There are so many amazing things to do in Zaragoza, Spain, you’ll no doubt want to extend your trip after just a few days.
Zaragoza, sometimes spelled Saragossa in English, is a beautiful city in northeastern Spain. If you are looking for a slightly off-the-beaten-path city in Spain that hasn’t become a huge part of the tourist trail of Spain just yet, Zaragoza is that city.
I added Zaragoza to my recent Spain itinerary as a way to break up my journey from Barcelona to Bilbao, and I am so glad that I did. This city surprised me so much.
It is far less visited than many other places in Spain, but it’s a shame because Zaragoza has Roman ruins, incredible cathedrals, and some of the best tapas bars outside of Madrid.
You can easily spend 2-3 days in Zaragoza, but if you are pressed for time, it’s still possible to do it on a day trip from Barcelona.
Where is Zaragoza Spain
Zaragoza, Spain is the capital of the Aragon region of northeastern Spain. It is the fifth largest city in Spain by population, but the center of the city where many of the Zaragoza attractions are located is easily walkable.
It is located about 300km or 186 miles from Barcelona. You can take a fast train from Barcelona-Sants to Zaragoza train station and arrive in about an hour and a half.
The close proximity by train, makes it an easy day trip or addition to the end of a trip to Barcelona for a day or two, without much trouble getting back to Barcelona to head to the airport.
If you are spending a few days in Madrid, you can also easily reach Zaragoza from here. It is located about 320 km or just under 200 miles from central Madrid and can be reached via fast train in only an hour and 15 minutes.
Is Zaragoza Worth Visiting?
In my humble opinion, Zaragoza has one of the best food scenes in Spain and the history and museums are world-class.
There are so many amazing things to do in Zaragoza, but especially if you are a foodie or a history buff.
Zaragoza is also one of the most affordable cities that I have been to in Spain. When comparing tourist attractions in other cities like Barcelona, Seville, or Madrid, Zaragoza is a fraction of the cost, with some places even having free entrance in Zaragoza.
Food prices at tapas bars are also significantly lower when compared to tourist spots around Malaga, Marbella, Seville, or Barcelona.
Best Things to do in Zaragoza, Spain
If you want to know what to do in Zaragoza, don’t miss out on these exciting excursions.
1. Palacio de la Aljafería
Palacio de la Aljafería or the Aljafería Palace is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Zaragoza.
The palace was originally built in the 11th century during the Islamic occupation. At the time it was named Qasr Al-surur, or Palace of Joy. As time passed and the palace came into different uses, a prison tower and more fortified walls were built.
The palace is now home to the Aragon Parliament, but you can visit it every day of the week for €5. Due to the fact that it is a government building, you need to pre-book your tickets online which you can do here.
With your ticket you can simply explore the palace at your own pace, however, several times a day you can take a free tour in English or Spanish. Check the website as the times change depending on the season.
I highly recommend timing your visit with one of the tours so that you can learn more about the history of this incredible building. Once you finish the tour, you can go back into the palace and explore it at a slower pace and take as many photos as you would like.
2. Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar
The Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar or the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, simply referred to as el Pilar, is one of the most exquisite things to see in Zaragoza.
It is believed that the location on which the basilica was built is where Mary appeared to St. James (Santiago in Spanish) with a pillar of jasper. She instructed him to build a church here in her honor. That very pillar of Jasper is now housed inside the church and people travel from around the world on pilgrimage to the site.
The jasper is housed in an ornate silver case which is almost entirely covered except for the 2nd, 12th, and 20th of every month when you can come to mass and see it. It is topped with a sculpture of Mary holding the baby Jesus.
It’s free to visit the inside of the church, but if you want to climb up to the top of the bell tower, Torre de San Francisco de Borja, then you pay €5 per person. The views from the top of the tower are some of the best in the city.
The tower has an elevator, so you don’t have to climb all the way to the top. You don’t need to pre-book your tickets, however, if you want to you can do so on their website. If you plan to visit several other religious sites like the Cathedral of Salvador, then getting the combination ticket will save you some money.
3. Catedral del Savador
The Cathedral of Salvador, also simply called La Seo, is one of the most fascinating things to do in Zaragoza if you want to learn more about the history of the city.
Your entry ticket includes an audio guide which you can put into several different languages. The guide gives so much detail about the history of the church, of the Mudejar architecture, about the dramas that took place in the city when things were trying to be built, and more.
The location of the Cathedral is actually where the original Roman Forum of the city used to be. You can still visit it beneath the cathedral with a nearby entrance to the Forum Museum (more on that in number 9!).
It was also home to a Mosque during the time of the Moors before eventually being heavily reconstructed (many times) over the centuries to become the cathedral it is today. You’ll see a combination of Mudejar, Romanesque, and Gothic styles both inside and out.
My personal favorite place to stare at is on the outside of the church to the left of the front facade (when looking straight at it). The tiles work on this side of the church is absolutely magical.
