On my remaining two days in Zaragoza, I leaned into a chiller pace, spending the mornings wandering the city and the evenings cooking and watching TV at the Airbnb.
While at lunch yesterday, I scoured the map for additional things to do and lucked out – the Aljafería Palace was open for tours! I wandered through the “normal” (i.e., non-picturesque) part of Zaragoza to get there and was promptly told I needed to buy a ticket online – and then promptly told that I couldn’t buy a ticket online, but could buy a ticket starting at 4:30. I assumed that there would be a guided tour, since a sign clearly stated that tours were offered at 4:30 and 5:30pm, but alas, we were just left to explore the structure (and, sadly, it had pretty limited signage / interior contents, so it was a relatively short 30-minute visit, compared with the hour and a half or so it took to walk there and back).
That being said, the palace was interesting and worth visiting, especially given I’d run through most of Zaragoza’s other sites. An 11th century palace that’s now an UNESCO heritage site, it is one of the only remaining conserved structures from the “Taifa of Zaragoza in Al-Andalus” – aka from Zaragoza’s independent state during Spain’s time under Islamic rule. The castle is now said to be one of the best preserved pieces of architecture from the period, along with the Alhambra in Granada and the cathedral in Cordoba (both of which I’ve previously visited – they are truly incredible, and frankly much more exciting than this castle). That being said, it’s a beautiful structure with a few well-preserved components, including a couple doorways (most of the white material below is restoration, but there is some authentic material) and several of the gorgeous ceilings / floors.
After that, I meandered back through lived Zaragoza, enjoying the variety of parks, church facades, and colored buildings on the way.
On the way back, I stopped for what my Airbnb host promised were the best churros in Zaragoza, Churreria Fama – and she wasn’t wrong! They are fried in olive oil and served with a decadent chocolate sauce.
This morning, I decided to continue my exploration and tick off a couple additional sites around Zaragoza since I didn’t have much else to do. On my way to my first museum, I decided to stop in the Mercado Central, since it’s been closed nearly every other time I’ve wandered by. It’s your typical central market, with stalls dedicated to vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and a variety of sweet treats.
Then, I wandered through the “other side” of lived Zaragoza up to the IAACC Pablo Serrano, which is a contemporary art museum primarily featuring works of famed Spanish sculpture Pablo Serrano. It was a fantastic museum if you like sculpture, with a couple rotating exhibits as well.
On the way, I passed the Puerta del Carmen, which was part of the historic city walls and built in the 1800s.
Then, I hit the museum, which is housed in an appropriately quirky building.
On my way back to the old town for lunch, I hit another art museum: Museo Pablo Gargallo, which again features sculpture (and some drawings) by Spanish artist Pablo Gargallo. The building that houses the museum is gorgeous, and the exhibit is varied enough to keep interest despite being 7 floors (I think it was my favorite of the art museums I visited, although the Goya museum obviously holds more historically significant content).
Overall, it’s been a great several days in Zaragoza! I’m on to Madrid tomorrow to revisit a couple of my favorite spots, and then heading back to reality in the USA after my wonderful month abroad!