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5 Top Interesting Things to Do in Zaragoza Spain

Mary and her husband work on international projects and have travelled to many places in Spain.

Zaragoza Spain

Zaragoza Spain

Zaragoza Spain

Is Zaragoza Worth a Visit?

Seriously, we asked ourselves this question about Zaragoza. Spain has so many bright lights that visitors often pass Zaragoza to go to mega-hyped destinations such as Madrid, Seville, Cordoba, San Sebastian or Barcelona. What has Zaragoza got in the light of these big players?

This time, we committed a few days to the city and had a great time digging into what this city has to offer. It ramped up to Christmas when we got there, and a wonderful life-size Nativity filled up space in the central square across from the Basilica.

The Christmas markets, including those in the central square, are the best in Spain. With musicians and other buskers, the local handicrafts were a natural attraction, and the party mood with all the families out for a shop was catching.

Besides Christmas, Zaragoza, the capital of Aragon's region, offers unique things to make it a destination on your next visit to Spain. Here are a few:

The Center of Zaragoza

The Centre of Zaragoza

The Centre of Zaragoza

Map of Zaragoza Spain

Zaragoza's Basilica: Our Lady of the Pillar

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar

1. The Stunning Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar

As we emerged from the parking lot, the Basilica, which I had never seen the like, engulfed me. I became speechless as I was blown away by its sheer size and beauty.

Without question, this was the top attraction in Zaragoza. Even just for this, it is worth spending time in the city. I had seen pictures of the Basilica before and, since then, I had wanted to visit it. As we drove from Barcelona to Madrid, spending a few nights in Zaragoza made sense.

According to the legend, this Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar has its origin in 40 AD. The story goes that James the Greater, one of the Apostles of Jesus, came to Spain to spread Christianity and, at one point, was in the Roman city of Caesaraugusta, now Zaragoza. While resting at the Ebro River's side, the Blessed Mother appeared to James in a vision beside the pillar where they whipped Jesus. Discouraged by his lack of success, he got invigorated when Mary asked him to build a Church.

James built a small church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, the first-ever Church dedicated to the Mother of Jesus. More Churches got built on top of this small one, a Visigoth Church and later a Gothic Church. It was between 1681 and 1686 when they erected the current Baroque Basilica. Although bombed during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), not one of the bombs exploded.

Later revelations claimed that with her were angels who also built a pillar made of Jasper and Mary's wooden statue on the journey to Zaragoza. Today, a wooden bust 39 cm. tall rests on a post of Jasper inside the Basilica.

The Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, October 12, saw Columbus arrive in North America, so Our Lady of the Pillar became the Protectress of Spain. Since then, miracles by Our Lady of the Pillar drew pilgrims in significant numbers, including St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Ignatius of Loyola. Josemaria de Escriba, the founder of Opus Dei, an institution in the Catholic Church, also paid daily visits to Our Lady, asking for guidance.

Inside the Basilica, the second biggest in Spain next to Seville, there are 11 brightly coloured tiled domes and a magnificent main altar of alabaster designed by Damian Foment in the fifteenth century, earlier than the Basilica. Two of the frescoes, painted by Goya, decorate the Basilica. Goya came from close to Zaragoza, born in the village of Fuendetodos.

The Roman Ruins in Zaragoza

Roman Ruins in Zaragoza

Roman Ruins in Zaragoza

2. The Roman Ruins of Caesaraugusta

The Roman ruins in Zaragoza are reminiscent of the 1st and 2nd centuries, even though Colonia Caesaragustus was founded in 15 B.C. to commemorate the Emperor's victory in the Cantabrian Wars.

Being on a major crossroads and trading river, Caesaragustus was a prosperous Roman city meriting a massive Forum, the Port at the River Ebro, the Public Baths, and the Theatre. At that time, the river Port area in Zaragoza was one of the most important in Hispania, a significant gathering point for olive oil and even wheat destined for Rome.

More details of the Roman times appear as each excavation yields more finds, and with growing economic success, Spain can uncover its history. Archaeological remains from the Roman Forum built in Emperor Tiberius's time become more impressive with each annual dig. From Emperor Augustus's time, the very founding of Caesaragusta, we now have the remnants of a market, shop walls, pipes, and a sewer system. These remains are in several museums in the city, with one entrance ticket covering all.

  • Museum of the Public Baths: 3 - 7 Calle San Juan y San Pedro, Zaragoza
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The city was well supplied with water which is a Roman habit, and the public baths were well used not just for baths but also for reading and listening to poetry, socializing, and listening to music.

  • Roman Forum: 2 Plaza de la Seo, Zaragoza.

This Museum is easy to find, right underneath the Plaza de la See, directly opposite the Cathedral. Buy the ticket to visit all the Roman ruins here.

  • Roman Theatre:12 Calle San Jorge, Zaragoza

An important find in 1972 shows the sophisticated social life of this ancient city. Now enclosed in an exhibition place, you can see some of the artifacts displayed.

