Impressions of Zaragoza

Posted on July 02, 2014

I have to admit that when I included Zaragoze into my Spain tour, it was merely for the pretty pictures I have seen of the glorious Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar (I didn't even know the cathedral name before setting foot in Zaragoza). I hardly did any research on the city and when I did, I found a bunch of not so positive reviews that kind of put me off a bit. But my curiosity kept me from changing my plans.
Have I followed the reviews I read, I would've missed on one of the greatest highlights of this whole trip.

We took the train from Barcelona and arrived Zaragoza one and half hours later on a rainy morning (which I later learned that rain is a rare happening in this city). By the time we were out, the rain has stopped and we only had to find our way to the hotel in the wet streets of what seemed to be a very peaceful city. There was a special kind of serenity filling the air - as if everything and everyone was sworn to maintain silence and calm. This, along with the cloud-filled skies and misty streets have indeed been Zaragoza's best welcome for us. Dragging my bag in the cobble stone streets of the city, I had to stop to snap a picture of this magical atmosphere (this picture remains to be my highest rating on instagram).

The hotel I booked was a few minutes away from the Basilica square and it was the first of the pleasant surprises.

The basilica square just before sunset - enchanting colors and light

Zaragoza is not a very big town. It is one of the three parts of the Aragon region in Spain, which is bounded by the beautiful Pyranees and Iberian mountains, and is drained by the Ebro river.
The city is very "walkable" and if you're not interested in walking much, the city is well connected by the bus and tram systems which are quite organized and efficient - although I'd highly recommend walking in it's charming streets to get a better feel of the place, as you would in any new city.

The basilica from the garden across the river

An outdoor area of a bar 
Tapas, tapas and more tapas

We have encountered some of the friendliest people ever while in Zaragoza. Inspite of the fact that they know no English at all (ok, we were lucky to find one English speaking lady in Rituals shop!), people were as amiable as can be, jumping at any opportunity to help a traveler in distress. They're quite welcoming and accommodating. You will experience their hospitality in hotels, shops and the numerous cafe's and bars that you will come across while exploring the city.

Having a little chat

Lost in thought there an escape? there an escape?

My friend watching the world go by

In one of the supermarkets that we were shopping at for a little picnic by the river, we were at the cashier paying for what we bought and apparently we made a mistake while pricing the pastry that we picked up. The lady at the cashier immediately guided us back to the pricing machine to tell us that what we bought has a price tag that is less than the one we mistakenly placed (just one of the incidents that makes me wonder why haven't I learned Spanish till now!!)
When we were back at the cashier to pay, we realized we forgot to buy cutlery. So we made our payment then one of us went in again to get the plastic cutlery, with which the cashier lady guided him. And while there was a long queue waiting to pay for their grocery, one of the ladies was kind enough to let my friend pay for this one item without having to stand at the end of the queue - and that too she did with a sweet smile, a wink and a very enthusiastic "you're most welcome"!

Little and random acts of kindness can indeed make or break one's experience in a place - whether abroad or in one's own home town. This one has definitely strengthened our bond with Zaragoza, among so many other incidents.

An epic just-before-sunset moment on my first day in the city. My favorite time of the day!

Sitting by the river

Greenery and floral beauty in the garden by the river

More greenery that enchants the soul

Two of our favorite shops in Zaragoza are Money Transformers (you can find all kinds of used items here some which go back the 70's and 80's). It was like stepping back in time looking at old phones that we had at home as children, video consoles and games that go as far as the early 80's, classic music albums and instruments in very good condition, basically everything under the sun. This place is for those who adore everything retro and yearn to keep a glimpse of the beautiful past.

The other shop is Tiger, which we later learned is a Scandinavian chain of own-branded items that are as fun and colorful as can be. You can easily get carried away picking up every cool item you come across - dont' ask what they sell, but rather what they're not! You can find almost anything inside these hippy shops (except for clothes), cleverly designed and very reasonably priced.
We found other branches of this cool retail scattered around a handful of Spanish cities. Design freaks ought to pay it a visit!

A silhouette of the basilica of our lady of the pillar

We've had our share of churros during our stay in Zaragoza. We made sure we sampled some in every cafe we went into. Cafe Valor, which can be found across Spain, still tops the list for me as they feature an extensive selection of chocolate dips that range from ordinary milk chocolate to fruits and chili infused chocolate for your crunchy churros!

Yummy hot chocolate!

Don't miss having the chocolate dipped churros

One of the things that characterize Zaragoza streets is the heavy use of grafitti across its neighborhoods and alleys. They're a feast to the eye for anyone who fancies street art - or art in general!
Definitely a photographer's haven.

We only spent 3 days in Zaragoza, yet now I feel I would easily stay for a week and have plenty to do and see. The city is rich in culture, art and history and has plenty to offer. Being a less touristy city makes it even more tempting! A hidden gem I would say.

For some stunning fine art photos of the city's icons, please don't spare the chance to visit my talented friend, Amr Tahtawi's website.

  1. I love it.. Very Colourful.. :D :D

  2. Thank you Noorhan!
    It's indeed a colorful city in every way :)