Spain is one of the world’s most visited countries, with 71 million international tourists crossing its borders in 2022 alone.
Among them, more than 15 million were Britons – many of whom travelled to holiday hotspots such as Magaluf, Benidorm and Ibiza.
Much like other tourists, British people visiting the Mediterranean country have the tendency to overlook one city often described by travel bloggers and experts as a “hidden gem” – Zaragoza.
Among them, LEN Journeys noted in an article dating back to 2021 how many travellers remain “seemingly unaware” of the capital of the Aragon region.
The writer added: “However, Spain’s fifth-largest city is definitely worth a detour thanks to its impressive heritage and monuments.”
Standing by the River Ebro, the city in northeastern Spain was built by the Romans as a trading post.
It has since seen the passage of Goth invaders, the Moors and Christian armies before the creation of modern Spain.
In 2018, it counted more than 666,800 residents and is the 27th most populous municipality in the European Union.
While it is buzzing with people, Zaragoza also boasts a rich culture and unique architecture thanks to its multicultural past.
Among its most famous landmarks are La Seo Cathedral, the ruins of Zaragoza’s Roman theatre and the Basílica del Pilar.
The latter includes the first fresco painting by Francisco de Goya, one of the most influential artists of the 18th and 19th centuries who happened to grow up in Zaragoza.
The church is also an attraction to many pilgrims, as it includes a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, who is said to have scaled down a pillar from heaven to appear before St James.
Zaragoza, distancing only a one-and-a-half-hour high-speed train trip from Madrid, should appeal also to those more interested in experiencing food and getting to know locals.
Casco Viejo, or the Old Town, is a maze of historic streets crowded with churches, tapas bars and restaurants.
The fact Zaragoza has managed to remain off the beaten track and is visited mostly by Spanish tourists, allows travellers to get an undiluted experience of the city which, unlike other more popular destinations, didn’t need to adapt to a large influx of foreign visitors.
In 2007, Constanza Hernandez, a then spokeswoman for the Zaragoza Tourism Board, spoke about the lack of foreign tourists coming to her city, as she told Travel Weekly: “We live in the shadows of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations.”
The following year, Zaragoza was spotlighted by the Expo, which attracted many to the city with its theme “Water and Sustainable Development”.
While international tourists have since taken note of the city, Zaragoza still gives visitors the possibility to experience the authentic spirit of Aragon.