322km (200 miles) NE of Madrid, 306km (190 miles) W of Barcelona
Zaragoza (pronounced thah-rah-goh-thah) lies halfway between Madrid and Barcelona. This provincial capital, the seat of the ancient kingdom of Aragón, is a bustling, prosperous, commercial city of wide boulevards and arcades.
Zaragoza has not one but two cathedrals and, like Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, was a major pilgrimage center. According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to St. James, patron saint of Spain, on the banks of the Ebro River and ordered him to build a church there.
Zaragoza is at the center of a rich huerta, or plain. Its history dates from the time of the Romans, who called it Caesar Augusta. Today, Zaragoza is a city of more than 750,000 people, just less than 75% of the entire population of Aragón.
The 40,000 students at the University of Zaragoza have livened up this once-staid city. Cafes, theaters, restaurants, music bars, and tascas (tapas bars) have boomed in recent years, and more monuments have been restored and opened to the public.