Updated: Nov 7
Six enjoyable activities to fill any schedule on a trip to Zaragoza
In 1808 the people of Zaragoza, armed with pitchforks and passion, fought off one of the greatest military forces in modern history, Napoleon’s forces limped away, embarrassed. The Roman settlement later the heart of the five kingdoms of Spain, was named for Cesar Augusta who had fallen in love with the sun soaked desert enclave on the swollen belly of the Ebro river. Later still, the Russian military would sing songs of it’s people, simple folk that fought like Lions. A city, like no other, steeped in history, forged in the scorching sun and eroded in the Baltic winds of El Cierzo. So why does nobody know where it is?
As a foreigner living here for several years, like Cesar, I’ve come to love the place and it’s people. If you should find yourself here by mistake or intention, here are 6 alternative ways to enjoy the land of the mano.
Pilar Tower - Views
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, is not only the most visited attraction in Zaragoza, it is one of the most significant in Spain. Yet, people are failing to visit it correctly. Yes, the interior is stunning, towering carved altars, painted concave ceilings and a pair of bombs that dropped through the roof but didn’t go bang pinned to the wall. However, the best view of the Pilar is from above. Facing the river the tower closest to the Santiago bridge houses a glass lift, for 3 euros you can shoot above the city and enjoy panoramic views out into the desert and the distant Pyrenees mountains.
Telephone - 976 29 95 64
Hours – 10-11:30 and 16:00-17:30
Visit the Pilar website
Tortilla Museum - Bites
Slightly misleading name, as there is no history involved, except that of Las Fuentes, the hometown of the owner. However, you can eat so many varieties of tortilla in this place the time before you entered will be remembered as the ‘pre-tortilla’ era. Incredibly cheap and a great vibe, including an electronic chicken in a coop that randomly cackles at alarmed tourists. The tortilla is constantly churned out of a little kitchen hatch at which point the waiter bellows the latest offering and you grab what you can while it’s fresh. Varieties include: goats cheese, spicy sausage, brains, spring onion, ear, mexican and many many more
It is the time of the tortilla.
Visit the Museo de la Tortilla Facebook page
Kike Mur Prison – Sounds and drinks
Events including gigs, literary recitals, fundraisers as well as a library and bar inside an ACTUAL PRISON. Named after a prisoner who during Franco era Spain was ignored by guards after suffering a heart attack and left to die in his cell. The side of the building is riddled with bullet holes where locals were executed. It is a place of powerful contradiction as it is now occupied by a group of anarchist activists that work diligently to improve the local community with events funding future projects. The prison was once run by a brutal Governor with a penchant for extravagance, despite Spain being in the grip of depression. When the prison was occupied one of his collectable Persian rugs was torn from the wall and placed on the floor in the courtyard, on which, bands now perform. A beautifully poetic environment for unique performances plus the best mojitos you'll ever drink in a bar behind bars.
Visit the anarchists collective website
Ambar brewery – Beer
Drink local, drink Ambar. Every region in Spain has it’s own beer, they all insist theirs is the best, naturally. Well, Ambar ain’t that bad at all. They’ve been brewing since 1900 and as well as the original recipe have a whole range from lagers to dark stouts, including the experimental Sputnik, a vodka flavoured lager. Visit the original brewery for free, get a guided tour of the site including a free net hat to stop your follicles fudging the fermentation. The tour helpfully ends in the onsite bar where you are gifted two beers of your choice from their range, plus a take away box containing three more beers. Free beer….why are you still here? Book a tour now
Visit the Ambar webpage
Harinera – events and architecture
What do you call a bread factory? A bakery? Well, this old bread factory has been renovated into a public space for holding events and performances. The nature of these activities changes by day and the site calendar is relatively full depending on the time of year. However, if you simply enjoy architecture and places where bread was once made, the building alone is worth a visit.
Visit the Harinera webpage
Pablo Serrano – art and views
There is an interesting cycle of temporary exhibitions in this extraordinary building inside a building. The
gallery was built on top of an old shoe factory, the housing of the old factory sits inside the modern structure which is fretted with several open escalators. It is a bizarre and fascinating multi layered jigsaw of brick, glass and metal. Once you notice that from the front it looks like a transformers head, you’ll never be able to see anything else. However, once again it is the roof that provides visuals to rival the interior. Take the elevator to the terraza and enjoy one of the best views in the city with a drink from the tiny bar. Fantastic for sunsets and occasional musical events, see listings
Open 24 June – 15 October
Events listing webpage