Zaragoza Spain: Well Worth A Visit
Is Zaragoza Worth a Visit?
We seriously asked ourselves this question about Zaragoza. Spain has so many bright lights that visitors to the country often just pass Zaragoza by to go to the mega-hyped destinations such as Madrid, Seville, Cordoba or Barcelona. What has Zaragoza got in the light of these big players?
Well, this time, we committed a few days to the city and had a really great time digging into what this city has to offer. When we got there, it was ramping up to Christmas and an amazing life-size Nativity filled up the space in the central square across from the Basilica.
The Christmas markets, including the ones in the central square are reputed to be the best in Spain. With musicians and other buskers out in full, the local handicrafts were a real attraction and the party mood with all the families out for a shop was catching. Other than Christmas, Zaragoza, the capital of the region of Aragon, offers some unique things to make it a destination in your next visit to Spain. Here are a few:
The Center of Zaragoza
Map of Zaragoza Spain
Zaragoza's Basilica: Our Lady of the Pillar
The Stunning Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar
Without question, this was the top attraction in Zaragoza. Even just for this, it is worth spending time in the city.
I had seen pictures of the Basilica before and, since then, I had been wanting to visit it. As we were driving from Barcelona to Madrid, it made sense to spend a few nights in Zaragoza.When we went up from the parking lot, we were immediately engulfed by the Basilica's grandeur.
This Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar has its origin in 40 AD if legend is to be believed. The story goes that James the Greater, one of the Apostles of Jesus, came to Spain to spread Christianity and, at one point, was in the Roman city of Caesaraugusta, now Zaragoza. While resting at the side of the Ebro River, discouraged by his lack of success, the Blessed Mother appeared to him in a vision beside the pillar where Jesus was whipped. Later revelations claimed that with her were angels who on the journey to Zaragoza, also built a pillar made of Jasper and a wooden statue of Mary so, today, a wooden statue 39 cm. tall rests on a pillar of jasper inside the Basilica.
In this apparition, Mary asked James to build a Church. James built a small one dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, the first ever church to be dedicated to the Mother of Jesus. A Visigoth Church was built on top of this Church and later a Gothic Church. The current Baroque Basilica was built between 1681 and 1686. Although it was bombed during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), not one of the bombs exploded.
When Columbus arrived in North America, it was on October 12, the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, so she was named the Protectress of Spain. Since then, miracles were attributed to Our Lady of the Pillar and it drew pilgrims in big numbers including St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Ignatius of Loyola. JoseMaria de Escriba, the founder of Opus Dei, an institution in the Catholic Church which teaches that everyone is called to sanctity, also paid daily visits to Our Lady asking for guidance.
Inside the basilica which is the second biggest in Spain next to Seville, there are 11 brightly colored tiled domes and a magnificent main altar of alabaster designed by Damian Forment in the fifteenth century, earlier than the basilica. Two of the frescoes were painted by Goya who was from close to Zaragoza, born in the village of Fuendetodos.
The Roman Ruins in Zaragoza
The Roman Ruins of Caesaraugusta
The Roman ruins in Zaragoza are reminiscent of the 1st and 2nd centuries even though Colonia Caesaragustus was founded in 15 B.C. to commemorate the victory of the Emperor in the Cantabrian Wars.
Being on a major crossroads and trading river, Caesaragustus was a prosperous Roman city meriting a massive Forum, the Port at the River Ebro, the Public Baths, and the Theatre. The river Port area in Zaragoza at that time was one of the most important in Hispania, a major gathering point for olive oil and even wheat destined for Rome.
More details of the Roman times are being discovered as each excavation yields more finds and with growing economic success, Spain is able to uncover its own history. Archaeological remains from the Roman Forum built at the time of Emperor Tiberius become more impressive with each annual dig. From the time of Emperor Augustus, the very founding of Caesaragusta, we now have the remnants of a market, shop walls, pipes, and a sewer system. These remains are in several museums in the city with one entrance ticket covering all.
- Museum of the Public Baths: 3 - 7 Calle San Juan y San Pedro, Zaragoza
The city was well supplied with water and is the Roman habit, the public baths were well used not just for baths but also for reading and listening to poetry, socializing, and listening to music.
