Is Zaragoza Worth Visiting? 12 Reasons Why You Must!

If you’ve already explored many of Spain’s major cities, you might be wondering whether it’s time to go somewhere new. You might even be wondering: is Zaragoza worth visiting? Well, I’m here to help you decide. 

Zaragoza bridge and cathedral

Zaragoza has gone under the radar for many years as a tourist destination, but that only adds to its charm as a dream vacation city. Spain’s fifth-largest city has plenty to offer tourists ranging from delicious food to fascinating tourist attractions. Let’s get into the details now.

Why people don’t visit Zaragoza

To be honest, I don’t blame people for avoiding Zaragoza. At least, I understand why people don’t visit if they don’t know anyone who has. I myself have visited countless cities and towns in Spain and had only vaguely heard of it until my partner and I added it to our road trip. 

Streets of Zaragoza

But there are a few other reasons why Zaragoza hasn’t captured the tourist market as well as, say, Barcelona or the Costa del Sol. Here they are: 

Zaragoza is a city for locals

Basically, the city wasn’t designed with tourists in mind. Zaragoza has all the things you’d expect of city-dwellers – people commuting to work, meeting up over a drink to discuss their days. It looks thoroughly ordinary, until you explore a little deeper. It’s a well-planned and very clean city that doesn’t immediately strike you as touristy.

Its attractions aren’t world-famous

There are no La Sagrada Familias or global superstars wandering the streets of Zaragoza. The things to see and do in Zaragoza rarely feature in travel guides because they’re quite niche – but that doesn’t make them any less interesting.

It’s hot but with nowhere to bathe

If, like me, you’re from a country with a cold climate, you go to Spain to finally feel the sun on your face. For me, that includes swimming in the sea. Zaragoza’s temperatures regularly reach over 30°C (86°F) but as it’s so far inland, there’s nowhere to cool down.

If sun and sea are what you’re after, then a city break in Zaragoza isn’t the one. 

The many reasons to visit Zaragoza

That said, Zaragoza does have plenty to offer tourists who are willing to go out of their way to explore less obvious places. Don’t be put off just yet, there are plenty of reasons why Zaragoza is worth visiting. Here they are!

1. It’s picturesque

Zaragoza bridge

If you like to go overseas to snap pictures of quintessentially European cities, Zaragoza is the perfect city to visit. It is such a photogenic place that isn’t swamped with other tourists, meaning you don’t have to spend hours editing strangers out of your pictures.

Even at peak hours like sunset, it took us less than a few minutes to get our perfect shots. In fact, while we were snapping away at the glowing sun behind the catedralbasílica de Nuestra Señora, we were only joined by a few local families and a handful of other tourists. It felt relaxed and stress-free, quite the opposite of what we’d experienced in other Spanish cities.

This brings me to my next point…

2. It’s not Madrid or Barcelona, and it isn’t trying to be

Shopping in Zaragoza

When you arrive in Zaragoza from another Spanish city, you immediately feel a change in atmosphere.

For context, my partner and I took the train from Madrid to Zaragoza, which took a little over an hour. The train was spotless, fast and not at all crowded, which was exactly what I wanted after the hustle and bustle of the capital.

The second we arrived, we walked out into the blazing sunshine. It took a few minutes to reach our hostel, and all I could think as we drove there was: Oh my gosh, space! Parks! So many parks! No crowds! No graffiti! No trash! 

In Zaragoza, you don’t get bombarded with ticket sellers trying to convince you to attend tourist traps or selling overpriced food or drink. It makes such a nice change after being “in the thick of it”.

3. The locals are very friendly

Dragon fountain in Zaragoza
Even the dragon fountain outside our hostel was nice in Zaragoza!

The Spanish are known for being extroverted, friendly and welcoming people – which is largely true, from my own experiences at least. But I felt genuine kindness from the people we met in Zaragoza. Here are a few anecdotes:

When we first visited the Plaza de la Seo, we stood admiring a glorious fountain. An elderly gentleman approached us. He initially spoke in Spanish and then, realizing we couldn’t keep up with him, he reached into his pocket and used a voice-to-translate feature, explaining to us that what we were looking at was a sculpture of a map of South America and that the plaza was actually bigger than Red Square in Moscow! He went above and beyond to educate us about his hometown, which I thought was very generous.