  • Roman Walls

You can see the Roman walls in different parts of the city, but there are some first-class examples right at the centre in the Plaza of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar.

The Aljaferia Palace

The Aljaferia

The Aljaferia

3. The Aljaferia: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Aljaferia Palace was the residence of the Moorish Banu Hud dynasty. Built-in the 11th century during the reign of Abu Jaffa Al-Muqtadir, it reflects the power and grandeur of Zaragoza's Taifa and reminds us of the Islamic ascendency in Spain.

In 1118, the Palace was taken by Alfonso I as Christian leaders began to recover the country. Alfonso transformed the Palace into a residence for the Aragon rulers. Below is the Patio de Sta. Isabel, inside the Aljaferia, a Moorish garden dedicated to Isabella of Portugal, was born here and later became a Catholic saint.

UNESCO declared this in 2001 as part of the Mudejar Architecture of Aragon, a World Heritage Site. It is considered one of Moorish architecture's best-preserved representations and the splendour of the Moorish reign in Spain. It now serves as the seat of the regional parliament of Aragon.

Patio de Sta. Isabel in the Aljaferia

Patio de Sta. Isabel in The Aljaferia

Patio de Sta. Isabel in The Aljaferia

Visit to Zaragoza Spain

The Goya Museum-Museo Ibercaja Camón Aznar

Goya Museum in Zaragoza

Goya Museum in Zaragoza

4. The Museum of Goya-Museo Ibercaja Camón Aznar

The museum is a mansion of Jeronimo de Cosida, who built it between 1535-1536. The Goya prints are spectacular and inform us of Goya's social activism. He was NOT a delicate rosebud!!!

His engravings are very compelling and are placed under four sections: Caprices, Bullfighting, Foolishness and Disasters of the War. Each one is worth a thousand stories of life at that time, how their superstitions imprisoned people, how the Church leaders and their avarice played out, how the State's leaders played their power and how people were affected by these.

Address: Calle Espoz y Mina, 23, 50003 Zaragoza

Mercado Central de Zaragoza

Central Market in Zaragoza

Central Market in Zaragoza

5. Central Market in Zaragoza

This market is a central attraction for those who love to be with the locals. This is where the locals buy their bread, cheese, meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. Lines of vendors are busy negotiating with buyers as they pack purchases for those who have made their decisions. When you buy fruits and vegetables here, you point out as the vendors don't want you to touch them—their way of keeping the produce fresh.

Just like other markets of this type in Spain, it is fun. My husband always created a jolly banter in his broken Spanish as the vendors talked of their uncle or cousin in Toronto while deboning and wrapping the fish.

Address: Plaza Lanuza, 50003 Zaragoza,

NorthernWombat's Video on Places to See in Zaragoza

Other Points of Interest in Zaragoza

  • Pablo Gargallo Museum: 3 Plaza de San Felipe, Zaragoza

Housed in the Arguillo Palace, this museum displays the works of Aragon's gifted sculptor, Pablo Gargallo.

  • San Juan de los Panetes Church: 3 Calle Salduba, Zaragoza

This Church completed in 1725 is in Mudejar style. It replaced the former Romanesque church of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem.

  • Iglesia de Sta. Maria Magdalena: Plaza de la Magdalena, Zaragoza

Built in the early 14th century on the site of an ancient Roman temple, the Church Tower is of Mudejar architecture, and the ornamental geometric patterns and decorative glazed tiles displays a Moorish style.

  • Museo de Zaragoza: 6 Plaza de los Sitios, Zaragoza

Housed in the 1908 Universal Expo pavilion, this museum showcases archaeological and artistic treasures of Zaragoza.

  • Pablo Serrano Museum: 20 Paseo María Agustín, Zaragoza

Dedicated to the works of Pablo Serrano and that of his wife, Juana Frances.

Zaragoza Street

Zaragoza Street

Zaragoza Street

Top Places to Visit in Zaragoza

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Mary Norton


Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 20, 2019:

Zaragoza is worth a visit. One of the highlights for me is the Goya Museum which gave me a better understanding of the artist.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 18, 2019:

Another place I wish I had taken time to see when we were in Spain. I missed out obviously. Thanks for sharing.



Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 03, 2018:

Thank you Barbara. It will be Toronto this winter. Our first time to be in Canada in the winter.

Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on October 02, 2018:

It looks and sounds so beautiful there. I've been to Segovia, Madrid, Pamplona, and Barcelona only. If I ever had a chance to go back I'd have to add this to my visit. You've been to so many different places and your reviews are excellent as well.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 16, 2018:

Am glad you enjoyed it as we did our visit.

