Zaragoza has always benefited from a strategic location, a fact as true as ever in our time, being in the middle of a crossroads which traverses Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia. The result is a dynamic and modern town, continuously growing, yet with still mostly walkable distances, with a legacy of splendid buildings and monuments inherited from all the cultures that have contributed to its development. For convenience, Zaragoza can be divided into three areas of interest: the historic centre, the Ensanche and boulevards, and the University-Delicias area.
On the western end of this area is Aljafería Palace, a castle surrounded by a moat and gardens, and the most important relic of Zaragozas Islamic period and today the parliament of Aragón. In Predicadores we should mention San Pablo Church, while La Magdalena Church in the neighbourhood of the same name has in its tower one of the finest examples of the Aragonese variety of the mudéjar style (involving brick and coloured tile decoration due to Moorish artisans who stayed long after the Christian conquest).
It is in the old town proper, however, where we find the greatest number of important monuments and buildings, beginning with the huge Plaza del Pilar, where the famous and grandiose basilica stands, along with the Lonja Palace, Seo Cathedral, the Roman Forum Museum and, at the opposite end of the square, San Juan de los Panetes Church with its leaning tower, the mudéjar tower of La Zuda and the remains of the Roman wall. Pleasant as it may be to wander among the old towns streets, two parallel ones which cut across it truly make a useful reference point: Don Jaime I, passing near the squares of Santa Marta, Santa Cruz and San Pedro Nolasco, and leading to the Teatro Principal; and Alfonso I, cleared for its view of the Pilar Basilica and from which one can reach San Felipe Square.
This is a very lively area, full of shops of every kind, narrow streets, squares and pleasant corners, with many tapas bars with tables outside and a busy nightlife.
Ensanche and boulevards
Paseo de la Independencia, starting from Plaza de España and flanked by large arches, is the towns main promenade, with its cinemas and shops. The nearby Plaza de Salamero is interesting and enjoying renewed popularity, and across the Paseo, Plaza de los Sitios has a monument commemorating Napoleons two sieges on Zaragoza and the Archaeological Museum.
Another important boulevard also stems from Plaza Paraíso, Paseo de Sagasta, which is the axis of a busy commercial area with many shops, bars cafés and restaurants. Calle Moncasi and its surroundings amass huge numbers of the very young on weekends. More sparsely populated and with a rather more adult appeal, there are also many bars and restaurants on and around Bolonia, Camino de las Torres, Avenida Tenor Fleta and José Pellicer. On reaching Pignatelli Park, Sagasta becomes Paseo de Cuéllar, which leads to the Venecia pine groves, the amusement park and the neighbourhoods of Torrero and La Paz.
In the area between the start of Sagasta and Paseo de la Constitución is the traditionally more expensive, "posh" part of town, León XIII, also abundant in pubs, restaurants and shops.
History of ZaragozaRomans
Zaragoza was founded in the year 24 BC by the legions that had taken part in the Cantabrian Wars, in Augustus' time. The city took its name from the emperor Caesaraugusta (Caesar Augustus) and was an important city with 30,000 inhabitants as well as baths, sewers, a theatre (6,000 capacity), a market, temples, a port and a road network that connected it to other cities in the empire. The city was built on the Ebro River - the ancient Iber -, an area populated by the Sedetans, an Iberian folk. By the end of the empire, Zaragoza had acquired some importance in ancient texts due to its Christian community (a council was held here in 380 which condemned Priscilians heresy).
A few of the citys most important religious monuments from the 14th century are still in good condition, including the churches of San Pablo , la Magdalena, San Gil and San Miguel. These are all examples of the mudéjar arquitecture style from after the Reconquest, which is characterized by a fusion on Roman, Gothic and Arabic elements.
During this period, the new nobility built a large number of palaces and aristocratic houses. The political conflicts due to the Antonio Pérez case in 1591, which culminated in the execution of the Judge of Aragón, Juan de Lanuza, initiated the decadence, misery and darkness of the 17th century, which was generalized throughout Spain. This is when Santa Isabel Church and the characteristic Basílica del Pilar, located in the plaza (square) of the same name, was built beside the River Ebro. The Virgen del Pilar, patron saint of Spain, is worshipped within.
The second half of the 19th century saw more destruction. There was no respect for heritage, and this was the cause for atrocities such as the destruction of Torre Nueva, a Mudéjar tower from the 16th century that was almost 70 metres high. In addition to a part of the city wall, some gates and some palaces were destroyed.
Zaragoza is currently the fifth biggest city in Spain and has 650,000 inhabitants. It is the seat of the Government of Aragón and is a modern city, which since the sixties has grown considerably. Its strategic location in the centre of northeast Spain makes it an ideal place for conferences, since it lies in the centre of the Madrid-Barcelona and Valencia-Bilbao axes, and is only 250 kilometres from France.
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