Monday, 5 February 2018

SPAIN: Zaragoza, People Even Eat Rabbits Stewed In Rabbit Blood

Zaragoza is a warm and inviting city strategically located between Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia and Toulouse.

Zaragoza , or Saragossa is the capital city of the Zaragoza province and of the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. It lies by the Ebro river and its tributaries, the Huerva and the Gallego, roughly in the center of both Aragon and the Ebro basin.

It's the fifth biggest city in Spain with around 700.000 inhabitants, and fourth when it comes to economy.

On 1 September 2010 the population of the city of Zaragoza was 701,090, within its administrative limits on a land area of 1,062.64 square kilometres (410.29 square miles), ranking fifth in Spain.

In 2013 there were 107 864 foreign citizens in Zaragoza, which represents 15% of the total population. From 2004 to 2013 immigration rose from 43 355 to 107 864 inhabitants.

The district with the biggest number of immigrants was the district of Delicias, with 25 428 immigrant inhabitants, which represents 23% of the population of the district.

The Old Town of Zaragoza registered 11 881 immigrants, which represents 25% of the population of the district.

It is the 32nd most populous municipality in the European Union. The population of the metropolitan area was estimated in 2006 at 783,763 inhabitants.

The municipality is home to more than 50 percent of the Aragonese population. The city lies at an elevation of 199 metres (653 feet) above sea level.

In people's haste to see other cities, this gem is often passed without so much as a second look. The city welcomes visitors with its rich culture, shopping, eating, and sightseeing.

Its more than 2,000 years of history makes the city one of the greatest historical and artistic legacies in Spain. It is situated in Aragon, one of the previous kingdoms of Spain.

Signs of the city’s founding, when the city was named after Emperor August, are still visible and can be enjoyed by tourists even today.

Two thousand years later, the architectural remains of large public buildings indicate Caesar Augustus’ influence over the city.

Today you can still admire the city’s Forum, Thermal Baths, the River Port or the Great Theatre, archeological remains which reflect the splendour of the city as it was during the Roman Empire.

Later on, during the Muslim occupation of Spain, Zaragoza was the capital of a kingdom in which art, music, and science formed the cornerstones of life in the Court.

From this period, you can still see the Aljaferia Palace, a marvelous example of Muslim art, which has been witness to Zaragoza and its rich history right up to the present day.

From the early days of Christianity, Zaragoza still possesses a multitude of indicators that tell us something of the grandeur of the city.

Thanks to the Mondejar, the show of tolerance whereby different cultures were able to live side by side, and World Heritage, you can still enjoy beautiful enclaves such as the San Salvador Cathedral or the Seo or the San Pablo church.

From the period of Renaissance, there is a multitude of palatial houses which tell us of the sumptuousness of Saragossa in the 16th Century.

Museums, such as the one dedicated to sculptor Pablo Gargallo, or exhibition halls, such as the monumental Lonja, are archetypal of Aragonese Renaissance art.

Zaragoza is known worldwide as the home to the magnificent Roman Catholic Basilica–Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar, heir to a tradition which is over 2,000 years old, and a destination for Christian pilgrims of all denominations.

Zaragoza hosted Expo 2008 in the summer of 2008, a world's fair on water and sustainable development. It was a candidate for the European Capital of Culture in 2012.

The city is famous for its folklore, local gastronomy, and landmarks such as the Basilica del Pilar, La Seo Cathedral and the Aljaferia Palace.

Together with La Seo and the Aljaferia, several other buildings form part of the Mudejar Architecture of Aragon which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Fiestas del Pilar are among the most celebrated festivals in Spain.

In addition to the advantageous geographic situation, an Opel factory was opened in 1982 in Figueruelas, a small village nearby.

The progressive decline of the agrarian economy turned Opel into one of the main pillars of the regional economy, along with Balay, which manufactures household appliances; CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles S.A.), which builds railway engines for both the national and international markets.

SAICA and Torraspapel in the stationery sector; and various other local companies, such as Pikolin, Lacasa, and Imaginarium SA.

The city's economy benefited from projects like the Expo 2008, the official World's Fair, whose theme was water and sustainable development, held between 14 June and 14 September 2008, Plataforma Logistica de Zaragoza (PLAZA), and the Parque Tecnologico de Reciclado (PTR).

Furthermore, since December 2003, it has been a city through which the AVE high-speed rail travels. Currently, Zaragoza Airport is a major cargo hub in the Iberian Peninsula, behind only Madrid, Barcelona, and Lisbon.

Zaragoza is home to a Spanish Air Force base, which was shared with the U.S. Air Force until 1994. In English, the base was known as Zaragoza Air Base.

The Spanish Air Force maintained an McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet wing at the base. No American flying wings with the exception of a few KC-135's were permanently based there, but it served as a training base for American fighter squadrons across Europe.

It is also the main headquarters for the Spanish Land Army, hosting the Academia General Militar, a number of brigades at San Gregorio, and other garrisons.

Zaragoza has a Continental Mediterranean climate, with very cold winters and very hot summers. With an average of 318 mm per year, rainfall is low.

There is drought in summer with only a few storms in the late afternoon. In July and August, temperatures are typically above 30°C (86°F), reaching up to 40°C (104°F) a few days per year.

In winter the temperatures are low, usually between -4ºC and 10°C, with frosts during the night.

Snow occurs only once every year, and fog is common, about 20 days from November to January and temperature won't be higher than 0-3ºC with fog, frosting at night.

However, the worst part is the Cierzo the strongest wind in Spain, a cold and dry wind blowing from the NW that is quite common on clear days, and can make your stay really unpleasant.

Beware also of sunny days in spring and autumn, if the Cierzo blows, you will regret not having warm clothes with you.

Be especially careful with cierzo in winter, since on some cold waves thermal sensation has been as low as -15ºC due to its high speed.

The best time to visit Zaragoza is during spring that is April to mid-June and autumn in September to October.

In late June and July the days can be quite hot but in the evenings the city is bustling with people going out for dinner or having a beer with friends in a terrace.

In August the city is almost deserted, with most people being on holidays at the mountains or the coast, and more than half the bars, restaurants and small business closed.

The major city festival is El Pilar that takes place every year the week of the 12th of October, with lots of concerts, performances and street animations all over the city creating a fantastic party atmosphere.

During a week the 600.000 population triples with visitors from all over Spain and Latino America, since La Virgen del Pilar is traditionally considered as the Patrona de la Hispanidad or the christian symbol of protection for all hispano and portugueses speakers.

The Easter week, although not in the same league that the Andalucia or Calanda counterparts, is very scenic, with several processions going over the city centre every day with their dramatic sculptures, black-dressed praying women and hundreds of hooded people playing drums.

Zaragoza Airport, is located 10 km from the city centre. In March 2008 the new terminal building was completed.

The main carriers are Ryanair with flights from Alicante, Brussels-Charleroi, Milan-Orio al Serio (Bergamo), London-Stansted, and Rome-Ciampino, Iberia/Air Nostrum with flights from Madrid, Paris-Orly, Frankfurt, La Coruña and Vigo, and Air Europe with flights from Palma de Mallorca, Lanzarote and Tenerife.

For most of these destinations there is a daily flight, while others are served 3 or 4 times a week.

There is also a web blog with more information concerning arrivals and departures, Zaragoza Airport Blog.

Transfer to/from the airport: The cheapest option is the airport bus stopping at Los Enlaces, Delicias train station, Avenida de Navarra 12, and Paseo de María Agustín 7, in the city centre (45 minutes ride).

The bus costs €1.85 and runs every 30 minutes Mo-Sa and every hour on Sundays and holidays. Alternatively a taxi will cost around €25-30 and take around 20 minutes to the city centre.

As most flights to Zaragoza only run once a day, it is sometimes more convenient to fly to Madrid or Barcelona airports, from where you can reach Zaragoza in less than 3 hours.