- Roman Forum: 2 Plaza de la Seo, Zaragoza.
This Museum is easy to find as it is right underneath the Plaza de la See directly opposite the Cathedral. This is where you can buy the ticket to visit all the Roman ruins.
- Roman Theatre:12 Calle San Jorge, Zaragoza
An important find in 1972, this shows the sophisticated social life of this ancient city. The space is now enclosed in an exhibition place and there you can also see some of the artifacts discovered in this place.
- Roman Walls
You can see the Roman walls in different parts of the city but right at the centre in the Plaza of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, there are some first class examples.
The Aljaferia Palace
The Aljaferia: A UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Aljaferia Palace was the residence of the Moorish Banu Hud dynasty and was built in the 11th century during the reign of Abu Jaffa Al-Muqtadir. It reflects the power and grandeur of the Taifa of Zaragoza and reminds us of the Islamic ascendency in Spain.
In 1118, the Palace was taken by Alfonso I as Christian leaders began to recover the country. Alfonso transformed the Palace into a residence for the Aragon rulers. Below is the Patio de Sta. Isabel which is inside the Aljaferia, a Moorish garden dedicated to Isabella of Portugal who was born here and later became a Catholic saint.
UNESCO declared this in 2001 as part of the Mudejar Architecture of Aragon, a World Heritage Site. It is considered one of the best preserved representation of Moorish architecture and the splendour of the Moorish reign in Spain. It now serves as the seat of the regional parliament of Aragon.
Patio de Sta. Isabel in the Aljaferia
Visit to Zaragoza Spain
Have you ever been to Zaragoza Spain?
The Goya Museum-Museo Ibercaja Camón Aznar
The Museum of Goya-Museo Ibercaja Camón Aznar
The museum is housed in a mansion of Jeronimo de Cosida that was built between 1535-1536. The Goya prints are spectacular and inform us of Goya's social activism. He was NOT a delicate rosebud!!!!
His engravings are very compelling and are placed under 4 sections: Caprices, Bullfighting, Foolishness and Disasters of the War. Each one is worth a thousand stories of life at that time, how people were imprisoned by their own superstitions, how the Church leaders and their avarice played out, how the leaders of the State played their power and how people then were affected by these.
Address: Calle Espoz y Mina, 23, 50003 Zaragoza
Mercado Central de Zaragoza
Central Market in Zaragoza
This market was a central attraction for us as we love to be a part of where the locals buy their bread, cheese, meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. Lines of vendors busy negotiating with buyers as they pack purchases for those who have made their decisions. When you buy fruits and vegetables here, you just point as the vendors don't want you to touch them, their way of keeping the produce fresh.
Just like other markets of this type in Spain, it is fun. My husband in his broken Spanish always created a jolly banter as the vendors talked of their uncle or cousin in Toronto while deboning and wrapping the fish.
Address: Plaza Lanuza, 50003 Zaragoza,
NorthernWombat's Video on Places to See in Zaragoza
Other Points of Interest in Zaragoza
- Pablo Gargallo Museum: 3 Plaza de San Felipe, Zaragoza
Housed in the Arguillo Palace, this museum displays the works of Aragon's gifted sculptor, Pablo Gargallo.
- San Juan de los Panetes Church: 3 Calle Salduba, Zaragoza
This Church completed in 1725 is in Mudejar style. It replaced the former Romanesque church of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem.
- Iglesia de Sta. Maria Magdalena: Plaza de la Magdalena, Zaragoza
Built in the early 14th century on the site of an ancient Roman temple, the Church Tower is of Mudejar architecture, and the ornamental geometric patterns and decorative glazed tiles displays a Moorish style.
- Museo de Zaragoza: 6 Plaza de los Sitios, Zaragoza
Housed in the 1908 Universal Expo pavilion, this museum showcases archaeological and artistic treasures of Zaragoza.
- Pablo Serrano Museum: 20 Paseo María Agustín, Zaragoza
Dedicated to the works of Pablo Serrano and that of his wife, Juana Frances.
Top Places to Visit in Zaragoza
Which of these places in Zaragoza would you rate as your top place visited or your top destination in the future?
© 2018 Mary Norton