Zaragoza is an enchanting city tucked away in the heart of Spain, where the echoes of ancient history resonate alongside the vibrant pulse of modernity. Nestled along the serene banks of the Ebro River, this lesser-known gem has been an essential crossroads of cultures since time immemorial. As the capital of the Aragon region, Zaragoza bears witness to a rich and diverse tapestry of historical and architectural influences, making it an authentic Spanish treasure.
Renowned for being the home of the legendary painter Francisco Goya for many years, Zaragoza stands as a living testament to Spain’s artistic heritage. The city’s architecture also boasts an intriguing mix of styles ranging from awe-inspiring Baroque splendor to captivating Islamic and Christian design.
Beyond its cultural heritage, Zaragoza entices visitors with its culinary delights, charming tapas scene and lively festivals celebrating local traditions. Whether exploring historical landmarks, embracing artistic endeavors, or immersing yourself in authentic Spanish cuisine, there are plenty of things to do in Zaragoza for every type of traveler. A journey to this underrated city promises an enchanting adventure and will leave an indelible mark on your heart and mind.
In this post, we'll cover:
18. Patio de la Infanta
Patio de la Infanta, located in the heart of Zaragoza, is a charming 16th-century Renaissance courtyard within the Ibercaja Cultural Center.
Originally built as a private residence for the Aragonese Infanta Catherine of Austria, the patio offers a captivating glimpse into the city’s past. Showcasing exquisite architectural details, including stunning arches, intricately carved stonework, and a charming central fountain.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the elegance of Spanish Renaissance design while appreciating the serene ambiance of the courtyard. So, take a moment to sit by the fountain, allowing yourself to absorb the tranquility and beauty of the surroundings.
The Patio de la Infanta also serves as a cultural center, hosting various art exhibitions, concerts, and events throughout the year. Depending on when you visit, you should catch a performance.
17. Fuente de la Hispanidad
One of our favorite landmarks in Zaragoza is the Fuente de la Hispanidad – often called the Fountain of the Iberian Peoples.
Designed by the sculptor Francisco Rallo Lahoz, this emblematic fountain was inaugurated in 1991 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Americas.
The fountain’s central figure represents Christopher Columbus, surrounded by sculptures representing various indigenous cultures from the Americas. It serves as a powerful symbol of unity, celebrating the Iberian and American peoples’ cultural diversity and shared heritage.
Located in the Plaza de la Hispanidad, the fountain creates an impressive spectacle, especially when illuminated at night. Visitors can stroll around the fountain, taking the time to appreciate its intricate details and profound message of harmony among nations.
16. Mercado Central
If you love good food, you’ll want to visit Mercado Central, a bustling marketplace that has been the city’s focal point since its inauguration in 1903.
The market’s iconic iron and glass structure, typical of 19th-century architecture, exudes a sense of grandeur. Inside, visitors will find an explosion of colors and aromas from an array of fresh produce, regional delicacies, meats, cheeses, fish, and artisanal products.
Coming to the market is more than just about buying food though. It is also a gathering place and a celebration of community. So be sure to sip on a cortado (Spanish espresso) and enjoy a freshly baked pastry while soaking in the market’s lively atmosphere. Likewise, engaging in conversations with the vendors will enhance your culinary adventure and provide fascinating insights into the city’s vibrant culture and culinary traditions.
15. Pablo Serrano Art Museum (IAACC)
The Pablo Serrano Art Museum, also known as IAACC (Instituto Aragonés de Arte y Cultura Contemporáneos), is an exquisite ode to contemporary art in Zaragoza. Named after the renowned sculptor Pablo Serrano, the museum opened its doors in 1993 with a mission to promote and celebrate modern artistic expressions.
Situated within the Palacio de los Marqueses de Camarasa, a beautiful Renaissance building, the museum itself is a work of art. Its striking architectural juxtaposition of old and new sets the stage for an immersive artistic experience.
The museum’s collection spans various contemporary art forms, from sculptures and paintings to multimedia installations. Visitors can explore thought-provoking works by regional, national, and international artists, providing a window into the ever-evolving world of creativity.
14. La Lonja
La Lonja, also known as the Palace of Merchants, is a captivating architectural marvel.
Designed by Juan de Sariñena and Hernando de Nossa, La Lonja boasts an exquisite Renaissance style characterized by its robust stone facade and splendid Mudejar coffered ceiling. It was built between the 16th and 17th centuries and features a grand interior with a stunning central courtyard surrounded by elegant arcades.
