Zaragoza Introduction Walking Tour, Zaragoza

Zaragoza Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Zaragoza

Although somewhat lesser-known a city (compared to Barcelona or Madrid), the capital of the Aragon region, Zaragoza, bears witness to a rich tapestry of historical influences which makes it an authentic Spanish treasure. Nestled along the serene banks of the Ebro River, it has been an essential crossroads of cultures since time immemorial.

The origins of this Spanish city go back to the Iberian town of Salduie (or Salduba). The Romans renamed it Caesaraugusta, a homage to Emperor Augustus, between 25 and 11 BC, founding it as a colony for war veterans. Today, the Roman Walls of Zaragoza harken back to that period.

The city's history continued to unfold as it transitioned from Roman rule to peaceful Gothic capture in the 5th century AD. In the 8th century, under Muslim rule, it became a regional capital (of the Upper March of al-Andalus).

Simultaneously, the city's name transformed into the Arabic “Saraqusṭa” and then to Zaragoza (or Çaragoça) after Alfonso I of Aragon conquered the city, in 1118, making it the capital of the Kingdom of Aragon.

Zaragoza endured two famous sieges during the Peninsular War in the early 19th century. The Spanish Civil War in the 1930s brought turmoil, with the city becoming a key industrial hub for the Francoist faction. In the latter half of the 20th century, Zaragoza experienced rapid growth following industrial development initiatives, quickly doubling its population.

Among the top landmarks of the city is the majestic Stone Bridge (Puente de Piedra) which spans the Ebro River. The nearby Gothic Cathedral of Savior exemplifies Zaragoza's religious heritage.

Art enthusiasts will find solace in the Goya Museum (Ibercaja Collection), where the works of the famous Spanish painter Francisco Goya are displayed.

For panoramic views, head to the Column Tower Lookout (Torre Del Pilar Mirador) which provides breathtaking vistas of Zaragoza's skyline. Meanwhile, the Zaragoza Central Market is a culinary delight, offering a cornucopia of local flavors and fresh produce.

Also, don't forget to explore "The Tube" (El Tubo) area, where you can savor delicious tapas and immerse yourself in the city's lively nightlife.

If you seek the taste of authentic Spanish culture, Zaragoza can give you a treat to remember, comprising historical treasures, artistic gems, and culinary delights. Come and explore the charms of Zaragoza – a city where the past and the present intertwine harmoniously.
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Zaragoza Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Zaragoza Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Spain » Zaragoza (See other walking tours in Zaragoza)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Puente de Piedra (Stone Bridge)
  • Cathedral of the Savior of Zaragoza
  • La Lonja (The Old Exchange)
  • Goya Museum - Ibercaja Collection
  • Calle Alfonso I (Alfonso I Street)
  • Plaza del Pilar (Pilar Square)
  • Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar
  • Torre Del Pilar Mirador (Column Tower Lookout)
  • Roman Walls of Zaragoza
  • Zaragoza Central Market
  • El Tubo ("The Tube" Area)
Puente de Piedra (Stone Bridge)

1) Puente de Piedra (Stone Bridge)

The Stone Bridge is a historic and iconic structure that spans the majestic river Ebro in Zaragoza. This bridge, often referred to as the Bridge of Lions, earned its unique nickname from the addition of four lion statues, symbolizing the city, which were installed on the bridge's pillars in 1991. The distinctive lion statues were masterfully crafted by Francisco Rallo Lahoz.

The history of the Puente de Piedra dates back to the 12th century when the citizens of Zaragoza first endeavored to construct a bridge that would gracefully traverse the flowing waters of the Ebro. However, it wasn't until the years 1401 to 1440 that the bridge, as we know it today, began to take shape. The construction was carried out under the supervision of the skilled architect Gil de Menestral.

Over the centuries, the bridge has faced challenges, notably the devastating flood of 1643, which resulted in the destruction of two central spans of the bridge. This critical moment in the bridge's history left it resembling the image captured in the famous painting "View of Zaragoza" by Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo in 1647.