We also visited a launderette for the first time. When it became clear we had no idea what we were doing, the locals gathered around us, showing us where to put coins and why our credit cards didn’t work. They smiled the whole time, wished us a pleasant day and were so helpful to us.

The same was true of all the staff at museums, in our accommodation, and taxi drivers. People smile as you walk past – a welcome change from busier cities!

4. The De Goya Museum is excellent

Monument in front of De Goya Museum

The day before we visited the De Goya Museum in Zaragoza, we visited The El Prado in Madrid (which is also excellent). However, the de Goya Museum put a lot of what we had seen in the capital into context. 

There was plenty of information to read on the walls beside notable artwork and captions are available in English. We learned so much about him that we hadn’t previously known, and we also got to find out about his life, family, and interests. 

We also didn’t feel rushed at all. Photography is allowed, unlike at the El Prado, and we felt we could take the time we needed to peruse the many, many pieces of art.

I had no idea De Goya had also done satirical engravings as well as oil paintings, and found them amusing and poignant in equal measure. I highly, highly recommend that you visit.

5. It’s cheaper than other Spanish cities

euros notes

Note: I said cheaper, not cheap. Zaragoza might not be a typical tourist destination, but it is still a major city in the country. That said, nothing we did or bought made my eyes water. We paid an average of €30 for a meal, with drinks, for two. We also splashed out and spent somewhere in the region of €45 on our first night at another restaurant. 

As for accommodation, I would go as far as to say that the place we stayed in Zaragoza was one of the most fairly priced places we have stayed at in Spain. It was comfortable, with all the amenities we wanted for around €35 a night, much less than we paid in Madrid or Barcelona. It was also in an ideal location, within walking distance to the Puente de Piedra. 

So it’s a balancing act. Food and drink will be the most expensive part of your trip to Zaragoza, but the price you pay for high-quality accommodation takes the sting out of it.

6. It’s easily reached

Tram service in Zaragoza

If you wanted to, you could spend a week in Zaragoza exploring every nook and cranny. But equally, it’s a great place to stop off for a few days to recoup. Madrid and Barcelona are both within an hour or so of Zaragoza either way, so if you want to venture into one of Spain’s bigger cities, it’s more than possible.

Personally, I’m really glad that we stopped off in Zaragoza between Madrid and Barcelona. As I said before, the capital is great for 24-hour convenience and atmosphere, but I really needed some peace and quiet before getting back to the hectic crowds of Barcelona. 

Trains regularly take passengers from Zaragoza to both Madrid and Barcelona, and if you book in advance, you can get tickets for as little as €7. There’s also a super-handy tram service available in the city if you have tired feet!

7. The Roman museums are incredible

Roman ruins in Zaragoza


The range of history in Zaragoza is mind-boggling. And the best part? The local authorities have done an excellent job of preserving and sharing it with tourists.

Zaragoza was founded by Caesar Augustus, or Octavian as he’s also known, between 25 and 11 BC. The Roman influences in the city can be seen all over the place, but nowhere as well as the Caesaraugusta museums.

The Museo del Foro de Caesaraugusta (The Forum Museum of Caesaraugusta)  is located on the Plaza de la Seo. What looks like a modernist, glass cube, is actually part of this ancient museum. It conceals the archeological remains of a market, some Roman infrastructure and canals. 

The Museo del Teatro de Caesaraugusta (The Roman Theater Museum of Caesaraugusta) is equally fascinating, and should be at the top of your list of things to do in Zaragoza. This museum shows the immaculate remains of a traditional Roman theater.

8. Aragonese food is scrumptious

Aragonese food

I’m guessing you’ve already tried tapas, pintxos, and paella before. But could you tell me what traditional Aragonese food tastes like? Probably not. The food served in the Spanish province of Aragon is every bit as good as other Spanish cities – occasionally even better

Typical Aragonese dishes tend to be quite hearty, stewed lamb or chicken served with potatoes and veggies. Be sure to try a quintessentially Aragonese dish, chicken served in a chilindrón sauce made from peppers, onions, tomatoes and ham. 

