Top 18 best sights of Zaragoza: photos, description, map
Zaragoza is a city in north-eastern Spain, which is located on the banks of the river Ebro and is the capital of the autonomous region of Aragon. Zaragoza is the fifth largest city in Spain and has a rich, centuries-old history. We offer you a selection of the best sights of Zaragoza with photos and descriptions, which will help you not to miss the most important tourist spots of the city.
In the I century BC during the colonization of the Iberian Peninsula on the site of present Zaragoza the Romans established a new settlement. It was called Colonia Caesaraugusta or the Colonia of Emperor Caesar Augustus. From this came the modern name of the city. By the way, among the attractions of Zaragoza there are also ancient Roman monuments. In 712-713 years Zaragoza was conquered by Arabs and was conquered by the Spaniards only in 1118 during the Reconquista.
1. Cathedral of Our Lady of Pilar
The most impressive sight in Zaragoza, which many dream of visiting, is the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Cathedral of Our Lady of Pilar) . This is the main temple of the city and one of the largest Baroque cathedrals in Spain. It is 130 meters long and 67 meters wide. The Cathedral building is made up of 4 towers and 11 domes, so it is impressive in its monumental size. Basilica is considered the first shrine in Christian history, which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In the center of the cathedral there is a statue of Mary with a baby in her arms.
A couple of centuries earlier a Romanesque church was built on the site of the Cathedral in honour of the liberation of the city from the Muslims by the troops of King Alfonso I but it was destroyed by fire in 1434. The construction of the modern church building started at the end of the 17th century and lasted for 200 years. Because of this, the architecture of the Basilica includes elements of several trends: Rococo, Baroque and Neoclassical. The cost of visiting the Cathedral is 2 euros, the ticket for the towers is 3 euros.
2. Pilar Square
Plaza del Pilar, where the Cathedral of Our Lady is located, is one of the busiest tourist spots in Zaragoza. This square is also called the city hall because it often hosts public performances. In addition to the Basilica, in Pilar Square there is the Town Hall, the Cathedral of San Salvador (more about it below), the city courts, a monument to Francisco Goya, and the building of the Stock Exchange (La Lonja de Zaragoza), built in the first half of the 16th century as a place for trading activities.
In Pilar Square is another interesting landmark of Zaragoza, the futuristic waterfall fountain of Hispanidad (Fuente de la Hispanidad) . The fountain was built in honor of the community of Spanish-speaking countries that goes by the name of Hispanidad. The shape of the fountain represents a map of Latin America. At the top, the waterfall forms a map of the Yucatan Peninsula and Central America. The waterfall flows into a small pool that mimics the shape of South America and Tierra del Fuego.
3. Alhaferia Palace
Another unique symbol and the most important landmark of Zaragoza is El Palacio de la Aljaferia. The exceptional importance of the palace lies in the fact that it is the only architectural structure that has survived from the time of the Muslim emirates of Taif. The fortified palace of Aljaferia was built in Zaragoza in the second half of the 11th century on the initiative of the emir Ahmad al-Muqtadir as a residence. This palace (called Palace of Happiness at the time) reflects the prosperity and splendor that was achieved by the Emirate of Taif during its political and cultural heyday.
Over several centuries of existence and changes of rulers, the Alhaferia Palace has undergone many reconstructions. Significant restoration work was carried out in the second half of the 20th century. In 2001 the Alhaferia Palace was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The cost to visit this site in Zaragoza is 5 euros.
4. Cathedral of San Salvador
The Cathedral of San Salvador (La Catedral del Salvador de Zaragoza) is the city’s second most important cathedral, but first in antiquity. The second name of this historical landmark of Zaragoza is La Seo Cathedral. It was built on the site of an ancient Roman square to replace the oldest mosque, the minaret of which was moved to the main tower of the cathedral. The temple began to be built in the XII century in the Romanesque style, it has undergone numerous alterations in the course of several centuries and was completely completed only in 1704 when the tower of the cathedral was completed with a baroque spire.
The architecture of the cathedral absorbed a wealth of styles from different eras, including Baroque, Gothic and Mudejar. The main building material was brick, which was especially common in Aragonese architecture. San Salvador Cathedral is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to the temple costs 2 euros.