In 1659, the people of Zaragoza undertook the task of reconstructing the bridge. The brilliant architect Felipe de Busignac led the effort, restoring the two towers that had been destroyed and expanding the bridge's piers. A significant restoration took place in 1789 when architect Agustín Sanz strengthened the Ebro's banks near the Monastery of St. Lazarus, ensuring that the risk of flooding would no longer threaten the bridge.
Cathedral of the Savior of Zaragoza

2) Cathedral of the Savior of Zaragoza (must see)

The Cathedral of the Savior of Zaragoza, known simply referred to as La Seo, is a magnificent religious edifice dedicated to Saint Salvador. This grand cathedral, a testament to the rich tapestry of Zaragoza's history, boasts an intricate blend of architectural styles, reflecting the city's complex past.

The cathedral's historical roots are deeply embedded in time, as it was constructed on the hallowed grounds of the ancient Roman temple of the Forum. This site underwent transformations, serving as a Visigoth church and later as a significant mosque during the Moorish rule. In the 12th century, the mosque was reborn as a Christian church, and it is this enduring structure that we admire today.

Architectural elements from various periods adorn the cathedral, creating a captivating medley. The exquisitely sculpted Romanesque arcades on the exterior of the apses provide a glimpse into the building's 12th-century origins. The cathedral's tower, which once stood as a minaret during the days of the mosque, is a striking reminder of the Moorish influence that weaves throughout the structure.

Further exploration within the cathedral reveals a stunning array of architectural styles. The Gothic choir enchants with its elegance, while the Capilla del Santo Cristo stands as a masterpiece of Renaissance design. The facade, a Neo-Classical gem, and Baroque details on the tower only add to the cathedral's visual richness.

However, the treasures of the cathedral extend beyond its architectural splendors. Within its sacred walls, a wealth of religious art awaits discovery, capturing the spiritual essence of the region. Additionally, the cathedral houses the noteworthy Tapestry Museum (Museo de Tapices), home to a collection of over 60 precious Flemish tapestries dating back to the 15th century.

Today, the Cathedral of the Savior of Zaragoza warmly welcomes visitors for cultural exploration. Admission includes access to both the cathedral itself and the Tapestry Museum, providing a profound and enriching experience for those who step through its storied doors.
La Lonja (The Old Exchange)

3) La Lonja (The Old Exchange)

The Old Exchange in Zaragoza, Spain, is a true testament to the grandeur of the Aragonese Renaissance style, standing as a remarkable architectural jewel with a rich history dating back to the 16th century.

This splendid edifice was commissioned by Hernando de Aragón, designed by the renowned architect Juan de Sariñena, and its original purpose was to serve as a public marketplace. The aim was to provide merchants with a dedicated space for their commercial transactions, thus relieving the burden on other religious buildings, including the Seo and other churches in the city.

The Old Exchange boasts an architectural style rooted in the Aragonese Renaissance tradition, characterized by its distinctive features. The building, predominantly constructed from brick, takes on a rectangular floor plan, showcasing a harmonious blend of form and function.

Over the centuries, the role and function of The Old Exchange have evolved, and today, it stands as a unique exhibition space managed by Zaragoza City Council. This transition from a bustling marketplace to a hub of cultural exhibitions and events underscores the adaptability and enduring appeal of this architectural masterpiece.
Goya Museum - Ibercaja Collection

4) Goya Museum - Ibercaja Collection

The Goya Museum - Ibercaja Collection, also known as the Museo Camón Aznar, is renowned for its exceptional fine arts collection, which has its roots in the passion and dedication of José Camón Aznar, a prominent local figure. A philosopher, art critic, professor, and avid art collector, Camón Aznar played a pivotal role in assembling this impressive collection.

