The castle-like Ajafería Palace in Zaragoza.

Street art in Zaragoza is helping to revive forgotten neighbourhoods.
Here’s why you should schedule the extra stop when travelling the popular Spain train route and experience what it feels like to stumble upon a Spanish secret.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links to handpicked partners, including tours, gear and booking sites. If you click through or buy something via one of them, I may receive a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you and allows this site to keep running.

Blue and yellow mosaic domed rooftops in front of a wider golden building city view of Zaragoza, next to a turquoise river. An elevated view from the rooftop of a cathedral.
The exquisite Mudejar art inside Ajafería Palace

All the Things to do in Zaragoza

La Despensa de Montal restaurant in Zaragoza.

Visit Ajafería Palace – UNESCO World Heritage Zaragoza

Zaragoza is synonymous with gastronomic, cultural expression. Much like art, people reinvent old recipes and add modern twists to traditional establishments and food customs. So where’s the best place to eat in Zaragoza?
El Salvador Cathedral was built upon the site and structure of the main mosque of the old Muslim city. Today, Mudejar design can be found on the outer wall of the parish chapel, and the Church of Mary Magdalen is Mudejar in style with a tower and intricately patterned tiles.

The golden stone, four-pillar castle-like Ajafería Palace in Zaragoza, Spain.
Like most Roman cities, modern structures have covered many ancient remains, and Zaragoza is no exception. The construction of the San Pablo church replaced the old Roman hermitage of San Blas.

Still, there’s a lot of Roman Zaragoza on show. The Caesaraugusta Theatre Museum (Museo Del Teatro De Caesaraugusta) is one of the largest theatres of Roman Hispania that once held 6,000 spectators, and you can view ruins from a market at the Caesar Augustus Forum Museum. Even an 80-metre long section of the old Roman city walls stands crumbling in front of a modern apartment building. 
Detailed artworks on tall apartment blocks in Zaragoza – part of the urban regeneration drive, of Festival Asalto

Two people sit at the back corner of a room filled with a sculptured archway of columns - the Islamic style Mudejar art inside Ajafería Palace.
The ticket check before boarding a Renfe train in Spain.

See More Mudejar Art in the City

Zaragoza’s oldest sweet shop, Fantoba which opened in Zaragoza in 1856.
Mudejar art on the Church of Mary Magdalen in Zaragoza.
The Alma del Ebro sculpture at Zaragoza Expo Zone

The outer walls of a church building and church tower covered in intricately patterned blue and brown tiles.
This 11th-century medieval Islamic palace remains one of the most beautiful and significant of all the sights in the city and the seat of the regional parliament. It’s an open museum of the residential structures of the Taifa kingdoms.

Climb the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar

Since its inception in 2005, the city has been filled with over 70 artworks using murals, graffiti, templates, posters and installations as the medium of expression by local artists and groups. You can embark on a self-guided walking tour to find them all using the handy online map (a printed version is also available).

People gather around a globe artwork at one end of the long Plaza del Pilar square in Zaragoza, Spain. The dominant golden structure of The Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar is on the left.
Wedged between Madrid and Barcelona is a city of an artistic legacy often overlooked. Here are all the things to do in Zaragoza city – the capital of mighty Aragon.
A woman holds her hair while looking out of a brick window archway towards a the city of Zaragoza's blue and yellow mosaic domed rooftops, spires and low-lying buildings.
Plaza del Pilar is where you will find another of Zaragoza’s famed public artworks. Controversial but central to Aragon’s history, the Fuente de la Hispanidad fountain is shaped like the continent of Latin America. A reference to Columbus – amongst other symbols in the city – who monarch Ferdinand II of Aragon commissioned for the ‘discovery of the New World’.

Wander Plaza del Pilar – Spain’s Largest Square

Mixing old and new with artistic flair is very much a part of the food scene in Zaragoza. Here’s where you can sample the best of tradition.

