Difference between revisions of "Zaragoza"
Revision as of 20:21, 17 April 2012
Zaragoza is a warm and inviting city strategically located between Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia and Toulouse. In peoples' haste to see the big cities, this gem is often passed without so much as a second look. The city welcomes visitors with its rich culture, shopping, eating and sightseeing. Its more than 2000 years of history makes the city one of the greatest historical and artistical legacies in Spain. It is situated in Aragon, one of the previous kingdoms of Spain.
Signs of the city’s founding, when the city was named after Emperor August, are still visible and can be enjoyed by tourists even today. 2,000 years later, the architectural remains of large public buildings indicate Caesar Augustus’ influence over the city. Today you can still admire the city’s Forum, Thermal Baths, the River Port or the Great Theatre, archeological remains which reflect the splendour of the city as it was during the Roman Empire.
Later on, during the Moslem occupation of Spain, Zaragoza was the capital of a kingdom in which art, music, and science formed the cornerstones of life in the Court. From this period, you can still see the Aljaferia Palace, a marvellous example of Moslem art, which has been witness to Zaragoza and its rich history – right up to the present day. From the early days of Christianity, Zaragoza still possesses a multitude of indicators that tell us something of the grandeur of the city: thanks to the Mudejar, the show of tolerance whereby different cultures were able to live side by side, and World Heritage, you can still enjoy beautiful enclaves such as the San Salvador Cathedral (the Seo) or the San Pablo church. From the period of Renaissance, there is a multitude of palatial houses which tell us of the sumptuousness of Saragossa in the 16th Century. Museums, such as the one dedicated to sculptor Pablo Gargallo, or exhibition halls, such as the monumental Lonja, are archetypal of Aragonese Renaissance art.
But Zaragoza is known worldwide as the home to the magnificent Pilar Basilica, heir to a tradition which is over 2,000 years old, and a destination for Christian pilgrims of all denominations.
Zaragoza has a Continental Mediterranean climate, very dry, with cold winters and hot summers. With an average of 318 mm per year, rainfall is a rarity mostly occurring in spring. There is drought in summer with only a few storms in the late afternoon. In July and August temperatures are typically above 30°C (86°F), reaching up to 40°C (104°F) a few days per year. On those days you will quickly pick the idea of siesta: hiding away after lunch, during the hottest part of the day, to enjoy later the evenings and nights at a delightful 18-22°C.
In winter the temperatures are low, usually between 0 and 10°C (32-50°F), with some frosts during the night. Snow only shows up once every couple of years but fog is not uncommon (about 20 days from November to January). However, the only bad part is the Cierzo, a cold and dry wind blowing from the NW that is quite common on clear days, and can make your stay really unpleasant. Beware also of sunny days in spring and autumn, if the Cierzo blows, you will regret not having warm clothes with you.
Detailed weather forecasts including wind speed can be found in 
When to Visit
The best time to visit Zaragoza is during spring (April to mid-June) and autumn (Sept-Oct). In late June and July the days can be quite hot but in the evenings the city is bustling with people going out for dinner or having a beer with friends in a terrace. In August the city is almost deserted, with most people being on holidays at the mountains or the coast, and more that half the bars, restaurants and small business closed.
The major city festival is El Pilar that takes place every year the week of the 12th of October, with lots of concerts, performances and street animations. It is also the best time to see a bullfight in Zaragoza.
The Easter week, although not in the same league that the Andalucia or Calanda counterparts, is very scenic, with several processions going over the city centre every day with their dramatic sculptures, black-dressed praying women and hundreds of hooded people playing drums.
The main carriers are Ryanair with flights from Alicante, Brussels-Charleroi, Milan-Orio al Serio, London-Stansted, and Rome-Ciampino, Iberia/Air Nostrum with flights from Madrid, Paris-Orly, Frankfurt, La Coruña and Vigo, and Air Europe with flights from Palma de Mallorca, Lanzarote and Tenerife. For most of these destinations there is a daily flight, while others are served 3 or 4 times a week.
There is also a web blog with more information concerning arrivals and departures, Zaragoza Airport Blog .
Transfer to/from the airport: The cheapest option is the airport bus  stopping at Los Enlaces, Delicias train station, Avenida de Navarra 12, and Paseo de María Agustín 7, in the city centre (45 minutes ride). The bus costs €1.60 and runs every 30 minutes Mo-Sa and every hour on Sundays and holidays. Alternatively a taxi will cost around €25-30 and take around 20 minutes to the city centre.
As most flights to Zaragoza only run once a day, it is sometimes more convenient to fly to Madrid or Barcelona airports, from where you can reach Zaragoza in less than 3 hours.
From Madrid Barajas Airport: go to Atocha RENFE train station either by taxi (30 minutes, around €25) or by metro (45 minutes, €2) and then take the high speed train AVE to Zaragoza (1h30, around €50). A cheaper but not so comfortable alternative is taking a coach from company ALSA that runs between Barajas terminal T4 and Zaragoza every 2-3 hours (3h45 trip, single/return: €15/€26). If you are in terminals T1 T2 or T3, take the free airport bus shuttle to terminal T4. The bus to Zaragoza stops in the same place as the airport shuttle. Yes, there are no ticket counters, information posts, or timetables, but place yourself with your back towards the T4 terminal exit, look at your right and you will see the ticket vending machine of ALSA.
From Barcelona Airport: The easiest way is to take the half-hourly RENFE C-10 suburban train to Barcelona Sants (20 minutes, €2.20), and then take the high speed train AVE to Zaragoza (1h45, around €60). If you already have your AVE ticket, you can get the suburban train ticket for free in the automatic vending machines, by typing the code for “cercanías” that appears in your AVE ticket.
