The Best Things to do in Zaragoza, Spain – Underrated Gem in Aragon

Zaragoza, Spain is the fifth largest city in the country, but still a very underrated tourist destination. However, the capital of Aragón is well worth a visit – both as a day trip and as the main destination.

Since a part of Eduardo’s family comes from this city and he still has some relatives in Zaragoza, we visit this underrated gem at least once a year. As Eduardo has been staying in this wonderful city regularly since his early childhood it wasn’t hard for him to guide me around and show me what to do in Zaragoza. That’s why it’s finally time for us to introduce you also to our second home in Spain and tell you about the best things to do in Zaragoza including the most beautiful Zaragoza points of interest, how to get there and more.

Zaragoza, Spain Facts

  • Was founded already between 24 and 12 BC. by the Romans
  • The original name was Colonia Caeseraugusta
  • Capital of Aragón
  • Located at the estuary of the Río Huerva in the Ebro
  • The host of 2008 Expo
  • Ranked 32 of the EU’s most populous communities
  • Local Holiday: October 12th

Best time to visit Zaragoza – Climate

Zaragoza has hot summers and (for Spain) relatively cold winters. Accordingly, the best time to travel there is arguably spring or fall. From the 12th of October, the Pilar Festival will take place in the city, offering an incredible experience as the whole city is on its feet celebrating.

The cold winters are caused especially by Cierzo, a very strong wind that blows through the region. (Not only in winter) Even if the actual temperatures are not that cold, the perceived temperature is sometimes much colder than the thermometer indicates. But if you don’t mind cold temperatures, you can visit Zaragoza in winter as well. (During the Christmas season, the temperature here is usually similar to the one found in Central Europe).

In the summer it usually gets very hot and 40 degrees are not uncommon.

Where is Zaragoza?

Zaragoza on a Spain Map

Zaragoza is located in the northeast of Spain at about the same height as Barcelona. By bus or train, the capital of Aragón is located approximately in the middle between the two famous cities of Barcelona and Madrid.

How to get to Zaragoza

Due to its convenient location, Zaragoza can be reached easily and relatively quickly from both Barcelona and Madrid. There are several ways to reach the city. We have tried all transport options (besides by airplane) and all of them are easy and comfortable.

By car

Driving yourself was never easier. You can get from both – Madrid to Zaragoza as well as Barcelona to Zaragoza – by a highway. Thus, the city can be reached in about 3 ¼ hours from both major cities.

By bus

The cheapest way to get to Zaragoza is probably the bus. The long-distance bus connecting Barcelona and Madrid also makes a stopover in Zaragoza. Almost every hour you can use this connection, which is usually operated by the popular Spanish Bus company Alsa. The buses are comfortable and equipped with Wifi. If you’re lucky, you’ll even catch a bus with a board computer on each seat, just like you know it from the plane.

By train

The probably fastest connection to Zaragoza is offered by the highspeed trains of Ave. The express train departs several times a day from Barcelona or Madrid to Zaragoza. By train, you only need 1 ½ or 1 ¼ hour to Zaragoza. The seats are very comfortable and headphones are distributed so you can either follow the movie shown in each car or listen to music. Currently, they are working on a budget connection by train which is expected to be available by 2021.

Extra tip: Try to reserve your ticket at least a few days in advance to save money.

By plane

Who would have thought so, but Zaragoza also has an airport that allows you to travel by plane. Zaragoza Airport can be reached from several European destinations. From Spain, you can find direct flights from Mallorca, Menorca or Tenerife.

Transport in Zaragoza

Street in Zaragoza by night
Zaragoza at night

In general, most of Zaragoza’s sights are located in the city center. You can visit them easily and simply on foot.

If you rely on public transport, it’s best to plan your Zaragoza itinerary or route here or via Google Maps.

By bus

If you want to visit Zaragoza points of interest that are a bit out of the city center (or if your accommodation is located there) the easiest way is to use the bus. The bus connections in Zaragoza are very good and run regularly, so that (almost) every destination can be reached quickly and easily by bus.

Tram (Tranvía)

For some years now there is also the possibility to use the tram in Zaragoza to get from A to B which is usually as easy as taking the bus.

Ticket options

Since the buses and the tram in Zaragoza are operated by the same company, it is possible to switch between both means of transport for free (within an hour). Single tickets cost 1.35 €. If you stay a few days in the city, it might be worth it to purchase a bus ticket (€ 7) and recharge it. A ride on this ticket costs just € 0.74, while a ride on the night bus (Buho-Lines) costs € 1.

The best things to do in Zaragoza

Zaragoza Spain Map


Here you can see all the great things to see in Zaragoza, Spain at once.

Aljafería

Aljaferia, Palace, Fort in Zaragoza, Aragón, Spain

Opening Hours Aljafería: Monday – Saturday: 10 am – 2 pm, 4 pm – 6.30 pm; Sunday: 10 am – 2 pm

Entrance Fee Aljafería: 5 €; Sundays free of charge

This imposing Zaragoza city palace is overlooked by many visitors, as unlike many of the city’s other attractions, it is not located in the city center. Despite everything, the Aljafería is one of Zaragoza’s most important and impressive sights.

The palace, which is surrounded by thick defensive walls and a moat, comes mainly from the time of the masons (starting 1065). Over the years, however, parts of the palace have been rebuilt and changed again and again. The last major renovation took place in the 19th century.

Since 2001, Aljafería has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, inside, there is a museum where you can learn more about the history of this unique building.

Puente de Piedra

Puente de Piedra, Stone Bridge in Zaragoza

At the probably most beautiful vantage point on the Aragonese capital, we would like to begin our small journey through the historical center. From the Puente de Piedra (Stone bridge), you have the most beautiful view of the Pilar Cathedral, about which we will, of course, speak later in this article as well. If the Cierzo wind has a bad day, it can be quite windy on the bridge. Therefore, on days like that, you should better leave your summer dress in the suitcase 😉

The bridge itself is sometimes referred to as the Puente de Los Leones (Bridge of Lions), as there are four lion statues created by artist Francisco Rallo Lahoz on the bridge since 1991.

The bridge itself can look back on a long history. While there already was a wooden bridge in the time of the Roman Empire, the construction of the stone bridge was already begun in the 12th century. However, the actual construction could only be realized and executed between 1401 and 1440. In 1643 the central part of the bridge was destroyed by a flood. A few years later, however, the bridge was repaired and even further expanded and protected from further floods in the 18th century.

The bridge was of great importance for the economic growth of Zaragoza.

Plaza del Pilar

 
 
 
 
 
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In the Plaza del Pilar or Plaza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, as its full name is, you will find some of the city’s main attractions.

This square, which by the way is considered the largest pedestrian square of the EU and the second largest in Europe (just behind the Red Square in Moscow), is also known as the Salón de la Ciudad (the city’s living room) or the Plaza de las Catedrales (Cathedral Square), because two important cathedrals can be found here: The Pilar and the Seo, which we will both introduce later.

In winter there is a life-sized nativity scene in this square, which is considered the largest in Spain.

But also other interesting places Zaragoza are located in this place. Let’s walk from the left to the right through these attractions.

La Seo – La Catedral del Salvador

Tower of the Seo Cathedral in Zaragoza, Spain

Opening Hours Seo: Depending on the season. Check the opening times here.

Entrance Fee Seo: 4 €

This Roman Catholic cathedral is one of two cathedrals located in the Plaza del Pilar (actually in the Plaza de la Seo to be exact). The Catedral del Salvador (Cathedral of the Savior), despite its impressive appearance, is usually in the shadow of the more famous and immense Pilar. But a visit is worth it anyway. And not only because the two cathedrals are virtually standing side by side.

What makes Seo so unique are the influences of various architectural styles. In the 8th century, the main mosque of Saraqusta al Baida stood in this place – the city was called like this at that time. Until the 12th century, the mosque was extended and rebuilt until it was finally destroyed and rebuilt as a church. Since then, the cathedral has been continually expanded and rebuilt until it eventually became the cathedral we still find there today.

So it comes that the cathedral has mainly influences from Romanesque, Gothic and Mudejar. But also influences from the Renaissance can hardly be denied, while the gate and the tower are more of a baroque style.

Incidentally, the cathedral is connected to the building of the Arco del Dean. Here you can also snap some beautiful pictures.