5. Calle Alfonso Pedestrian Street
Calle Alfonso is Zaragoza’s main pedestrian street and is located in the historic city center near Pilar Square. The street stands out with beautiful historic buildings, modern trendy stores, small tourist shops and cozy atmospheric cafes. This landmark of Zaragoza is not some unique object, but definitely this street has its own charm.
Alfonso Street has a great panoramic view of the Basilica del Pilar, so you can take very spectacular photos of Zaragoza from here. The street was built in 1865 in order to improve the urban landscape, and is now the main parade street of Zaragoza.
6. Museum of the sculptor Pablo Gargallo
The Museo Pablo Gargallo is a monographic museum dedicated to the work of the famous Aragonese sculptor Pablo Gargallo (1881-1934). It is located not far from Alfonso Street, in the building of the Palace of the Count of Argillo, which was built in 1661. The palace has an open central courtyard, a first floor with an inner gallery and several rooms where the most important part of the exhibition takes place. The museum opened its doors in 1985.
The museum contains more than 170 works by the eminent sculptor, including paintings, sculptures and numerous working papers. Among the exhibits are the famous Prophet, located in the courtyard, as well as two riders made for the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona in 1929 as a greeting to visitors.
7. The Stone Bridge of Zaragoza
Another important historical site in Zaragoza is the stone bridge in the center of Zaragoza (Puente de Piedra), which crosses the Ebro River, the most full-flowing river in Spain. Its second name is the Lion Bridge because of the columns on both sides of the bridge with statues of bronze lions symbolizing the city.
They tried to build the bridge in the early XII century, but construction began only in 1401 and was completed only 40 years later. Because of floods and other disasters the bridge was many times subjected to reconstruction. The stone bridge of Zaragoza is a great place for walks, as well as colorful photos against the background of the sunset and the wide river Ebro.
8. Zaragoza Central Market
The Central Market of Zaragoza (Mercado Central de Zaragoza) was designed in 1895 by Aragonese architect Felix Navarro Perez. It was to replace the traditional open-air market, which was located in the market square. It was completed in 1903, and in 1978 the Central Market was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The Central Market building is done in a modern neoclassical style with a glazed facade and two arched entrances on the sides. Inside you will find stalls with a variety of meat, fish, seafood, local fruits and vegetables. The prices of the products can not be called democratic, this place is designed more for generous tourists. It is likely that you will be much more impressed with the exterior design of the building than the shopping area itself.
9. Roman Walls of Zaragoza
Zaragoza’s landmarks are the Roman walls (Muralla Romana de Zaragoza) dating back to the Roman period. During this period Zaragoza was a prosperous colony of Emperor Augustus, Caesaraugusta, from which its current name derives. The Roman walls of Zaragoza were built between the first and third centuries A.D., were 3,000 meters long and included 120 defensive towers. At that time, stone walls completely surrounded the city and protected it from enemies.
Today only a small part of the wall has survived, but even this allows you to touch the ancient history. The longest section of the wall, which length reaches 80 meters, is located on the Avenida de César Augusto. The wall ends at the Torreon de la Zuda, another of Zaragoza’s landmarks, which was part of the city’s fortifications. The tower offers a magnificent panoramic view of the city.
10. Roman theater
The Roman Theater (Teatro romano de Zaragoza) is Zaragoza’s oldest landmark and its age and value is quite comparable to the Roman Wall. The theater was built in the first half of the first century AD, during the Roman Empire. The ancient theater seated about six thousand spectators, and the Marcellus Theater in Rome was used as a model for its construction. It is certainly inferior in scale to the ancient Italian structures, the more so the building has barely survived.
Until the third century, the Roman theater was used for its intended purpose, but gradually fell into disrepair, and the materials of the building began to be used for the construction of other architectural structures. Over time, the theater was covered by other buildings, and was found by archaeologists only in 1973.
