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Flag of AragonZaragoza (Saragossa)

Zaragoza can offer the visitor a very rich historic and artistical heritage which is the result of more than two thousand years of existence. The Iberians, Romans, Moors, Jews and Christians all left their mark here and made Zaragoza the worthy holder of the title "City of the Four Cultures".

Its urban growth began following its foundation as a Roman colony between the years 19 to 15 B.C. when it received the name of Cesarauguta, in honour of its founder, the Emperor Caesar Augustus. The layout of the former Roman town has been little changed in the old part of the city, between the rivers Coso and Ebro. In addition, the remains of the Roman walls, sewage system, theatre, paving and magnificent mosaics are still preserved and show us the great importance this colony once had.

The social and cultural life within the town continued to be essentially Roman throughout the entire Visigothic era until the year 714, when it was conquered by the Moors. From that time onwards it received the names of "Saragusta" and also "Albaida" which means "the White City", Zaragoza became a magnificent centre of culture and was to produce such outstanding figures as the philosopher Avenpace, the great teacher of Averroes. During the 11th C. (at the time of the so-called "taifas", or petty kingdoms), La Aljafera Se features of these palaces are the fa period. The latter was the man behind the construction of the Imperial Canal of Aragon.

Zaragoza was also the city where Francisco de Goya served his apprenticeship and painted his first works. His paintings are exhibited in the Basilica of Nuestra Sengs were made. Examples of these include the former Medicine and Science Faculty, the Central Market, the Bandstand and those buildings constructed on the occasion of the 1908 Franco-Hispanic Exhibition.

Today Zaragoza is a bustling and expanding city with a population of around 600,000 inhabitants. As its urban development continues to grow it is now spreading out on both sides of the river Ebro. Thanks to its solid industrial background, buoyant commercial aspect and a first-class hotel infrastructure, Zaragoza has become an ideal centre for conferences, trade fairs and congresses. This is also aided by its strategic position at the centre of the main provincial capitals.

It is a city which now looks to the future but without turning its back on its glorious past.

The Province of Zaragoza

The province of Zaragoza, rich in contrasts and artistic styles, can be just as fascinating as the capital city itself.

The northern section taking in the plain of "las Cinco Villas" (the Five Towns) and crossed by the mountain ranges of Uncastillo, Sos, Luesia and Biel, was considered to be the "granary" of the area in Roman times because of the abundance of cereal crops. The capital of this area was Sos del Rey Cates.

The immense plain spreads down towards the central region and the two rivers of the Ebro and the Jal


Among the olive trees the road leads on to the old ruined town of Belchite - a sad reminder of the Spanish Civil War. The itinerary continues to Azuara, with its magnificent example of a Mud, Calatayud and Tarazona

A short distance away, in the area of Campo de Cariavelling in the direction of Navarre and Soria we reach the mountain of El Moncayo. Tarazona is a town with a fine monumental heritage in the Gothic, Renaissance and Mud Cistercian monasteries. That is the Monastery of Rueda, which has an impressive 13th C. cloister.

Local Cooking

The cooking of Zaragoza is a skillful combination of farm products and the foodstuffs typical of arid areas, and it can generally be said, with very few exception, to be as sturdy, solid and valiant as the city itself. The vegetables are quite delicious, and there are two, with their own special and distinctive tastes, which are still prepared for consumption only here and in the neighboring region of Navarre: they are the borage and the cardoom, two plants that require laborious cleaning but yield exquisite results. Dishes with more substance and calories tend to be based on domestic fowl, pork or lamb stewed in different types of stock. Particularly famous is the chilindron, a stock made with tomato, peppers, onion, garlic oil, and generally a touch of chili pepper or some other hot ingredient; any meat that lies to hand can be cooked in it. As for tapas and local curiosities, a special mention must go to the truly exquisite snails in hot sauce. There can be no doubt about what to have for dessert: a "drunk" peach or pear, cured in wine in the earthenware vats of Carinena.


La Mar. Plaza de Aragon, 12. Tel: (976) 21 22 64. Hosed in one of the mansions that have been preserved in what was once a stately square, this is the most fashionable restaurant in the city. Its decor is in tone with the building, classical and exquisite; and the food, moreover, is very good.

Los Borrachos. Paseo de Sagasta, 64. Tel: (976) 27 50 36. Good game, fish and seafood dishes. Another fashionable restaurant, with prices to match.

Risko Mar. Francisco de Vitoria, 16. Tel: (976) 22 50 53. Located in an area that has become the very heart of the city center, this restaurant serves cuisine with an evident Basque influence.

Gurrea. San Ignacio de Loyola, 14. Tel: (976) 23 31 61. Specializing in seasonal dishes with fresh ingredients, this comfortable restaurant has been doing a roaring trade for years. A good wine list.

