The beating heart of Aragon in northeast Spain
Our incredible Spanish road trip adventure started in northern Spain upon arriving by Brittany Ferries into Bilbao.
And, so it began, off to our first interim destination, a visit to the historical city of Pamplona in Navarre. After a few delightful hours in Pamplona, we ventured onto the picturesque city of Zaragoza in the Aragon province of Spain, where we were staying for a couple of nights.
Zaragoza had been on our travel list for years, so we were delighted to have finally arrived in the ancient city and keen to begin exploring Zaragoza’s historic streets.
We love touring northern Spain; we’ve previously visited León, Oviedo, Logroño, Bilbao, Santander, and Santillana de Mar. What is more, we especially like it in the north of Spain as you hear very few people speaking English. This is where our choppy Duolingo kicks in.
During this road trip, we’re touring further south to Teruel, Murcia, Mojácar, Granada and Toledo, and upon returning north, we’re visiting Valladolid, Astorga and Burgos.
Did you catch our inspiration for this Spanish road trip?
Where is Zaragoza?
Where to stay in Zaragoza
The hotel Silken Reino de Aragón in Zaragoza is very centrally located in the heart of the Old Town. It’s just a few minutes’ walk to the Plaza de España and a short hop to the bustling tapas bars in the El Tubo de Zaragoza district.
The rooms are very comfortable and clean and perfect for a couple of nights’ stay. We chose to stroll out each morning for breakfast as we enjoy eating in local cafés.
Silken Reino de Aragón has an underground car park with access next to the hotel; a daily charge is applied.
Alternatively, pop your dates in the Booking.com search box and discover further options for all budgets.
Brief history of ZaragozaA 2,000-year legacy
From December 1118, Alfonso I of Aragon conquered Zaragoza. He made it the capital of the Kingdom of Aragon, and still it remains to be its capital city today.
Zaragoza experienced tumultuous times through the 1800s, with various battles along with the Spanish coup in 1936.
The charming city of Zaragoza lies on the banks of the River Ebro and, since it was founded many centuries ago, has been named Salduie, Caesaraugusta, Saraqusta and Zaragoza.
Exploring the Plaza del PilarNuestra Señora del Pilar Basilica
You’ll be stopped in your tracks when you turn into Plaza del Pilar in Zaragoza and step into the magnificent rectangular square; it is astonishing. The plaza is enormous; you’ll even struggle to see from one end to the other.
This amazing square is surrounded by beautiful architecture on all sides; however, the building that immediately catches your eye is the spectacular Nuestra Señora del Pilar Basilica.
The current-day Roman catholic church of Nuestra Señora del Pilar Basilica was built during the 17th and 18th centuries in Baroque style. Numerous churches have been built on this sacred site over the centuries in the styles of Romanesque, Gothic, and Mudéjar.
Although I don’t imagine any of the previous churches could surpass the grandeur of the Basilica today.
There are so many incredible places to discover in Spain and I love planning road trips. I often use the DK Eyewitness books, I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into searching for more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our Spanish road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.
The evolving La Seo de ZaragozaDiscover Zaragoza’s history
We’ve now arrived at La Seo de Zaragoza, the Cathedral of the Savior, yes, another cathedral in Zaragoza; they are lucky enough to have two.
La Seo forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage for the Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon. The site that the cathedral stands on has been a sacred place of worship for centuries. Its location sits on the site of the old Roman forum where a temple would have once stood in the first century BC.
During the 1st century AD, a mosque was built on the site; however, little evidence of this remains, and in 1121, the building was consecrated as a Christian Church and converted for Christian worship.
In the mid-12th-century, the mosque was destroyed, and a Romanesque Cathedral was built in its place. The cathedral continued to evolve through different styles from Gothic, Mudéjar, Renaissance and Baroque. The Mudéjar exterior wall on the left of the cathedral is incredible.
Visiting La Seo de Zaragoza was amazing; there are so many chapels within the cathedral, which are extremely ornate and lavish.
I would just like to add that photography inside La Seo was strictly forbidden, and it was rigorously enforced.
A Spanish Road Trip
Discover more of historic Spain and tour its picturesque countryside in the north, or head south to explore the Sierra Nevada National Park just south of Granada.
You can do it all on a road trip; Rental Cars searches multiple well-known car hire brands and discovers the deals that suit you the best.
Admiring Plaza de Caesar AugustaThe Romans left their mark
Visiting Aljafería PalaceA stunning fortified palace
We’re now off to the magnificent Aljafería Palace. This remarkable Islamic fortress was built during the 11th-century as a luxury retreat for the Kings of the Taifa of Zaragoza.
The medieval Aljafería Palace is currently the seat of the Parliament of Aragon, and in 2001, it was declared a World Heritage site for its beautiful Mudéjar architecture.
If you’re visiting Zaragoza, the Aljafería Palace is a must to see; for just a few euros, you’ll treated to some Moorish splendour seen very rarely.
I was taken aback at how stunning the palace was; upon entering through the Aragonese Courtyard, we strolled into the open-air courtyard of Santa Isabel, and it was beautiful. The courtyard would have been an integral part of the palace, landscaped with citrus trees and cropped low hedges and surrounded by ornate Moorish-taifa arches.
There are so many incredible places to discover in Spain and I love planning road trips. I often use the DK Guides,
I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into searching for more
Exploring ZaragozaStrolling its historic streets
While strolling back to the Old Town of Zaragoza from the Aljafería Palace, we came across Zaragoza’s bullring. I appreciate that bullfighting is a contentious subject; however, this particular bullring was pretty impressive.
The bullring is also known as ‘La Misericordia’ and is one of the largest in Spain and seats around 10,300 people. It was originally opened in 1764. Although it has been renovated and extended over time and has been built in the neo-Mudejar style.
We loved just strolling around Zaragoza, ambling along one street to another, and one of the charming squares we came across was Plaza Santo Domingo, with a delightful fountain in the centre.
The other eye-catching structure here was the Teatro del Mercado; this delightful theatre was once home to Zaragoza’s old fish market.
Enjoying Zaragoza’s art and cultureFrom Goya to ‘El Tubo
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