The first thought which entered my mind when a fam trip to Zaragoza was mentioned, was that this was the city which hosted EXPO in 2008. I must admit I didn’t know much more about the city, so I thought why not give it a go?! And I certainly didn’t regret my decision! A green, bright, welcoming city; my first impressions of Aragón’s dazzling capital were all positive.
Must-see places are the beautiful Plaza del Pilar, a site of significant historic heritage, and the magnificent Basilica del Pilar. Also not to be missed are breath-taking views from the top of Torre Del Pilar, from where you can see colourful roofs of the city and the clean and green river-side.
Although the Basilica is the biggest pride of the city, it is not the only thing it has to offer.
Zaragoza is the home of a festival called Asalto. This is an urban Art Festival developed by international artists, aiming to revitalise communities and attract attention through art by using walls as canvas and turning the streets into art galleries. I was lucky I could visit Alfamen, a village with little more than 1,000 inhabitants but with plenty of houses painted with designs one would expect to see in a gallery or museum and not on the walls of little houses in a village!
For more traditional art lovers, it’s worth noting that Goya (the most famous painter of the Peninsular War), has his birthplace in Fuendetodos (not far from Zaragoza), and there is a huge museum in the city dedicated to some of his work.
During my short visit, I also had the chance to visit some wineries of D.O Cariñena. This is such a discovery! Mainly unknown abroad, this region has wonderful wineries to visit and it was a pleasure to taste some of its wines and local food. For me as a food and wine lover, it was hard to decide which was better!
For food lovers (yes, you ARE in the right place), a cooking demonstration is an enjoyable possibility. Alternatively, I can recommend a great activity that my fellow travellers and I absolutely loved; A ham carving masterclass. This seems so easy when you see a professional doing it for you… but it’s a different matter when you try and slice the ham yourself! Let’s just say that I was better at eating it!
After visiting the Basilica, eating amazing food and visiting some of the many museums, we still had more to do and more options to please every single type of traveller.
One of these was the Cathedral. An impressive building which will leave its mark on you. The Cathedral has had its murals and paintings cleaned recently, so it is definitely the right time to pay a visit. And make sure you don’t miss the Tapestry Museum (personal tip: visit it with a guide. Each tapestry tells a story, and it is a wonderful experience understanding the meaning of these artworks).
For me, the Aljaferia Palace was another highlight. This is an astonishing medieval Islamic structure, built as a fortified palace for Zaragoza’s Islamic rulers in the 11th century, and now declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
If you are more interested in architecture, a visit to the Expo 2008 area will make your eyes shine brighter! Expo 2008 was ahead of its time; it gathered over five million visitors for an immersive journey into the theme “Water and Sustainable Development”, highlighting the issue of managing the Earth’s scarce resources and presenting solutions for the future.
But what really surprised me about Zaragoza was not any of the above places or activities. It was the people and the vibe. The feeling of being welcome and part of the city.
I loved walking around little “plazas”, full of terraces, where you can really feel the pulse of the city. Where tables and chairs, tapas and beers, all spill out on to the pavements and before you know it, you have fallen in love with Caesaraugusta (as the city used to be called by the Romans)!