I’ve been living in Zaragoza, Spain for six months and after hosting a few visitors and doing ample exploring it seems a good time to share some of my favorites in the city. Zaragoza is located between Madrid and Barcelona. It is easy to reach by train or bus and also has a small airport with connections to London, Brussels, Paris, Milan and more. Zaragoza is far less touristy than its neighbors but I believe it offers easy access to Spanish culture and acts as a gateway to the beautiful Spanish Pyrenees (just a short two hour drive North).
WHERE TO STAY
Check out Airbnb & aim for anything in the “Casco Antiguo” area. I live in El Gancho, another older part of town just next to the center which is an up-and-coming neighborhood rich in diversity and home to some of the best tapas in town on Calle San Pablo (check out Taberna El Broquel, Los Faroles Taberna, Lo llevas crudo, Bar Gilda and Bar Pollería San Pablo). Excellent wine selection at Casa Perdiguer if you’d like something to take home afterwards. The Parish Church of San Pablo gives the area its name (meaning “the hook”) and The Espacio Las Armas cultural center offers many events with music, local craft shopping on the weekends (see Zaragena for event info). Lastly, for gluten-free goodies La Mar de Cookies bakery and in case you need to make a run to the pharmacy, Farmacia San Pablo (Moral Gomaz/Jorge Moral) has a beautiful vintage interior.
THINGS TO DO | PLACES TO SEE, BE
- Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar “The Pilar” – the GIANT cathedral, you won’t miss it and go inside- it’s free! Look for the two holes in the ceiling from bombings (three bombs were dropped none exploded the third spot is marked by an X on the ground and is located in front of the cathedral in the Plaza of Pilar) and art by Francisco Goya on the ceiling (the work is unfinished in the rear of the building). Finally, go up the Tower “Torre de Pilar” for views of the multicolored roof of Pilar + the city. The viewpoint from Puente de Piedra is great for a photo.
- The Aljafería Palace (free on Sundays) takes my breath away. I love the inner garden and the park surrounding, the tour is in Spanish but you can ask for an English audio guide.
- “La Seo” (Iglesia Parroquial del Salvador la Seo) doesn’t look as impressive as Pilar for the outside but inside you’ll find a wonder for the eyes.
- Parque Grande is a beautiful getaway from the busy center and easy to access by Tram (go to the the Emperador Carlos V stop – the tram going towards Mago de Oz if you’re coming from the center of the city)*
- Zaragoza’s museums are decent and without the lines of those in Madrid or Barcelona, the structures are most impressive to me at CaixaForum (check out the rooftop) and IAACC Pablo Serrano (free!). When visiting the Museo Pablo Gargallo start on the top floor and work your way down.
- The aquarium genuinely impressed me (its a river aquarium- unique since most I’ve visited are marine) and is in a very unique part of the city with neat buildings, an area to see. Perhaps some fine dining to follow at Celebris?
- Check out the outdoor viewpoint at Museo del Teatro de Caesaragusta to see roman roots in the center of the city or
*note that you can but a tram card at any Prensa kiosk for 10 euros which is fine to share amongst a group and brings tram/bus tickets down to 70 centers per ride. Scan your card upon entering and note this doesn’t work for the bus to/from the airport but will for all others within the city.
The most exciting time to visit the city is in the fall for the Fiestas del Pilar. During the biggest celebration of the year in the city you’ll find music and events happening all over the city all week. The famous Cierzo wind is a force to be reckoned with but weather is generally mild in fall (September through early November) and spring (March through May).
All of the major Spanish brands (El Corte Ingles, Zara, Mango/Mango Outlet, Pull and Bear, Stradivarius, Oysho, Decathlon, Bimba y Lola, Ulanka…) can be found along Paseo de Las Damas. Grab some food afterwards at Ric 27. Tequila Sunset is my favorite boutique.
My two favorite picks for sit-down style dining are Nolasco and Baobab.
Start every morning with a Spanish BREAKFAST! Here in ZGZ I find more people eating croissants with their coffee (last year in Murcia it was always toast with tomato). Since the Spanish breakfast of bread (churros/croissant/toast w jam or crushed tomato) + coffee with milk “cafe con leche” + fresh orange juice is pretty solid everywhere I go for a nice ambiance to start the day. Check out Doña Hipólita (great for brunch/has a good selection of cakes too!), Gran Café or Café Botánico. For BRUNCH La Clandestina Cafe. A few other great cafes are Marianela, La Bendita and Koalalumpur. El Criollo is also a local favorite coffee spot. Masa Madre has great baked goods.
LUNCH is the biggest meal of the day. Get a menú del día (three course meal) some good vegetarian spots for this are Baobab and La Retama.
you have so many great spots to choose from! Some favorites: El Champi (yummy mushrooms and beer), best croquettes in town = Taberna Doña Casta, gorgeous interior Meli del Tubo, local feel El Angel Del Pincho, CHEESE Bar Estudios, Vegetarian + craft brews Birosta.
On Thursdays check out Juepinchos a tapas event from 8-10PM where around 50 different cafes offer a drink (wine/beer/water) + tapa for just 2 euros! Top picks include Alma Criolla Empanada Bar, Barrio Sur and Bar Gallo.
Fine dining in the center– Casa Lac.
Go for cocktails at Umalas, Chilimango or Moonlight Experimental Bar, shots at Espit Chupitos or craft beers at Hoppy, Beer Corner or Taberna Craft Beer Ordio Minero.
Sip wine at La Bodeguita Real on a cool day or at Terrace Rincón de Goya in Parque Grande any sunny day.
My neighborhood natural grocery store is Biokenzo, pick up some food at Pasta Fresca de Zecchi and go for the rest of your groceries at any Mercadona (my favorite supermarket chain).
I have yet to check it out but I heard good things about El Plata Cabaret (and their patio is a great spot to sip some drinks on warm evenings)
Salsoteca El Sol – free Salsa dancing classes Wednesday through Saturday