When planning my trip to Spain, I was looking for a place to split the road between Barcelona and San Sebastian. If you look at a map of Spain, you can see that the two cities are pretty far apart, so a stop between was much needed. To do so, I looked at the TGV (high-speed train) map of Spain and saw there was a stop in a city called Zaragoza, which was in the direction of San Sebastian.
It was the perfect place; Zaragoza was now part of the itinerary.
Since it is pretty much in the middle of Spain, I expected to find an arid city, and since I had never heard of it, I thought it would be pretty small. I was so wrong!
Zaragoza is a beautiful and modern city with more than 675 000 inhabitants. Founded in 24 BC, the city is also rich in history. What makes this place so unique is the mix of four cultures: Romans, Muslims, Iberians, and Christians. For example, there are still some Roman ruins in the city, mixed with some modern buildings, and a little bit further in the city, there is the Aljafería Palace, an example of Moorish architecture.
How to Get There
There are many options available to go to Zaragoza. If you are in Barcelona, there is a direct TGV train. It takes about 3h45 to get there, and trains are every 2 or 3 hours. The price varies, but if you look in advance and are flexible with your hours, you can find tickets for 13$ CAD. Here’s the website I recommend for looking for train or bus tickets in Spain.
If you are not in Barcelona, there are some departures from other big cities in Spain, such as Valencia, Madrid, Bilbao, and much more. You can enter the European city you are starting from in the link shown above, and it will suggest you the best itinerary to go to Zaragoza.
What to Do
I spent a day and a half in Zaragoza, so we mainly focused on the Old Town neighborhood. It is right in front of the river El Ebro, where the main attractions in Zaragoza are.
The first thing you must visit in Zaragoza is the beautiful Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. With the domes made out of mosaic, this Roman Catholic church is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen.
The church is in Pilar Square. It’s a beautiful open area with some restaurants, statues, a fountain, and the Palacio de la Lonja, another beautiful building to see.
Make sure to also stop at El Torreón de La Zuda, the tourist office. You can get a map of the city, and for free, you can also climb up to the 5th floor where you can get a 360 degrees view of the city! El Torreón de La Zuda is another example of the rich cultural mix in Zaragoza since it is part of the Muslim history of the city.
Finally, another must-see in Zaragoza is the Calle de Alfonso I. It’s a beautiful and popular street in the Old Town. It has a lot of modern shops and restaurants. On one extremity of the avenue, there is the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, and on the other side, you have the Palacio de Satago, another historical landmark in Zaragoza.
La Romadera and La Almozara
If you have more than a day to spend in Zaragoza, I strongly recommend combining the previous activities with the Parque José Anotonio Labordeta. It is about a 40-minute walk from Pilar Square in the Old Town and is situated in another neighborhood called Romadera. By going to the park by walk, you will also discover the city’s young and modern side. Indeed, I noticed a lot of universities in this part of the city, so I realized quickly that La Romadera is a student neighborhood.
If walking is not your thing, note that there is also a tramway that serves the city.
The Parque José Antonio Labordeta is a vast park with many beautiful fountains in its heart. In a hot city like Zaragoza, it’s great to have a place where you can take a break under the shade of a tree. The top of the biggest fountain also offers a beautiful view of the park and the city.
Finally, I did not get enough time to visit it myself, but I also heard that the Aljaferia Palace was another must-see in Zaragoza. Situated in the Almozara neighborhood, this palace was built during the 11th century and is a beautiful Medieval Islamic palace. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Where to take pictures?
The best photo spot in Zaragoza is the Puente de Piedra. It’s a beautiful stone bridge that goes over the river El Ebro. It’s the perfect place to take pictures with the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in the background. There is also a nice boardwalk alongside the river, another great thing to do in Zaragoza.
Where to eat?
If you are looking for typical Spanish food, La Republicana is the place to go. Situated in the Old Town, it’s a cute little restaurant with friendly staff (they spoke a bit of English too!). You can try typical tapas at this restaurant for a reasonable price with a glass of vermouth…or sangria!
El Mercado Central is another place you can go to grab a bite if you don’t want to go to an actual restaurant. It’s a big interior market where you can get fresh Spanish food. There are also some places inside to sit.
Where to stay?
We stayed at the hotel Río Arga. It’s a great hotel if you have a limited budget, safe, and perfectly located since it is in the Old Town. You are also right next to the Calle de Alfonso I, so I found it very enjoyable. The staff is friendly, and the rooms are clean.
This is it for How to spend 24 hours in Zaragoza. I hope you enjoyed it and it made you discover a new city worth visiting in Spain. This is the city that surprised me the most during my trip to Spain, primarily by its beauty. Thus, if you plan a trip to northern Spain or, more precisely, to the Aragon region, Zaragoza should be on your list!
See you next post,