Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and the Ebro River


Coat of arms
Zaragoza is located in Spain
Location of Zaragoza within Spain
Coordinates: 41°39′N 0°53′W / 41.65°N 0.883°W / 41.65; -0.883Coordinates: 41°39′N 0°53′W / 41.65°N 0.883°W / 41.65; -0.883
Country Spain
Autonomous community Aragón
Province Zaragoza
Comarca Zaragoza
Districts Actur, Casco Antinguo, Centro, Delicias, Universidad, San José, Las Fuentes, La Almozara, Oliver-Valdefierro, Torrero-La Paz, Margen Izquierda, Barrios Rurales Norte, Barrios Rurales Oeste
 - Type Mayor-council
 - Body Ayuntamiento de Zaragoza
 - Mayor Juan Alberto Belloch (PSOE)
 - Total 1,062.64 km2 (410.3 sq mi)
Elevation 199 m (653 ft)
Population (1 January 2010)INE
 - Total 701,090
 - Density 659.8/km2 (1,708.8/sq mi)
Demonym zaragozano (m), zaragozana (f)
Time zone CET (GMT +1)
 - Summer (DST) CEST (GMT +2) (UTC)
Postcode 50001 - 50018
ISO 3166-2 ES-Z

Zaragoza (Spanish pronunciation: [θaɾaˈɣoθa]), also called Saragossa in English, is the capital city of the Zaragoza Province and of the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. It is situated on the Ebro river and its tributaries, the Huerva and Gállego, near the centre of the region, in a valley with a variety of landscapes, ranging from desert (Los Monegros) to thick forest, meadows and mountains.

On 1 September 2010 the population of the city of Zaragoza was 701,090,[1] ranking fifth in Spain. The population of the metropolitan area was estimated in 2006 at 783,763 inhabitants. The municipality is home to more than 50 percent of the Aragonese population. The city lies at an elevation of 199 metres.

Zaragoza hosted Expo 2008 in the summer of 2008, a World's fair on water and sustainable development. It was also candidate for the European Capital of Culture in 2016. In addition, Zaragoza wants to be a candidate city for the Winter Olympic Games 2022, a project similar to Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010. Ice and snow sports in Zaragoza, are popular in the nearby Pyrenees, where many of Spain's best ski resorts are located.

The city is famous for its folklore, a renowned local gastronomy, and landmarks such as the Basílica del Pilar, La Seo Cathedral and the The Aljafería Palace. Together with La Seo and the Aljaferia, several other buildings form part of the Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Fiestas del Pilar are among the most celebrated festivals in Spain.



Early history

Roman theatre

The Sedetani, a tribe of ancient Iberians, populated a village called Salduie, Salduba in Roman sources. Later on, Augustus founded there a city called Caesaraugusta to settle army veterans from the Cantabrian wars. The foundation date of Caesaraugusta has not been set with total precision, though it is known to lie between 25 BC and 12 BC. The city did not suffer any decline during the last centuries of the Roman empire and was captured peacefully by the Goths in the 5th century.

Arab Saraqusta

Aljafería Palace (at night), built in the 11th century.

In 714 the Berbers and Arabs took control of the city, renaming it Saraqusta (سرقسطة). It later became part of the Emirate of Cordoba. It grew to become the biggest Muslim controlled city of Northern Spain. In 777 Charlemagne attempted to take the city but he was forced to withdraw when faced by the organized defense of the city and the Basque attacks in the rear (Chanson de Roland).

Taifa of Zaragoza

From 1018 to 1118 Zaragoza was one of the taifa kingdoms, independent Muslim states which emerged in the eleventh century following the destruction of the Cordoban Caliphate. During the first three decades of this period, 1018–1038, the city was ruled by the Banu Tujibi. In 1038 they were replaced by the Banu Hud, who had to deal with a complicated alliance with El Cid of Valencia and his Castilian masters against the Almoravids, who managed to bring the Taifas Emirates under their control. After the death of El Cid his kingdom was overrun by the Almoravids, who, by 1100, had managed to cross the Ebro into Barbastro, which brought Aragon into direct contact with them. The Banu Hud stubbornly resisted the Almoravids and ruled until they were eventually defeated by them in May 1110.

The last sultan of the Banu Hud, Abd-al-Malik Imad ad-Dawla, the last king of Zaragoza, forced to abandon his capital, allied himself with the Christian Aragonese under Alfonso the Battler and from that time the Muslims of Zaragoza became military regulars within the Aragonese forces.