From Madrid Barajas Airport: go to Atocha RENFE train station either by taxi (30 minutes, around €25) or by metro (45 minutes, €2) and then take the high speed train AVE to Zaragoza (1h30, around €50).

A cheaper but not so comfortable alternative is taking a coach from company ALSA that runs between Barajas terminal T4 and Zaragoza every 2-3 hours (3h45 trip, single/return: €15/€26).

If you are in terminals T1 T2 or T3, take the free airport bus shuttle to terminal T4. The bus to Zaragoza stops in the same place as the airport shuttle.

There are no ticket counters, information posts, or timetables, but place yourself with your back towards the T4 terminal exit, look at your right and you will see the ticket vending machine of ALSA.

From Barcelona Airport,the easiest way is to take the half-hourly RENFE C-10 suburban train to Barcelona Sants (20 minutes, €2.20), and then take the high speed train AVE to Zaragoza (1h45, around €60).

If you already have your AVE ticket, you can get the suburban train ticket for free in the automatic vending machines, by typing the code for cercanías that appears in your AVE ticket.

Zaragoza is served by the high speed train AVE that reaches Madrid in approximately 1 hour 20 minutes and Barcelona in approx. 1 hour 30 minutes.

There are up to 19 trains a day in each direction for Madrid and 12 for Barcelona. Regular rates start at about €50 to Madrid and €60 to Barcelona, but you can get up to a 60% discount if you book through the web 15 days in advance.

A cheaper way to get to Zaragoza from Barcelona is using the Regional Express, a slow train going on an ancient track, stopping at every small village and some post-industrial ghost towns, and really astonishing landscapes. The ride takes 5 hours and tickets cost €22.

Other neighbouring cities like Huesca, Teruel, Pamplona, Logrono, Bilbao or Valencia are connected by a few daily conventional trains.

All trains and buses arrive to Delicias station. The city centre is some 2km away from, and can be reached using urban buses 34 and 51 or by taxi (10 minutes, around €10)

You can reach Zaragoza either from Madrid or Barcelona in 3:45 hours. The coach company is ALSA and the single/return ticket costs around €15/€26.

Zaragoza is also well communicated with other main capital cities, such as Valencia and Bilbao. There is possibility of getting to Zaragoza from France by bus. The main lines travel from Lourdes, Tarbes, Pau and Oloron.

For bus schedules from Barcelona, also try Barcelona Nord.

Zaragoza is very well connected by free speedways with Huesca (1h), Teruel (2h), Madrid (3h), and by toll highways with Barcelona (3h, €30), Pamplona and Bilbao. Traffic around the city is relatively light except on some weekends and holidays.

Free parking in the city centre is very scarce. Most streets have metered parking limited to 1 or 2 hours. Underground paying parkings are scattered in the entire city and usually have free places.

If you stay in or near the old town, most is walkable.

If you plan on bussing around, a card costs seven euros at any tobacco kiosk initial card fee of two euros, so when charging it next time it will just cost €5.

With the card you can change lines within an hour without being charged again. Single tickets are 1,35 euros.

The city's taxi drivers are plentiful and mostly honest. Zaragoza Taxi phone numbers.

Sightseeing bus is another option. They provide more than just a great way to travel around the city, available to all pockets. It costs €7 free if you have the Zaragoza card and the ticket can be used the entire day.

The Zaragoza Card provides, from €7.66 per day:

- Free entry to all museums and monuments.

- 24 hour unlimited use of the Saragossa Tourist Bus.

- Free public transport depending on the type of card.

- Including guided tours and the services of the “roaming” tourist guides.

- A free tapas and drink at one of our tapas bars.

- Discounts in more than 50 establishments,hotels, car hire, cafes and bars, restaurants.

Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Pilar- A Roman Catholic church. The architecture is Baroque style and it was built between 1681 and 1872.

It features paintings on the ceiling by Goya and Bayaeu who are very famous and classic artists. Free entry but the no photo policy is enforced ferociously.

