Zaragoza information

Introduction to the Province of Zaragoza
Zaragoza (also Zaragossa or Saragossa) is a beautiful province in the north east of Spain and forms part of the autonomous community of Aragon. Zaragoza is mountainous, extending to the lower Pyrenees in its north and with the Iberian System Mountains in its south and west. Crossed by both the important River Ebro and the pilgrims’ route of the Camino de Santiago, both Zaragoza province and city have much of interest to offer the visitor.

Zaragoza City
Zaragoza city, the province’s capital, is a very striking place, built on the banks of the River Ebro. It was founded by the Romans in 24BC (there are vestiges of the city’s Roman walls still in existence) and today is a cosmopolitan university and commercial city of great touristic interest and importance. For an insight into Zaragoza’s history, visit the Provincial Museum, which also houses works by the artist, Goya.

The most impressive and dominating monument in Zaragoza is the 16th Century Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, majestically situated right beside the river. It sports four enormous corner towers and a central dome with brightly tiled cupolas and is especially spectacular when illuminated at night and viewed from the opposite river bank. The Basilica’s centrepiece is a pillar which has become a shrine, topped with a small image of the Virgin Mary and which is a focal point for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.

The Basilica is sited in the Plaza del Pilar square, which is a fine, open space, surrounded by important buildings from all architectural ages. One of these is the old, elaborately decorated and recently restored beautiful city cathedral of La Seo or Cathedral of San Salvador. Between the old and new cathedrals is the 16th Century La Lonja, which served as Zaragoza’s old currency exchange building. Other churches of note include the Iglesia de San Miguel and the Iglesia de Santa Engracia.

The 11th Century Aljaferia Palace was the Moorish residence of an independent dynasty known as the Beni Kasim, before Spain was in any way unified. It has since served as a residence for the “Reyes Catolicos” and even a prison during the times of the Spanish Inquisition. It is the most important Moorish building in northern Spain and also served as the setting for Verdi’s opera, Il Trovatore (The Troubadour). It contains a large number of rooms with finely carved ceilings and a highly decorated courtyard, the Patio de Santa Isabella.

Zaragoza also has some stunning examples of modern architecture that were mainly built for Expo 2008. On a side note, Zaragoza city is twinned with Bethlehem.
Being a university city, Zaragoza has a wide selection of bars, restaurants and a good nightlife scene too. See below for more on the gastronomy of Zaragoza.

Around Zaragoza City and Beyond
The town of Tarazona contains many fine examples of Mudejar architecture, serving as yet a further reminder of this area’s Moorish past. Most of the town’s monuments are to be found up in the Barrios Altos area, including the Church of Santa Magdalena. The lovely Cathedral is down in the lower part of Tarazona. Around 15km from Tarazona is the Monastery of Veruela. It stands inside a heavily fortified perimeter wall and was once one of Spain’s most important Carthusian monasteries.

Another town of similar architectural interest is Calatayud, which also has a nearby monastery, El Monasterio de Piedra, set in lovely park-like gardens. From here, the lovely town of Daroca is within easy reach. Daroca has an impressive run of enclosing walls with no less than 114 towers along its length. North of Zaragoza city, heading to the Pyrenees are the Cinco Villas of Tauste, Ejea de los Caballeros, Sadaba, Uncastillo and Sos del Rey Catolico. They are typical mediaeval towns with narrow cobbled streets, castles and early churches.

For wine lovers, Zaragoza has a wine route, the Ruta del Vino, south of the city of Zaragoza itself. The town of Cariñena on this route has several bodegas that are open to the public. For lovers of the great outdoors, Zaragoza’s mountain regions offer ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and even winter sports.

The Gastronomy of Zaragoza
The typical cuisine of Zaragoza is simple yet delicious. Produce of the region includes artichokes, pulses, courgettes, peppers, garlic green beans, plums, peaches and apricots.

Some typical dishes from Zaragoza that you might come across include Huevos al Salmorejo (hard boiled eggs served with a cold tomato sauce), Lomo de Cerdo a la Zaragozana (pork cutlet), Quesada Aragonesa (a baked soft cheese and egg dish) and Pollo al Chilindron (chicken cooked with a sauce of tomatoes, ham, onions and paprika).

Accompany your meal with one of Zaragoza’s wines from the Cariñena wine making region.


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