La Matilde. Casta Alvarez, 10. Tel: (976) 44 10 08. Stuck away in the somewhat deteriorated neighborhood of San Pablo, this restaurant champions the art of creative Aragonese cooking, with very special dishes for palates that are used to unusual mixtures of flavors.

Casa Lac. Maritres, 12. Tel: (976) 29 90 25. Everyone should visit this classic Zaragoza establishment, located in a strategic position inside the Tubo itself. The food is nothing special, but it is worth going there for the decor: French blue flock wallpaper, glass cabinets with antique porcelain, plaster casts reaching as high as the ceiling, and fans in wooden frames. It is the symbol of an epoch that disappeared with the Plata.

El Cachirulo. Logrono Road, km 1.5. Tel: (976) 33 16 74. This is, and always has been, the top restaurant for the most characteristically Aragonese cooking.

La Casa del Ventero. Villanueva de Gallego. Tel: (976) 11 51 87. 14km out of town on the Huesca road.

Worth visiting

La Seo. It is the most monumental building in Zaragoza, but the most difficult to visit: interminable restoration has kept it closed to worshippers and tourists alike. Begun in the 14th century, the cathedral was built in the Aragonese Gothic style, with Mudejar features and later Pateresque and Baroque additions. The tapestry Museum houses and extremely valuable collection of works from Flanders and France.

Basilica of Nuestra Senora del Pilar. The imposing shrine we see today was designed by the younger Herrera in 1677. Its most distinctive features, the eleven famous domes with their lanterns, were added later by Ventura Rodriguez, who also designed the Chapel of the Virgin. Goya and Bayeu painted the frescoes on the vaults.

The Marchants Exchange. Like all the other large cities belonging to the Crown of Aragon, Zaragoza had its great trading center, known as the Lonja. It was built next to the cathedral in the 16th century, and the architect was Juan de Sarinena. The result is a stunning, airy interior, with three aisles whose ribbed vaults rest on massive columns decorated in the Plateresque style.

La Aljaferia. Once the residence of first the Arab and later the Christian kings, this fortress hides a hole palace in its interior. Used for a time by the Inquisition and later turned into a prison, it has recently been restored, and its great porticoed courtyard and halls with stucco decoration are now open to public viewing. The musallah, the private mosque of the Muslim court, is particularly beautiful.

Court of the Infanta. This exquisite Renaissance courtyard, which once belonged to the palace of Zaporta, was brought all the way back from Paris by the Zaragoza Savings Bank and reconstructed stone by stone inside the bank's headquarters, a glass building in the Plaza de Paraiso. It is quite lovely, with a mass of delicate alabaster ornamentation.

Museums. Not to be missed: the Museum of Zaragoza, in the Plaza de los Sitios, with a good archaeological section and a room devoted to Goya. The Camon Aznar Museum, in the palace of the Pardo, has a stupendous collection of paintings. The Pablo Gargallo museum is housed in the palace of the Counts of Argillo and exhibits contemporary sculpture, whilst the recently inaugurated Pablo Serrano Museum is in the Paseo de Maria Agustin.

On October 12 all eyes in Spain are on the city's fiestas in honor of the Virgen del Pilar. There are processions, displays of jota singing and dancing, fireworks, bullfights and more.

The shopping area par excellence goes from Residencial Paraiso in Sagasta to the Plaza de Espana, and all the surrounding and transversal streets are full of hustle and bustle. Big stores coexist more or less peacefully in this area with smaller shops, and the fact that they are all permanently full seems to indicate that business is good. The most exclusive shops are to be found on Francisco de Vitoria, San Ignacio de Loyola, and the streets that cross them. The most typical establishments, selling virgins of silver or plastic or even used as a motif on ashtrays and purses, are concentrated in the area of the Plaza del Pilar. In the windows, alongside the objects of devotion to the Virgin Mary, visitors will also see the chocolates called frutas de Aragon and reproduction of the giants and big-heads that appear at fiesta time. On Sundays, there is a flea market under the arches of the bullring, a splendid structure based on historical prototypes. The Best place to buy food is Lanuza Market, where visitors can also admire the beautiful turn-of-the century stone and iron construction that houses it.

The Plata has closed down, the Tubo is threatened with demolition and extinction, and the nightlife of Zaragoza is no longer centered on Martires and Cuatro de Agosto. Nightbirds, both young and not so as the old town, located in the streets that run from Lanuza Market in the direction of Alfonso: Manifestacion Santa Isabel, Temple and Contamina. They are packed with bars and clubs. Slightly less hectic, but also very lively, is the area centered on Francisco Vitoria. And finally, a piece of news for lovers of old-time kitsch: the oasis (Calle Boggiero, 28) is still standing, though only just. It first opened in 1917 as a cabaret, and all the great Spanish stars, from Miguel de Molina to Carmen de Lirio, have performed there. A cult nightspot for the nostalgic.

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