An elevated view of the densely packed Zaragoza city with a closer view down to the long building lined Plaza del Pilar square that features a blue Fuente de la Hispanidad water fountain in the shape of Latin America.
One of its defining features of Zaragoza is the stunning Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar – a Roman Catholic Church in the heart of the Plaza del Pilar (the largest of all in Spain).

Find Remnants of Roman Zaragoza 

Part of the neverending indulgence of the Tapas Workshop at La Zarola.
I have a whole Spain by train AVE guide, with suggested routes and top tips for travelling around the country, but here are some quick fix tips for planning your rail adventure.
It provides one of the best-elevated views over the multi-domed dreamscape and a better perspective on the artistic Plaza del Pilar and its water features.

A large section of a Roman wall in Zaragoza city that stands in front of a modern apartment block. A white van is parked in front of the wall.
Zaragoza’s cafe culture in Plaza de Santa Marta.

Take a Walking Tour of Zaragoza Street Art

The Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar lines the Plaza del Pilar.
By 1118, Ajafería became a Christian Palace and the residence of Aragonese monarchs, who added extra layers and extensions to the existing design, as did the Catholic monarchs with the Throne Room in 1492.

A residential housing block in Zaragoza featuring a street art mural of a woman.
Zaragoza’s street art collection includes a Flamenco dancer on a building in a neighbourhood sports court.
A crumbling building next to a yard of rubble is covered is lines of white paint and a bird-like mural - bringing life to a run down street in local Zaragoza.
One of the best views of Zaragoza city from the top of the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar.
Zaragoza's street art collection includes a Flamenco dancer on a building in a neighbourhood sports court.
The master at work. Jamon carving by Félix Martínez at his restaurant, La Jamoneria.
Detailed artworks on two, tall yellow apartment blocks in Zaragoza's outer city neighbourhoods.
Zaragoza melds modern-day gritty and urban revival with its ancient and decadent architectural design heritage. The entire city is a showcase of its historical linage of art and expression. And when travellers bypass the chance of visiting Zaragoza on their journey between Madrid and Barcelona, they miss out on one of Spain’s most artistic and underrated cities.

Go to the Otherwordly Zaragoza Expo Zone

A typical side street in Zaragoza’s El Tubo district is filled with the best places to eat and drink. 
Zaragoza’s restaurant and culinary establishments pride themselves on local produce. The love for tapas lines every corner and alley, such as the El Tubo district known for attracting the hungry crowds and Plaza de Santa Marta for café culture.

A woman wearing black and pink in a fighting stance pose in front of a wave-design building and a large figure made of white mesh metal.
See how Zaragoza’s Roman past is interlaced with Mudejar art at the Lonja Market. Or find the Parish Church of San Gil Abad – a Romanesque temple destroyed in the 14th century to make way for the still-standing Mudejar church.

Visit the Goya Museum – The Artistic Son of Zaragoza

Beyond Ajafería Palace, you can still find Mudejar art details on historic structures around the city.

Two people in a black room looking at the long row of illuminated artworks of Goya, at the Goya Museum in Zaragoza.
Modernisation into the fortress style we see today came in 1593. Each room is like a puzzle piece of this architectural timeline, and while it draws the crowds, it’s a place where you can easily get lost in its detail, most notably in one of the main halls with these mesmerising archways.

Eat Your Way Through Zaragoza

The modern Goya Museum in Zaragoza, creating a spotlight of his works.
Native to Aragon, Mudejar art blends Islamic and Christian elements from a time during the 12th and 17th centuries when both faiths coexisted. A core part of Zaragoza’s architectural heritage, the sheer amount of Mudejar art earned it a UNESCO World Heritage title, with the Ajafería Palace being the most symbolic.