To provide a fitting home for this valuable collection, the Spanish savings bank Ibercaja acquired a magnificent mansion that once belonged to the nobleman Jerónimo Cósida. The mansion itself is a testament to the architectural splendor of the Renaissance era and is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of civil architecture in Zaragoza. The building features three beautifully designed floors centered around a splendid courtyard, creating an elegant and historical backdrop for the art it houses.

The museum's permanent collection is a treasure trove of art, with a primary focus on paintings from the 15th to the 18th centuries, all thoughtfully displayed on the first floor. However, the true highlight of the Goya Museum - Ibercaja Collection lies in its assortment of works by the legendary Spanish artist, Francisco de Goya. Visitors can admire a selection of Goya's masterpieces, including 14 paintings, a drawing, and a series of engravings.

These works by Goya offer a captivating journey through the artist's career, showcasing his versatility and artistic genius. The themes depicted in these artworks span the spectrum from religious to whimsical, providing a comprehensive view of Goya's mastery.
Calle Alfonso I (Alfonso I Street)

5) Calle Alfonso I (Alfonso I Street)

Alfonso I Street, nestled within the historic heart of Zaragoza, is a renowned thoroughfare celebrated for its charming architecture and diverse shopping opportunities. This vibrant street caters to various tastes and interests, making it a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

The street boasts an array of establishments, including shops, cafes, restaurants, stores, and coffee shops, offering something for everyone. Whether it's the morning light or the evening's enchantment, Alfonso I Street always buzzes with activity. Locals come here for their shopping needs, leisurely strolls, and to meet friends for a coffee.

The buildings that line both sides of the street are not only functional but also architecturally appealing, adding to the street's overall allure. The area is meticulously maintained, creating a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere for residents and tourists.

Alfonso I Street has earned a reputation as a clean and safe location for a leisurely afternoon or evening walk. It's a place where you can meander without a care, taking in the sights and sounds of the city's historic core.

Intriguingly, Calle Alfonso I plays a central role in Zaragoza's grand Christmas parade, which unfolds every year at the beginning of January. This festive event draws crowds, especially families and children with their parents, who eagerly gather along the street. They patiently await the procession of sponsored vehicles, which generously distribute small giveaways to the excited onlookers. It's a heartwarming spectacle that one must witness to fully appreciate.
Plaza del Pilar (Pilar Square)

6) Plaza del Pilar (Pilar Square)

The Pilar Square stands as one of the liveliest and most popular places in Zaragoza, Spain. At its heart lies the magnificent Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, where the veneration of the Marian invocation of the same name takes place. The square is affectionately known as "the hall of the city," owing to its role as the stage for numerous public celebrations and gatherings.

This vibrant plaza is often referred to as the "Plaza of the Cathedrals" due to the proud presence of two of Zaragoza's most iconic cathedrals: the Seo and the Pilar. The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and the Cathedral of El Salvador, known as La Seo, grace the square with their splendid architecture, adding to the historical and spiritual significance of the area.

Beyond the cathedrals, the Plaza of Our Lady of the Pillar also hosts other notable landmarks, such as the city hall and the striking Fountain of Hispanicity. The square becomes a hub of activity during various public festivities and events. Moreover, it is adorned with court buildings and a striking monument paying homage to the renowned Spanish painter, Goya.

This bustling plaza, brimming with history and culture, provides a captivating blend of architectural grandeur, religious devotion, and civic life. It stands as a testament to the rich tapestry of Zaragoza's heritage and its significance as a gathering place for both residents and visitors.
Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar

7) Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar (must see)

The Basilica of Our Lady of Pilar, a magnificent masterpiece of Baroque architecture, reigns as Zaragoza's most iconic landmark, drawing countless visitors to its hallowed precincts. This awe-inspiring basilica, steeped in history and devotion, bears the hallmarks of the 17th and 18th centuries and holds the prestigious distinction of being a National Monument.

