Zaragoza, also known in English as Saragossa, is the capital city of the Zaragoza Province and of the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. It lies by the Ebro river and its tributaries, the Huerva and the Gállego, roughly in the centre of the Aragon and the Ebro basin.
The city is famous for its folklore, local cuisine, and landmarks such as the Basílica del Pilar and the Aljafería Palace. It was also a candidate for the European Capital of Culture in 2012.
Please find below our very best compilation of things to do and east in Zaragoza.
Best things to do in Zaragoza
Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar
It is a Roman Catholic church that venerates the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title Our Lady of the Pillar praised as “Mother of the Hispanic Peoples” by Pope John Paul II. It is reputed to be the first church dedicated to Mary in history.
It is arguably the most popular attraction in Zaragoza, with people visiting it inside, but also admiring it from outside (from both sides of the river and during the day and night).
It is very close to the city’s old town so very convenient when walking around.
Puente de Piedra
It is the most popular bridge in Zaragoza on the Ebro river, meters away from Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and from where some of the best pictures of it can be taken.
The Puente de Piedra is also called the Bridge of Lions because since 1991 four lions (symbols of the city) have been placed on the pillars at each end of the bridge. The lion statues were designed by Francisco Rallo Lahoz.
I strongly recommend a walk on the other side of the Ebro River (opposite the Basílica), starting from as far as Puente de Manuel Giménez Abad.
Palacio de la Aljafería
The Aljafería Palace is a fortified medieval palace built during the second half of the 11th century in the Taifa of Zaragoza in Al-Andalus, present-day Zaragoza. It was the residence of the Banu Hud dynasty during the era of Abu Jaffar Al-Muqtadir.
The palace reflects the splendour attained by the Taifa of Zaragoza at its height. It currently houses the Cortes (regional parliament) of the autonomous community of Aragon.
Instituto de Aragonés de Arte y Cultura Contemporáneo
Pablo Serrano’s works are highlighted in the Museum at the Aragonese Institute of Art and Contemporary Culture.
Pablo’s artwork is shown in the museum from his figurative to expressionist phases. 140 drawings and sculptures that guide the development of the artist’s inventiveness and ingenuity are on display in the exhibits. The museum also features paintings by Santiago Lagunas, a variety of Juana Francés, the artist’s wife, and contemporary graphic art pieces.
Additionally, the museum features a number of changing exhibits that highlight a variety of artists, both historical and modern.
Cathedral of the Savior
It is a Roman Catholic cathedral, part of the World Heritage Site Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon.
The cathedral is located on the Plaza de la Seo and is commonly known as La Seo to distinguish it from the nearby El Pilar, whose name (pillar) is a reference to an apparition of Mary in Zaragoza. They both share co-cathedral status in metropolitan Zaragoza.
Museo de Zaragoza
The Museo de Zaragoza offers tours of the art, history, and culture of the province of Zaragoza. The museum, which is housed in the Universal Exposition pavilion since 1908, is divided into two sections: archaeology and fine arts.
The collection spans several historical and artistic eras, from prehistory to the ancient Roman and Moorish periods, and on through the Gothic and Renaissance periods up until the 21st century.
Museo del Foro de Caesaraugusta
The Museo del Foro de Caesaraugusta (Museum of the Roman Forum of Caesaraugusta) offers a look into the daily life of Caesaraugusta, a former Roman colony (town) that occupied what is now Zaragoza in the first and second centuries.
Caesaraugusta, which was named after the emperor Augustus who established the town, was renowned for its splendour. The city’s public baths, theatre, and magnificent forum served as the hub of civic activity.
Under the Plaza de La Seo, on the site of the Caesaraugusta forum’s archaeological digs, is where the museum is located. Remains of the Roman Forum from the reign of Emperor Tiberius are on display.
A sewer system, shop walls, pipes, and other remnants of the Roman market can still be seen by visitors.
El Tubo is a vibrant, busy and sometimes noisy neighbourhood in the heart of Zaragoza that is frequently visited by people who want to eat Spanish tapas and drink Spanish wine, beer and sangria.