11. the aquarium of Zaragoza
The River Aquarium (Acuario de Zaragoza) is another popular attraction in Zaragoza that is worth seeing. It was opened in 2008 for the world exhibition and became the largest river aquarium in Europe. The architect of the building was Alvaro Planjuelo. The aquarium has an area of 8.000 m2 and houses 120 freshwater species (over 1200 specimens). The central tank is 9 meters deep and over 47 meters long, making it the largest freshwater aquarium in the world.
The Zaragoza Aquarium includes 5 major river ecosystems: Nile (Africa) , Amazon (South America) , Mekong (Asia) , Murray (Australia) , Ebro (Spain) . Every year the popularity of this attraction in Zaragoza is increasing. For example, the number of visitors in 2016 reached 85,000 people – compared to 40,000 in 2012. The cost to visit the Zaragoza Aquarium is 16€.
12. Puerto Venice Entertainment Center
One of the most striking and interesting attractions in Zaragoza is the entertainment center Puerto Venecia . This is not just a banal shopping mall for shopping lovers. Puerto Venecia is a huge amusement park, which includes stores, restaurants, attractions, playgrounds, a movie theater and even a picturesque lake.
There are more than 156 stores and 40 restaurants in Puerto Venezia. This is a great place to have a fun and fulfilling time with the whole family. The complex is popular with tourists and locals alike, with about 18 million visitors in 2014. By the way, not far from the entertainment center Puerto Venezia there is a small amusement park in Zaragoza (Parque de Atracciones de Zaragoza) .
13. San Pablo Church
Another of Zaragoza’s major tourist and historical attractions is the Church of San Pablo (Iglesia de San Pablo), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is called the third cathedral of Zaragoza. The church was erected in the first half of the 14th century, but over the next two centuries it underwent successive expansions and reconstructions. This was due to the demographic growth in the neighborhood of San Pablo, where the church was located. Already in the Middle Ages there were as many people living there as in the historic walled center.
San Pablo Church combined the architectural styles of Gothic and Mudejar. Originally, the church consisted of a polygonal nave that was surrounded by chapels on either side. Two additional aisles were added in the 15th century, and the church continued to be reconstructed until the 20th century. In the interiors, the main altar, made by Damian Forment in the 16th century, stands out. The cost of a visit to the temple is 2 euros.
14. Basilica of Santa Engracia
The Basilica of Santa Engracia was built between 1891 and 1899 on the site of the Catholic Jerónimos Monastery that was destroyed during the siege of Zaragoza at the beginning of the 19th century. The monastery in turn replaced an ancient Roman Christian crypt where the remains of Saint Engracia and other great martyrs of the third and fourth centuries, executed for their faith by order of Emperor Diocletian, were preserved. Because of its sad history, this splendid historical site in Zaragoza sometimes leaves a sad impression on tourists.
The Basilica of Santa Engracia is one of the earliest and most outstanding architectural works of the Renaissance. It consists of one nave and two side chapels, with a Baroque and Mudejar facade. The crypt of the Basilica of Santa Engracia contains two early Christian marble sarcophagi from the 4th century, found on the site of an ancient necropolis. The remains of Saint Engracia are placed in a simple chamber urn to protect the ancient relic from theft or desecration.
15. Francisco Goya Museum
Museo Francisco Goya (Museo Goya / Museo Camón Aznar) is a museum of fine arts in Zaragoza. The museum has over a thousand paintings, of which the most significant half are on permanent display. Most of the paintings are from the legacy of José Camón Aznar of Zaragoza, a distinguished professor, academic, critic and collector. If you love museums, this Zaragoza landmark is a must visit for cultural enrichment.
The museum was opened in 1979 and is housed in a Renaissance palace built in the historic center of Zaragoza. The museum’s exhibits are distributed over three floors. The cost to visit the museum is 4 euros.
16. Natural Park of the Convent de Piedra
If you plan to devote more time to sightseeing in Zaragoza, be sure to visit the Convent de La Piedra. It is located 120 km from the city, but it is worth your attention. The Monasterio de Piedra was founded in 1194 by thirteen Cistercian monks. It is a national monument of Spain and one of the most visited tourist spots in Aragon.
But the status of the most beautiful sight of Zaragoza this place got due to the picturesque natural park near the monastery (Parque Natural del Monasterio de Piedra). The Piedra River forms a unique landscape with many waterfalls, which attracts tourists to enjoy a real wonder of nature. The highest waterfall in this park is the Cola del Caballo, which is more than 50 meters long. The park also has several caves discovered by the founders of the park.