Nestled gracefully along the banks of the Ebro River, the basilica's most striking views are from the opposite riverbank. To approach this sacred sanctuary, one crosses to the Plaza del Pilar on the other side, a vast town square encircled by stately historical edifices.

The basilica's monumental exterior, an architectural marvel, greets all who approach. Yet, it is upon entering the majestic interior that the full splendor and significance of this sacred site are revealed, accompanied by a cherished object of veneration.

For centuries, devout pilgrims have embarked on spiritual journeys to this sacred space to pay homage to the venerated image of the Virgin Mary and the Sacred Column, a precious jasper pillar associated with a miraculous Marian apparition. Legend tells of Saint James the Apostle's arrival in Caesaraugusta, where he experienced a divine vision of the Virgin Mary. In this apparition, he received a divine command to erect a church on this very spot. Responding to this heavenly call, Saint James constructed a modest chapel dedicated to Saint Mary, making it the earliest Marian shrine in the history of Christianity.

As the ages unfolded, several more churches were raised on this sacred ground. Yet, the present-day basilica remains steadfastly devoted to the Virgen del Pilar, Our Lady of Pilar. The focal point of devotion within the basilica is a statue of the Virgin Mary sheltered behind a magnificent mantelpiece. Each year, on the 2nd of January, the statue is lovingly presented to the faithful, commemorating the momentous date of the Virgin's apparition.

A second holy relic of profound importance, the Sacred Column, also known as "El Pilar," now graces the basilica with its ornate silver embellishments. The basilica's interior is resplendent with a rich tapestry of religious artworks and opulent Baroque monuments. Notable treasures include the exquisite alabaster high altarpiece and the captivating frescoes by the renowned artist Francisco Goya.
Torre Del Pilar Mirador (Column Tower Lookout)

8) Torre Del Pilar Mirador (Column Tower Lookout)

The Column Tower, an integral part of the Basilica del Pilar, offers a captivating cultural experience for visitors. This tower, also known as the Tower of San Francisco de Borja, holds a unique attraction - a panoramic elevator that promises breathtaking views of this historic and religious site.

The adventure begins with an exhilarating ascent of 62 meters in a mere 20 seconds. Upon reaching the top of the elevator, visitors encounter two flights of stairs to access a rest area before continuing to the upper viewing point. This elevated vantage point is entirely encased in glass and sits an impressive 80 meters above the ground.

From this remarkable position, visitors are treated to a spectacular 360-degree view that encompasses the entire city of Zaragoza and beyond. The sweeping vistas capture the picturesque Ebro River, and the city's sea of domes lies below, creating a striking and unforgettable experience. The roofscape of the Basilica del Pilar reveals itself in intricate detail, offering a fresh perspective on this historic structure.

The Torre del Pilar provides a unique opportunity to see Zaragoza from an entirely new angle, all within the hallowed walls of one of the most significant Marian sanctuaries in the Catholic world. This thrilling journey through history and panoramic beauty makes it a must-visit for those exploring the city.
Roman Walls of Zaragoza

9) Roman Walls of Zaragoza

Zaragoza, a city with a rich historical tapestry, holds within its streets the remnants of its ancient past. One of the most compelling vestiges of this history is the Roman Wall, which once encircled the town when it was known as the Roman colony of Caesaraugusta. Although only fragments of this mighty wall remain, they offer a tangible glimpse into the city's Roman heritage.

The story of this remarkable wall begins with the founding of the city by the Romans in the 14th century B.C. Known as Caesaraugusta, it would eventually evolve into the Zaragoza we know today. However, the construction of the city walls didn't commence until the 3rd century, and these fortifications were impressive, stretching over 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) and incorporating 120 defense towers. Over the years, as various civilizations came and went, the wall served as a steadfast protector against external threats, from Visigoths to Muslims. It was a symbol of the city's enduring strength.