If you want to sample the finest of Zaragoza’s small/tapas cuisine, we advise going to El Tubo. With its wide streets packed with people, many of whom are sitting on stools and enjoying Spanish tapas from various pubs, it has a unique charm. Each of the bars in this area, which is situated between Mártires, Estébanes, and Cuatro de Agosto Streets, specialises in a different Spanish tapa.
There are also eateries where you can eat more conventional food.
Best Traditional Food in Zaragoza
We were gladly surprised by Zaragozan cuisine and also its numerous restaurants and bars, many of them concentrated in “El Tubo” area.
On 1 night out you should be able to try most of the traditional dishes, although you may need to be in a group so you can share some of them. It turns out that some bars and restaurants specialise in particular tapas. This is the case of Bar El Chapi, which signature dish is a mushroom tapa, and Taberna Doña Casta, the main dish is croquettes.
The top 5 traditional dishes are the following:
Pollo al Chilindrón
Chicken Chilindron is a dish originally from the province of Teruel, although with deep roots in Zaragoza’s cuisine. Its name comes from a card game which consists of the union of the jack, the horse and the king, whoever was the first to put them together won the game. In the recipe, the perfect union would be tomato, pepper and onion, or what is the same, the Chilindrón.
The ingredients are simple and humble and the preparation is very simple. All you have to do is fry the chicken, reserve it, and make a good sauce with onion, garlic and pepper. Mix everything and slowly cook it until the chicken is tender.
Migas is a traditional dish in Spanish cuisine. It was originally a breakfast dish that made use of leftover bread or tortas. Nowadays it is usually served as a first course for lunch or dinner.
The ingredients and preparation of Migas vary across the provinces of Spain. In Zaragoza, Migas include chorizo, bacon and fried egg, and are often served with grapes. But there are also variations including lamb tallow or the fat that covers the kidneys.
Ternasco al horno con patatas
Ternasco is probably the most characteristic dish not only of Zaragoza but also of the Aragon region. Ternasco is a lamb that is raised only in Aragon and that has to be from one of the breeds of the Autonomous Community (Ojinegra de Teruel, Maellana, Ansotana, Rasa Aragonesa or Roya Bilbilitana). It is a very young lamb, around three months old with a weight of between 10 and 13 kilos.
The lamb shoulder is normally used, although other parts such as the ribs, the low cut (skirt) or, of course, the leg, are also common.
Although the best-known way to prepare it is baked and accompanied by baked potatoes, some variations include it stewed with asparagus, artichokes and sausage, grilled accompanied by a salad or fried potatoes or in a stew accompanied by other meats.
Magras con tomate
Magras con tomate is another traditional dish in Zaragoza, although some people say it is originally from Murcia.
It is frequently consumed as a tapa but also makes a fantastic main dish when served with fries or rice. The end result is a delightful mixture with an elaboration that is relatively simple to produce because it is made with lean pork and crushed tomatoes. It can be eaten at any time of the day and it is normally served with bread.
Besides tomatoes, the other ingredients include fried ham, slices of bread, eggs and white wine.
Huevos al Salmorrejo
In Aragon brine is known as salmorra, and when the pig was slaughtered, as there was so much excess meat, it was put in brine or salmorra (salt). Then it was fried and preserved in oil.
That’s where the salmorrejo comes from, from the meats that were stewed once out of the can, to which asparagus was added and, at the end of cooking, some eggs that were poached for a few minutes in the stew, also adding some sausages.
Other traditional dishes are also:
- Arroz a la Zaragozana
- Bacalao Ajoarriero
- Borrajas con patatas
In terms of recommendations, the following are some good ones:
Accommodation in Zaragoza
We stayed at Hotel Zentral Ave, which is a fair good option if you prefer to stay next to the train station as we did. We arrived and left Zaragoza by train so it worked well for us. It is 5 minutes away from the central station.
For a more central location, maybe closer to El Tubo area and the main attractions, we can recommend the following options: