Zaragoza in Aragon is the regional capital and a city of much historical and artistic heritage, particularly from the eras of the Ancient Romans and the Moors.
Founded as the Roman city of Caesaraugusta, Zaragoza has been home to various peoples during its history. Captured peacefully by the Goths in the 5th century, the Moors took over the city in the 8th century and renamed it Sarasqusta. The largest Muslim controlled city in Spain, Sarasqusta became a taifa kingdom in the 11th century before the Aragonese conquered the city in the 12th century. Much of the historical areas of Zaragoza date from these periods although the city has played its part in more recent history and was laid seige to twice by Napoleon's forces during the Peninsula War, the second seige so brutal that it forced surrender.
Zaragoza has a wealth of stunning architecture and is well known for the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, which receives thousands of pilgrims every year. One of the first churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the basilica was formerly a Gothic-Mudéjar building but was rebuilt in the Baroque style and extended, including the introduction of the towers, in the 17th century to become a larger more grand building that could accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims. The Mudéjar style cathedral of San Salvador, known as La Seo, is a World Heritage site built in the 12th century on land where had stood a Roman temple, Visigothic church and Muslim mosque at various times in the centuries before. Perhaps the city's most famous monument is the Aljafería Palace, a striking Moorish palace from the 11th century which, in 1485 held the Court of the Inquisition, and its Troubadour Tower is the setting for Verdi's Il Trovatore. You can enjoy ad tour of the palace, which is one the 10 monuments in Aragon that have been declared a Mudéjar World Heritage site by UNESCO.
The Romans also left their mark on the city, although some ruins have been lost for centuries and only lately uncovered. There are 4 museums of Roman archaeological sites in Zaragoza revealing much about the history of the Romans at Caesaraugusta. In the Museo del Foro, beneath the Plaza de Seo, you'll discover the remains of the forum, a meeting place of the Romans with the remains of a market, some shop walls, columns, pottery and the lead pipes that brought water to every house in the city from nearby aqueducts. There is also a museum showing the remains of the Roman river port nearby and a museum of the Roman public baths which were uncovered in the 1980s and 90s with a large pool, latrines and the original floor all remarkably well-preserved. The most incredible piece of Roman history in Zaragoza is the remains of the Roman theatre built in the 1st century AD. Plundered and neglected in the centuries following the death of the Roman Empire, the theatre was rediscovered and excavated in the 1970s. A translucent roof of polycarbonate protects the ruins and a wonderful museum, the Museo de Teatro, is attached with scale models, a video of the theatre's history and a range of artefacts excavated from the site. All the museums can be visited at no extra charge with the purchase of a Zaragoza card.
Those interested in nature are not left out in Zaragoza. The city is home to a river aquarium featuring fish and other creatures from 5 major rivers around the world - the Nile, Mekong, Amazon, Murray Darling and the Ebro. Go for a walk in the Luis Buñuel water park, built for the Expo 2008, and enjoy 120 acres of a modern green space, with lots of water features and various services and activities. The Labordeta grand park is also a great place to enjoy some quiet amongst nature with a botanical garden, ornamental fountains, a monument to King Alfonso I and the Rincón de Goya, or why not take a walk along the banks of the river Ebro which flows through the town?
Zaragoza is a great place for shopping with many outdoor markets, big shopping malls including the Grancasa Mall, and small specialised shops. Aragon has a great cuisine of meats - Aragon lamb, and Teruel ham especially but also partridge, rabbit, quail, duck and wild boar. The region also has a great selection of vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, courgettes, thistle and borage - sometimes known as starflower, which is used in many dishes. Along with Aragon lamb and Teruel ham, Aragon olive oil and calanda peaches are also recognised as foods of origin. For dessert, there are honey cakes, Mudéjar pastries, and peaches with wine, and you can also take the chocotour and visit and enjoy tastings at several traditional chocolate shops in the city. Enjoy your meal with great Aragon wines from several different Aragonese denominations such as the Somantano, Cariñena and Catalayud appellations. Many of the wines in this region are red but excellent rosés and whites can also be found.
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