3 Gorgeous Sites You Must Visit In Zaragoza (Insider Photos) | Spain

by - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Zaragoza — a lovely city with a strong mix of Moorish ( with origins from dated back from North Africa) and Roman influences. I would not have thought of exploring this northeastern part of Spain if not for this rare opportunity. As the capital of the larger Aragon region, there is much to explore and memories and sights that will leave you yearning for more.

Not All Classrooms Have Four Walls

I hope you will like the pictures, taken with love.
 More than just scrolling, I hope you will take the time to read the details and interpretations which I had pieced together "painstakingly"  and picking up something by the end of this post.

With only 2 nights, we focused on the main sights. But if you have more time to spare, perhaps a 3-nights journey will be more of a relaxing pace ( The itinerary will be released in a subsequent post).  

Here are the 3 main architectures you should not miss when in Zaragoza. 

1. Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar/ Basilica del Pilar

I was speechless and could not contain my excitement on meeting this stupendous sight in front of me.
Standing right in the middle of Plaza del Pilar (the heartbeat of Zaragoza city centre) is this beautiful and magnificent Mudéjar ( Pronounced as Mu-de-har)-styled basilica. One of the most important sanctuaries in the Catholic world, it is also a leading artistic centre with a collection of valuable works from different periods, in particularly the frescoes by Goya and the alabaster high Altarpiece which are spectacular examples of the late Renaissance architecture by Damian Forment. 

EXCLUSIVE! Basilica Interior 

*Disclaimer: We had special photography permissions courtesy from Zaragoza Tourism Board and the authorities of the Basilica del Pilar, which otherwise, was strictly forbidden. 
Built in the 16th century, much later on after the main altar, this is where the choir gathers. The gothic-styled organ consisting of 3000 pipes stood out in all grandness, constructed with alabaster. 

The main altar facing directly on the opposite end of the choir stand left visitors in awe.

Here's a close up of the main alter — showing the scenes of Virgin Mary's life: from the birth of Jesus to her death.

This is one of the communal altar where masses are carried out daily.

Do you know?

At the top of this communal alter is the Oculus, where sun shines and is a common feature in many basilicas.
More than just aesthetic, it also bears religious meanings.

Look Up — Goya's Paintings 

Adoration of the name of God by the Angels
Goya was first commissioned to paint the frescos below, with the Basilica before he went on to work in Madrid as a Tapestry Painter at the Royal Tapestry Factory.
P.S: Goya, an Aragonese Spanish artist, played an important role and is very much an iconic representation of Zaragoza. Thus in this city, you will see many monuments dedicated to him.

He later returned to work on his 2nd painting "Regina Martyrs" (Queen of Martyrs), decorating the dome of the north nave. This was 8 years apart from his first work for the basilica, depicting saints and the Holy Communal. 
Actual fact was that Goya did not complete the artwork on the dome but rather his family members completed the painting. 

In fact, Goya personally painted only the halves of the "Regina Martyrs"  and these half-paintings are now framed and can be spotted along the wall display inside the basilica. 

Special mention. If you are visiting as a tourist, you may not be aware, but do as the local devotees do if you wish to pray. You will be able to touch a part of the Pillar of Virgin Mary.

Do You Know?

As with the designs of basilicas, the individual concaves house the individual mini chapels offering different important saints. 

Don't Miss The Rooftop

After which, don't forget to head up to the rooftop and be greeted by spectacular views.
Charges apply.

On top, you can get the undisturbed 306deg panorama at the top of the Cupula Central del Pilar, overlooking the Ebro River, the Punte de Piedra bridge, the Santa Lenor Tower (foreground highest tower) and the Tower of La Seo (background to the right).
On the other side of the bridge is the 'new town' and the commercial functional part of Zaragoza.

The old town plaza right outside the basilica can be sighted.

Overlooking the 'new town' 

The flag and the cross represents Christ and the pillar in the middle, Virgin Mary

If you were to cross on to the Punete de Piedra bridge, this is the amazing view you will of the basilica. The distance to the bridge is pretty near.
Do head on. That's me with the pretty ladies from Zaragoza Tourism.