Catedral de la Seo- Located on the Plaza de la Seo. It is a Gothic style cathedral built over the remains of a mosque. It features an exquisite collection of tapestries.

Palacio de la Aljaferia- Moorish castle with intricate decorations including ceilings of gold.

Las Murallas- Parts of the ancient wall that surrounded the city are still standing.

Iglesias Mudejares- Mudejar is a style of art that mixes Christian and Muslim tradition. Good examples of that are a part of La Seo cathedral, Magdalena church, San Miguel church and San Pablo church.

Caesaraugusta route - a route of 4 museums with a joint ticket is available at a better price than separately.

The route exposes monuments from times of Caesar August:


Museo Zaragoza - The municipal museum is free and is very much worth a visit for both its impressive mosaics from Caesaraugusta and its celebrated collection of Goya.

Museo Ibercaja Aznar - Another free museum displaying a collection of Goya and temporary exhibitions.

Expo 2008 - In 2008 Zaragoza hosted an international expo for which a new areal was opened with many new buildings designed by famous architecs such as Zaha Hadid. It is now possible to stroll around the areal. The only facility open to tourists is the aquarium.

River Aquarium - The only facility left operative from expo 2008. It features Europe largest and the world third largest river aquarium with 60 tanks representing rivers in five continents.

Activities in Zaragoza

The Parque Grande is excellent for a walk or a chill. Huge in size, you forget the city, and the many fountains adds to distraction.

Museo Pablo Serrano (IAACC), Paseo Maria agustin. 10-14/17-21h. The IAACC Pablo Serrano is a new museum of contemporary Arts. Its programmation includes esculture and painture exhibitions, videoinstalations, concerts, and atelliers for young artists free.

La Hora Bruja Sound Festival, IAACC Pablo Serrano Museum, Paseo Maria Agustin, 20. 20-23. Artistic dusks under Flamencos’s beat music, on the IAACC Pablo Serrano Museum roof terrace, tasting the more authentic tapas.

Zaragoza, June 14, 21 and 28. 20-23h. Price (10-18 €) 10-18.

Summer days can be very hot in Zaragoza. If you prefer relaxing by the swimming pool over a sightseeing program, here are a few suggestions.

Public swimming pools in Zaragoza are generally clean and well maintained. The entrance fee is some €3 for an adult. Open-air pools are open until 9 or 10PM in the evening.

Centro Deportivo Municipal Actur, C/ Pablo Ruiz Picasso s/n near Avenida de los Pirineos. Multiple swimming pools, large lawn area. Few trees, hard to find a place in the shadow.

Centro Deportivo Municipal Salduba, Paseo de Mairano Renovales s/n Part of Parque Primo de Rivera between Calle de Manuel Lasala and Paseo de San Sebastian. 50m pool, the right place for serious swimming.

Palacio Municipal de Deportes, Calle de Luis Bermejo. Small pool, plenty of trees for shadow.

Zaragoza has much to offer in the way of shopping, with most central streets in Zaragoza being lined with shopping opportunities.

Zaragoza's shopping area stretches from Residencial Paraiso in Sagasta to the Plaza de España. The most exclusive shops are on Francisco de Vitoria, San Ignacio de Loyola, Cadiz, Isaac Peral and the streets crossing them.

Zaragoza's craft and souvenir shops are located at Anticuarios de la Plaza de San Brun.

Mercadillo La Romareda behind the La Romareda Football Stadium is the largest open-air market in Zaragoza, but if you are looking for food and fresh produce head for Mercado Central and Lanuza Market.

If you are looking for everything under one roof, then El Corte Ingles is located next to Plaza de Paraiso, and Centro Comercial Gran Casa is a one-stop super mall where you can find everything including shops, restaurants a bowling alley and cinemas.

Mercado Central is on a site which has been a market place since the Middle Ages. It is the perfect place to buy Zaragozan products as well as observe the atmosphere of a traditional Spanish market.

The Misericordia Bullring is the place to go on Sunday as it is the venue for the traditional flea market.

