What to do in Zaragoza, Spain

As much as I love Madrid, it sure is nice to get out of the city for the weekend every once in awhile. On Saturday, my boyfriend and I traded in the hustle and bustle of Spain’s capital for the infamously windy Zaragoza.

Situated in the autonomous community of Aragon, Zaragoza is the fifth biggest city in Spain with around 700,000 residents. We decided to visit Zaragoza in order to show my boyfriend’s visiting parents a different side of Spain. The inviting, vibrant city did not disappoint.

Relaxing in the Plaze del Pilar.
Relaxing in the Plaze del Pilar.

Although often overlooked in favor of Spain’s better-known cities, Zaragoza offers travelers rich culture, plentiful shopping, tasty tapas and memorable sightseeing. Its location makes it a perfect weekend getaway. It took us three hours by bus from Madrid’s Avenida de America and cost just shy of 33 euros per person round-trip. Thank you, ALSA!

Find Madrid in the center of the country then trace a diagonal line toward France. You'll run right into Zaragoza!
From Madrid, trace a diagonal line toward France. You’ll run right into Zaragoza!

*Quick side note* I’m a big fan of ALSA for trips within Spain that are four hours or less. The buses are clean, comfortable and punctual. In fact, we arrived early both to and from Zaragoza! The reasonable fares make for an affordable transportation option.

Speaking of affordability, the four of us shared an Airbnb flat near the city center. The host, Claudia, went above and beyond to make us feel welcome. The kitchen was stocked with an array of beverages, including wine. YAY! As if the wine wasn’t more than enough, she also provided a fresh jar of peanut butter for breakfast. My little American self couldn’t have been happier. On top of all that, Caludia’s son drove us to the bus station on Sunday. Best Airbnb host ever or best Airbnb host ever?

Once we were settled in, the sightseeing began! If you’re planning on visiting Zaragoza, these sights are not to be missed!

Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Pilar:  Depending on where you are in your European travels, you may be tired of touring cathedrals. If that’s so, I totally understand, but hear me out. The views for this basilica’s tower are fantastic. For 3 euros, you can ride an elevator to the top of the tower for sweeping views of the city.

The view from the tower was breathtaking.
The view from the tower was breathtaking.

Palacio de la Aljafería: Can’t make it to Andalusia but craving some Moorish architecture? Zaragoza has got just what you need! Built during the second half of the 11th century, the castle features a picturesque courtyard and ceilings inlaid with gold.

Looks intimidating, right? I wouldn't dream of storming these walls.
Looks intimidating, right? I wouldn’t dream of storming these walls.
I felt right at home amidst the Moorish architecture.
I felt right at home amidst the Moorish architecture.

El Tubo: No trip to Zaragoza would be complete without an afternoon spent wandering the winding, narrow streets of the area known as “El Tubo.” What is it? Tapas, tapas and more tapas. There’s no shortage of cozy bars in which to enjoy a glass of wine, a snack and good company. We explored the area during the afternoon, but I hear the twisted streets have an excellent after-dark atmosphere.

My weekend trip to Zaragoza was a fun, relaxing way to kick off my 2016 travels. I recommend this destination for travelers wishing to discover Spain’s happy median between the country’s buzzing metropolises and sleepy pueblos. Just remember to pack a scarf! The cierzo is strong, dry and usually cold. But don’t let a little wind keep you from exploring this Iberian gem!

Have you visited Zaragoza? Would you like to visit?

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