The 7 must-do things in Zaragoza

Les incontournables à faire à Saragosse

Visiting Zaragoza: what are the best things to do and see in this fabulous Spanish city?

Spain’s fifth-largest city and capital of Aragon, Zaragoza is a fabulous historic city located south of the Pyrenees, right next to Catalonia. Thanks to its history, Zaragoza boasts an impressive cultural wealth, as well as sumptuous architecture blending different styles, eras and cultures! A visit to Zaragoza is a journey through Spain’s history, while enjoying the Mediterranean joie de vivre.

What to do in Zaragoza? Find out with this list of must-sees in Zaragoza :

1. Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar

This jewel of Baroque art stands on the banks of the River Ebro: it’s the icon of Zaragoza, featured in all the city’s promotional photos. The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar is immense and sumptuous, measuring 130 metres long and 67 metres wide!

At its heart is the famous pillar on which the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to the apostle Saint James in the year 40. This apparition was the reason for the construction of the basilica, which was completed in 1961 – most of the work having been carried out between 1681 and 1754.

The sacred statuette of the Virgin Mary (resting on the pillar) can only be seen on 3 days a month: the 2nd, 12th and 20th. The rest of the time, the pillar is covered by a cloak. Behind the Chapelle de la Vierge, you can touch a small section of the pillar. For an exceptional view of Zaragoza, you can use the elevator (€3 for the ascent) on the Ebre side.

2. Aljaferia Palace

Incontournables Saragosse, Palais Alfajeira

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Built in the 10th century, this fortified palace-castle is a true testament to the Islamic architecture of the time. Today, the palace is the seat of the Aragonese parliament, but you can still visit part of it. A visit to the Aljaferia Palace also includes a tour of its patio and garden – both of which are incredibly charming. On Sundays, the visit is free of charge.

3. San Salvador Cathedral

Incontournables Saragosse, Cathedrale San Salvador

Photo credit: Wikimedia- Fernando

A few steps from the Basilica, in the same square, is the Cathedral of San Salvador – nicknamed La Seo, the « seat », as it is the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Zaragoza. It was built in the 12th century on the remains of a Roman temple and a mosque. The Cathedral is a blend of Mudejar, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. Its styles and history bear witness to the city’s rich history and culture.

Unlike the Basilica, the visit is subject to a fee (€4) – its exterior architecture is more sober than its neighbor’s, but its interior is remarkable and fabulous.

4. Enjoy tapas in the historic center

Centre historique Saragosse

Spain means tapas! It’s impossible to resist the temptation of a drink on a terrace accompanied by delicious tapas when you visit Zaragoza: the weather is always fine, thanks to the mild Mediterranean climate. For the best tapas in Zaragoza, head to El Tubo. Don’t hesitate to wander around the city and discover for yourself the many tapas bars and terraces: there’s something for everyone, everywhere!

5. Walking along the Ebro river

Incontournables Saragosse, èbre

Photo credit: Wikimedia- Rheins

There’s nothing like a stroll along the Ebro, especially in the evening, to discover and appreciate the beauty of Zaragoza. After tasting delicious tapas, a short digestive stroll is also excellent. The banks of this long river are partly laid out for strolling: take the opportunity to admire (and cross) the Pont de Pierre – the city’s oldest bridge – built between the 14th and 15th centuries!

6. Discover the city’s Roman past and remains

Incontournables Saragosse, musée theatre romain

Photo credit: Wikimedia- Bauglir

A Roman city, Zaragoza takes its name from « Caesaraugusta » or « Caesar Augusta », adopted by the city in honor of the Roman emperor Augustus (Octavian). To find out more about the city’s Roman history, we recommend a visit to two museums:

– The Museo del Teatro Romano de Caesaraugusta, a formidable Roman theater built in the 1st century – it can be seen from the street free of charge, or you can take a tour (for a fee).

– The Museo del Foro de Caesaraugusta, with its modern architecture, is just a stone’s throw from Zaragoza Cathedral, where you can find out more about the city’s history and, above all, about life in Roman times.

7. Enjoy a chocolate treat

Incontournables Saragosse, manger du chocolat

Photo credit: Flickr- Enrique Dans

Don’t be surprised by the abundance of chocolate and pastry shops on your visit to Zaragoza: the city has a long tradition of chocolate-making. In fact, it was here that monks first tasted cocoa, with the chocolate recipe sent by Friar Jeronimo de Aguilar in 1530, for the first time in Europe!

It would be a shame to visit Zaragoza without stopping off at a pretty chocolate store to indulge in a local specialty (like chocolate-covered fruit)!

How to get to Zaragoza

If you’d like to visit Zaragoza, there are very few flights from France. Only Paris has a good range of flights to Zaragoza: check out our partner Ulysse to find out more.

A second good option is the train: from Madrid or Barcelona, you can easily reach Zaragoza (1H30 on average). Alternatively, an agreement between SNCF and Renfe allows you to visit Zaragoza from French cities (Montpellier or Marseille, for example).

Finally, bus is a third good option. Flixbus offers journeys from Lyon (between 13 and 19 hours), Bordeaux (between 10 and 13 hours) or Toulouse (€10 for a 6.5-hour direct journey).

Where to stay in Zaragoza

To help you in your search for the best accommodation in Zaragoza, we’ve prepared an article on where to stay in this beautiful city. You can find a cheap hotel in Zaragoza by searching on this hotel comparator.

Main Photo Credit: Flickr – Gregorio Puga Bailón

Map of hotels and accommodation – Zaragoza,es