Granted, Zaragoza could be a bit of a nightmare if you’re a vegetarian. Happily, however, Aragon is famed for its high-quality, delicious fruit, especially peaches, figs, pears, apricots, cherries and, of course, oranges. 

Don’t forget, if you are a picky eater, don’t despair. Zaragoza also has all the typical food you expect to find in cities – pizza, pasta, ramen, etc.

9. It has Moorish history too

Aljafería Palace

While Andalusia is the most famous region for finding Moorish architecture, just on the edge of Zaragoza is a gem that will show you just how far the Moors traveled and conquered. 

The Aljafería Palace was built in the 11th century, and is considered in the top three of Hispano-Muslim buildings in Spain along with the Alhambra and Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. It’s now the House of the Regional Parliament of Aragon. 

Other than its fascinating history and beauty, there’s another upside to visiting the Aljafería Palace. It only costs €5 to get in, which is a lot cheaper than the Alhambra and, you guessed it, it’s way less crowded too.

10. You’ll feel like a local in no time

Although Zaragoza is a fairly large city, it takes nearly no time at all to get your bearings. Even the oldest parts of the city have new, paved sidewalks and it’s intuitively laid out so you won’t get lost. 

Another thing that occurred to me quite a few times while I was there was how easy it was to blend in with the locals. Zaragoza is a very civilized city where you always feel safe. I wasn’t worried about my belongings being stolen or of running into any trouble. People generally kept themselves to themselves and gave me the courtesy of being able to do the same.

We sat at a bar for a few hours having a couple of drinks late one evening, snacking on delicious tapas plates just people-watching. It was fascinating! Noisy binge-drinking is quite common in my own culture, but it was really pleasant to experience people taking it easy, having in-depth conversations with no phones in sight.

11. There’s plenty of green space

Zaragoza Park

I love cities for their architecture, history and wide variety of people. But at heart I’m someone who loves to be surrounded by nature. Luckily, Zaragoza more than provides for people like me – and you, if The Lorax is your spirit animal too.

Zaragoza has plenty of places where you can retreat to the shade when it gets too hot to do anything else. The biggest park, Parque Grande José Antionio Labordeta, is full of trees, fountains and space to lay a picnic blanket. It’s also a great place to just quietly read a book or wile away a few hours.

12. It’s a great place to brush up on Spanish

Too many tourists visit Spain without ever once having to go beyond “gracias” and “hola”. I was one of them. It wasn’t until my trip to Zaragoza that I was inwardly glad that I had started learning Spanish beforehand. 

Because Zaragoza doesn’t receive the same volume of tourists as other Spanish cities, everyone, quite rightly, assumes you speak it. At least a bit. Effort goes a long way, and everyone we spoke to gave us a chance to show off what we knew. 

Occasions where our lack of Spanish knowledge let us down, such as in the launderette or speaking to the gentleman by the fountain, made us hungry to learn the language. We were definitely better prepared for our next destination thanks to the lack of English, or other languages, around us in Zaragoza.

Fuente de la Hispanidad

Conclusion

So, is Zaragoza worth visiting? Absolutely. These are just 12 of my own personal reasons why I fell in love with Zaragoza, though other people will certainly be able to add to the list. While Zaragoza is unlikely to become your go-to Spanish vacation destination, I urge everyone to visit at least once.

I think the main reason I enjoyed my time in Zaragoza so much was because of how Spanish it all was. It really opened my eyes to another side of Spanish culture – the calmer, less obvious, less talked about side. I was able to truly relax and soak in culture, gorgeous scenery and take life at my own pace.

Zaragoza also cemented my interest in De Goya and the Roman history of Spain. After trying fruitlessly to find a comprehensive Spanish history book, I found answers to many of my questions in the city. It was a learning experience that I wholeheartedly recommend to all who want to have an authentic experience in Spain. 

Hopefully, I’ve persuaded you to give it a go. When you get there, let us know what you think in the comments below! 

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