Readmikenow on August 15, 2018:

Good article, great pictures. Enjoyed reading it. Spain has so many great places to visit.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 15, 2018:

Thanks Liz and looking forward to more articles from you.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 13, 2018:

Enjoy your family time. I look forward to reading your work in the Fall.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 13, 2018:

Sorry Liz. Family gathers at the Cottage in the summer and I can't really concentrate so I have not been writing lately. Everyone wants to visit in the summer so we are always full house. Will do so again in the Fall.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 13, 2018:

I don't know what happened with my notifications, but I suddenly realised there are a lot of your articles that I wasn't aware of. I nust assumed that you hadn't been writing so much recently.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 13, 2018:

It was a surprise for us, too. We only visited because we had to cut our trip from Barcelona to Madrid and we made a mistake in our booking so we had a few days when we got back. We found that there were lots to see in the city.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 12, 2018:

I have wondered what Zaragoza would be like to visit. This has given me a great insight into what the city has to offer.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 16, 2018:

Thank you Ajodo. Yes, Our Lady of the Pillar dominates the scene.

Ajodo Endurance Uneojo from Lokoja, Nigeria. on June 16, 2018:

Mary this is a beautiful presentation with pictures to catch the mind. On average, all of the places in Zaragoza deserve a visit but the Basilica of Our Lady of the Piller win the first point of call.

Things get really interest with your kind of presentation.

Thanks for sharing.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 03, 2018:

Yes, I love that patio of Sta. Isabel. Maybe, you can write about this saint.

Bede from Minnesota on May 03, 2018:

Mary, thanks for this little tour through Zaragoza. I feel enriched by seeing its fascinating and diverse culture. That’s quite amazing that the bombs didn’t explode in the Cathedral. The Patio de Sta. Isabel is beautiful.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 26, 2018:

Thank you Jackie. It is because I love the place.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 26, 2018:

You're right, Ellen.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on March 25, 2018:

Have always thought I would love Spain. I have a brother who has been there a few times but I never have. You sell them well!

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on March 25, 2018:

This proves the road less traveled is sometimes the best.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 18, 2018:

Thanks Dianna. I have heard of this place since I was a child and finally, after 65+, visited. So, young as you are you still have many chances.

Dianna Mendez on March 18, 2018:

I would really enjoy a visit to this beautiful area of our world. The photos make my heart long to be there. Thanks for the share of this place.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 17, 2018:

You can always enjoy a virtual tour of the place. After a long trip, I just want to nest. There's something to nesting that I enjoy very much.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on March 16, 2018:

I love the old buildings and would so love to visit but am likely to only view them in articles like yours. I am not much of a traveler. Thank you for sharing your travel adventures.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 14, 2018:

Thanks Nikki. You are so close so it is not hard, just finding time. Thanks for the visit.

Nikki Khan from London on March 14, 2018:

Very interesting and adventurous article Mary,, loved the pictures so much.Always wanted to visit Spain because of it’s historical buildings and rich culture.

Have visited some through your article, would be easy to visit in person now.

Great work, thanks for sharing dear.

Bless you.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 05, 2018:

Thank you Peg. i just want to practice my writing and make it better. I have to make it more interesting to many more readers.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on March 04, 2018:

Your delightful and informative articles will no doubt be snapped up by some travel magazine. I learned so much from this visit to Zaragoza. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 04, 2018:

Thanks for the visit. These two countries are easy to go to these days.

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on March 03, 2018:

I have always wanted to see Spain and Portugal. Thanks for the interesting article.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 26, 2018:

The Basilica is amazing and many people visit just to pray here.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 25, 2018:

Mary, you seem to be having a ball. Thanks for taking me with you. The buildings are all so impressive, but I may prefer the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar for the history.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 25, 2018:

We are really good at that which is a pity especially these days when airlines are cheap, 9 pounds from the UK to Spain so more people travel now and the popular places are often at their mercy.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 25, 2018:

Thanks for enjoying the tour. The city is small enough to enjoy it.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 24, 2018:

Zaragoza, Spain is definitely worth visiting judging from what you have written about it and what you have shown us in photos. The architecture is beautiful and the history is rich. No wonder UNESCO declared the Aljaferia Palace worthy of mention. It is gorgeous! Thanks again for a lovely Internet tour.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2018:

It's a fascinating and beautiful world we live in. Too bad mankind has a tendency to make it ugly through our actions. :(

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 23, 2018:

Thank you Linda. Yes, the city is smaller than most Spanish cities but there are lots to visit.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 23, 2018:

Flourish, the bull fight arenas have been closed in almost all cities. In Barcelona, it was converted it into a 360 place with restaurants and shops.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 23, 2018:

You discover some beautiful places in your travels, Mary. I love the look of Zaragoza. The remains from Ancient Rome sound fascinating.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 23, 2018:

Mary, you are adding to my bucket list of places I must visit. I had never heard of this city’s attractions and never wanted to visit Spain because of the bullfighting. However, your article shows the rich culture, history and architecture that are worthy of a visit.

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