sunday Market in Las Armas
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.
And this should cover your trip to Zaragoza!
If you are going soon or have any more questions, let me know in the comments below or by tweeting me @wandering_quinn!
For more of my blog posts on Zaragoza and for more ideas on what to do, see:
I visited Zaragoza with the Zaragoza Tourism board but all opinions and thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links but at no extra cost to you.