Whether you are a fan of heritage, history, culture or food, the Aragonese capital is bursting with attractions to delight even the most demanding of visitors. And if those are not enough, there’s a whole host of other fascinating places to visit just an hour’s or an hour-and-a-half’s drive from the city. There are so many to choose from, but here are a few of the highlights!
1. Monasterio de Piedra
Located near the municipality of Nuévalos, an hour and twenty minutes from Zaragoza, this Cistercian monastery is nestled in the heart of the Monasterio de Piedra Nature Reserve, with thousands of visitors flocking to enjoy its stunning surroundings each year. The monastery was founded in the Middle Ages by Cistercian monks, who chose this location because of its beautiful, peaceful landscape dotted with waterfalls, streams and caves. It’s a real oasis tucked away among the Sistema Ibérico mountain range.
The Iris Grotto, one of the most beautiful corners of the Monasterio de Piedra.
For centuries, this picturesque town (one hour from Zaragoza) marked the border between the kingdoms of Aragon and Castille and played a major part in Spanish history. Many of the buildings that bear witness to Tarazona’s historic past are still standing, including the Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de la Huerta – a magnificent blend of Gothic, Mudejar and Renaissance architecture –, the Bishop’s Palace, and the buildings of the Jewish quarter. Just 15 minutes away you will find the Monasterio de Veruela, which was once home to the Romanticist poet and novelist Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer.
Interior of the Cathedral of Santa María de la Huerta, Tarazona.
3. Sos del Rey Católico
This little town in the Cinco Villas area, just an hour and a half from Zaragoza, owes its name to Ferdinand II of Aragon, who was born right here in the Sada Palace. Wandering through its labyrinth of streets, past beautiful buildings such as the church of San Esteban, the town hall and the Castillo de la Peña Feliciana, is like travelling back in time. The town is a member of the most beautiful towns in Spain initiative, and its streets so impressed Luis García Berlanga that he used it as the location for The Heifer, one of his most well-remembered films. Find out more: Sos tourist info
The streets of Sos del Rey Católico.
4. Old Town of Belchite
Belchite has gone down in history as the site of a bloody battle during the Spanish Civil War in which almost 5,000 people tragically lost their lives. After the war, with the battle having razed most of the town to the ground, the decision was made to build a new town nearby and to leave the old one as testimony to the terrible conflict. Nowadays, you can visit the ruins on one of the various guided tours run by the local council.
Ruins of the church in the Old Town of Belchite.
5. Monasterio de Rueda
Located between Sástago and Escatrón, an hour and a half’s journey from Zaragoza, this abbey is the third Cistercian monastery on our list. It was built during the 13th and 14th centuries in the Gothic and Mudejar styles. The Aragon tourist board runs guided tours of its charming cloister, church and various rooms. It also has guest rooms and a restaurant with something to suit every taste.
6. Castillo de Loarre and Alquézar
In the neighbouring province of Huesca, again only an hour’s drive from Zaragoza, is the spectacular Castillo de Loarre, a Romanesque fort dating from the 6th century that claims to be the best preserved in the world. The watchtower, where part of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven was shot, offers breathtaking views over the Hoya de Huesca area. Huesca is also home to the medieval town of Alquézar, an hour and a half from Zaragoza in the Somontano area, whose picturesque houses are crammed onto an outcrop. Besides the castle and the lovely collegiate church, the town boasts impressive natural surroundings including the canyons carved by the Rio Vero.
View of the spectacular Castillo de Loarre, in the Province of Huesca.
View of the town of Alquézar, perched atop a hill in the Somontano area.