Museo del Foro – Museum of the Forum of Caesaraugusta

 
 
 
 
 
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Opening Hours Museo del Foro: Tuesday – Saturday: 10 am – 2 pm, 5 – 9 pm; Sundays and public holidays: 10 am – 2.30 pm; Closed on Mondays

Entrance Fee Museo del Foro: 3 €

Colonia Caesaraugusta is the name that Zaragoza had during the time of the Roman Empire. What couldn’t be missing in a Roman city, of course, was a Roman Forum. The remains of this forum and many other relics and information from that important period can be found in the Museo del Foro.

La Lonja

 
 
 
 
 
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Opening Hours La Lonja: Tuesday – Saturday: 10 am – 2 pm, 5 – 9 pm; Sundays and public holidays: 10 am – 2.30 pm; Closed on Mondays

Entrance Fee La Lonja: free of charge

This building is not only the first building of the city, which was completely built in the Renaissance style but also the most important civil building of the 16th century in Aragón. Today, the building is used as an exhibition space of the Zaragoza City Hall and so you will find various exhibitions here. But not only the exhibitions themselves are worth a visit. Even the interior design, in which especially the beautiful ceiling is to be emphasized, should be admired during a visit.

Goya Cenotaph, Monument, and Museum

 
 
 
 
 
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If you take a closer look you can discover a monument, a statue and even a whole museum dedicated to the famous artist Francisco de Goya in the Plaza del Pilar and in the immediate vicinity. He spent his youth in Zaragoza. His probably most famous work is the religious fresco, which can be found next door inside of the Pilar.

Basílica del Pilar

La Basilica del Pilar, Pilar, Church, cathedral, Zaragoza
Opening Hours Pilar: Monday – Saturday: 6:45 am – 8:30 pm; Sunday: 6.45 – 21.30

Entrance Fee Pilar: free of charge

Opening Hours Museum:Monday – Friday: 10am – 2pm; 4 – 8 pm, Saturday: 10 am – 2 pm; Sundays and public holidays: closed

Entrance Fee Pilar Museum: 2 €

The Basílica del Pilar or Catedral basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza, a Roman Catholic church, is considered the largest Baroque church in the country. The name of this church goes back to the tradition that the Virgin Mary appeared to the Apostle James the Elder on a column (Spanish: Pilar). So Pilar became the patron saint of the city and the Hispanidad (the Spanish-speaking world).

Over the years, larger and larger chapels and churches were built around the pillar, some of which were destroyed, rebuilt and expanded. The foundations of the Romanesque church date back to 1118. Today, the Pilar stands proudly with 130 meters length and 67 meters width and 11 domes.

From outside as well as inside, the Pilar is an impressive masterpiece and an absolute must-see during your visit to Zaragoza.

Fun Fact: According to tradition, the Pilar is the first church ever dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The Towers of the Basílica del Pilar

 
 
 
 
 
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Opening Hours Tower Pilar:15th April – 15th October: 10 am – 2 pm; 4 – 8 pm; 16th October – 14th April: 10 am – 2 pm; 4 – 6 pm

Entrance Fee Tower Pilar: 3 €

Another highlight of your trip to Zaragoza, which you should not miss, is the tower ascent of the Pilar Towers. From here you have not only an indescribable view over the attractions of the Plaza del Pilar but also over Zaragoza and its beautiful historical center.

The first part of the tower is easy to go up to as you go by elevator, while the last part is covered by a few stairs – but don’t worry, it will not be too strenuous.

Once at the top, you will be rewarded with a fantastic view. Especially the view of the Fuente de la Hispanidad, which is located in the Plaza del Pilar, is worthwhile – but we will come back to that later.

The Globe (Bola del Mundo)

 
 
 
 
 
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After you have finished your visit to the famous Pilar, the next sight on the Plaza del Pilar awaits you. When you come out of the Pilar (with your back to the basilica) you can walk a few steps to the right to discover a huge globe.

The ball was inaugurated in 1991 and serves as a memory of the discovery of America along with the Fuente de la Hispanidad, which is located right next to it.

Fuente de la Hispanidad

 
 
 
 
 
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A few steps further you can already discover the next sight. The Fuente de la Hispanidad (Fountain of the Spanish-speaking world). From the Plaza del Pilar, the fountain doesn’t look overly exciting. From the top, however (from the towers of the Pilar) one can see that the fountain has the shape of Latin America.

