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Zaragoza is the fifth largest city in Spain and is located in the province of Aragon, between Madrid and Barcelona. Zaragoza has a lot to offer the visitor and there are many interesting places to visit. Most tourists to Spain skip Zaragoza because it does not have the fame of Madrid or Barcelona. With the advent of the AVE, it is now possible to make a day trip from Madrid to Zaragoza.
The AVE takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes from the Atocha Station in Madrid to Zaragoza. Read Buying Renfe Tickets Online.
This trip should be planned to take advantage of the web discounts.
The AVE train 03083 leaves Madrid at 08:30H and arrives in Zaragoza at 09:45H, taking about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The return trip can be done using AVE 03172 leaving Zaragoza at 18:26H and arriving in Madrid at 19:45H. This leaves one with about 8 hours and 40 minutes to take a look at the city.
The train station the AVE arrives at in Zaragoza is called Zaragoza Delicias Station (Calle Rioja, 33) and is located 3 km from the Plaza de la Catedral, where the Cathedral is located. Walking will take 39 minutes. One can take Bus 34 or 51. A taxi will take 10 minutes and cost about 10 euros.There is a tourist office at the Delicias Station and another at the Plaza del Pilar.
1. Basilica of Our Lady of El Pilar
The Basilica of Our Lady of El Pilar is one of the biggest and most important churches in Spain. The story is that there is a pillar in the church and the Virgin is said to have descended from heaven onto the pillar in an apparition to St. James the Apostle by the banks of the Ebro River. She gave him a small wooden statue of herself and a column of jasper and told him to build a church in her honor. The carving of Our Lady of El Pilar is a Gothic cedar carving that is only 38 cm high. The stand of this sculpture is a column made of jasper that is covered with bronze and silver. This column is 2 meters high and has a diameter of 24 cm. The statue of the Virgin is located in a small chapel at the back of the church. Thousands of pilgrims go to the back of the statue to touch the pillar, because it is said that the Virgin has done a lot of miracles.Several chapels and churches were built at the site and destroyed with time. The current church was built between 1681 and 1686 by the King Carlos II. In 1725 the church commissioned the architect Ventura Rodriguez to transform the building to the Baroque style. The church now measures 130 by 67 meters. There are large corner towers and a central dome surrounded by ten brightly tiled cupolas. There are two domes that were painted with frescoes by Goya. One of them has the Queen of the Martyrs, and the second one has the Adoration of the Name of God. The final reconstruction was finished in 1872.
2. La Seo Cathedral
La Seo Cathedral is impressive, huge, and everything inside is white. The church was built in 1316 and the style is Gothic-Mudejar. The exterior still shows the brick and the glazed tiles used in the Mudejar design. Many of Aragon’s kings were crowned here and there are many kings and queens that are buried in this church. The Unesco in 2001 declared the church as a World Heritage site. The site of the church used to have a Roman temple, then a Visigothic church, and later a Muslim mosque.
The church has three naves with a transept, cloister, and a semicircular apse. The ceiling of the church is a ribbed vault. There is an octagonal dome that has the Mudejar design. There are additions in Baroque and Plateresque styles. The high altarpiece is in gold and is carved in alabaster and was done by the German Renaissance sculptors Hans Piet of Swabia and Pere Johan, and this is really impressive.
There is a splendid Chapel of San Miguel that is called "la parroquieta". This chapel has a Mudejar coffered ceiling and the chapel has the tomb of the Archbishop Lope Fernandez de Luna. Another chapel is the Chapel of San Valero, which has the skull of St. Valero, the patron saint of the city. There is a tower with a bulb-shaped spire, and this was built in the Baroque style. The facade of the church is Neoclassical. The cathedral has an extensive collection of religious art and there is also a very good Tapestry Museum.
3. The Aljaferia
The Aljaferia is one of the most beautiful palaces in Zaragoza from the 11th century. The Moorish governor of the Taifa kingdom of Sarakosta used it as a summer residence. It is a huge palace surrounded by a large moat. There is a beautiful patio built by the Moorish kings. What is impressive of the patio are the many arches that surround the garden. The arches are scalloped and adorned with very impressive plaster work. There is a niche of the mihrab, the most important portion of the building where prayers were said. There is a very high Moorish ceiling, also beautiful. This palace predates the Alhambra palace in Granada and the Alcazar of Sevilla. Its originality probably influenced the building of those other palaces. Today the palace is used as the seat of the Aragonese Parliament.