Initially serving as a trade and commerce hub, La Lonja now hosts art exhibitions, cultural events, and occasional concerts, preserving its historical significance while embracing contemporary endeavors.
Take a guided tour to fully appreciate this majestic landmark’s architectural nuances and historical anecdotes. As you wander the elegant arcades and stand beneath the intricate coffered ceiling, you’ll sense the echoes of the past, gaining a deeper understanding of Zaragoza’s commercial heritage.
13. Park Labordeta
A great way to relax in Zaragoza is to visit the beautiful Park Labordeta.
A delightful urban retreat, it celebrates nature, culture, and the memory of José Antonio Labordeta, a beloved Aragonese folk singer and politician. The vast modern park opened in 2011 and offers a serene escape from the bustling city.
The park’s design embraces sustainability and environmental consciousness, featuring lush greenery, walking trails, playgrounds, and picnic areas. Its centerpiece is a beautiful lake, attracting various bird species and creating a peaceful ambiance for visitors.
Stroll through the park’s shaded pathways and reflect on the memorial dedicated to José Antonio Labordeta. Congruently, embrace the tranquility of the surroundings, which encapsulates the essence of Zaragoza’s commitment to preserving its cultural heritage and fostering harmony between nature and urban life.
12. Museo Pablo Gargallo
Housed in a beautiful Renaissance palace, the Museo Pablo Gargallo is a captivating tribute to the celebrated Spanish sculptor Pablo Gargallo.
Considered a pioneer of modern sculpture, Pablo Gargallo was known for his innovative use of materials, especially metal, to create evocative and dynamic pieces. The museum showcases a stunning collection of his groundbreaking sculptures and artworks, providing insights into his creative process, his evolution as an artist and impact on the art world.
The museum’s well-curated exhibits and the serene courtyard garden offer an immersive artistic experience that captivates visitors and inspires a deeper appreciation for Gargallo’s contributions to sculpture.
Take the time to explore each sculpture and appreciate Gargallo’s ability to breathe life and emotion into inanimate materials.
11. Puente de Piedra
Puente de Piedra is an iconic symbol of Zaragoza’s architectural heritage. Spanning gracefully over the Ebro River, this ancient bridge has been a vital crossing point since its construction in the 15th century.
The bridge’s stunning design features a series of robust stone arches adorned with ornamental details that exude timeless elegance. Its strategic location connects the city’s two sides, offering picturesque views of Zaragoza’s historic skyline.
Visiting Puente de Piedra allows you to immerse yourself in the city’s past, as it witnessed significant historical events and endured centuries of change. The bridge’s enduring presence is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the people of Zaragoza.
Arguably the best time to walk along the Puente de Piedra is during the golden hours of dawn or dusk. As the sun casts a warm glow over the river and the city’s landmarks, you’ll experience a magical ambiance that harmonizes the past and the present.
Possessing arguably the coolest name of any attraction in Zaragoza, EMOZ – the Museum of Origami of Zaragoza – is a unique destination celebrating the art of paper folding.
The museum opened in 2003 after the Spanish Origami Association collaborated with the City of Zaragoza to establish a dedicated space for this intricate art form. Subsequently, EMOZ presents an array of mesmerizing origami displays ranging from delicate animals and complex geometric shapes to life-sized installations. All of which demonstrate the boundless creativity of paper folding.
Visitors to EMOZ can participate in workshops and interactive exhibits, providing a hands-on experience that unravels the secrets of origami. The museum’s ambiance exudes tranquility and mindfulness, making it a serene setting in which to appreciate the works on display.
9. Museo del Foro de Caesaraugusta
For those interested in Roman history, the Museo del Foro de Caesaraugusta (Caesaraugusta Forum Museum) is a place you must visit.
Offering a fascinating insight into this significant time, the museum showcases the archaeological remains of the ancient Roman forum. The political, social, and economic hub of the Roman city of Caesaraugusta – now modern-day Zaragoza.
The museum opened in 2008, presenting well-preserved remnants of Roman buildings, intricate mosaics, and artifacts, providing valuable insights into daily life during this historic period. Visitors can walk along the Roman streets, explore the forum’s grandeur, and witness the meticulous restoration work that brings the past to life.
The Museo del Foro de Caesaraugusta combines modern architecture with archaeological discoveries. Creating such a mesmerizing setting immerses visitors in the vibrant history of ancient Zaragoza.
8. River Aquarium
The River Aquarium is a fascinating attraction that takes visitors on an immersive journey through the world’s major rivers. Modern and innovative, it offers a unique opportunity to explore the diverse ecosystems and marine life in iconic rivers such as the Nile, the Amazon, and the Mekong.
The aquarium’s spectacular design replicates the natural habitats of the rivers, providing an engaging and educational experience for visitors of all ages. The mesmerizing underwater tunnels allow you to walk amidst schools of fish and observe captivating marine creatures up close.
Whilst there, make sure you attend a feeding session. Watching the fish being fed while learning about their behaviors and habitats adds a whole new dimension to the experience. To make yours an even more memorable experience, consider arriving as soon as the River Aquarium opens, as it is usually less busy.
7. Trip to Belchite
History buffs will want to check out Belchite, a unique destination near Zaragoza, that offers a poignant glimpse into the country’s tumultuous history. The town’s tragic tale dates back to the Spanish Civil War when it became a battleground between Nationalist and Republican forces. After the war, rather than rebuilding, a decision was made to preserve the ruins as a poignant memorial.
Today, visitors can explore the haunting remains of Belchite Viejo (Old Belchite) with its crumbling buildings, abandoned streets, and shattered structures. The eerie ambience creates a powerful sense of reflection on the impact of war and the resilience of the human spirit.
For a contrasting experience, Belchite Nuevo (New Belchite) was constructed nearby. It showcases modern architecture and vibrant life, providing a unique contrast and a reminder of the town’s resilience we found very interesting.
6. La Seo del Salvador
La Seo del Salvador – commonly known as La Seo – is a magnificent cathedral in the heart of Zaragoza. A stunning Gothic-Renaissance masterpiece dating back to the 12th century, it is a testament to the city’s rich religious and architectural heritage.
Over the years, it has undergone several transformations, incorporating diverse architectural styles that reflect the layers of history it has witnessed.
Visitors can marvel at the intricate altarpieces, beautiful stained-glass windows, and a wealth of religious artwork. The cathedral’s chapels, each dedicated to various saints and religious events, create an atmosphere of spiritual tranquility. The awe-inspiring Mudejar ceiling, adorned with intricate wooden carvings, is a highlight of the visit.
After touring the interior, remember to climb the cathedral’s tower to enjoy panoramic city views. Doing so provides a breathtaking perspective of Zaragoza’s blend of old-world charm and modern vitality.
5. Museo Goya
Another notable cultural attraction worth visiting is Museo Goya. Dedicated to the iconic Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya, this museum resides in a 16th-century Renaissance building. It showcases an extensive collection of Goya’s works, allowing visitors to delve into the artistic evolution of this genius.
Goya, one of the most influential artists of his time, left an indelible mark on the art world through his masterful use of light and shadow. He was also known for his ability to depict human emotions with astonishing realism.
The museum’s exhibits include Goya’s celebrated paintings and etchings, personal belongings, and historical artifacts, offering a comprehensive insight into his life and artistic vision.
What we like most about the collection is his magnificent ‘Black Paintings’. These haunting and enigmatic works brilliantly reflect the artist’s inner turmoil and psychological struggles.
4. El Tubo District
If you are a foodie, you’ll want to visit El Tubo, a vibrant and historic district renowned for its delightful tapas scene.
Named after the metal pipes (tubos) used to serve wine, this culinary haven has been a popular meeting spot for locals for centuries. Its narrow cobblestone streets are lined with many tapas bars and restaurants, each offering a diverse array of tantalizing Spanish delicacies.
From traditional patatas bravas to delectable seafood dishes, El Tubo offers a sensory delight that reflects the essence of Zaragoza’s gastronomic culture. When visiting the area, the best thing to do is to embrace the local tradition of ‘tapeo’. A glorified pub crawl, you hop from one tapas bar to another, sampling different dishes and enjoying a glass of local wine or beer at each stop.
3. Caesaraugusta Theater Museum
Another attraction worth visiting for those who enjoy Roman history, art and culture is the Caesaraugusta Theater Museum.
Built around the remains of the ancient Roman theater, this museum showcases the archaeological treasures and cultural significance of the city’s past.
The theater, dating back to the 1st century BC, was once a grand venue for theatrical performances and gladiatorial spectacles. Today, visitors can explore the well-preserved ruins, accompanied by interactive exhibits and multimedia displays that bring the ancient performances to life.
If time permits, attend one of the museum’s live theatrical performances or reenactments in the virtual theater on the first floor. The immersive performances offer a unique glimpse into Caesaraugusta’s rich history and theatrical traditions, transporting you back to the Roman spectacle’s days.