On a small side street in Zaragoza, two women stand outside a white building in between shop front painted in ochre red and yellow. A man walks past them.
Remains of the Roman wall in Zaragoza city.
Outdoors seating at a cafe in front of a tall building with black balconies and next to a golden spired church.
Street art in Zaragoza is reviving once run-down streets.
Empty tables and chairs outside a black panelled restaurant exterior which lists the word "montal" four times.
In the home of Goya, it’s no wonder that art plays a central role in the city’s persona. The dedicated Goya Museum (housed within the 16th-century Renaissance building, Calle Espoz y Mina 25) showcases works from the 15th to 20th century, with rooms dedicated to Goya’s self-portraits and etchings – the only museum which has the entire six series on display.

Food Workshops in Zaragoza – The Art of Cuisine 

My two favourite designs are the Alma del Ebro sculpture outside the Congress Palace, which was made especially for this International Exhibition by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa and the Bridge Pavilion designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.

  • Attend a tapas workshop at the modern gastronomic space La Zarola, helping to cook up half a dozen dishes. It’s like being at the house of a friend.
  • Enjoy a masterclass of Jamon carving by Félix Martínez, who owns the award-winning restaurant La Jamoneria. You’ll be taught how to carve Jamon while sampling perfected slivers of Jamon alongside a tapas and wine menu. 
  • Indulge in candied fruits and chocolates at the vintage 1856 confectionary shop, Fantoba. Its old wooden shelves stacked floor to ceiling with boxes, bottles and old trinkets takes you back to that time.
A man in a blue and white stripped hat and grey and orange chef's overalls, picks up grilled meat from a black tray, ready to place on the white plates featuring a green sauce.
Zaragoza’s 2000-year-old Roman legacy is primarily found in the many archaeological museums, preserving a prominent layer of the city’s design.
A man in a white doted shirt and brown apron, carves slices of red meat from a leg of Jamon.
Space age-like modern architecture adds to the multi-layers of artistry here, which you can see showcased at the Zaragoza Expo Zone, constructed in 2008.
A woman in a white shirt stands shows off green, yellow and red candied sweets in a traditional confectionary store in Zaragoza. Behind her are carved wooden shelves full of boxes.
Elevated view to the Fuente de la Hispanidad water fountain shaped like Latin America.

Things to Know About Travel to Zaragoza

  • Tarragona to Zaragoza is a mere 1 hour and 30 minutes journey on the train, landing you right between Madrid and Barcelona. Zaragoza is 90 minutes from Madrid by train and just under two hours from Barcelona.
  • If you are looking to visit many museums and monuments and make use of public transport, consider getting the Zaragoza Card. From €20 for 24 hours or €23 for 48 hours, you’ll have access to all major sites, buses and tram lines, and discounts for listed shops and restaurants.
People walk down a street in Zaragoza city lined with white buildings and black lampposts. The street leads towards the golden dome structure.
Ready for a centuries-long journey into Zaragoza’s artistic heritage? Here’s where to start. 

How to Get to Zaragoza

Book a Renfe Train Ticket in Spain – AVE Guide

We were able to wander beyond the opulent centre of Zaragoza, where there is an interesting contrast in its abundance of street art. It’s all a part of an annual urban regeneration drive, Festival Asalto (the International Festival of Urban Art), bringing an artistic new life to forgotten neighbourhoods.

  • You can book tickets via the Renfe website in English, and specific high-speed network tickets. All tickets have to be pre-booked (payable by Visa, Mastercard and Paypal), since you can’t turn up on the day and book at the station.
  • The AVE trains have nine classes if you count the overnight trains with sleeper/bed options, but there are two main ones to consider – Turista (a second class option with 2 x 2 seating rows) and Turista Plus, which is a little more spacious (with 2 x 1 seating rows). I travelled to each destination with a Turista ticket – comfortable and great value for money.
  • If you want to book a multi-stop trip, consider getting a ‘Spain Pass’, so you can travel using just one ticket for the AVE and other long-distance trains. You must reserve a seat before every trip, as limited space is assigned for Spain Pass holders.
People queue up at a white box ticket counter at a train station in Spain.
The beauty of visiting Zaragoza city.

The Art of Travel in Zaragoza, Spain – A Guide to World Heritage, Legacy and Urban Revival.

Similar Posts