4. Pablo Gargallo Museum
The Pablo Gargallo Museum is installed in a renaissance palace, called the Argilio Palace. The palace has been restored beautifully and is built around a central patio. Gargallo was one of the most important early 20th century Aragonese sculptors. Gargallo belonged to the avant garde at that time and worked in Paris. He made beautiful sculpture that is easy to understand. He sculpted bronze horses and male and female nudes. His most beautiful sculpture was art deco, a piece called Kiki de Montparnasse, a mask of a beautiful woman. Kiki was a beautiful model who worked for many of the artists in Paris at that time.
5. The Forum Museum
The Forum Museum is located beneath the plaza containing the Cathedral and Basilica of Our Lady of El Pilar. The plaza was built atop the ruins of the forum. One can see the columns used in the forum, a lot of pottery dug up, and parts of the sewer. The museum has very good explanations about the sewers and the running water in the city, brought to the city by aqueducts. Lead pipes brought water to every house during Roman times.6. Primo de Rivera Park
The Primo de Rivera Park is the biggest park in the city, named after Primo de Rivera, a politician from the 1920s. There are landscaped gardens, very Italian in design. At the top of a hill is a giant statue of Jaime the Conqueror, one of the kings of Aragon. Below the statue is a very impressive fountain that cascades all the way down the hill in beautiful designs, surrounded by a double staircase. At night everything is lighted.
7. Palacio de Sastago
The Palacio de Sastago is a renaissance palace downtown that has been restored and is used for government offices. Inside the patio is an art gallery which changes exhibitions all the time. The renaissance building has a very impressive design.
8. Patio de las Infantas
The Patio de las Infantas is located in the biggest bank in Aragon, the Ibercaja, and they have a huge office tower. In one wing to the side they have the Patio de las Infantas, which is the patio of a renaissance building. The patio was dismantled from its original place and brought to France in the 19th century by a very rich Frenchman. In the 20th century, Ibercaja bought the patio and brought it back to Zaragoza and put it into the bank, in one wing. So in the very modern bank, one can see this beautiful renaissance patio. The patio is now used as an art gallery, with a permanent collection of 14 very important Goyas. Goya was a native of Aragon and one of the paintings is his self portrait.
9. Church of the Sacred Heart
The Church of the Sacred Heart has something very original. This is the Rosario de Cristal (meaning the crystal rosary). During the religious feast of the city, there is a large procession along the main streets downtown, where they display scenes of religious buildings like the basilica, on wheeled carts. The parade floats are all made of crystal and stained glass, and are lighted from the inside and the people in the procession recite the rosary. This church contains the floats with the exhibits of crystal and stained glass and has a show. The loudspeaker in the church explains each float and the float lights up. So one goes from one float to the other and gets the whole story. The floats are about 10 feet long by 6 feet high.
10. Camon Aznar Museum
The Camon Aznar Museum is installed in a restored renaissance palace that now belongs to the Ibercaja bank. A prominent professor named Camon Aznar donated his 800 works of art to the museum. One can find all the important Spanish artists in the collection, from El Greco to Goya.
Calle Santiago Ramon y Cajal, 50
Wonderful menu of the day.
Frutas de Aragon
Frutas de Aragon are delicious chocolates with hearts of fruits. The fruits may have been caramelized (sometimes with a liqueur) and then enveloped with chocolate. There are eight fruits that may be used, which are apple, pear, watermelon, apricot, cherry, fig, prune, and orange. The chocolates are then wrapped in cellophane of different colors, each color designating a different fruit. Many times these chocolates are sold in baskets with a variety of the different fruits. Otherwise a basket may contain only one fruit. These chocolates are typical products of the region of Aragon and are widely distributed all over Spain during the Christmas season. In Zaragoza they can be bought in many stores near the Plaza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar.