Zaragoza is a victim of its own geography. Located halfway between Madrid and Barcelona and on the main routes to Bilbao, Valencia, and Toulouse, Zaragoza is often overlooked by travellers, but they are missing out. This is a city with 2,000 years of history and a rich menu of options for shopping, dining, and sightseeing.
Get a Zaragoza Card
With so much to see and do over a weekend, it’s worth your while investing in a Zaragoza Card , which covers entry to all museums and monuments, 24-hour unrestricted use of the Saragossa Tourist Bus, guided tours, a free tapas and drink, and discounts in more than 50 establishments.
Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Pilar
With its domes and towers, there’s an exotic Eastern air to this 16th- and 17th-century basilica on the bank of the Ebro. Thousands of pilgrims come here every year to venerate the tiny statue of the Virgen del Pilar, so-called because of the pillar on which the Virgin is believed to have stood when she asked Santiago (St. James) to build the church. During the second week of October, the church hosts a major festival devoted to Our Lady of the Pillar, with parades, bullfights, fireworks, floral tributes, and street dancing. Also of interest within the church are frescoes painted by Goya, who was born nearby. The adjacent Museo del Pilar houses the jewellery collection used to adorn the Pilar statue, as well as sketches by Goya and both Bayeu brothers.
Catedral de la Seo
Located on the Plaza de la Seo, the more impressive La Seo, or Catedral del Salvador, is a Gothic-Mudéjar church constructed between 1380 and 1550. With its opulent Baroque and Plateresque facade, it is a superb example of Aragonese Gothic architecture. Pay special attention to the main altar and the fine collection of French and Flemish tapestries from the 15th to the 17th centuries in the attached museum. Goya and Francisco Bayeu y Subia decorated the baroque cupolas in the Temple of Pilar.
Palacio de la Aljaferia
The Aljafería Palace is one of Zaragoza's leading historical attractions. The imposing structure is the largest surviving example of Islamic/Spanish architecture from the Taifas period, and it is also the only substantial building from the time of Muslim rule in Spain outside Andalucia. It may not be in the same league as Granada's Alhambra or Córdoba's Mezquita, but it remains a magnificent monument. The Aljafería started life as a pleasure palace for Zaragoza's Islamic rulers, but after the city became Christian in 1118, the new rulers adapted it to suit their own needs. Although the Palace has been the headquarters for Aragon's regional parliament since 1987, it is open to the public.
When you’re feeling peckish head to the narrow streets and small plazas south of La Seo for tasty tapas - either for lunch or with a cold beer in the evening. Cervecería Marpy, Casa Vitorinos II, and Casa Domino are all recommended on the inviting Plaza de Santa Marta. Another string of tempting tapas bars awaits you toward the southern end of Calle Heroísmo, with other options spilling out of Calle Moneva, off Calle de Zurita east of Paseo de la Independencia.