Perhaps the most inviting aspect of Zaragoza is a quality of life that is increasingly rare even in Spain. Though Zaragoza is home to 700,000 people, it feels surprisingly small and intimate, with all major landmarks within an easy drive, bike ride, or trip on the city’s Tourist Bus. The city pulses with a zest for living and love of sociability, especially as evening falls and the streets fill with families pushing strollers, elderly couples, students, and well-dressed young professionals, all enjoying the welcome coolness that follows the heat of a Spanish afternoon. The sidewalk cafes and bars soon fill with chattering groups savoring plates of tapas and glasses of wine.
Thanks in part to this city-wide appreciation for life’s pleasures, Zaragoza’s culinary star is rising. Many aficionados consider its tapas bars to be among the most charming in Spain, particularly in the area known as El Tubo. To sample the best in traditional cuisine in a full meal, visit La Jamoneria (Calle de Bruno Solano, 16), a renowned eatery specializing in the glories of salt-cured Spanish ham. Owner Felix Jose Martinez wields his carving knives with the skill of a surgeon, happy to demonstrate his time-honored craft to guests.
For a meal that showcases contemporary Spanish cuisine, visitors head to Novodabo in Zaragoza’s university district (Calle Juan II de Aragón, 5). The restaurant is owned by David Boldova, who served under several Michelin-ranked chefs before returning to his home of Zaragoza a year and a half ago to open his own restaurant. The restaurant is known for its inspired re-workings of traditional Aragonese dishes and has already won awards as an up-and-coming restaurant.
After a busy few days of touring, the best way to end a stay in Zaragoza is to visit its Plaza del Pilar in the evening as the spires of the city’s two cathedrals make dramatic shadows across the pavement. In this place where the Romans once walked and where countless pilgrims have journeyed, the warm spirit of Zaragoza shines most brightly. As it has for many centuries, this city continues to invite visitors to enjoy its charms.