Friday, October 7, 2011

Zaragoza, Aragon

I actually visited the city of Zaragoza back in late 2008 after learning that they just hosted the World Expo earlier that same year. As like any host city, Zaragoza underwent some major transformation for this huge event. They built new buildings, put in place new infrastructure, and consequently became known as more than just a half way point between Madrid and Barcelona.

I was however, more intrigued by what’s old rather than new in Zaragoza. Situated by the Ebro River, this capital city of the Aragon Region in north-eastern Spain continues to preserve some impressive remnants of its Islamic past that are recognised today as UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

The most striking landmark in the historical city centre is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. Originally just a small chapel built by St. James to honour the Virgin Mary, the site is now home to a huge baroque style temple that is famous for its image of the 'Pilar Virgin' on its column. Its outstanding interior features are matched with an equally grand exterior appearance with several cupolas and towers. You can read more about the basilica here.

Next to the Basilica stands the City Hall of Zaragoza. The plaza in front of the Basilica had quite an unusual water feature resembling icebergs. I reckon it had something to do with the 'Water and Sustainable Development' theme for the World Expo '08.

Above: The Church of Santa María Magdalena and the San Salvador Cathedral (La Seo).

Apart from the Basilica, another major monument in Zaragoza located some distance away from the historical city centre is the Aljafería Palace. It is a fine example of the Muslim Mudéjar architecture from its Islamic past. Once an Islamic Royal Palace, the building today is the seat of the Aragon Parliament.

Above & Below: Day & night at the city's shopping street, Calle de Alfonso I.

Above & Below: The outside and inside of the recommended 'El Fuelle' restaurant that serves traditional local cuisine. It was way too packed to get any seats or even the waiter's attention.

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