17 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Zaragoza
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Zaragoza is a treasure trove of historical and cultural attractions awaiting discovery. Tourists will find well-preserved archaeological sites, the first Marian church in Christendom, and fabulous art museums.
Travelers interested in ancient Roman history can follow the "Caesaraugusta Route" to find the forum, thermal baths, and theater of the 1st- to 2nd-century Roman town (named after Emperor Augustus) that once flourished here.
Those who appreciate Baroque architecture will want to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Pilar, one of the most important pilgrimage churches in Spain.
Equally fascinating are the 12th-century Moorish palace and the splendid UNESCO-listed Mudéjar architecture of San Pablo, Santa Maria Magdalena, and San Juan de los Panetes churches.
Art lovers will also appreciate the museums that display Francisco de Goya's famous paintings, as well as works by contemporary artist Pablo Serrano and the renowned sculptor Pablo Gargallo.
Learn about the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Zaragoza.
See also: Where to Stay in Zaragoza
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar
With its soaring towers and grand presence along the banks of the Ebro River, the Basilica of Our Lady of Pilar is the city's most iconic landmark. This gem of Baroque architecture was built between the 17th and 18th centuries.
Views of the basilica are most impressive from across the river, whereas the entrance is on the other side at the Plaza del Pilar, a spacious town square lined with elegant historical buildings.
Visitors should take time to admire the basilica's monumental exterior, then enter the awe-inspiring interior, which holds a precious object of veneration.
The basilica is one of the most important pilgrimage churches in Spain after the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Since the Middle Ages, pilgrims have journeyed here to honor an image of the Virgin Mary and the Sagrada Columna (Sacred Column), a pillar of jasper stone that is associated with a Marian apparition.
According to the legend, Saint James the Apostle came to Cesaraugusta where he had a vision of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem. During this vision, the Virgin gave James a figure of herself and a pillar of stone, instructing him to build a church here. Saint James built a small chapel dedicated to Saint Mary on this spot, making it the first Marian shrine in Christendom.
Several other churches were later built on the site; however, the present basilica is still devoted to the Virgen del Pilar (Our Lady of Pilar). A figure of the Virgin stands behind a mantelpiece. This icon is taken out and presented to the faithful every year on January 2nd, commemorating the date when the Virgin appeared.
The other sacred object, the Sagrada Columna (also known as "El Pilar") is now adorned with fanciful silver plating. Other valuable religious artworks and lavish Baroque monuments are found throughout the basilica. Of special interest are the alabaster high altarpiece and the frescoes by Goya.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Pilar is just one of the many tourist attractions that you can visit on a fully customized walking tour of Zaragoza, a four-hour tour led by a private guide. Instead of following a pre-set route, tourists can choose from a multitude of attractions and landmarks based on individual interests.
Address: Plaza del Pilar, Zaragoza
2. Museo del Foro de Caesaraugusta
The Museo del Foro de Caesaraugusta (Museum of the Roman Forum of Caesaraugusta) provides a glimpse into the life of Caesaraugusta, an ancient Roman colony (town) of the 1st and 2nd centuries that once occupied present-day Zaragoza.
Named after Emperor Augustus who founded the town, Caesaraugusta was known for its splendors. The city had a theater, public baths, and a marvelous forum at the center of town life.
The museum stands on the site of the archaeological excavations of the Caesaraugusta forum, underneath the Plaza de La Seo. On display are remains of the Roman Forum that dates back to the era of Emperor Tiberius.
Visitors will see artifacts that represent elements of the ancient Roman market, walls of shops, pipes, and a sewer system, as well as government buildings and a temple. The exhibits are complemented by educational information and an interesting audio-visual presentation.
Address: 2 Plaza de la Seo, Zaragoza
3. Catedral de Zaragoza
Dedicated to Saint Salvador, the Catedral de Zaragoza is known as Catedral de San Salvador or Catedral de La Seo or simply La Seo. The Cathedral of Zaragoza is an enormous church with five naves. Its melange of architectural styles reveal the town's complex history.
Built on the site of the ancient Roman temple of the Forum, which became a Visigoth church and then a large Muslim mosque during the Moorish era, the building was converted to a Romanesque church in the 12th century.
Romanesque elements of the original 12th-century structure are seen in the exquisitely sculpted arcades on the exterior of the apses. The old mosque's minaret is the present cathedral's tower. A Moorish influence is also seen in the chancel and in some of the archways.
The choir is Gothic in style, while the Capilla del Santo Cristo is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. Adding to the architectural melange are the Neoclassical facade and Baroque details on the tower.