Zaragoza is served by the high speed train AVE that reaches Madrid in approximately 1 hour 30 minutes and Barcelona in approx. 1 hour 45 minutes. There are up to 19 trains a day in each direction for Madrid and 12 for Barcelona. Regular rates start at about €50 to Madrid and €60 to Barcelona, but you can get up to a 60% discount if you book through the web 15 days in advance.
A cheaper way to get to Zaragoza from Barcelona is using the "Regional Express" - a slow train going on an ancient track, stopping at every small village and some those post-industrial ghost towns, and really astonishing landscapes. The ride takes 5 hours, costs €22.
For more information on train schedules and prices, visit the website of RENFE .
All trains and buses arrive to Delicias station. The city centre is some 2km away from, and can be reached using urban buses 34 and 51 or by taxi (10 minutes, around €10)
You can reach Zaragoza either from Madrid or Barcelona in 3:45 hours. The coach company is ALSA  and the single/return ticket costs around €15/€26. Zaragoza is also well communicated with other main capital cities, such as Valencia and Bilbao. There is possibility of getting to Zaragoza from France by bus. The main lines travel from Lourdes, Tarbes, Pau and Oloron.
For bus schedules from Barcelona, also try Barcelona Nord .
Zaragoza is very well connected by free speedways with Huesca (1h), Teruel (2h), Madrid (3h), and by toll highways with Barcelona (3h, €30), Pamplona and Bilbao. Traffic around the city is relatively light except on some weekends and holidays.
Free parking in the city centre is very scarce. Most streets have metered parking limited to 1 or 2 hours. Underground paying parkings are scattered in the entire city and usually have free places.
If you stay in or near the old town, most is walkable.
If you plan on bussing around, a card costs seven euro at any tobacco kiosk (initial card fee of two euros, so when charging it next time will just cost €5). With the card you can change lines wthin an hour without being charged again. Single tickets are 1,05 euros.
The city's taxi drivers are plentiful and mostly honest. Zaragoza Taxi phone numbers 
Sightseeing bus  is another option. They provide more than just a great way to travel around the city, available to all pockets. It costs €7 (free if you have the Zaragoza card) and the ticket can be used the entire day.
The Zaragoza Card  provides, from €7.66 per day:
Swimming Pools for Hot Days
Summer days can be very hot in Zaragoza. If you prefer relaxing by the swimming pool over a sightseeing program, here are a few suggestions. Public swimming pools in Zaragoza are generally clean and well maintained. The entrance fee is some €3 for an adult. Open-air pools are open until 9 or 10PM in the evening.
Zaragoza has much to offer in the way of shopping, with most central streets in Zaragoza being lined with shopping opportunities.
Zaragoza's shopping area stretches from Residencial Paraiso in Sagasta to the Plaza de España. The most exclusive shops are on Francisco de Vitoria, San Ignacio de Loyola, Cadiz, Isaac Peral and the streets crossing them.
Zaragoza's craft and souvenir shops are located at Anticuarios de la Plaza de San Brun.
Mercadillo La Romareda behind the La Romareda Football Stadium is the largest open-air market in Zaragoza, but if you are looking for food and fresh produce head for Mercado Central and Lanuza Market.
If you are looking for everything under one roof, then El Corte Inglés is located next to Plaza de Paraíso, and Centro Comercial Gran Casa is a one-stop super mall where you can find everything including shops, restaurants a bowling alley and cinemas.
Mercado Central is on a site which has been a market place since the Middle Ages. It is the perfect place to buy Zaragozan products as well as observe the atmosphere of a traditional Spanish market. The Misericordia Bullring is the place to go on Sunday as it is the venue for the traditional flea market.
Some of the best known regional specialities are: Bacalao al Ajoarriero, cod-fish with garlic and eggs, Huevos al Salmorejo, eggs with cold tomato cream, Longanizas y Chorizos, highly appreciated kinds of sausages, Ternasco Asado, roasted young lamb, Pollo al Chilindrón, chicken in a sauce of cured ham, tomatoes, onions and paprika, Cordero a la Pastora, lamb Shepherd's style, Lomo de Cerdo a la Zaragozana, cutlet, Migas a la Aragonesa, a dish made of crumbs scrambled with an egg and chorizo. People even eat rabbits stewed in rabbit blood. Borrajas is a vegetable which can only be found in Aragon. It is usually eaten with olive oil.Melocotón con vino, peaches in wine, is also a good option, though sometimes it is hard to find a restaurant serving this dessert.
Zaragoza is well known because of its many tapas bars. The best place to eat is the old city, commonly called "Casco viejo" which is a bunch of small streets similar to the Zoco.
One excellent choice is in Calle de los mártires which is a tapas bar in which you can only eat one tapa. In the first one the mushroom and close to it the Taberna de Doña Casta, the "Huevos rotos con foi" which is mainly scrambled egg with fries and foi or jamón serrano. Plaza Santa Marta is in the old town as well; it's a little bit more expensive but the food is of high quality. A "Tabla" is a wooden plate in which different tapas like cheese and sausages are served, often with a bottle of wine in the price.
Sea food tapas are not that common, but can be very good and cheap. Casa de Mar, located in Eusebio Blasco Street, is a local favorite. Cheap crayfish, cuttlefish and a great cold white wine. A four person meal with two bottles of wine costs less than €12 each.
There is a number of good wines produced in Aragon.
Tareas of Calle de Espoz y Mina and Calle Mayor, which are a stone's throw from Plaza del Pilar, have plenty of varied bars from which to choose.
The following places are located in the Huesca province, not more than 2 hours by car and in the middle of the Pyrenees. Charming places in the middle of the nature.
A good and cheap way to connect your laptop or WIFI devices to the internet in Spain is with companies like tripNETer , where you can rent a pocket WiFi router. Prices are way cheaper than roaming costs.