Centro Comercial Augusta, Avenida De Navarra 180, next to Delicias train station. Shops, restaurants, cinema. Offers free WIFI access, according to website.

GranCasa, Calle de la Poetisa Maria Zambrano, 35. Shopping mall.

Some of the best known regional specialities are: Bacalao al Ajoarriero, cod-fish with garlic and eggs, Huevos al Salmorejo, eggs with cold tomato cream, Longanizas y Chorizos.

Highly appreciated kinds of sausages, Ternasco Asado, roasted young lamb, Pollo al Chilindrón, chicken in a sauce of cured ham, tomatoes, onions and paprika, Cordero a la Pastora, lamb Shepherd's style, Lomo de Cerdo a la Zaragozana, cutlet, Migas a la Aragonesa, a dish made of crumbs scrambled with an egg and chorizo.

People even eat rabbits stewed in rabbit blood. Borrajas is a vegetable which can only be found in Aragon. It is usually eaten with olive oil.

Melocoton con vino, peaches in wine, is also a good option, though sometimes it is hard to find a restaurant serving this dessert.

Zaragoza is well known because of its many tapas bars. The best place to eat is the old city, commonly called Casco viejo which is a bunch of small streets similar to the Zoco.

One excellent choice is in Calle de los martires which is a tapas bar in which you can only eat one tapa. In the first one the mushroom and close to it the Taberna de Dona Casta, the Huevos rotos con foi which is mainly scrambled egg with fries and foi or jamon serrano.

Plaza Santa Marta is in the old town as well; it's a little bit more expensive but the food is of high quality. A Tabla is a wooden plate in which different tapas like cheese and sausages are served, often with a bottle of wine in the price.

Sea food tapas are not that common, but can be very good and cheap. Casa de Mar, located in Eusebio Blasco Street, is a local favorite. Cheap crayfish, cuttlefish and a great cold white wine.

A four person meal with two bottles of wine costs less than €12 each.

Los Victorinos, C/Jose de la Hera, 6 alley off Calle Don Jaime I. Probably the best tapas bar in town although surely not the cheapest. Try the Boletus Edulis tapa.

La Tertulia Taurina is a traditional Castilian-Aragonese cuisine restaurant located in the old part of the city amongst the charismatic and multicultural Plaza del Portillo and the splendid bullfighting arena, Plaza de Toros de la Misericordia.

Slow Food with great selection of meats. Menu of the day €12 local wine and desserts included or a la carte for around €36. Address: C/ Pignatelli 122.

Casa Yesca, Calle Blanca de Navarra 2, corner of Av. Madrid 2 block west from Aljaferia. Lunch and dinner. Small and neat, with smooth background music, and a gourmet's touch. Menu del dia €10.

There are a number of good wines produced in Aragon.

Tareas of Calle de Espoz y Mina and Calle Mayor, which are a stone's throw from Plaza del Pilar, have plenty of varied bars from which to choose.

Cafe Praga, Plaza de la Santa Cruz 13, El Tubo. Great local favorite that has live music playing in the main bar, or you can retreat to the upstairs terrace and enjoy a tasty beverage overlooking the plaza.

Exo, Plaza del Carmen 11. Smooth and sleek, this bar impresses as much as it does with its extensive cocktail list. Check out the funky decor while listening to the easy going Spanish rock that is often played here.

La Cucaracha, Calle del Temple 25, El Tubolla. Laidback and casual student hang out that doesn't really get going until the early hours of the morning.

Rock and Blues Cafe, Cuatro de Agosto 5-7, El Tubo. Unleash your inner rock god at this long standing favorite, where live music plays throughout the week.

Cafe Botanico, C/ Santiago 5, 50003 Zaragoza. A fun and distinctive cafe on a scruffily-charming covered arcade.

Bull McCabes (Irish Pub), Calle Cadiz, 7, Zaragoza 50004. Just a couple of seconds from Zaragoza's main street Paseo Independencia. Genuine Irish Pub, seriously popular with locals of all ages and a second home to much of the city’s expatriate community.

