1. Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar

One of the city’s most important sites for the locals is the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, which is the church where the annual festival of the Holy Virgin of Pilar is held. This baroque building was completed in the 17th century, while the later neoclassical main façade was added later. There are large corner towers and a central dome surrounded by ten brightly tiled cupolas.The interior wall paintings including works by Goya and Bayeau, while the church’s museum features a large collection of scared items from around Spain, as many pieces of religious art. 

The church is one of the biggest and most important in Spain. The story is that there is a pillar in the church and the Virgin is said to have descended from heaven onto the pillar in an apparition to St. James the Apostle. There is a small statue of the Virgin, about 1 foot tall, on the pillar, and this is located in a small chapel at the back of the church. Thousands of pilgrims go to the back of the statue to touch the pillar. Pilgrims go here because it is said that the Virgin has caused a lot of miracles here. The statue of the virgin is adorned with many different capes, depending on the occasion.

There is a small museum where one can see some of the jewelry donated by people asking the Virgin for help. This is quite interesting, because one can see how jewelry has progressed from the 16th century to today. There are a lot of small crowns filled with jewels, donated by kings and queens, and prominent citizens. Today’s donations include many large and beautiful diamonds. 

Outside the church there is a huge plaza filled with beautiful fountains (many with modern themes) and beautiful sculpture. There are many flowers and it is a beautiful place to walk.

2. Museo Provincial 

The Museo Provincial, which was built in 1909 for the Spanish-French exposition, features a collection of anthropological items. The exhibits including prehistoric objects from around Spain and date to the pre-Roman period, as well as a fine arts wing with paintings by various Spanish and French artists including Goya.

3. La Seo Cathedral

Beside the basilica is the cathedral, which has recently been restored. While the basilica is impressive, the cathedral is even more impressive. The church is huge and everything inside is white. The church was built in 1316 and the style is Gothic-Mudejar. There are additions in Baroque and Plateresque styles. The high altarpiece or retable, is in gold and was done by the German Renaissance sculptor Hans of Swabia, and this is really impressive. There is very relaxing Gregorian music all the time in the church, and the music keeps visitors quiet.

All over the church there are lighted panels that explain every feature of an altar or sculpture, giving its history and importance in the art world. This explanation is very useful for the tourist, and one learns a lot this way. Besides that, the church is filled with light. Many of Aragon’s kings and queens are buried in this church. The Unesco in 2001 declared the church as a World Heritage site. This church is a joy to visit.

4. Pablo Gargallo Museum

There is a renaissance palace, called the Argilio Palace, that houses the sculpture of Pablo Gargallo. The palace has been restored beautifully and is built around a central patio. Gargallo was one of the most important early 20th century Aragonese sculptors, and his work was influenced by Rodin and Picasso. Gargallo belonged to the avant garde at that time and worked in Paris. He made beautiful sculpture that is easy to understand. He sculpted bronze horses and male and female nudes. His most beautiful sculpture was art deco, a piece called Kiki de Montparnasse. This is a mask of a beautiful woman. You can see the short hairdo, one eye, half of the lips and nose, as everything else has been cut out. The bronze work has a highly reflective surface. The sculpture is very modern and the mind of the viewer fills in all the surfaces cut out.

5. Museo Camon Aznar

The renaissance building the Palacio de Los Pardo houses the Museo Camon Aznar. This museum features private collections of paintings, sculptures and ceramics dating back to the Roman era, as well as a full collection of renaissance era artwork.  A prominent professor named Camon Aznar donated his 800 works of art to the museum. One can find all the important Spanish artists in the collection, from El Greco to Goya.

6. The Aljaferia

The Moors built one of the most beautiful palaces in Zaragoza, and it is called the Aljaferia. It is a huge palace surrounded by a large moat. Today the moat is empty of water and filled with gardens and shrubs. What visitors can see is the patio built by the Moorish kings. When the Christian kings reconquered the city, they built many additions to the palace. Today the parliament of the province meets here, in modernized parts of the palace.