Aragonese era

In 1118 the Aragonese conquered the city from the Almoravids and made it the capital of the Kingdom of Aragon. After Alfonso's death without heirs in 1134, Zaragoza was swiftly occupied by Alfonso VII of León and Castile, who vacated it in 1137 only on condition it be held by Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona as a fief of Castile.

Assault of the French army at Santa Engracia Monastery on 8 February 1809 during the Peninsular War.

Zaragoza was the scene of two controversial martyrdoms related with the Spanish Inquisition: those of Saint Dominguito del Val, a choirboy in the basilica, and Pedro de Arbués, head official of the inquisition. While the reality of the existence of Saint Dominguito del Val is questioned, his "murder" at the hands of "jealous Jews" was used as an excuse to murder or convert the Jewish population of Zaragoza.[2]

Zaragoza suffered two famous sieges during the Peninsular War against the Napoleonic army: a first from June to August 1808; and a second from December 1808 to February 1809 (see Agustina de Aragón, Siege of Saragossa (1809)), surrendering only after some 50,000 defenders had died.[3]

Modern history

Despite a decline in the outlying rural economy, Zaragoza has continued to grow. During the second half of the 20th century, its population boomed as a number of factories opened in the region. In 1979 the Hotel Corona de Aragón fire killed at least 80. The armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization ETA from northern Spain has been blamed, but officially the fire is still regarded as accidental. ETA carried out the 1987 Zaragoza Barracks bombing in the city which killed eleven people, including a number of children, leading to 250,000 people taking part in demonstrations in the city.


Population growth, in thousands, can be seen here:

Historical population of Zaragoza
1991 1996 2001 2004 2005 2006 2008
594 394 601 674 610 976 638 799 647 373 660 895 682 283


Zaragoza climate chart (Airport)

Zaragoza has a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSk), as it lies in a wide basin entirely surrounded by mountains, but shows characteristics of a Continental Mediterranean climate (Köppen: Csa) such as drier summers and winters, and wetter springs and autumns. The average precipitation is a scanty 310 mm with abundant sunny days, and the rainfall centers in spring. There is drought in summer. The temperatures are high in summer reaching up to 40 °C (104 °F).

In winter the temperatures are low (usually 0 to 10 °C) either because of the fog (about 20 days from November to January) or a cold and dry wind blowing from the NW, the Cierzo (related to other northerly winds such as the Mistral in the SE of France) on clear days. Frost is common and there is sporadic snowfall.

Climate data for Zaragoza
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 10.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 6.4
Average low °C (°F) 2.4
Precipitation mm (inches) 22
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1 mm) 4 4 4 5 6 4 3 2 3 5 5 5 50
Sunshine hours 133 165 210 221 263 295 337 311 231 192 148 116 2,614
Source: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología[4]


In addition to the advantageous geographic situation, a Opel factory was opened in 1982 in Figueruelas, a small village nearby. The progressive decline of the agrarian economy turned Opel into one of the main pillars of the regional economy, along with: Balay, which manufactures household appliances; CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles S.A.), which builds railway engines for both the national and international markets; SAICA and Torraspapel in the stationery sector; and various other local companies, such as Pikolin and Lacasa, that are gradually making their ways into the international market.

The city's economy benefited from projects like the Expo 2008 (the official World's Fair, with the theme of water and sustainable development, held between 14 June and 14 September 2008), Plataforma Logística de Zaragoza (PLAZA), Parque Tecnológico de Reciclado (PTR), as well as being on the route of the AVE high-speed rail route since December 2003, which consolidates the city role as a communications hub. Currently, Zaragoza's Airport is a major cargo hub in the Iberian Peninsula, only behind Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon.

Zaragoza is home to a Spanish Air Force base, which was (until 1994) shared with the U.S. Air Force.[5] In English, the base was known as Zaragoza Air Base. The Spanish Air Force maintained an F/A-18 Hornet wing at the base. No American flying wings (with the exception of a few KC-135's) were permanently based there, but it served as a training base for American fighter squadrons across Europe. It is also the main headquarters for the Spanish Land Army, hosting the Academia General Militar, a number of brigades at San Gregorio, and other garrisons.


View of Zaragoza (1647) by Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo.

Zaragoza is linked by legend to the beginnings of Christianity in Spain. According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared miraculously to Saint James the Great in the first century, standing on a pillar. This legend is commemorated by a famous Catholic basilica called Nuestra Señora del Pilar ("Our Lady of the Pillar").

