Zaragoza has many things to offer for a weekend and luckily is also on the flight map thanks to some of the major low cost airlines, including Ryanair and Volotea, so you can get there kind of cheap from London, Milan, Paris and many more.
It’s also easily reachable by train from many major cities in Spain (1.5-2 hours from Barcelona or Madrid). Of course you can also arrive by car on AP-2 highway. However it’s true that it’s not so easy to park especially in the historical old town. Worth to look for underground garages!
Once you are there, Zaragoza is actually super easy to get around by foot, bike, you can also rent e-scooter or use the public transport. If you’re staying near the historical old town then it’s easy to walk around too and all the main highlights are in walking distance. So let’s see them! 🤩
1. El Pilar
The main square in Zaragoza’s Old Town is bordered by El Pilar, La Seo, La Torre Nueva, couple of museums, statues (including Goya’s) and art installations on all sides. It’s one of the largest squares in Europe, and probably one of the less spoiled too! The main attraction is definitely the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar with its incredibly beautiful tiled ceiling and the globe in front of it. The architecture is of Baroque style, and the present building was predominantly built between 1681 and 1872.
You can enter El Pilar for free of charge, however it’s not allowed to take any pictures inside. We were rebels and after seeing others with cameras too, we took some photos until the security guard came to us and kindly ask us to stop it. Honestly it is so beautiful inside that it’s hard to resist, but it’s definitely better to respect their rules. 😉
During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939 three bombs were dropped on the church but none of them exploded. Two of them are still on show in the Basilica. There are different theories why they didn’t explode, and the most ‘romantic’ one is that the pilot was originally from Zaragoza and he just simply didn’t want and was not able to destroy El Pilar, therefore before he released the bombs, he disarmed them.
2. La Seo
The cathedral is located on the Plaza de la Seo and is commonly known as La Seo – Catedral del Salvador de Zaragoza, to distinguish it from the nearby El Pilar. They both share co-cathedral status in metropolitan Zaragoza.
La Seo is open for visits only outside of normal worship hours, for example on Sundays only after 2 pm, with extensive information provided on its artistic treasures. For the upkeep and maintenance of the Temple, a financial contribution via an entrance fee (4 €) is requested for the visits. They have ongoing religious activity and masses are open for public. They are also organizing concerts, mainly traditional organ concerts.
From the outside it looks much smaller, but if you enter you will be amazed how big and breathtakingly beautiful it is. It’s also home to a tapestry museum which is worth a visit. With the same entrance ticket you can also enter here. Unfortunately, here it’s neither allowed to take any pictures inside but maybe this way they can keep its secret and encourage people to visit in order to admire its beauty by their own eyes instead of via badly taken photographs. 😉
As locals are referring to it: La Alhambra de Zaragoza, the Islamic Palace. It is located at the confluence of 3 important neighborhoods of the city, the Historic District, the Almozara and Las Delicias. It’s easily accessible by foot, approx. in less than half an hour from the old town you can get there.
“This 11th century palace has a crazy cross-religious history, originally being an Islamic medieval palace, then home to Christian kings, then Catholic monarchs, then a military base and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as housing the Aragon parliament.”
The palace can be visited for free or with a guided tour, and you can access several floors inside too, where you can observe its unique interior and great beauty, that reflects the passage of two of the most important cultures that have reigned from Zaragoza, the Muslim and the Christian.
An official mobile app with practical information is also available, where you can check the activities and temporary exhibitions scheduled in the palace.
4. Puente de Piedra
“Do not miss the beautiful views and incredible sunsets from the oldest bridge in the city of the fifteenth century” – as the locals are recommending Puente de Piedra.
It is located on the Ebro river at the level of Don Jaime I Street (right bank) and Barrio del Arrabal (left bank), linking this neighborhood with the city center.
This bridge, made entirely of sillar stone, has a length of 225 meters and is formed by 7 pillars and arcades. Guarding the two entrances, two bronze lions are raised on each side, symbol of the city and added in one of the last reforms that were made to the bridge.
5. Mercado Central Zaragoza
A beautiful and historical building that is a must see during your stay. It was under renovation for many years but currently you can fully enjoy the market. Besides the regular sellers, they have bars, fast food sellers, that are open during all day, so you can easily jump in for a breakfast or a night drink. They are also organizing cultural exhibitions and art performances. It’s located next to Plaza del Pilar, so it’s perfect spot to stop by once wandering around.
6. El Tubo
Of course you cannot miss out El Tubo district. The “tube” is a somewhat mysterious and spicy place, which has been able to protect part of its heritage throughout the history of Zaragoza. You cannot leave the city without diving through its narrow alleys full of gastronomic aromas and with some hidden picturesque jewels inside. It is the most famous tapas area in the city, full of bars and restaurants. The tapas bars open every day of the week and you can go to lunch or dinner, although it is an area that is usually more lively in the afternoon-night during the week and on weekends at any time of the day.
Besides that on its streets you can find elements of the entire history of Zaragoza, from the remains of the Roman Wall of Caesaraugusta – the Romans called the ancient city Caesaraugusta, from which the present name derives – Gothic and Renaissance courtyards, Baroque elements and some Mudejar coffered ceilings.
+1. Frutas de Aragón
Frutas de Aragón is the name of a candy based on candied fruits, that is cooked in a strong concentration of sugary syrup (and sometimes in a liquor) to be preserved, which are then coated with chocolate. The most characteristic fruits are usually apricot, cherry, figs, plums or oranges. Depending on the store, they are sold in wooden boxes or only in a plastic bag, but it’s definitely worth to try once you are around. I think the best is to buy a small portion in a regular store and enjoy it as a snack once wandering around in the city. 😋