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Moving to Zaragoza

As the capital of Spain’s north-eastern region of Aragon, Zaragoza (or Saragossa), is a world-class and wonderfully scenic cosmopolitan city. It is bisected by the Ebro River and its tributaries, but expats moving to Zaragoza will realise that it's far more than just the waterways that pulse energy throughout the city. Its vibrant culture incorporates a blend of tradition and architectural treasures with a modern lifestyle and contemporary infrastructure, keeping pace with constantly evolving demands.

Expats living in Zaragoza appreciate how its sense of history is balanced with modern conveniences. Zaragoza’s past stretches back two millennia, evidenced by Roman ruins including an impressive amphitheatre, now showcased in a museum. Mudéjar architecture characterises many historical buildings, incorporating ornate Islamic motifs with Christian, Gothic and Renaissance designs. The must-see Aljafería Palace is a classic example of this.

Additionally, the baroque neo-Mudéjar Cathedral-Basilica with blue, green, yellow and white tiles cannot be missed; it honours Zaragoza’s patron saint, the Virgen del Pilar, who is also celebrated in the lively annual Fiestas del Pilar where the whole city seemingly transforms into a festival ground. The Cathedral-Basilica proudly stands in the Casco Antiguo or Old Town – a neighbourhood which is anything but outdated and dull.

Residents can kickstart the morning with coffee at a nearby cafe, shop along Calle Alfonso or Paseo de la Independencia, walk through the quintessential narrow streets, or get a drink or eat some patatas bravas with friends around El Tubo – the perennially buzzing central area.

Terraced housing and balconied apartments very much dominate Zaragoza’s housing market, as they do in the rest of Spain. The city has also developed modern architecture and a high-tech tram system and bus network for the ease of getting around. What’s more, Zaragoza is well-situated to explore Spain. It is located halfway between Madrid and Barcelona and is connected by the AVE high-speed train for expats doing business in or wanting to travel to these metropolises. Only a couple of hours north lies the Pyrenees, offering a multitude of activities from hiking and abseiling to skiing and snowboarding, with many picturesque villages along the way.

The catch of relocating, for many expats, is the language barrier. Integrating into the local community, finding the best school for expat kids, overcoming paperwork and even going about one’s day can be harder for new arrivals who do not speak Spanish. On the flip side, many locals are keen for language exchanges to practise their English, and expat English teachers may easily find a job in Zaragoza.

Prospective expats can rest assured that Zaragoza is a generally safe city with cheaper accommodation and a lower cost of living than in major metropolises. While the initial relocation may present challenges, this Spanish city offers expats prestigious universities, exciting opportunities, tasty tapas, great weather, breathtaking vistas and countless things to see and do.

See and Do in Zaragoza

Expats moving to Zaragoza will find a thriving nightlife, there’s more than 4000 bars, and plenty to see and do, both during the week and on weekends. 

Like so many Spanish cities, this medium-sized metropolis claims age-old architecture and a charming city centre, both easily explored on-foot.  

The Casco Historico (old town) is also known for el tubo, an area of narrow lanes full of tapas bars. One can spend a few hours strolling from bar to bar, enjoying a beer, a glass of red wine and a delicious bite-sized snack. Serviettes should be dropped on the floor, as it’s the sign of a busy and popular bar. People love to stand on top of each other shouting animatedly on a Friday or Saturday evening.

Keep in mind that the Spanish eat late, even after 10pm, and the nightlife doesn’t start properly until after midnight. In the summer especially, it’s not strange to see many people on the streets in the centre in the early hours of the morning.

While tapas bars serve food until midnight, at the latest, music bars are open till 4.30am. For younger people, El Casco, a lane of bars/discos, is the place to go. Only a few bars and discos are permitted to stay open after 4.30am.

Sala Oasis, La Casa de Loco and El Zorro are the best venues for live music, though Zaragoza is still often ignored by the most famous bands.

Recommended sightseeing in Zaragoza

The Aljaferia Palace

Built in the 11th century as a fortified Islamic Palace, Aljaferia later became the palace of the Catholic monarchs. It now houses the Cortes, the legislative assembly for the Community of Aragon, the regional government. It is an example of Mudejar architecture. It is 15 to 20 minutes on foot from the old town.

Opening times are 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 6.30pm every day except Thursday, Friday morning and Sunday afternoon. Guided tours take place at 10.30am, 11.30am and 12.30pm. 

La Magdalena/ Centro de Historia (History Centre)

The Centro de Historia is a free, contemporary art museum in La Magdalena (an alternative, multicultural area) with temporary exhibitions and a cinema. This institution is highly recommended, as it always has interesting and informative exhibitions and a modern restaurant/bar and outdoor terrace café in the summer. It can be found at the end of Heroismo Street, a cobbled lane full of tapas bars/restaurants. El Barrio, a small lively late-night reggae bar, can be found in this area too. Plaza San Bruno hosts an antiques market on Sunday mornings, which is worth a wander.

El Pilar

The huge square in front of the Basilica, the ‘Plaza del Pilar’ is the site of many events, from the reconstruction of a nativity scene every Christmas to concerts and markets. It was also the place where thousands gathered to watch Spain win the World Cup. When there is no special occasion, one can still enjoy the fountains, statues, outdoor bars and cafés.

In mid-October Zaragoza enjoys its ‘Fiestas del Pilar’, a week-long festival centred around a huge procession of Spaniards dressed in traditional costumes bringing flowers to the Pilar. It’s also an excuse for a huge party with drinking, eating, music, theatre, fireworks and everyone out on the streets and in high spirits.