The event, called "Las Fiestas del Pilar", is celebrated on October 12th, which is a major festival day in Zaragoza. Since it coincided in 1492 with the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus, that day is also celebrated as El Día de la Hispanidad (Columbus Day, literally Hispanic Day) by Spanish-speaking people worldwide.

"El Pilar" lasts for nine days, with all kinds of acts: from the massively attended Pregon (opening speech) to the final fireworks display over the Ebro, there are bands, dances, procession of gigantes y cabezudos (carnival figures made of papier mache), concerts, exhibitions, the famous "vaquillas" bulls and the bull festival. Some of the most important features are the Ofrenda de Flores (Flower offering) to the virgin on the 12th, when an enormous cloak is made of the flowers


The education in Aragon starts when children are 6 years old. This kind of schools are called Primary Schools. From 11 to 16 the teenagers have to go to Secondary School called E.S.O ("Educacion Secundaria Obligatoria). These two periods are compulsory for all the students. After that, those ones who want to continue their studies can do the "Bachillerato". This is the previous period before going to the university. "Bachilerato" last two years in which you can choose the different subjects to prepare for the course of their choice at University. There are four options to take: sciences (chemistry, biology... mainly), technology (physics, technicadesign), social sciencies (economy and maths,or, Greek and Latin, and arts (music, drawing, dance...)

When the students finish "Bachillerato", they have to do some global exams in order to get a good mark to enter to the university. This group of exams is called P.A.U. ("Prueba de acceso a la universidad").

The University of Zaragoza is headquartered in the city. As one of the oldest universities of Spain and a major research and development center, this public university awards all the highest academic degrees in dozens of fields. Zaragoza also is home to the MIT-Zaragoza International Logistics Program, a unique partnership between MIT, the Government of Aragaon and the University of Zaragoza.

There is also a private university, Universidad San Jorge, which is located in Villanueva de Gállego, 14 km to the north.


Third Millennium Bridge
Zaragoza tram on trials

The city is connected by motorway with the main cities in central and northern Spain: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Bilbao, all of which are located about 300 kilometres (200 miles) from Zaragoza.

The Zaragoza Airport is a small commercial airport. It also is the home of the Spanish Air Force 15th Group, as well as was used by NASA as a contingency landing site for the Space Shuttle in the case of a Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL).

Zaragoza is also connected to the Spanish High Speed railway (Renfe's AVE), by the Madrid-Barcelona high-speed rail line. Madrid is reachable in 1 hour 15 minutes, and Barcelona in approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. The central station is "Intermodal Zaragoza Delicias Station" where they operate railway lines and buses. In addition to long distance railway lines or high speed railway, Zaragoza has a network of commuter trains (Renfe's cercanías).

The city has a network of buses which is controlled by TUZSA[6] (Urban Transport Company of Zaragoza). The network consists of 31 regular lines (2 of them circle lines), 2 line-up, 6 launchers (1 free), and 7 free lines at night in Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

There is also an interurban bus network operated by CTAZ[7] (Transport Consortium Zaragoza Area) with 17 regular lines.

The first line of the Zaragoza tram (Valdespartera-Parque Goya) is fully operational along the first phase from Valdespartera to Plaza Paraíso. The second phase (Plaza Paraíso-Parque Goya) started to be constructed on the 19th July 2011 and the works are scheduled to be finished in 18 months, followed by a 3-month trials period.

Around the city, you can also use a bicycle a lot because there are bicycle roads all throughout the city. This allows you to move faster without disturbing pedestrians and be safer without circulating with cars. Moreover, this is very good to keep fit and to reduce pollution. Furthermore, the city council has a bicycle service for citizens. Paying a small amount of money per year, you can take bikes in a bicycle depot in the street and ride to another part of the city. When you arrive at your destination you can leave the bike in another bicycle depot. Although it has some disadvantages, by using these bikes, you can make sure your own bike is not stolen if you leave it in the streets.


Torre del Agua in the Luis Buñuel Metropolitan Water Park, at the Expo 2008 site.

Zaragoza's football team, Real Zaragoza, plays in the Primera División. One of the most remarkable events in the team's recent history is the winning of the former UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1995. The team has also won the Spanish National Cup "Copa del Rey" six times: 1965, 1966, 1986, 1994, 2001 and 2004 and an Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (1964).

Zaragoza's handball team, CAI BM Aragón, plays in the Liga ASOBAL.

Their local basketball team, CAI ZARAGOZA, is now on the ACB league. They play at the Príncipe Felipe with a capacity of 11,000 and their head coach is José Luis Abós.