The cathedral also has a Tapestry Museum (Museo de Tapices) that contains over 60 precious Flemish tapestries. The cathedral and tapestry museum are open to the public for cultural visits. The price of admission includes entrance to both.
Address: Plaza de la Seo, Zaragoza
4. Visit Palacio de la Aljafería
In the heart of Zaragoza, the Aljafería Palace is an 11th-century fortified Moorish castle. Visitors are awed by the formidable defense walls that feature immense crenelated towers.
The castle was designed on a quadrangular plan around a courtyard, and the towers are all round except for a single rectangular tower, known as the Troubadour's Tower. The Islamic-style coffered ceilings and plasterwork ornamentation give the building its charm.
Today, the Palacio de la Aljafería houses the headquarters of the Aragonese Parliament. The palace is open to the public for visits, and guided tours are available.
Address: Calle de los Diputados, Zaragoza
5. Fluvial Aquarium of Zaragoza
This freshwater aquarium is home to more than 300 species of aquatic life. At the center of the building, a symbolic glacier feeds the various "river" habitats that surround it, each with its own unique environment that replicates a major ecosystem on the planet, including great rivers like the Nile and the Amazon.
The central tank holds nearly two and a half million liters of water, symbolizing the primal waters from which life first evolved. Among its major residents are Arapaima, the third-largest freshwater fish in the world; the ecologically important Pacú; and the endangered Malay shark.
The Nile exhibit's stars include freshwater pufferfish and the Nile crocodile, and Amazon species include iguana and the pygmy titi.
Address: Avenida de José Atarés, Zaragoza
6. Be Inspired at the Educational Museum of Origami in Zaragoza (EMOZ)
Zaragoza's Origami Museum (Escuela Museo Origami Zaragoza) is the first of its kind in Europe, started by a local "Paperfolding" group that was established in the 1940s. As the name suggests, this is a teaching museum, hosting classes and workshops, as well as events like paper airplane contests.
The museum's collection includes creations made by some of the world's most renowned origami artists, including Yoshihide Momotani, Akira Yoshizawa, and Vicent Floderer. In addition to the permanent collections, the museum hosts themed exhibits, which focus on various materials and artists. The museum also hosts competitions for both expert "folders" and the general public.
Address: Plaza San Agustín, 2, Zaragoza
7. Iglesia de San Pablo de Zaragoza
An important example of Aragon Mudéjar style, this church is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its exceptional architectural and historic value. San Pablo Church was built in the 13th and 14th centuries to replace a small Romanesque chapel, then located on the outskirts of the town.
With its single nave and vaulted ceilings, the interior has a sense of spaciousness. Chapels between the buttresses display exquisite works of art.
During the 15th and 18th centuries, the church was further enhanced and enlarged. A must-see piece of the Renaissance period is the main altarpiece devoted to Saint Paul, crafted from gilded wood by sculptor Damián Forment in 1515.
The most noteworthy feature of this monument is its magnificent octagonal Mudéjar tower featuring exceptional Moorish design details.
Address: 42 Calle San Pablo, Zaragoza
8. See La Lonja de Zaragoza
This splendid 16th-century building stands on the grand Plaza del Pilar, across from the basilica. La Lonja is the historic marketplace of Zaragoza, where merchants carried out their trading and other commercial transactions.
Designed by Juan de Sariñena, the edifice is the city's best example of Aragonese Renaissance architecture. The building, constructed in brick, features a rectangular plan and a decorative facade with rows of uniform arched windows and depictions of the kings of Aragón in medallions.
The interior holds the building's most impressive features–a series of stone columns, which were sculpted from the remains of the city's former Roman walls. Created by Juan de Segura, the columns turn into defined arches, appearing to turn into palm trees.
La Lonja de Zaragoza is open to the public when exhibitions are held here.
Address: Plaza del Pilar, Zaragoza
9. Instituto de Aragonés de Arte y Cultura Contemporáneo
The Aragonese Institute of Art and Contemporary Culture (Pablo Serrano Museum) is dedicated to the work of renowned Aragonese artist Pablo Serrano. The museum's collection spans Pablo Serrano's work from his Figurative period to his Expressionist stage.
Exhibits display 140 drawings and sculptures, which reflect the evolution of the artist's creativity and innovation. The museum also displays works by the artist's wife, Juana Francés; contemporary graphic art works; and an assortment of paintings by Santiago Lagunas.
In addition, the museum hosts a variety of changing exhibits, which feature a range of artists, both past and contemporary. To get the most out of a visit, take a guided tour.