What is impressive of the patio are the many arches that surround the garden. The arches are scalloped and adorned with very impressive plaster work. There is a niche of the mihrab, the most important portion of the building where prayers were said. There is a very high Moorish ceiling, also beautiful. This palace predates the Alhambra palace in Granada and the Alcazar of Sevilla. Its originality probably influenced the building of those other palaces.

7. The Forum Museum

Beneath the plaza containing the cathedral and basilica is the museum of the Roman forum. The plaza was built atop the ruins of the forum. Later excavations revealed the forum and now it is a museum. One can see the columns used in the forum, a lot of pottery dug up, and parts of the sewer. These are lead pipes with a diameter of about 9 inches. They were soldered together and they had ceramic pieces to join the pipes, which were about 3 meters long.

The museum has very good explanations about the sewers and the running water in the city, brought to the city by aqueducts. Lead pipes brought water to every house. The Romans were very good architects, engineers, and builders.

Another interesting explanation was about dyes used by women to color their hair. The museum shows glass and alabaster containers that had the dyes. Apparently Roman women and men appreciated blond hair, so a lot of them dyed their hair blond. However only prostitutes dyed their hair red, so these women stood out and did not have to advertise!

 8. Primo de Rivera Park

Not too far from downtown is the biggest park in the city, named after Primo de Rivera, a politician from the 1920s. There are landscaped gardens, very Italian in design. At the top of a hill is a giant statue of Jaime the Conqueror, one of the kings of Aragon. Below the statue is a very impressive fountain that cascades all the way down the hill in beautiful designs, surrounded by a double staircase. At night everything is lighted.

At the bottom of the hill is a huge round fountain that leads to twin paths surrounded by landscaped gardens. There are smaller fountains all over the place. The borders of this section of the gardens are all small evergreen trees. The overall design is beautiful and magnificent. There are many benches on each side so that people can rest and enjoy the views. Rose bushes are planted everywhere, amid evergreen hedges that are manicured. This garden is really impressive and is a must see for the visitor to the city.

9. Palacio de Sastago

Downtown there is another renaissance palace that has been restored and is used for government offices. Inside the patio is an art gallery which changes exhibitions all the time. The renaissance building has a very impressive design.

10. Patio de las Infantas

Infantas are Spanish princesses. The biggest bank in Aragon is the Ibercaja and beside the El Corte Ingles store, they have a huge office tower. In one wing to the side they have the Patio de las Infantas, which is the patio of a renaissance building. The patio was dismantled from its original place and brought to France in the 19th century by a very rich Frenchman. In the 20th century, Ibercaja bought the patio and brought it back to Zaragoza and put it into the bank, in one wing. So in the very modern bank, one does not expect to see this beautiful renaissance patio. The patio is now used as an art gallery, with a permanent collection of 14 very important Goyas. Goya was a native of Aragon and one of the paintings is his self portrait.

11. Church of the Sacred Heart

Near the cathedral is a church that has something very original. This is the Rosario de Cristal (meaning the crystal rosary). During the religious feast of the city, they have a large procession along the main streets downtown, where they display scenes of religious buildings like the basilica, on wheeled carts. The parade floats are all made of crystal and stained glass, and are lighted from the inside. The people in the procession recite the rosary.

This church contains the floats with the exhibits of crystal and stained glass and has a show. The loudspeaker in the church explains each float and the float lights up. So one goes from one float to the other and gets the whole story. The show is impressive because it requires a lot of organization. The floats are about 10 feet long by 6 feet high. After the show there is a short video showing the procession. The most impressive float is a copy of the basilica in crystal.

 12. Tourist Bus

With such a beautiful city, it is hard to think that a tourist bus could be much fun, or even worth the few Euros: but it really is. The bus, which is very regular and can be picked up from various locations, delivers all the usual bits and pieces that you would expect: multilingual headset, open-top, etc., but Zaragoza's bus offers a great route. You'll be brought on a journey across the city to see many of the attractions and fantastic buildings. It's a great way to plan your journey. Hop on, take notes of what you really would like to see (and filter out the attractions that don't quite "grab you") and later head off to the respective places. It's a truly fantastic way to see all of the city, including the breathtaking Expo 2008 and more.