Zaragoza was strongly associated with Jaca in its failed bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

A permanent feature built for Expo 2008 is the pump-powered artificial whitewater course "El Canal de Aguas Bravas."

Zaragoza has a lot of facilities to practice sports, you can swim, play soccer, basketball, tennis, etc. for a low price. You can also enjoy other outside sports such as cycling because there a lot of bicycle routes by the river.

Main sights

Puente de Piedra
The Roman walls.
Pavilion of Aragon in the Expo 2008.
Santa María Magdalena church.

Near the basilica on the banks of the Ebro are located the city hall, the Lonja (old currency exchange), La Seo (literally "the See" in the Aragonese language) or Cathedral of San Salvador, a magnificent church built over the main mosque (partially preserved in the 11th-century north wall of the Parroquieta), with Romanesque apses from 12th century; inside, the imposing hallenkirche from the 15th to 16th centuries, the Baroque tower, and finally, with its famous Museum of Tapestries near the Roman ruins of forum and port city wall.

Some distance from the centre of the old city is the Moorish castle (or palace) Aljafería, the most important Moorish buildings in northern Spain and the setting for Giuseppe Verdi's opera Il trovatore (The Troubadour). The Aragonese parliament currently sits in the building.

The churches of San Pablo, Santa María Magdalena and San Gil Abad were built in 14th century, but the towers may be old minarets dating from the 11th century; San Miguel (14th century); Santiago (San Ildefonso) and the Fecetas monastery are Baroque with Mudéjar ceilings of the 17th century. All the churches are Mudéjar monuments that comprise a World Heritage Site.

Other important sights are the stately houses and magnificent palaces in the city, mainly of the 16th century: palaces of the count of Morata or Luna (Audiencia), Deán, Torrero (colegio de Arquitectos), Don Lope or Real Maestranza, count of Sástago, count of Argillo (today the Pablo Gargallo museum), archbishop, etc.

The most important Zaragoza museums are the Museum of Fine Arts, with paintings by early Aragonese artists, 15th century, and by El Greco, Ribera and Goya, and the Camón Aznar Museum, with paintings ranging from Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Velazquez and Goya to Renoir, Manet and Sorolla.

On 14 June 2008, the site of Expo 2008 opened its doors to the public. The exhibition ran until 14 September.

Other sights

  • Puente de Piedra
  • San Ildefonso church
  • Santa Engracia Monastery
  • San Nicolás de Bari church
  • Palacio de Larrinaga
  • Santo Tomás de Aquino church
  • San Agustín Convent
  • Church of Santa Isabel de Portugal
  • Casa Solans
  • Palacio de los Luna
  • Arch of Deán
  • Arguillo Palace
  • Casino mercantil
  • Bullring
  • The Giants of Zaragoza
  • Jose Antonio Labordeta Park
  • San José Bajo Arena
  • Casa Rivero Lahoz
  • "Quique" Stadium (Home of El Salvador Football Club)

Twin towns - sister cities

The following are Sister cities of Zaragoza:[8]

See also


  1. ^ "Zaragoza supera los 700.000 habitantes". 2006-01-01. Retrieved 2011-04-10. 
  2. ^ "Jewish Community of Zaragoza". Retrieved 2011-04-10. 
  3. ^ "Napoleon's Total War". Retrieved 2011-04-10. 
  4. ^ "Valores Climatológicos Normales. Zaragoza / Aeropuerto". 
  5. ^ John Pike. "Zaragoza Air Base". Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  6. ^ ["TUZSA web page"]
  7. ^ ["CTAZ web page"]
  8. ^ "Cities twinned with Zaragoza. Zaragoza City Hall". Retrieved 2011-04-10. 
  9. ^ "Official portal of City of Skopje - Skopje Sister Cities". © 2006-2009 City of Skopje. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  10. ^ "::Bethlehem Municipality::". Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  11. ^ "Twinning with Palestine". © 1998-2008 The Britain - Palestine Twinning Network. Retrieved 2008-11-29. 
  12. ^ The City of Bethlehem has signed a twinning agreements with the following cities Bethlehem Municipality.
  13. ^ "Acordos de Geminação" (in Portuguese). © 2009 Câmara Municipal de Coimbra - Praça 8 de Maio - 3000-300 Coimbra. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  14. ^ "Twinning Cities: International Relations" (PDF). Municipality of Tirana. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  15. ^ Twinning Cities: International Relations. Municipality of Tirana. Retrieved on 2008-01-25.

External links

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