Zaragoza sights on a map
To travel comfortably, be sure to keep your Zaragoza sightseeing map ready with points of interest to see.
If you are interested not only in Zaragoza sights, but also in the main tourist attractions of other Spanish cities, we recommend you to look at:
The top 25 sights of Zaragoza
Zaragoza – the center of the province of the same name in the northeastern part of Spain. It is an ancient beautiful city with many beautiful palaces and even more cathedrals.
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Who goes to Zaragoza and why
Zaragoza, founded during the Roman Empire, was conquered by the Arabs in the 8th century and turned it into an outpost against the Christian kingdoms. It remained under Muslim rule for a long time, and passed to the Aragonese state only in 1118. After the unification of Spain in the 15th century the city became part of the big country and got a new impetus for development.
Zaragoza’s turbulent past is reflected in the historical and cultural monuments. Tourists love the distinctive Spanish streets, wide squares, Moorish palaces and Gothic churches. Popular attractions include the ancient walls, the ancient Roman theater, and the picturesque waterfront.
Zaragoza is famous for its colorful Christian holidays:
- Holy Week is celebrated with particular splendor. For seven days before Easter, the city hosts Christian processions to the beat of cymbals and drums.
- The feast of St. George (great martyr, patron saint of Aragon) is no less popular. The day dedicated to him is the official day off in Zaragoza. It is accompanied by a parade and popular festivities.
- In October the festival in honor of Our Lady of Pilar starts. For a week the city is transformed into a center of religious events and entertainment. The festival includes a solemn procession to the statue of the Virgin Mary, a cavalcade led by the National Guard and a dance competition.
Zaragoza’s parks and squares escape the heat of the day and make for a fun time. Among the trees there are fountains, benches, areas with carousels and cozy cafes. For athletes there are jogging paths and trainers.
The museums hold a rich historical heritage of the city. Collections include ethnographic, archeological exhibits, medieval works of art, jewelry and weapons.
Outdoor enthusiasts prefer to combine sightseeing with hiking in the surrounding area, boating on the Ebro River, sport fishing or rafting.
Zaragoza’s main square, founded in the 16th century, is now used for official events and city celebrations. The square is surrounded by Renaissance-style buildings, Gothic cathedrals, and churches.
In the middle there is a monument to Goya. The figure of the artist is located on a stepped pedestal. The master holds a brush and looks thoughtfully into the distance. On the west side of Plaza Pilar is a large fountain depicting a map of Latin America.
The walls, built under the Roman emperors, once completely surrounded the city and reliably protected it from enemies. Now only a few fragments remain. One of them rises along the street Avenida de César Augusto – there are not only walls, but also the remains of defensive towers of roughly chopped stone boulders. The maximum height of the site is 10 meters and its width is 7 meters.
The arch bridge over the Ebro River was built in the first half of the 15th century. The stone structure has been rebuilt more than once and is now in excellent condition. At each end of the bridge there are posts with sculptures of proud lions. In the evenings the eye-catching lights are turned on. The bridge is re-designated for pedestrian walks – it offers a gorgeous view of the river, the promenade and the historic districts of the city.
The square in the historic center of Zaragoza is architecturally and culturally important. It is surrounded by financial and government institutions: for example, the Palace of the Governor’s Cathedral and the Bank of Spain.
The jewel of the square is the Monument to the Martyrs, made of stone and bronze and designed by Ricardo Magdalena. The monument is a jagged tower, on top of which stands a winged angel with a cross, holding a fallen Aragonese. At the foot is a female figure representing Zaragoza. In her hands is a crown of victory and a parchment with a seal.
A network of narrow ancient cobblestone-paved streets depart from the Plaza de España. The popular tourist area is famous for upscale clubs, fashion stores, and antique shops. Central attractions of El Tubo are considered an old French restaurant “Lac House” and the legendary cafe “La Plata”, where in the evenings cancan dance and show shows for adults.