2. Palacio de la Aljaferia
One of the most imperious landmarks in Zaragoza is the Palacio de la Aljaferia.
Originally it was built as a fortress in the 11th century during Islamic rule. However, the palace later underwent expansions and renovations under Christian monarchs, resulting in a unique blend of Islamic, Romanesque, Gothic, and Mudéjar architectural styles.
The palace’s intricate stonework, arched courtyards, and ornate decorations reflect the artistic ingenuity of the era. Visitors can explore the opulent interiors, including the lush gardens, splendid halls, and the stunning Throne Room, which showcases exquisite Islamic tilework.
During your visit, take a guided tour to fully appreciate the historical significance and architectural marvels of Palacio de la Aljaferia. The knowledgeable guides provide insights into the palace’s rich history, cultural exchanges, and the legacy of Islamic art and architecture in Spain.
1. Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar
The Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar is one of Europe’s most cherished pilgrimage sites. Legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared here to the apostle St. James, making it a significant religious landmark.
The basilica, built over several centuries, boasts a magnificent Baroque style, featuring towering domes and a grand façade. Its opulent interior has stunning frescoes, elegant sculptures, and intricate altars.
Inside, the basilica also houses a revered statue of the Virgin Mary, attracting pilgrims and visitors from around the world.
Even if you are not religious, attending an evening mass is worthwhile, providing a spiritual and enchanting experience. The luminous candlelight and the melodious choir enhance the atmosphere, creating a profound sense of reverence and connection with centuries of faith.
Where to Stay in Zaragoza
When planning your stay in Zaragoza, consider accommodation at the Historic Center, particularly El Tubo or around Paseo Independencia and the City Center.
The Historic Center boasts some of the best tourist attractions in Zaragoza, including the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and the Aljafería Palace, all within walking distance. Furthermore, the lively El Tubo district has a bustling ambiance with several welcoming tapas, bars, and cafes, providing a taste of local flavors and traditions.
By contrast, the city center is prime for exploring Zaragoza’s modern side. Along Paseo Independencia, you’ll find high-end boutiques, plenty of museums and theaters and bustling squares.
If you’d rather stay at the Historic Center, Silken Reino de Aragón is a good option. It offers stylish rooms, excellent service, and a terrific rooftop terrace, conveying superb panoramic views.
However, at the Paseo Independencia, Hotel Inca is a classic yet modern hotel that embodies Zaragoza’s charm. The hotel’s cozy rooms, welcoming staff, and traditional Spanish decor create a delightful stay for those seeking an authentic experience.
How to get there
Those wanting to visit Zaragoza have several transportation options available to them.
If coming from outside Spain, you can fly directly into Zaragoza Airport (Aeropuerto de Zaragoza) from several major cities worldwide. Alternatively, you can fly to the larger airports in Madrid or Barcelona and then take a high-speed train (AVE) to Zaragoza, which usually takes around one-and-a-half to two hours.
If you’re already in Spain, you can also reach the city by train or bus from various destinations. Renfe offers frequent train services, connecting Zaragoza to Madrid, Barcelona, and other major Spanish cities. Buses also provide affordable and convenient transportation options from different regions.
However you get there, once you arrive, Zaragoza’s well-connected public transportation system will allow you to explore Zaragoza’s numerous attractions easily.
Approximate travel times
- Huesca – 50 minutes by car, 1 hour by train
- Barcelona – 3 hours by car, 1 hour 30 minutes by train
- Valencia – 3 hours by car, 1 hour 30 minutes by train
- Madrid – 3 hours by car, 1 hour 30 minutes by train
- Bilbao – 4.5 hours by car, 4 hours by train and bus
Best Time to Visit Zaragoza
Lying in the northeast of Spain along the Ebro River, Zaragoza has a semi-arid climate with dry, cold winters and hot summers. July and August are the most popular months to visit as the sun is shining, people have holidays and temperatures average 30 to 31°C (86 to 88°F).
While the heat sometimes gets a bit much during the day, the evenings are lovely and lively with all its bars and restaurants packed with people. In August though, many are closed as locals head off on holiday to the mountains and coast.
The shoulder seasons of spring and autumn – so April to June and September and October – are arguably better times to visit. With less crowds around and cooler temperatures of 18 to 27°C (64 to 80°F), sightseeing is much more pleasant.
Prices are at their highest in October when the week-long Fiestas del Pilar and all its processions, concerts and cultural events are held. April is the other most expensive month of the year as people head here for the Easter holidays and Semana Santa celebrations.