Zaragoza is a riverside city in northeastern Spain boasting some exquisite architecture and a thriving tapas scene. Here are my top recommendations for what to see and do:
Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar
This iconic church in the centre of Zaragoza is stunningly beautiful both inside and out. Its grand exterior architecture is finished off with colourful tiled domes which glint in the sunlight. To fully enjoy its splendour, sit down for a coffee at one of the cafes lining Plaza Del Pilar.
Venturing inside, you’ll find some spectacular ceiling artwork, paintings, sculptures and stained glass windows. The best part? Entrance is free! For panoramic views over Zaragoza you can pay €3 (£2.6/US$3.7) to visit the top of one of its towers; this part is only open 10am-2pm & 4pm-8pm.
Catedral del Salvador de Zaragoza
The city’s cathedral is another example of attractive architecture, however, not quite on par with the basilica in my opinion. This one is more for art-lovers as the €5 (£4.4/US$6.2) admission includes entrance to the medieval tapestry museum (guided tours are available most mornings Tuesday through Sunday).
A free lookout option is the 5th floor viewing deck of the Zuda Tower. Although not quite as high as the basilica tower viewpoint, you can enter for free and it will be far less crowded.
There are also some historical information boards to provide context whilst you take in the panoramic views over the river and city. The Zuda Tower is located in the same building as the tourist information office; next to the southern entrance of Santiago Bridge.
Tapas in “El Tubo”
The El Tubo quarter of Zaragoza is home to the city’s best tapas bars. In the evenings and at weekends, revellers spill out onto the narrow streets as they share drinks, taste tapas and watch the local buskers. Here are my top 3 tapas to try in El Tubo;
Montado Rasa Aragonesa @ La Ternasca – €2
Zaragoza boasts a culinary speciality called ternasco – preparations of lamb meat that has been reared in the region of Aragon. If the thought of some succulent lamb takes your fancy (which it should!) then head to La Ternasca for a meaty feast.
Montadito de Jamón Batido @ Casa Dominó – €2.5
A simple tapa consisting of shaved ham, mayonnaise and cream cheese – rich, salty, creamy and delicious!
Dulce de Anchoa @ Bodegas Almau – €2.2
Bodegas Almau won the “Mejor Tapa 2012” competition with this unique concoction: a slice of toasted bread topped with soft cheese, an anchovy, a pinch of tomato jam and sprinkled with chocolate curls. Admittedly its controversial mix of flavours might not be to everyone’s liking but if you don’t try it, you’ll never know…
Find your country
Located on the north side of the river is Parque frente Fluvial (riverfront Park) which was built in 2008 when Zaragoza hosted the World Water Expo. The names of 104 participating countries are are suspended in canvas over the ceiling of the park – see if you can spot your country!
The riverside seating areas are great for chilling; take in the views or watch people roller-skate/skateboard around sculptures and water features.
Watch a jazz jam session
If you’re into live music then be sure to check out La Boveda del Albergue – a popular jazz and blues club located in a hostel basement, complete with exposed brickwork and retro lighting. Jam session are a regular occurrence at weekends where musicians share their instruments and show off their skills.
La Boveda also host a variety of other music acts throughout the week. For more information visit www.labovedazgz.com or check out their Facebook page.
Palacio de la Aljafería
An alternative style of architecture can be found at the Spanish-Islamic influenced Aljafería Palace. Almost 1000 years old, it’s probably the best preserved example of a fortified medieval Islamic palace left today. Aljafería Palace is located within easy walking distance of the main city centre so is definitely worth checking out, especially on Sundays when entrance is free.
However, it’s best to arrive early because queues will form due to the free entry and later in the day tour buses will turn up with hoards of people. It’s open from 10am-2pm & 4:30pm-8pm, 7 days a week. Entrance on days other than Sunday costs €5 (£4.4/US$6.2).
After seeing and eating all that Zaragoza has to offer, why not head north to check out Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park? There are some fantastic hiking opportunities (comparable to Yosemite) and it’s accessible by public bus. Read more about Ordesa here.
What do you think of those tapas? Would you eat fish, jam, chocolate and cheese all in one mouthful?!