Most of the original Roman wall was lost to history during the 15th century, as Zaragoza expanded beyond its ancient boundaries. Nevertheless, a tangible piece of the past still stands tall on Avenida de César Augusto. This section of the wall, stretching 260 feet (80 meters), showcases the original Roman craftsmanship. It was constructed with robust mortar filler, along with alabaster and chalk slabs on the exterior. The original walls stood as high as 33 feet (10 meters) and were as wide as 23 feet (7 meters) in some sections, a testament to the skill of ancient builders.

As you explore this relic of the past, you'll encounter a bronze statue of Emperor Augustus, gifted to Zaragoza by the Italian government in 1940. This bronze replica is based on an original statue found in the Vatican. On the statue's breastplate, you'll discover symbols representing the various places that Augustus conquered. Study the alabaster frontispieces to trace the four different names by which Zaragoza has been known over the centuries.

Your journey through the Roman Wall culminates at the Torreon de la Zuda, a tower that once formed part of the city's medieval fortifications. This tower was built on top of the original Roman walls in the 10th century and is all that remains of a magnificent Moorish Palace. Inside, an exhibition featuring old photographs and paintings awaits, along with a viewing platform offering panoramic vistas of the city below.
Zaragoza Central Market

10) Zaragoza Central Market

Zaragoza Central Market is a magnificent architectural gem, characterized by its stately columns, graceful archways, and expansive interior spaces. Its historical significance and architectural grandeur have earned it the distinction of being declared a National Historic Monument, making it a must-visit destination for both residents and visitors.

The market's doors first swung open in 1903, and it has been a hub of activity and commerce ever since. Even if you're not on a shopping mission, the Mercado Central is an attraction in itself, offering a captivating glimpse into Zaragoza's history and culture.

As you stroll through the market's spacious interior, you'll encounter a wide range of stalls, each offering a diverse array of goods. From the freshest seafood and succulent meats to bountiful displays of colorful fruits and vegetables, delectable cheeses, and irresistible baked goods, the market is a feast for the senses. It's a place where the rich tapestry of Spanish culinary traditions unfolds, showcasing the country's love for fresh, high-quality ingredients.

One of the market's charms is the opportunity to engage with local vendors and experience the warmth of Spanish hospitality. Whether you're a seasoned cook or simply looking for a delightful picnic, you'll find the perfect ingredients here. With a basket full of flavorful treats, you can head to the city's Parque Grande, a lush and inviting park, and enjoy a picnic amidst greenery and tranquility.

Zaragoza Central Market is not just a place to shop; it's a cultural and gastronomic experience. The blend of historical significance, architectural elegance, and a vibrant marketplace atmosphere makes this market an essential stop for anyone seeking to immerse themselves in the heart and soul of Zaragoza.
El Tubo ("The Tube" Area)

11) El Tubo ("The Tube" Area) (must see)

El Tubo forms the vibrant heart and soul of Zaragoza. This enchanting network of narrow streets nestled in the city's downtown area is so named due to the snug, close-knit nature of its alleyways. As is the case in many Spanish cities, the bar districts are integral to the city's identity. Paired with Zaragoza's cultural treasures, museums, and theaters, these districts take center stage in the cultural and social life of the city's residents.

El Tubo is no exception and is more than just a place to savor local cuisine; it represents an intangible culture, a living tapestry of stories, encounters, and human connections. Here, tapas, rations, beer, and wine take on almost a religious significance, forging the unique social fabric of the area.

Today, El Tubo presents itself as a charming labyrinth of winding lanes, seemingly tailor-made for people to relish. From noon until midnight, patrons are drawn into this tapestry of delights. The bar scene is a fusion of timeless classics and the avant-garde, maintaining the essence of tradition while seeking to redefine it.

Within these cozy establishments, some bars offer traditional tapas like "croquetas" or "pimientos del piquillo," while others push culinary boundaries with innovative creations. The wine selection has also evolved, offering a diverse range of options for connoisseurs and newcomers alike.