4. Arco del Dean
The Arch of Dean is located just around the corner from the cathedral. The arch was built in the 13th century as a way to connect the church with the house of Dean.
It underwent some reconstruction in the 16th century. Take special note of the windows which are in a Mudejar style.
It’s a free and fun thing to see in Zaragoza and makes for a great photo op.
5. Goya Museum
Francisco Goya is one of Spain’s most celebrated artists. He was born in the Zaragoza region, not far from the city and in commemoration, they have built a museum where you can see some of his work as well as learn about his early life.
In addition to the works by Goya, the museum is also home to a collection of 1,000 pieces of art that span fine art from around Spain from the 18th-20th centuries.
Entry to the museum costs €8. It is free to all visitors on the first Wednesday of every month. Check the website for more information or to prebook your tickets.
6. Zaragoza Museum
To get a general overview of all of the history and different museums of Zaragoza, you can visit the Zaragoza Museum. If you only have time to visit one place and you want to get a sampling of all of the different things to do in Zaragoza, this is a good option.
Inside the museum, you’ll be able to see Roman history, including pieces of stone and pottery as well as well-intact mosaics found amongst the ruins of Roman homes around Zaragoza.
There is also a level of the museum home to some fine arts paintings, including a few paintings by Goya.
The Zaragoza Museum is completely free to visit, making it one of the best value-for-money things to do in Zaragoza.
7. Museo del Teatro de Caesaraugusta
Of all of the Roman ruins that are worth visiting in Zaragoza (of which all are worth it), this is perhaps the biggest and best.
When the Romans arrived at this settlement, they named the city after their emperor, Caesaragusta.
If you plan to visit more than one of the attractions, the best option is to purchase the Roman entry ticket which includes all four sites (#7-11 on this list). You have 48 hours to see all of them, but they can easily be seen in about 2-3 hours.
The Roman theater is very well preserved at this site. If you are short on time or don’t want to pay entry, you can peer into the theater without entering the museum. To the right of the museum entrance, there is a balcony area where you can look directly into the theater’s ruins.
This is the largest of the museums not only for the ruins, but for the amount of information and interactive displays that you can enjoy. Most things are available both in Spanish and in English here.
You can easily spend about 30 minutes learning about the ancient city of Caesaraugusta before heading outside to walk through the theater.
Entrance to the museum on its own is €4, the multi-museum pass is €7. Check the website for more information about free days or other ticket options for students and pensioners.
8. Museo de las Termas Públicas
No Roman city is complete without public baths. The site of the ruins of the bath is very well preserved. It’s a small museum with the main bath at the center.
There are plaques around the room where you can learn about what each bath was as well as see a Roman toilet rebuilt. They didn’t get quite as much privacy in the baño as we enjoy today!
9. Museo del Foro
The Roman Forum, as mentioned above, was located in the Plaza del Pilar, right where much of the Cathedral of Salvador is located today.
What remains of the forum is several feet below present-day ground level.
Inside the museum, you can walk the streets of the forum, see recreations of the shops and vendors that would have sold their wares here, and sit and watch a video that tells you all about the history of the forum and the city of Caesaraugusta.
It’s second in size to the Theater Museum and offers quite a lot of information. If you watch the video and explore all of the different parts of the museum, you’ll spend about 30-45 minutes here.
10. Museo del Puerto Fluvial
During Roman times, Caesaraugusta was something of a hub for goods. Things would come from other Roman cities further afield in the empire and their first port of call would be to Caesaraugusta before things were sorted and redistributed to smaller cities in the region.
This museum is at the location of the port. Anything that came into the city via the Ebro River had to stop here and be accounted for.
Interestingly, the river actually used to come right up to where the ruins now sit. This made it easy to load and unload boats that were carrying goods. You can see as you leave the museum that the river is quite a bit further away these days.
11. La Lonja
A Lonja (sometimes spelled Llotja in Aragon), is a building that was used during the Middle Ages for trade. One of the grandest and most well-known is the Lonja in Valencia.
La Lonja in Zaragoza was built in the 16th century as a public place where merchants could sell their goods. Before the Lonja was built, trade was being conducted at the cathedral or at other churches around the city.
The building is now an exhibition hall run by the government where you can come to see different art or community exhibits. Sometimes they have exhibits with Goya or other famous artists, other times it is smaller scale but equally interesting.
It’s worth visiting just to explore the interior of the building, which maintains a lot of its medieval details. Entrance to the Lonja is completely free.
12. Puente de Piedra
This is my favorite Zaragoza attraction and one of the best places to take photos of Zaragoza.
The Puente de Piedra is the oldest bridge remaining in Zaragoza. It was built in the 15th century, however, a flood in the 17th century destroyed several central parts of the bridge. Shortly after, it was restored. The final construction that we see today was completed in the 18th century during a final strengthening.
You’ll see two lions at each end of the bridge. Lions are a symbol of Zaragoza and were added to the bridge in 1991.