Address: 20 Paseo María Agustín, Zaragoza
10. Basílica Santa Engracia
This Renaissance church was once part of the Hieronymite Monastery of Santa Engracia, however the rest of the monastery no longer exists. The church features a remarkable Plateresque facade, which is considered a jewel of Aragonese Renaissance architecture. The building was begun in 1511 by Gil Morlanes, completed by his son in 1517, and renovated in the 18th century.
The facade is almost like an altar with its elaborate reliefs, medallions, and sculptures of various characters and saints. Four niches at the sides represent the parents of the Western Church. The upper niches feature the Virgin of the Holy Mass and King Ferdinand, patron of the church. The iconography also depicts Saint Valero, Saint Vincent, Saint Jerome, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and Saint John the Baptist.
The crypt houses Paleo-Christian (early Christian) tombs of the 4th century. One particularly interesting sarcophagus depicts a scene that represents the soul in Paradise.
The Basílica Santa Engracia celebrates Mass several times daily and is also open to the public for visits everyday from 9:30am until 1pm and from 5:30pm until 9pm. Admission is free of charge.
Address: 1 Calle Tomás Castellano, Zaragoza
11. Admire Artworks at Museo Goya - Colección Ibercaja
The Goya Museum - Ibercaja Collection (also known as the Museo Camón Aznar) displays a fine arts collection that was assembled by José Camón Aznar, a local professor, philosopher, art critic, and art collector. As a patron of this museum, the Spanish savings bank Ibercaja bought the mansion that belonged to nobleman Jerónimo Cósida to house the collection.
The lovely aristocratic home, with three floors designed around a splendid patio, is considered one of the finest examples of Renaissance civil architecture in Zaragoza. The permanent collection focuses on paintings of the 15th and 18th centuries, which are displayed on the first floor.
The museum's permanent collection includes a small but noteworthy assortment of works by Francisco de Goya, including 14 paintings, one drawing, and an engraving series. The works represent various timeframes of Goya's career and diverse themes from religious to whimsical.
Also on display are artworks by Blasco de Grañén, Pedro Berruguete, Pedro de Campaña, Juan Antonio de Escalante, Gregorio Fernández, and José Moreno, as well as other prominent Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Flemish artists of the 16th and 17th centuries.
The third floor features 19th-century works by artists inspired by Goya, such as Eugenio Lucas, Leonardo Alenza, and Lucas Villamil.
A few of the standout pieces of the collection are the Retrato de la Reina María Luisa de Parma painting by Goya, San Francisco de Asís en Oración by Juan Antonio de Escalante, and Retrato de Ena Wertheimer by Cecilio Pla y Gallardo.
Address: 23 Calle Espoz y Mina, Zaragoza
Official site: https://museogoya.ibercaja.es/en
12. Museo de Zaragoza
Visitors can explore the art, culture, and history of the Zaragoza province at the Museo de Zaragoza. Housed in the pavilion of the 1908 Universal Expo, the museum has a large and diverse collection of items in two sections: archaeology and fine arts.
The collection represents different historical and artistic periods, beginning with prehistory through the ancient Roman era and the Moorish period, continuing to the Gothic period and Renaissance until the 21st century.
Especially noteworthy pieces in the archaeology collection include the ancient bronze plaques with Iberian and Latin inscriptions, a bust of Emperor Augustus, and antiquities from Aljafería Palace.
The fine arts collection presents works from the 12th century to the contemporary period. The assortment of 14th- and 15th-century Gothic paintings is outstanding.
Not to be missed is the collection of works by Francisco de Goya, considered one of the best in Spain. The assortment shows the range of Goya's paintings and includes many masterpieces, in particular his portraits of Carlos IV, María Luisa de Parma, and the Infante Luis María de Borbón.
The museum has two annexes in the Parque Grande de José Antonio Labordeta: a ceramics collection and an ethnology collection.
Address: 6 Plaza de los Sitios, Zaragoza
13. Museo Pablo Gargallo
Housed in the impressive 16th-century Palace of Arguillo, this museum is devoted to the work of Pablo Gargallo, the brilliant contemporary sculptor who hailed from the Aragon region. The museum displays the artist's early works of sculpture in marble and plaster, as well as later works crafted from iron and other metals.
Visitors discover the artist's creative genius and artistic vision through the displays of sculptures, drawings, engravings, cartoons, and biographical information. Highlights of the collection include The Great Prophet, the portrait of Kiki de Montparnasse, and the statues of equestrians called the Olympic Salute.
Address: 3 Plaza de San Felipe, Zaragoza
14. Museo de las Termas Públicas de Caesaraugusta
Dating to the first century, the thermal baths of Caesaraugusta were an important center of social life for the ancient Romans. More than just a place for bathing, the public baths brought people together to play sports, read, and listen to music or poetry.