Visit Basilica del Pilar

Located at the main Plaza del Pilar.

Fun Facts: Checklist to Different Architectural Periods

I was quite a noob prior to this trip and totally clueless as to the different periods and style of art throughout the history of Spain. Here is a quick list of all the main styles from the different periods:
Gothic (1100- 1450AD)
Pointed arches, valuting led to taller and more classy styles. evolved from a Romanesque style
Renaissance (1400—1600AD)
A wakening of ideas in Europe, France and England
Baroque ( 1600-1830 AD)
Even more dramatic and extravagant architectural styles emerged throughout Europe such as St. Petersburg. building style in the Baroque era in late 16th C.m, emotional and wealthy show-offs. Romanesque 800 to 1200 AD
Rococo ( 1650-1790AD)
The last stage of the Baroque period, buildings came with curves and geometric shaped patterns.

Moving On
I have more to show you, the best has yet come~

2. Church of San Pablo/ La Seo / Cathedral del San Salvador

 Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the first Christian church in Zaragoza featuring Baroque tower and Neoclassical façade, this is not to be missed.
Contrasting yet beautifully harmonising into one.

La Seo was a church built after the Muslims retreated in the 11th century. The mosque was pulled down and rebuilt into a church with Romanesque apses in the 12th and subsequently the Baroque tower. It was gradually enlarged throughout the years.  As mentioned there are so much history and interpretations involved to truly understand the origin behind each church.

Pass by La Seo Plaza and it's where it will be.

The iconic Mudéjar tower of La Seo was under restoration unfortunately and we were only able there to witness part of its beauty...

... and so was the front facade of the cathedral.

EXCLUSIVE! Interior of La Seo

*Disclaimer: We had obtained special permission for photography inside La Seo, which otherwise is strictly forbidden. 
Enjoy the spectaculars!

The main altarpiece, dedicated to El Salvador, has the lower part rendered in alabaster ( a kind of soft rock used for carving), and the rest in wood.
This altar had remained since the Moors period.

Similar to typical churches, several mini chapels were built on the right, front and back of La Seo in the 18th century. This church has also seen the crowning of kings of Aragon.

Chapel dedicating to San Augustin (Saint Augustin).

Chapel dedicating to San Pedro Arbues

Do You Know?

The 8-pointed stars found on the domes of the church are typical features of Muslim style.

Other eight-pointed stars spotted.


 Mudéjar wall of the parish.
The Mudéjar wall signifies that Muslims and Christians were to live harmoniously with each other. The Christians determined the gothic style for the church inside, while on the exterior Muslim influences took on with a mix of green and blue

Greens and blues.

Spot the Arc Du Dean/ Arco del Dean just beside La Seo

Visit La Seo

Directions: Still within Plaza del Pilar, the La Seo is on the other end of the plaza and easily reachable within 5 minutes from Basilica del Pilar via walking.

Are You Still with Me?
Good! Thank you if you have scroll thus far because I am about to introduce the highlight and most symbolic monument of all —  La Aljafería

3.  La Aljafería

Directions: We headed to this UNESCO beauty from our hotel in town by feet. How long was the walk? 20 minutes in all. It was good to see the sights and explored the city like a true local. Besides the sun was up, warming our faces and we enjoyed walking without having to perspire.
(show on google map)
we were with Laura, our guide and I must say it was pretty amazing how we journeyed through)

  UNESCO World Heritage site.  
When we finally reached Aljafería, we were greeted with this majestic view. The most important Moorish building in Spain, this singular beauty is. We can see the delicate ornamental beauty of an 11th-century palace: extraordinary carved ceiling by the Moorish artists who worked on the medieval Christian palaces; the magnificence of the era of the Catholic king, the throne room; spectacular painted golden roof.
*Photography is allowed for visitors.

Access into Palace of Aljafería

Islamic Palace

Upon entrance to the courtyard, you will be led to the Islamic Palace which has very much retained its original design on a quadrangular floor plan, with a great rectangular open air courtyard.