Walk to the center of the bridge, just beware that there is one-way traffic on the bridge, so don’t walk down the center (it looks like a pedestrian bridge, but it’s not).
Once at the center you can walk out to one of the viewpoint areas and look back over the city. The views of the Basilica of Our Lady of Pillar are exceptional. If you wait until late afternoon, the light back over the city makes for a perfect photograph.
13. Mercado Central de Zaragoza
If you are self-catering while you are visiting Zaragoza, then there’s no better place for produce and meat than the Central Market.
Even if you are planning to spend all of your mealtime in El Tubo, it’s still worth visiting the market. It is a stunning old market building and located near some more wonderful (free) Roman ruins. Just behind the market, you’ll find an old part of the Roman walls as well as a statue to the city’s namesake, Caesar Augustus.
Inside the market, you can see the inner workings of a traditional Spanish market. It’s particularly busy in the mornings when the fish and meat stalls are open.
Come in the evenings for happy hour (starting at 7 pm) where you can get large beers for under €2 and have a few tapas in the center of the market.
14. Homage to the First Football Pitch
Do you love fútbol? Or do you just love obscure tourist attractions when you travel?
Then you’ll love this little ode to the very first football pitch in Zaragoza.
Right in the middle of Avenida San Juan de la Peña and Calle Peña Oroel and Oliván Bayle, there is a safe place to stand and peak at this little corner flag and piece of turf.
The monument is an homage to the first football pitch in Zaragoza (and indeed, all of Aragon). It was the location of the first football game in Aragon. The field was called Arrabal and the game was played on May 28, 1922.
15. Pabellón Puente
Want to see a totally different side of Zaragoza? The Pabellón Puente is a bridge that was designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.
It was built for the 2008 Expo which was located in Zaragoza. It is a futuristic covered bridge that is absolutely stunning and you can walk right across it.
This whole part of the city that you can explore once crossing the bridge was built for the expo. Many of the buildings have been turned into museums. The entire area is a huge greenspace where you can relax on a sunny afternoon or head for a walk or a jog.
16. Aquarium of Zaragoza
The Aquarium of Zaragoza is located in one of the buildings that was created for the 2008 expo.
If you are looking for things to do in Zaragoza with kids or you’re just a kid at heart, the aquarium is a fun place to come on a trip to Zaragoza.
The Zaragoza Aquarium is the largest in Europe and one of the largest in the world. There are over 5,000 animals and over 350 species that call the aquarium home.
Be sure to stop and take a few moments to appreciate the central tank. It is 9 meters deep (30ft), 45 meters long (147ft), and 9 meters wide (30ft). It is the largest freshwater aquarium tank in Europe and is pretty incredible to see in person.
Entrance is €17 for adults, €11 for children between the ages of 5 and 11, and €5 for kids between 3 and 4. Book aquarium tickets here.
17. Take a Walking Tour
If you want to learn even more about the history of this city from a knowledgeable guide, the best thing to do is to take a walking tour.
This historical tour is flexible and affordable (especially considering it’s a private tour!).
You can visit some of the different Zaragoza attractions that I mentioned above with the guide. Or you can request the guide to take you to a few more of the off-the-beaten-path things to do in Zaragoza.
18. Eat Tapas in El Tubo
I saved the best for last. While I love to explore history all over the different cities in Spain, the thing I love most about this country is its varied cuisine.
El Tubo is a collection of streets in downtown Zaragoza that come alive by night. You cannot come to Zaragoza and not spend some time tapas bar hopping along the streets of El Tubo.
If you want to sample a few different places with a guide who can walk you through the history and culture of each dish and location, take a food tour. Food tours are great if you want to eat a lot of small bites in a short period of time or if you want to learn more about what you’re eating. Book a food tour here.
Best Tapas Bars in El Tubo
These are my top picks for where to spend your Euros and eat well.
- Bar El Champi: Cheap beers and the most delicious mushroom tapa. Order the “champi” (a shortened version of champiñon which means mushroom in Spanish). You’ll get a stack of mushrooms that have been cooked whole and topped with garlic and herb oil. Served on top of a slice of bread, there is no delicate way to eat this. Grab a few napkins.
- Taberna Doña Casta: This place is serving up the best croquetas I have ever had in my entire life. Fried to order, they have a huge selection of different meat and cheese croquetas. They even have one with chicken and chocolate. Tables go quickly here, so you may have to wait a few minutes or prop at the bar.
- El Truco: This place is best known for its Iberico Secreto. This is a cut of the Iberico pork located behind the rib. Grilled to perfection and served with a slightly spicy sauce and potatoes. Good for a main meal or for a few people to share as a tapa.
- Taberna Carmelo: The tapa that you don’t want to miss here is the caramelo del Carmelo. Caramelo is a cut of slow-cooked pork that is covered in a luscious caramelized sauce and served with a slice of bread.