Walking down the main shopping street towards this square in the heart of Zaragoza, I knew we were in for something special. The domes of the basilica tower above the other buildings, the view is just breath-taking. Son was a bit obsessed by the dustbins along the street, but you have to admit, even they are easy on the eye.
Our first experience of the square was on Palm Sunday when we arrived. A large procession of Easter brotherhood filled the whole place with their masks and beating drums – quite an experience for us just freshly off the plane.
We revisited the square many many times and most days during our visit – just to gaze at that incredible church, to eat ice-creams at the fabulous cafe opposite the basilica and to watch more of those mesmerizing processions.
The square is seriously impressive – one of the longest apparently in Europe. It is lined with magnificent monuments, modern fountains at one end and has no end of wonderful buildings but it is entirely dominated by that amazing multi-spired basilica dedicated to the Virgen del Pilar and with murals by Goya.
Next door to the basilica is La Lonja, a Renaissance stock exchange building now a gallery and at the other end is La Seo Cathedral.
Unfortunately despite several attempts by us to visit and see inside, every time we got there it was always closed. We had to be content with admiring from outside. That is actually pretty special anyway. The pillars and detailed exterior are dazzling.
One thing we found difficult to get used to here in Zaragoza – at 2pm the streets became completely deserted and only around 4.30 were there signs of life starting to appear again. Son was never in the mood for a siesta but it did at least allow us to explore the city without any crowds (or people at all mostly).
At the bottom end of the square near La Seo is a glass pyramid like construction. We peeked in and chatted to a very friendly man, all of us excited about going down the escalator and into large sections of the Roman Forum and ancient Roman drains. Excitement levels were crushed though – due to flooding the Roman remains were inaccessible so we didn’t get to see them.
We did manage to see the Roman Walls – very close to the square and we also saw the Teatro Romano (Roman Theatre) discovered in 1972 when they were excavating a building. We would have loved to visit the museum and explore these ruins properly. Time constraints kicked in so we had to make do with admiring from the street – you do get a great view from here. The theatre once housed 6,000 spectators and apparently great efforts have been made to help visitors reconstruct the former splendour of this building.
After exploring the square we also had a stroll around the market hall. Not on the scale of Barcelona’s La Boqueria but interesting nonetheless. Son looked at the vast amounts of tripe in disgust but we were all more than happy with this strawberry purchase. 1 Euro for a box of these beauties – how great was that!