The garden is named Saint Isabel's Courtyard

This enclosure houses residential quarters in its central area during the IX century. 
Look out for the intricate Muslim geometric and islamic-inspired motifs on the series of arches.

One of the unrestored Oratory (small church) or mosque depending on the periods.

After Zaragoza was reconquered by Alfonso, Aljafería became Christianized in 1118. It thus became the Palace of the Aragonese monarchs who carried out extensive restoration and expansion work. Later on some 400 years later, it became a military fortress in the Renaissance period. 

The Throne Room 

One of the most significant rooms of the palace with many subtle floorings and ceiling decorative elements.

Behind the ceiling of the Throne Room lies many interpretations.

8-pointed star reflected on the flooring, representing the Muslim influences.

The portal in the Throne Room

Main Entrance to the Throne room with the coat of arm of the Catholic Monarch supported by 2 lions

After we exit from the Throne Room, we came upon these stairs which were part of the palace of the Catholic King and Queen comprises of this flight of stairs, leading to the Great Throne Room.
This leads to the exit and tour of  La Aljaferia.

More on the exterior grounds of this Moorish breathtaking architecture.

The moat surrounding the castle is a good spot for photography now.

Visit La Aljaferia

http://www.cortesaragon.es/ ( Only in Spanish)
Mornings ( except Thurs and Fridays)
10am to 2pm. Guided tours: 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30am

4pm to 6.30 (November to March) /8pm (April to October)
Guided Tours: 4.30, 5.30 
Adults: 5 Euros

PIN For Later

Thank you for staying with me until the end! 
I hope you have enjoyed this long, pictorial post and piqued your interest in Zaragoza and its very interesting exchange of different religious influences over the various periods of history. 
Any questions or comments? Drop below! 

*We were guests of Zaragoza Tourism but opinions are my own.

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  1. Wow. Amazing view. Ill definitely go here when in Spain. Thank you for sharing. Lovely photos btw!

    1. Hi GJ! Thanks for dropping by~ I hope you will explore Zaragoza and glad you enjoyed the post.:)

  2. I feel fortunate to have found your post! The photographs are gorgeous and I can see the effort you've made to share this with us. Loved the knowledge about the architecture time periods and the photographs showing interior and carvings. Lovely!

    1. Hi Sankaara, thanks for reading! I am glad you enjoyed the post and the photos. It is a lovely place with a mix of christianity and muslim influences

  3. a soulful altar, very nice place to pray. The paintings are great with a deep meaning. Great places to think and thank God for everything.

    1. Hi Lorry, I had learnt plenty from the interpretations behind the paintings too. Deep insights gained

  4. Wow, great photo of many beautiful places! Thank you for sharing these inspiring photos!

    1. Hi Amanda~ Thank you and I am glad you enjoyed the photos :)

  5. The photos are great, all the places you visited look amazing!

    1. hi beautyfineprint, glad you loved them!

  6. What a wonderful city in Spain! I love the way how you tell the story in every detail. Oh, btw, what camera do you use? You are such a talented photographer. I am using Fujifilm Finepix. I wish I had a better camera, like a mirrorless Sony. :)

    1. Hi OI, Thanks for dropping by. I am so happy you enjoyed the post! Thanks for your kind words, I am still learning to improve my photography and am using the Olympus EP4 by the way, which is a mirrorless. =) Fujifilm is great too and the do have mirrorless now.

  7. Look like you have a good time in Spain. Hope to visit that' place soon

    1. Hi Kristelle~~ Yes indeed. Yup do mark down Zaragoza!

  8. I lived in Spain for 8 months and never made it to this city. After reading your post I am really regretting it. Guess I will have to go back!

    1. Hi Filatelista! Oh wow 8 months in Spain is amazing. Why didn't you explore further, oh what a pity~ But that makes great excuse to return! Hope you will be able to in the future :)

  9. Your pictures look amazing. I'm heading to Spain in September and I may have to add this city to my destinations!

    1. Hi Julianna! Thank you and yes head on to Zaragoza if you have the time to! It's lovely~