Typical of public baths found in the ancient Roman empire, the facilities included hot-water and cold-water baths. Bathers could alternate between the two baths, but most started with hot and then finished with cold.
Men and women were separated in different areas of the baths, or used them at different times. The city of Caesaraugusta was well supplied with fresh water and managed the maintenance of the baths.
Today, visitors can explore the history of Caesaraugusta's ancient Roman baths and see some of the remains at the Museo de las Termas Públicas de Caesaraugusta (Museum of the Public Baths of Caesaraugusta). The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday.
Address: 3 - 7 Calle San Juan y San Pedro, Zaragoza
15. Iglesia de Santa Maria Magdalena
The Iglesia de Santa Maria Magdalena stands on the site of an old Moorish mosque. The original 12th-century Romanesque church (that replaced the mosque) was renovated in the 14th century and updated in the 17th century with Baroque details.
The most distinctive feature of the Saint Mary Magdalen Church is the tower, characteristic of Aragonese Mudéjar architecture; the ornamental geometric patterns mimic an Almohad-style minaret. Motifs of decorative glazed ceramics add to the Moorish look.
The interior features an unusual apse with overlapped arches and pointed windows, also typical of Mudéjar style. The main altarpiece is adorned with 18th-century sculptures and images by Jose Ramirez de Arellano.
The church is open to the public for visits (with an admission fee), and guided tours are available.
Address: Plaza de la Magdalena, Zaragoza
16. Iglesia de San Juan de los Panetes
Another lovely Mudéjar church, the Iglesia de San Juan de los Panetes is found between the ancient Roman walls and the Basilica of Our Lady of Pilar.
The church was completed in 1725, replacing the Romanesque church of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. The austere Baroque facade features an image of San Juan Bautista and pilasters on the sides.
Like Santa Maria Magdalena, the most notable feature of this church is the Mudéjar tower. Its octagonal brick tower with arched windows recalls classic Moorish architecture. The interior offers an inspiring sense of spaciousness with its barrel vaulting and cupola on the crossing.
The church is open to the public for visits (free admission) every day. Mass is celebrated here on Sundays at 11am.
Address: 3 Calle Salduba, Zaragoza
17. Teatro Romano de Zaragoza
On the Route of Caesaraugusta sites, the ancient Roman theater was excavated in 1972, and the site is now enclosed in a special exhibition space.
Theater performances played an important role in ancient Roman society of the 1st century AD. This archaeological site reveals the grandeur of the Caesaraugusta theater and gives visitors a sense of the lifestyle of antiquity.
Open to the public for visits Tuesday through Sunday, the Teatro Romano de Zaragoza includes two sections: the archaeological site and a museum. Exhibits at the museum include models that reconstruct the ancient theater, artifacts (decorative elements) excavated at the site, and replicas of props used by ancient Roman actors.
Address: 12 Calle San Jorge, Zaragoza
Where to Stay in Zaragoza for Sightseeing
Most of Zaragoza's top tourist attractions are near the Plaza la Seo and Plaza del Pilar, along the banks of the Ebro River, where the city's magnificent churches, historic monuments, and many museums are found. The streets of this area are also brimming with restaurants and cafés. Here are some highly rated hotels in this convenient and central location:
- The stylish Palafox Hotel offers plush contemporary-style guest rooms in a bustling neighborhood, just a 10-minute walk from the cathedral. This 5-star luxury hotel features a rooftop deck with a swimming pool and stunning views of the city. Other amenities include a 24-hour front desk, concierge, fitness center, and fine-dining restaurant.
- Near the Pablo Serrano Museum and about a 10-minute walk from the Plaza de la Seo, the elegant NH Collection Gran Hotel de Zaragoza provides upscale accommodations in stylish minimalistic guest rooms or suites. This 4-star hotel has a 24-hour front desk, concierge, a paid parking lot, and fitness center. The hotel's gourmet restaurant serves traditional Spanish cuisine prepared from the finest seasonal ingredients.
- In a modern high-rise building about a 15-minute walk from the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, the Innside by Melia Zaragoza has spacious guest rooms, as well as suites. The hotel features stylish modern decor and a rooftop deck with a swimming pool. Other amenities include a 24-hour front desk, concierge, fitness center, café, and restaurant.
- In a relatively quiet neighborhood about a five-minute walk to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, the 4-star Catalonia El Pilar hotel occupies an early 20th-century Modernist building with a sleek interior design. Suites and family rooms are available. Amenities include a 24-hour front desk, concierge, café, and restaurant.
