Marcus Travel Journal

Aragon, Spain

Basilica Lady of Pilar, Zaragoza, Spain - photo:



The autonomous community of Aragon has three provinces - Huesca, Zaragoza and Teruel. We spent our time in the beautiful city of Zaragoza, the 4th largest city in Spain. This was one of the highlights of the trip. Zaragoza is and noted for the a number of impressive sites that include the Basílica del Pilar, La Seo Cathedral and the Aljafería Palace. We saw all three of the big sights, but there is more to enjoy in the city.

Nuestra Señora del Pilar Basilica

The basilica, photo above, was built in the 17th and 18th centuries, is one of the most important spiritual destinations in Spain. The historical story is that in 40 AD Saint James, while in prayer by Ebro River, had Mother of God appear, and give him and a column of jasper telling him to build a church in her honour. The first small chapel was built in by the next year with a statue and column as instructed to Saint James. The chapel was destroyed, along with other Christian shrines, but the statue and the pillar stayed under the protection of the people of Zaragoza.

A basilica-like enclosure was built during Constantine I reign, later transformed into a Romanesque, then Gothic then Mudéjar styles. In 1681, work started by Charles II, the King of Spain. It was completed in 1686. In many locations I became more aware of the impact of the Spanish Civil War. Here, three bombs were dropped on the church but none exploded. Two remain as an exhibit in the basilica.

I was blown away by the basilica. Better yet, our roof-top patio had a killer view of the basilica and its many towers. It was the last thing I would see each evening, and the first thing in the morning.

Palacio de la Aljafería, Zaragoza, photo by


Palacio de la Aljafería

The 11th Century Aljafería is a fortified Islamic palace, considered to be one of the best examples of Hispano-Muslim architecture in Spain. It is decorated with elegant Arabic arches and intricate carvings and contains some of the best Mudéjar elements outside of Andalusia. Later used as the palace of the Catholic Kings, and then a military barracks, today, headquarters of the parliament of Aragón. Because the building is in use we were restricted in what we could see. We did enjoy the courtyard area, the upper floors are mainly empty.


Caesaraugusta Theater Museum

The Caesaraugusta Theatre stood in the ancient Roman city of the same name and could seat 6,000 people. Today, you can see ruins of the which was excavated in 1972. To protect the site the city built a glass canopy over the site.

There is also a museum is located underneath what the square of La Seo (the cathedral), and displays archaeological remains from the old Roman Forum at the time of Emperor Tiberius. There are also the remains of a market, pipes, a sewer and some shop walls from the time of the Emperor Augustus, when Zaragoza was founded.

Catedral del Salvador de Zaragoza, La Seo, photo by


Catedral del Salvador de Zaragoza

more commonly known as La Seo, was built on the site of the temple of the Roman forum, a Visigoth church and a Muslim mosque, and features elements of all these styles and more. These include Mudéjar, Gothic, Renaissance, baroque and neoclassical. La Seo was finally completed in the 16th and 17th centuries with the addition of a elegant baroque tower and a classical doorway. The beautiful altarpieces, date back to the 15th century. I enjoyed the architecture of the inside and did not see the inside.

Zaragoza Central Market, photo by


Zaragoza Central Market was a few blocks from our apartment so I enjoyed frequent visits to the market. The city’s main public market opened in 1903 and has since been declared a National Historic Monument. There are stalls with seafood, vegetables, cheeses and baked goods. I must say I enjoyed the bar in the market. Great beer.


Puente de Piedra

The Piedra, called the Stone Bridge, and also the Bridge of Lions as four lions were place on the pillars at each end of the bridge in 1991. Our host in Zaragoza recommended the bridge as an excellent photo locations - Grazia Carlo. Built in 1401, replacing previous bridge attempts from the 12th Century, it provided passage across the Ebro River. A 1643 flood took out the two central spans, with the bridge being reconstructed in 1659.

The beautiful city of Zaragoza - photography


We thought we would enjoy Zaragoza, that is why we planned to stay in the city. With a wonderful roof-top apartment patio we have views over the city, and the central location reinforced the importance of location, location, location. Be as central as you can to use your time to get to the main sights of the town as quickly as possible.

There is a historic centre, with scenes such as the woman floating across the reflective stones of a plaza, as well as elegant areas with shopping, theatres and restaurants. There are trams for getting across the city easy, and we found hopping a taxi to be easy and reasonable.

Church of San Martín de Tours, Belchite - photo by G Marcus -

Photo: G Marcus


When in Zaragoza we drove out the old town of Belchite for an emotional experience to walk this this town, and some of the buildings such as the Church of San Martín de Tours - all in ruin from bombing of the Spanish Civil War. In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, loyalist Spanish Republican forces fought General Franco's rebel forces in the Battle of Belchite in and around the town. After 1939, a new town was built near the ruins of the old one. General Franco directed the town not be rebuilt, but stand as a reminder of the war. It remains today a ghost town as a memorial to the war.

A visit to the old town is powerful. Walking the streets of the bombed buildings is an experience not to be forgotten. Buy your tickets for entrance to the old town at the tourist office in the new town. At the designated time, arrive at the gate to the town. You must be part of a guided group. An English audio guide is provided. At the end of the tour, we were standing in front on a destroyed house. Our guide come over and said: "that was my father's house".