A very friendly and welcoming atmosphere, great food, you can watch all the Spanish, Irish and British sport on giant screens.

International night on Thursdays, live music in the downstairs bar/club on Fridays, outdoor seating. Rightly one of the most popular bars in the city.

Accomodations in Zaragoza

Ibis Zaragoza, Calle de Sobrarbe 2, Esquina avenida Cataluna, Zaragoza. Three star hotel that is only 200 meters' distance from the center of town. Clean and comfortable stay.

Hostal Cataluna, Coso, 94-96, Zaragoza 50001. In the center, around €50 individual and 60 € for double. Affordable choice, but rooms facing the street can hear a lot of street noise.

Albuerge Zaragoza, C/ Predicadores 70. Refurbished in 2008, this hostel is styled in an old medieval building that retains its charms of previous years. Free internet and kitchen available for travelers, with dorms rooms from 16.60 € per night

NH Orus, Escoriaza y Fabro, 45, 50010 Zaragoza. This hotel is in a rehabilitated building in a commercial and residential area, close to the train station Zaragoza Delicias and Parque Roma. There are 3 other NH hotels in Zaragoza.

Hotel Sauce, Hotel Sauce. C/ Espoz y Mina, 33 50003 Few minutes from Plaza del Pilar. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Hotel Sauce is right in the commercial centre of the city. Located near the Plaza del Pilar, in the heart of the city.

Link Zaragoza Apartments in the city centre, from €75/night. From two people to big groups.

Hotel Boston, Camino de las Torres 28. Regarded as the finest hotel in the city, you won't be able to miss the Hotel Boston, being the tallest hotel in the city.

Though the style is futuristic, guests will still feel comfortable and at ease, with spacious and modern comforts and well-maintained bathrooms equipped with tub/shower combos.

Hotel Palafox, Avenida Cesar Augusto 14 50004 Zaragoza. Beautifully presented hotel with an inviting decor of beige stone/marble, dark wood and soft lighting.

All the rooms are of good value with modern facilities such as wireless internet, minibar, room service etc. This unique hotel was designed by Pascua Ortega and constructed from materials native to the region using traditional methods.

Close to the city center, the Hotel Palafox is in an ideal location.

Melia Zaragoza, Avenida Cesar Augusto 13, Zaragoza 50004. One of the most luxurious hotels in the city, this 5 star hotel in one of the most glamorous parts of the city and close to the Carmen Door.

Places to adventure in Zaragoza

Cartuja Aula Dei - 17th Century Monastery located a short 20 minute drive or take bus route 28 north of Zaragoza, featuring a number of works by Goya and the Buffet brothers. Free entry, open every second Saturday.

Monasterio de Piedra - Charming monastery built in 1194 dc surrounded by an amazing park full of waterfalls. 90 minutes by car.

Fuendetodos - Birthplace of the great painter Franscisco de Goya. 80 minutes by car.

Moncayo - A fascinating mountain view. 80 minutes by car.

Monasterio de Rueda - Romanic monastery which belonged to the cirtencens order.

Monasterio de Veruela - Romanic monastery which belonged to the cirtencens order.

Teruel and Huesca are easily reached by car, train or bus.

Madrid and Barcelona are easily reached by car, train, bus and plane.

Aramon - As the Pyrenees are just 2 hours away from Zaragoza, head to the ski slopes here.

The following places are located in the Huesca province, not more than 2 hours by car and in the middle of the Pyrenees. Charming places in the middle of the nature.

Loarre Castle - One of the best Romanesque castles in Europe, recently the site for Ridley Scott's film, Kingdom of Heaven.

Ordesa National Park - is particularly spectacular in autumn and decorated with waterfalls.

Alquezar - A small village situated in the Sierra de Guara National Park.

Villanueva de Sigena - The Monastery of Santa Maria de Sigena is located next to the town. Birthplace of Michael Servetus, the discoverer of pulmonary circulation with a museum dedicated to his work.

Tourism Observer

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