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City: Zaragoza / Country: Spain / World Region: Europe

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      09.06.2009 23:52
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      The capital city of Aragon

      Zaragoza may not seem like the most obvious tourist destination, but for those looking for a typically Spanish city with its fair share of beautiful historical sites but without large numbers of international travellers, it is a great option. One of its biggest disadvantages for UK visitors is that although it has its own airport, there are few direct flights, with Ryanair the only option from Stansted at the moment. However it is well placed almost exactly halfway between Madrid and Barcelona, so for those looking to spend a bit longer than a long weekend in Spain, it is certainly a good place at which to stop off for a day or two in between the other two more famous big cities.

      Whichever option you decide to take, try and ensure that if you are only going to visit once, you go there in early October, when the city has its annual 'fiestas del Pilar', basically an excuse to party for a week! The weather is usually still lovely at that time of year, although Zaragoza can get extremely hot in the height of summer, and similarly very chilly in the depths of winter. For me the standout attraction is the vast Plaza Del Pilar, where you can also visit a stunning church, the Seo del Salvador, and the equally impressive Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar, which stands on the bank of the main river. There is also a Moorish castle on the other side of the city, the Aljaferia, which is worth a visit, although don't go expecting anything on the scale of the Alhambra - it is pretty low key.

      There are of course numerous culinary options, most notably in the old part of town, and literally hundreds of bars of all shapes and sizes. Zaragoza also has an excellent night life, with the lively bars dotted around various 'zonas' of the city - be sure to visit them in the right order though, as a trip to the old part of town will not uncover anywhere to dance before the early hours of the morning - it is where everyone goes to end their nights rather than to start them! For those sports fans amongst you, the city's football club are seemingly about to be promoted back to the top division (games are played in the Romareda stadium), and there is also a professional basketball team.

      All in all I would definitely recommend a trip to Aragon's capital city, and if you tire easily of the bright lights, you will find the more sedate towns of Huesca to the north and Teruel to the south. For me Aragon is one of the most underrated of the Spanish provinces, probably because it has no coastline (!), but the people are friendly, the accent is generally very clear and easy to understand for those learning the language, and although there is quite a lot of barren desert like landscape, there is also some beautiful countryside. Well worth some of your hard earned down time.

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