Two thousand years in Zaragoza
Founded under the name of Salduie where the rivers Ebro, Huerva and Gállego meet, it was Roman Cesaraugusta, royal Arabic Sarakosta and Christian capital of the Kingdom of Aragón. That very kingdom encompassed the territory that today is the Kingdom of Spain.
Zaragoza has been a university city for more than 500 years, and it counts with more than 50.000 higher education students. Some faculties and other university institutions like The University of Zaragoza, one of the oldest universities of Spain, are located in the heart of the city.
Zaragoza is also a city known for its fairs and congresses, and it has two very suitable facilities for this purpose, notably the "Feria de muestras" (trade fair), a true commercial city in itself, and the Auditorium, a building complex that stands out for its design and capacity. Buses and taxis cover the whole city and although there are some traffic jams at rush hour, it doesn't even come close to the driving chaos typical of, for example, Madrid.
Zaragoza is known to be a "passing through" city, however all the visitors that make a halt here discover a rich and interesting city.
Take a tour through smaller streets where you can see how people live and enjoy so-called amateur, but very professional flamenco guitar players. The historic centre is one of greatest interest for visitors since most of the important ancient buildings can be found there. It includes the old town with its extensions to the east, the neighbourhoods Barrio de la Magdalena to the west and Predicadores, and the area delineated by Avenida César Augusto and Paseo de María Agustín with its nearby flea market and the Pignatelli Building, the 18th century hospital containing a church that now houses the regional government.
In Predicadores we can't miss San Pablo Church, while La Magdalena Church in the neighbourhood of the same name has in its tower one of the finest examples of the Aragonese mudéjar style: brick and coloured tile decoration due to Moorish artists who stayed long after the Christian conquest. If you want to see old Spanish architecture in all its glory, this is the place to visit. This is a very lively area, full of shops of every kind, narrow streets, squares and pleasant corners, with many tapas bars with tables outside and a busy nightlife.
Ensanche is a large area characterized by the main avenues opened in the 19th century with modern surroundings. It includes Zona Centro, surrounding the twin squares of Aragón and Paraíso, where the beautiful neo-mudéjar building of the old School of Medicine and Science stands. Here is where Gran Vía starts. It is an important market and leisure green avenue lined with trees which stretches all the way down to San Francisco square with number of outdoor cafés, bingo halls and bars.
Another important boulevard starts at Plaza Paraíso. This is the axis of a busy commercial area with many shops, bars, cafés and restaurants. Calle Moncasi and its surroundings is where a huge number of young people come to enjoy weekends. If you are into fine food, the around the University campus is the place to go. Ciudad Jardín, a residential area with low houses, is the popular neighbourhood with the park and the lively streets, an area with great personality if you have the time to get to know it.
Zaragoza is a popular tourist destination not just because its amenities, it is great starting point for visiting old Spanish cities. In the circle of one hour driving you can find a lot of attractions worth visiting. Those are mainly historic towns and villages featuring many attractions such as the 12th century castles, palaces, scenic views and medieval remains. Some of the most popular attractions are Calatayud, Illueca and Bilbao, all of which are popular places in the Zaragoza area. ■