The Moorish palace of the 8th century is a bright representative of the Mudejar architectural style. It was intended for the ruler of Banu Huda and is well preserved to this day. It is a majestic fortress with several towers surrounded by thick walls. In the courtyard there is a garden with tracery arbors and lanterns.
During the Aragonese rule, the Aljaferia was the residence of the Christian kings, and today it is the seat of the parliament of the region. Some of the rooms are accessible to tourists. The tour shows the Throne Room, the ceremonial chambers with the coats of arms of Castile and Aragon, and the Troubadour Tower.
The two-story Saragossa City Hall, erected in 1941 in the Aragonese Renaissance style, rises on Pilar Square. The large rectangular building is decorated with arched spans and original moldings. The central entrance is decorated with stone statues. Next to it there are trees and benches for resting. There are no guided tours inside.
The 16th century mansion in Pilar Square is rectangular in shape and has three facades. The outer walls are decorated with a gallery of double arches, openwork windows and conform to the traditional Renaissance style. The interior decoration stands out with Gothic overtones.
The vaults are decorated with sculptural reliefs, carved ornaments, moldings. The building, which was intended for commercial purposes, was for a long time the main market of Zaragoza. Today it houses the exhibition hall of the city council.
Zaragoza Palace of Congresses
The Palace of Congresses on Calle Eduardo Ibarra is a spacious house built in 1994. It includes a concert hall as well as auditoriums for meetings and official events. The complex is famous for its exquisite interior and excellent acoustics. The main hall is equipped with video surveillance, simultaneous translation system, LCD projection screens. A chamber orchestra and a music school choir regularly give concerts on the stage of the palace.
Basilica of Our Lady of Pilar
Pilar Square adorns the largest Catholic church in Zaragoza, erected in honor of the apparition of Our Lady, which occurred 1,000 years ago. The sanctuary has four bell towers with pointed spires. One of them has an observation deck. The central building is crowned with a massive dome with a cross.
Medieval church relics are preserved inside the temple. The main relic is a jasper column with the image of the Virgin and Child Jesus. In the basilica there is the Pilar Museum. It displays Goya’s drawings, church utensils and jewels.
Cathedral of the Epiphany
The Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Epiphany of the Savior – La Seo – is the oldest in Zaragoza. It was founded in 1140 on the ruins of an ancient forum. The building was repeatedly rebuilt and acquired features typical of the Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and Mudejar styles.
Inside, there is an alabaster altar 16 meters high and 10 meters wide and a choir with 117 stone seats. The sacristy is decorated with paintings by Aragonese artists of the 17th century. There are a total of 28 chapels, all of which are richly decorated.
Church of Santa Engracia
The basilica was built on the site of the murder of Saint Engracia and her companions that occurred in the year 303. In the beginning, the tragedy was commemorated with a small tomb. Later, an abbey was built, which survives to this day. The monastery church suffered considerably during the Spanish War of Independence and it took years to restore it.
Now the temple has been restored and attracts tourists with colorful frescoes, stone statues of saints, and beautiful murals. The crypt contains early Christian sarcophagi from the 4th century.
Church of St. Magdalene
The 14th century church is a model of the traditional Mudejar style. The building is in the shape of a Latin cross with a nave with cross vaults and a polygonal apse. Between the inner pillars rise side chapels. The square high bell tower is decorated with original ornaments, jagged roof, oval arches and crosses.
Inside, an altarpiece by José Ramírez de Arellano, murals and a gilded statue of the Immaculate Conception are preserved.
San Gil Abad
The Romanesque early Christian church was destroyed under Muslim rule. A new sanctuary in the Mudejar style was erected in the 14th century. The square polygonal tower, with oriental ornamentation, round arches and windows, is the main feature of the church. Today it is the parish church of the town, which preserves frescos and paintings by Spanish artist Ramon Bayeux.
Pablo Gargallo Museum
On San Felipe Square stands the two-story Aragonese Palace of the Counts of Argillo, recognized as a national monument in 1943. It houses the museum of the Spanish sculptor Pablo Gargallo. The gallery of the palace contains 177 works by the master: marble statues, engravings, pencil drawings and paintings. In the courtyard are two equestrian sculptures, also created by Pablo Gargallo in 1929 for the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona.
