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Zaragoza  (Saragossa)

Spain's fifth largest city, Zaragoza is a centre of fantastic architectural buildings and many other attractions.

Although it is not one of the most popular Spanish tourist destinations, this city has plenty of attractions and activities to keep any visitor occupied. Situated in northern Spain, and home to a population of more than 620,000 people, Zaragoza is a large Spanish city with a long history. Some of the more interesting historical buildings in Zaragoza include those such as the Basílica del Pilar which is the largest Baroque Church in Spain, the La Lonja and the unusual Palacio de la Aljaferia. Zaragoza is also home to a variety of galleries and museums which are worth exploring such as the Museo de Zaragoza, the Museo del Real Zaragoza which chronicles the history of the football team and the Museo Taurino.

This vibrant city also has an excellent night life scene with many night clubs and bars being ideally located in the city centre. Restaurants in Zaragoza are plentiful and although there is a lot of Spanish restaurants you will also find other European and international dining options.

Hotels in Zaragoza are plentiful and you will find everything from upscale and established hotel chains to family run accommodation, as you would expect from such a large and important city.  A settlement from the eighth century BC, unearthed in a neighbourhood, shows the antiquity of Zaragoza. The old part of the city retains the urban structure created during the Roman era. Stretches of second-century walls are still standing, together with remains of the amphitheatre.

The Aljaferia is an Islamic fortress, relatively well preserved, from the era of the Taifa kingdoms. A number of museums have collected some of its pieces. The most important part of what has been preserved and rebuilt is the walled enclosure, the Patio de los Naranjos or Courtyard of Orange Trees, the small sanctuary and the Throne room, decorated during the period of reformation by Isabella and Ferdinand, the 'Catholic Kings', with carved and painted coffering, and structured into squares and lanes separated by ribboned patterns. The palace has an abundance of decorative elements, for which soft materials such as alabaster and gypsum were chosen. The main contributions of the Aljaferia are the elongated capital and mixed-line arches.

The Santa Engracia church, completed in the sixteenth century, preserves early Christian sarcophagi from the fourth century, crafted in Roman workshops. The main front of the monastery, the work of Gil Morlanes the Elder (1450-1517), shows an Italian taste in the structure and ornamental motifs, and the sculptures display the culmination of the sculptor's own style. The church front was restored following the Napoleonic invasion.

The apses of the San Salvador cathedral or Seo work on which began at the end of the twelfth century, are in a Romanesque style. The cathedral has three naves and a Mudejar lantern dome from the sixteenth century. Between 1376 and 1380, Pere Morgues, the Catalan sculptor and precious-metal craftsman, sculpted in alabaster the tomb of Archbishop Lope Fernandez de Luna, achieving a high degree of perfection in including such a large amount of figures. The work marks the beginnings of naturalist realism.

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Zaragoza (Saragossa)

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