Murallas Romanas

 
 
 
 
 
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That Zaragoza’s roots reach back to the Roman era can be seen not only in the Museo Foro. Just a few steps from the Plaza del Pilar you can find the Murallas Romanas (Roman walls). These are the remains of the city wall that once surrounded the former colony of Caesaraugusta. In Roman times, the wall covered about 3 km including 120 defense towers.

Although only two sections of the once-vast and extensive wall have been preserved, it is still very impressive to marvel at this important relic of history.

Iglesia de San Juan de los Panetes

 
 
 
 
 
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Next to the remains of the Roman wall, you will find the next religious sight of the city. Although this church is often overlooked by tourists in the shadow of the two neighboring cathedrals, it should definitely be visited.

Although the interior of the church, completed in 1725 and destroyed by two fires over the years, is not really a highlight of your Zaragoza trip, the baroque exterior tower is all the more beautiful. This tower is often referred to by the locals as the Leaning Tower of Zaragoza.

In 1987, an assassination attempt was carried out here by a car bomb of the terrorist organization ETA, in which 2 people died and about 40 people were injured. Even today, this place is reminiscent of the assassination.

El Torreón de la Zuda

 
 
 
 
 
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Opening Hours Tourist Information:Monday – Saturday: 10 am – 2 pm, 4.30 – 8 pm; Sunday: 10 am – 2 pm

This initially rather unimpressive tower was once part of something much larger. A long time ago, there was the ancient palace of Suda, a Muslim fortress in which the government was housed.

Today, the tourist office is located on the 5th floor of the small rest of that huge ancient building. From here you have a great view of the Pilar and the Central Market.

Mercado Central de Lanuza

 
 
 
 
 
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Opening Hours: Monday – Friday: 8.30 am – 2 pm, 5 – 8 pm; Saturday: 8.30 am – 2 pm; Closed on Sundays

In Zaragoza’s central market you can find a wide variety of food and products from many suppliers. The original construction is from 1903 and consists mainly of iron and glass.

The market is currently undergoing major reconstructions in order to be able to accommodate 74 stalls and 4 catering outlets. Right next door, however, is the transitional market.

Calle Alfonso

Calle Alfonso, Street in Zaragoza, Spain

Another excellent photo spot to take pictures of the stunning Pilar can be found on Calle Alfonso (Alfonso Street). But not only the view of the Plaza del Pilar is unique. The street is one of the main streets of the city and, in addition to various shops, also offers many cafés and bars where you can stop for a snack or coffee.

Plaza San Felipe

 
 
 
 
 
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Not far from Calle Alfonso and Plaza del Pilar you can find Plaza San Felipe. This place is great to stop for a few minutes and see the beauty of the surrounding buildings. On this square, you can also find the Church of San Felipe and the Museum Pablo Gargallo.

Also, the statue of the little boy, whose gaze is directed into the distance, invites to a photo. It’s said that the boy looks at a tower that once stood here.

Puerta Cinegia

 
 
 
 
 
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Opening Hours Puerta Cinegia: Monday – Sunday: 12 pm – 4.30 pm; 7 pm – 12 am

Now that you have explored the historic center of Zaragoza, you will certainly want to explore the modern city center as well. There you will also find the Puerta Cinegia. It is a kind of food court, where you can find various dishes and drinks in addition to a huge Roman statue that extends over two floors. Whether for a glass of Vermouth or a delicious lunch – this place is definitely worth a visit and offers something for every taste.

Parque Grande Jose Antonio Labordeta

 
 
 
 
 
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Opening Hours Parque: 24 Hours

Entrance Fee Parque: free of charge

Of course, after all this sightseeing, you deserve a little break. What could be better to recharge your batteries than visiting a beautiful park? The Parque Grande Jose Antonio Labordeta, shortly called Parque Grande, was inaugurated in 1929 and extends over 27 hectares. It is full of different green areas and botanical gardens and therefore perfect for relaxing. Incidentally, the park was renamed just a few years ago and was known as the Parque de Primo de Rivera until 2010.

About me

Vicki

Hi, my name is Vicki. Here you can accompany my boyfriend Eduardo and me on our way through different countries of this world. Let's travel together!

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4 thoughts on The Best Things to do in Zaragoza, Spain – Underrated Gem in Aragon

  1. I actually had never heard of Zaragoza, but looks a great city and perfect to combine with also Barcelona and Madrid. Maartje and I are thinking of heading to Spain this Summer! We never went together :(. And then we should meet you two again!!

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