- In the heart of the historic center, the charming family-run Hotel Sauce offers excellent value. Guest rooms feature cheerful decor, air-conditioning, and private balconies. Amenities include a 24-hour front desk, concierge, café, and paid parking.
- Only 250 meters away from the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, the 3-star NH Ciudad de Zaragoza has guest rooms, family rooms, and suites that feature large windows to allow in plenty of natural light. Some rooms have views of the cathedral and the river. Amenities include laundry facilities, a fitness center, and a restaurant. A famous tapas place (El Tubo) and other restaurants are located nearby.
- Centrally located less than 10 minutes on foot from the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, the 3-star Hotel Avenida offers basic guest rooms decorated in a simple modern style. The hotel has a concierge and a 24-hour front desk. A breakfast buffet is available.
- The 2-star ibis Zaragoza Centro is a short stroll across the river from the main historic attractions. Guest rooms are basic but clean and well-appointed. There is a restaurant on-site, as well as a parking garage, 24-hour front desk, and laundry service.
- Presiding over the lively Plaza España, the Hotel Boutique Maza is centrally located, just steps away from the historic center. This 2-star hotel offers comfortable guest rooms, some of which have views over the plaza. Amenities include a 24-hour front desk, concierge, fitness center, and spa. An airport shuttle service is available.
Day Trips from Zaragoza
Fuendetodos and the Goya Museum
The famous Spanish painter Francisco de Goya was born in this quaint little country town, 47 kilometers outside of Zaragoza.
The tourist highlights of the town are the Casa Natal de Goya, the 18th-century farmhouse where the artist was born, and the Museo del Grabado which displays a series of Goya's etchings. The museum displays many noteworthy etchings by Goya, including Los Desastres de la Guerra, Los Caprichos, Los Disparates, and La Tauromaquia.
Huesca lies 74 kilometers from Zaragoza in the lush countryside of La Hoya. Steeped in 2,000 years of history, the town still has vestiges of the old medieval walls. Within the ancient enclosures is a labyrinth of narrow pedestrian streets and monumental buildings that seem to preside over the town.
The cathedral was built in the 13th century on the site of the Misleida Mosque; its position high on the summit of the town offered protection against invaders during the Reconquest period.
Be sure to admire the cathedral's magnificent facade, featuring statues of the apostles above the doorway. Another must-see attraction is the Monasterio de San Pedro el Viejo, founded as a Benedictine monastery in the 11th century.
The monastery boasts one of Spain's oldest sacred monuments, which has foundations as a Roman temple and later as a Visigothic church. The 12th-century church has a beautiful Romanesque cloister featuring colonnades with decorative capitals.
Near Huesca are two natural parks: The Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park has a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Monte Perdido, as well as a luxurious parador hotel at the foot of the mountain. The gastronomy of Huesca is known for its excellent sausages and roast meats, as well as the local specialty of Ajoarriero de Huesca (cod in oil and garlic).
The other nearby nature reserve is the Cañones de Guara Natural Park, which is popular with outdoor sports enthusiasts. This spectacular nature site is ideal for hiking and canyoning.
Sos del Rey Catolico
About 120 kilometers from Zaragoza, Sos del Rey Católico is a little walled town that has retained its charming medieval character. King Ferdinand of Aragon, "el Rey Católico," was born here in 1452 in the Palacio de Sada, which dates to the 12th century.
Gracing the main town square, the Plaza Mayor, are the Renaissance Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) and La Lonja (the Exchange).
Nearby is the 11th- to 12th-century Iglesia de San Esteban. This parish church is a wonderful example of Romanesque architecture with a decorative sculptured doorway. The sanctuary boasts excellently preserved 14th-century wall paintings.
Monasterio de Piedra
The Monasterio de Piedra is nestled in a densely wooded landscape where waterfalls, lakes, and freshwater streams are found in abundance. This is one of the most remote natural areas of Aragon (110 kilometers from Zaragoza).
The monastery was founded in 1194, when King Alonso II and his wife Doña Sancha handed over an old Moorish castle to the Poblet monks, with instructions to build a monastery and spread the Christian faith.
Because of its serene setting and pristine environment, the site is an important center of fishing and reforestation. In 1940, the site was declared a National Scenic Spot.
Today, the Monasterio de Piedra is open to the public for visits to the garden, and part of the monastery now houses a luxury hotel, the 3-star Hotel Monasterio de Piedra & Spa. The lush area around the monastery is filled with a diversity of plant species and wildlife. Well-groomed paths through the forest are designed for visitors to hike or take nature walks.
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