Spain’s largest historical museum is divided into three sections:
- The archaeological section contains exhibits found during excavations: weapons, jewelry, fragments of ancient structures, and cult objects.
- The art section features paintings by Spanish Renaissance artists, Muslim paintings and statues of Roman gods.
- The ceramics hall shows how pottery developed in Aragon, from the Stone Age to the present day.
The museum also has a restoration department and a library.
The Tapestry Museum has been operating in La Seo Cathedral for many years. The collection includes products woven 200-300 years ago in the famous workshops of Brussels, Tournai and Arras. In three exhibition halls are stored fabrics illustrating biblical events, the history of ancient Rome, popular myths. Heraldic tapestries, sacred ornaments, jewelry, and paintings are sorted separately.
Jose Camon Aznar Museum
The Museum of Fine Arts at Los Pardo Palace opened in 1979. Thousands of works of art are preserved in the three-story mansion. The core of the exhibition is the José Camón Aznar collection, which includes works by artists of the 16th through 20th centuries.
An extensive section is devoted to the works of Francisco Goya. Among its exhibits are Self-Portrait, Maria Luisa de Parma, Aesop and Menipus, and The Dream of the Mind Produces Monsters.
The Roman theater in Zaragoza was built during the reign of Emperor Tiberius. The structure had a classical form, was lined with marble, and seated 6,000 people. Over time, the theater collapsed and disappeared from the face of the city. Its ruins, discovered in 1970, are still being studied by scientists.
Unique findings are on display in the museum of the Roman theater. On a tour you can see marble statues, fragments of columns, theater masks, ancient musical instruments. A separate exhibition tells the story of the construction of the theater and its importance to ancient Zaragoza.
Museum of Firemen
On the initiative of the Zaragoza Fire Department, a museum has been opened that will be of interest to the whole family. In an accessible form it tells about the work of firefighters and how to prevent a fire in the house. The perpetual exhibition presents fire engines, the means used to extinguish, and the clothing of the rescuers.
A collection of plaques that are mounted on the facades of houses that are insured against fire takes pride of place. Tourists can examine 90 plaques of foreign and Spanish insurance companies.
Nature and Entertainment
The huge park in the center of Zaragoza is decorated with fountains, marble sculptures and shaped benches. There are walkways, jogging paths, and picnic areas under the trees. The park has a botanical garden, introducing coniferous and deciduous trees, shrubs, flowers, medicinal herbs and spices. There is a cafe and a playground with merry-go-rounds. At the entrance there is a pond with a clepsydra – a water clock.
Embankment of the river Ebro
The city is crossed by a small beautiful river. The central promenade is easy to find near the Basilica of Our Lady of Pilar. The picturesque bank, paved with stone slabs, is a suitable place for romantic and family walks. Trees are planted along the road, benches and fruit stalls are set up and cafes are open. People come here to admire the view of the river, take pictures or go rollerblading.
The modern, spacious building houses Europe’s largest river aquarium. It showcases the fauna of the Nile, Amazon, Ebro, Mekong, and Murray-Darling. Adults and children can see piranhas, giant perches, guppies, aravanas, flathead catfish. In a special area live crocodiles, snakes, guinea pigs and marsh beavers. Tourists are offered to listen to an interesting lecture, be present at the fish feeding and attend educational workshops.
Somos el Parque de Atracciones
The amusement park opened in Zaragoza in 1974. Among the trees stand 40 rides. Very popular are the Ferris wheel, Vertical Twister, Pacific Ocean Express, Chains, Ramses, Revolution. For the little ones there are trampolines, sandboxes, and a traditional merry-go-round in the form of animals. Visitors to the park go boating on the local pond and enter the Cave of Horrors, the Room of Mirrors, and the Magnetic House.
A small but cozy park, stretching along Paseo de Cuellar Avenue, is designed for leisurely strolls in the shade of trees. The wide alleys are lined with square stone slabs.
In the center is a small square with the monument of Ramón Pignatelli, the Spanish politician who took an active part in the creation of the Imperial Canal of Aragon. Also in the park are a stone bust of Jose Maria Ferrera and a wall painted by city artists.