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Two days in Zaragoza

  • Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Pilar. Zaragoza, Aragon.

    Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Pilar. Zaragoza, Aragon.

  
  


"Zaragoza has a lot to offer and here we suggest a two-day route to make the most of all the city's attractions. ..."

Zaragoza has a lot to offer and here we suggest a two-day route to make the most of all the city's attractions. Don't miss the more traditional part of the town with its symbolic monuments such as the Basilica of El Pilar, or modern Zaragoza with the impressive buildings inherited from the 2008 Expo such as the beautiful Bridge Pavilion and the large Aquarium. The tour begins.

DAY 1: The Basilica and the Seo

A good time to start your visit to Zaragoza is at around 10:30 am. First you can explore the historic quarter, best done by heading for the enormous Plaza del Pilar square. It is well worth taking a few photos here, with the majestic Basilica of el Pilar, the Lonja building and the Town Hall along one side, the Cathedral of La Seo at the end, and in front, the monument to Goya next to the Caesar Augusta Forum Museum.

You have to visit the Basilica and La Seo Cathedral at the very least. In the Basilica, tradition ordains that everyone must kiss the Virgin of el Pilar. Also not to be missed are the domes, and a climb up to the tower to see the view all over the city. The best photos of the exterior are to be had from the Puente de Piedra bridge. In La Seo, it is well worth visiting the interesting Tapestry Museum as well as the interior of the Cathedral.

If you have time during the morning, also recommended is a visit to the Magdalena church (behind La Seo) and the Caesar Augusta Forum Museum, to see what the city was like during the Roman Empire.

Lunch in the historic centre

After a short walk, this is the ideal time to have lunch, and there are numerous restaurants in the area near the square, the Calle Mayor or the Calle del Coso. You can choose either a normal meal, where you can sample typical dishes such as borage, typical fried breadcrumbs or lamb, with local fruit from Aragon for dessert; or else you can opt for the Spanish custom of “going for tapas” in a classic tapas city like Zaragoza. If you try the tapas around the Plaza de Santa María square or the streets of Verónica, Romea, Coso or Antonio Agustín, you’ll soon discover why the natives are such fervent devotees of this custom.

An afternoon of culture and local colour

Browsing through the historic centre of Zaragoza will remind you you’re in a large city where the streets are always full of people. After lunch is a good time to visit the Caesar Augusta Theatre Museum, through which you can access the remains of the old Roman theatre.

The visit continues along the Paseo de la Independencia avenue, where there are numerous shops ideal for picking up a few souvenirs of the city. A little further along the avenue is the Courtyard of the Infanta’s Palace where, in addition to its architecture, there are also some important works by Goya. If you return to the historic centre along Avenida César Augusto you’ll find yourself in the perfect spot for having a rest and some mid-afternoon refreshment in a café or on a terrace while enjoying the lively atmosphere in the streets.

Tapas evening in the Tubo neighbourhood

After a whole day spent visiting Zaragoza, the best way to restore your strength is to visit a few of the bars in the Tubo neighbourhood. This is an area of small alleyways packed with bars and restaurants, where the usual custom is to go from one to the other sampling the speciality of each place, accompanied by a glass of wine or beer.

If you want to sample the city’s nightlife, you can choose between the younger atmosphere to be found around the Central Market, in the Historic Centre; the more elegant venues in the area around the streets of Francisco de Vitoria, San Vicente Mártir or Cesáreo Alierta; or, if the weather is good, the outdoor terraces in the Plaza San Pedro Nolasco or Santa Cruz.

Things to remember:

You can book guided tours of the city at the tourist office.

The tourist bus is an excellent option for getting around the main attractions.

The “Zaragoza Tourist Card”, which you can buy online and at tourist offices, can be used on public transport, as well as offering discounts in museums, shops and restaurants.

Zaragoza is a very flat city, so touring it by bike is another pleasant option. Find out where you can hire a bike at the tourist office.

DAY 2: From the Arab world to the Zaragoza Expo

Your second day in Zaragoza will show you how different the city can be for each tourist. In the morning, there’s a visit to the Aljafería. At first glance you might think that nothing could be more distant from the Arab world than this military fortress. However, once inside, there is a mosque, a courtyard with orange trees and architecture which is clearly influenced by its Muslim origins.
In the afternoon, you could visit the site of Expo Zaragoza 2008. On your approach you’ll see the Water Tower on the other side of the Ebro River. To get to the other side you’ll need to cross the Millennium Bridge, and from here you’ll have a good view of the beautiful Bridge Pavilion, shaped like a giant gladiolus. You can also travel to the rivers in any part of the world with a visit to the Aquarium in the Expo grounds. This is one of the largest freshwater aquariums in the world, and once inside, time will simply fly by. Next to the Aquarium are the pavilions of Spain and Aragon in Expo Zaragoza, which are still standing.

 

After the visit to the Aquarium, there are various ways of spending the rest of the afternoon. In the Luis Buñuel Water Park you’ll find attractions like a river beach, a trip up the river by boat or by kayak and a white-water canal where you can try your hand at rafting. Although if you prefer to take your leave of Zaragoza with a more urban image of the city, you can also spend your last hours making the most of its historic centre and the surrounding area.

Things to remember:

The guided tour of the Aljafería is only available in Spanish (except in July and August, when it is also available in English and French). It lasts approximately one hour, but does not include the exhibitions, which can be seen after the guided visit.

The Aljafería has audioguides in German, French, Spanish, English and Italian.
 

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