Family Summer Camping Road Trip with kids, Day 5: 2 hours of packing the car in Madrid, 193 miles (310 kilometers) of driving, 4 hours later and we arrived on July 4th–the United States Independence Day (hand over heart, hoorahhh!)– for an overnight stay in Zaragosa/Saragossa. We have effectively less than a day here. So, what is that one thing to do or see in this unfamiliar territory?
Zaragoza was another big surprise. The entrance to the city (from the south) was a bit misleading as it was not beautiful. It had an obelisk–an erectile monument that reminded us of home. This fifth biggest city in Spain, one that produces a lot of manufacturing jobs (supposedly), hides its greatest cultural jewels deep inside.
That one thing that you’ve got to do is visit the Aljaferia Palace–a fortified Islamic palace built in the 11th century when southern Spain was called Al-Andalus. The UNESCO-listed site is also the current seat of the Parliament of the autonomous region of Aragon. It was a very impressive and well-preserved structure; a mini version of Alhambra in Granada and the Mezquita (Mosque) in Córdoba, combined. It had a remnant of a wide moat around the fortress castle that is now-drained, cleaned, and turned into an open space.
Your family can easily spend a half-day here roaming the intricately decorated halls, admiring the architecture, reading about its history and the lineage of the Aragon nobility. It costs 5 euros to enter. FREE on Sundays and for children under 12 years old.
There’s a cafeteria should you get hungry. We recommend saving some money by bringing your own and have a family picnic at the big park with shaded areas and playground, next to the castle. Free side-street parking nearby, to the side of the park.
more things to do in Zaragoza. . .
If you have more time, as we did, make sure you head over to the Basilica del Pilar that reigns over the city. It is much more impressive from the outside, especially if you don’t have much time to absorb all its inner beauty. With its wide open, pedestrian-only square/plaza, it is a good place for a walk and quiet contemplation. . . as much as our two little runners of joy allowed us, that is!
Our kids loved it. We wrapped the sight visits to both the Aljaferia Palace and the Basilica in stories–truths, half-lies, or outright fabricated B.S…. it doesn’t matter–and our children’s interest spiked. Ice cream break also helped, especially with a good view of the cathedral and the square.
Walk along the Ebro river and cross over the 15th century stone bridge (Puente de Piedra) to get a different perspective of the Basilica and the city. You’d be rewarded with a beautiful view if you manage to see it at night.