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Zaragoza: Goya, tapas in El Tubo and 2,000 years of history

Associated Press logo Associated Press 6/20/2017 By MICHELLE LOCKE, Associated Press
This March 26, 2017 photo shows an octagonal tower, built by the Moors in the 16th century, now part of the 18th-century Church of San Juan de Panetes, reflected in the glass walls of the 20th-century Fuente de la Hispanidad in Zaragoza's Plaza del Pilar in Spain. (Michelle Locke via AP) © The Associated Press This March 26, 2017 photo shows an octagonal tower, built by the Moors in the 16th century, now part of the 18th-century Church of San Juan de Panetes, reflected in the glass walls of the 20th-century Fuente de la Hispanidad in Zaragoza's Plaza del Pilar in Spain. (Michelle Locke via AP)

ZARAGOZA, Spain (AP) — Stepping out on a lazy Sunday, I stroll past remnants of a Roman wall and watch couples taking selfies with a statue of city namesake Caesar Augustus. Then I'm brought up short by the shimmering reflection of a 16th-century tower caught on the sleek glass walls of a very modern fountain celebrating the Hispanic world.

In this March 25, 2017 photo a couple takes a selfie in the arms of a sitting sculpture in Zaragoza, Spain's Plaza del Pilar. The huge pedestrian square is surrounded by historic buildings, museums and cafes. (Michelle Locke via AP) © The Associated Press In this March 25, 2017 photo a couple takes a selfie in the arms of a sitting sculpture in Zaragoza, Spain's Plaza del Pilar. The huge pedestrian square is surrounded by historic buildings, museums and cafes. (Michelle Locke via AP)

That's 2,000-odd years of history in about a block, and just one of the reasons Zaragoza should be on your list of Spanish cities to explore.

This March 26, 2017 photo shows a view of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar (Basilica del Pilar) from Calle Alfonso in Zaragoza, Spain. Several churches have been built on this site, the current, baroque, version was completed in the 19th century. (Michelle Locke via AP) © The Associated Press This March 26, 2017 photo shows a view of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar (Basilica del Pilar) from Calle Alfonso in Zaragoza, Spain. Several churches have been built on this site, the current, baroque, version was completed in the 19th century. (Michelle Locke via AP)

Sure, it may be best known as the halfway point between Madrid and Barcelona. But with its treasure trove of architecture, art (and tapas, too), Zaragoza is worth a closer look.

This March 25, 2017 photo shows a statue in Plaza del Pilar in Zaragoza, Spain. The square is the main meeting ground of this city in Aragon. (Michelle Locke via AP) © The Associated Press This March 25, 2017 photo shows a statue in Plaza del Pilar in Zaragoza, Spain. The square is the main meeting ground of this city in Aragon. (Michelle Locke via AP)

WHAT'S NEW

This March 26, 2017 photo shows a painting in an unexpected place, a small, roll-up security gate on a doorway near the "El Tubo" tapas crawl district in Zaragoza, Spain. Zaragoza is known for its murals, ranging from large to small. (Michelle Locke via AP) © The Associated Press This March 26, 2017 photo shows a painting in an unexpected place, a small, roll-up security gate on a doorway near the "El Tubo" tapas crawl district in Zaragoza, Spain. Zaragoza is known for its murals, ranging from large to small. (Michelle Locke via AP)

The Goya Museum, which reopened in 2015 after extensive reorganization, is a good way to get acquainted with the works of the famous Spanish painter, who was born near here. The museum is set in a Renaissance nobleman's home and includes works by Goya's rivals and mentors as well as an extensive collection of his etchings, http://museogoya.ibercaja.es/en/horarios.php , 23 Calle Espoz y Mina. Open most days at 10 a.m., closing at 2 p.m. on Sundays and holidays. Admission about $5.

This March 28, 2017 photo shows graffiti and other markings left behind by prisoners locked in the Aljaferia tower in Zaragoza, Spain, during the Spanish Inquisition. The figure of a man has been described as everything from the Statue of Liberty to Christopher Colombus. (Michelle Locke via AP) © The Associated Press This March 28, 2017 photo shows graffiti and other markings left behind by prisoners locked in the Aljaferia tower in Zaragoza, Spain, during the Spanish Inquisition. The figure of a man has been described as everything from the Statue of Liberty to Christopher Colombus. (Michelle Locke via AP)

Las Armas is an outdoor space that hosts everything from art and musical events to markets promoting local products, http://www.alasarmas.org/ , 66 Calle Las Armas. Some events ticketed.

This March 29, 2017 photo shows a viticulturist from the San Valero winery holding a bottle of 2012 garnacha near Aragon, Spain. The Carinena wine region, about a 40-minute drive from Zaragoza, Spain, is known for its red garnacha and carinena wines. (Michelle Locke via AP) © The Associated Press This March 29, 2017 photo shows a viticulturist from the San Valero winery holding a bottle of 2012 garnacha near Aragon, Spain. The Carinena wine region, about a 40-minute drive from Zaragoza, Spain, is known for its red garnacha and carinena wines. (Michelle Locke via AP)

CLASSIC ATTRACTIONS

This March 28, 2017 photo gives a springtime view of vineyards in the Carinena wine region of Aragon, Spain. The region is set in the Ebro Valley, about halfway between Madrid and Barcelona. (Michelle Locke via AP) © The Associated Press This March 28, 2017 photo gives a springtime view of vineyards in the Carinena wine region of Aragon, Spain. The region is set in the Ebro Valley, about halfway between Madrid and Barcelona. (Michelle Locke via AP)

Plaza del Pilar, a huge public square, is the defining feature of Zaragoza. It is home to two cathedrals and a museum displaying remains of a Roman forum. Just beyond it is the River Ebro with its tree-lined pathways.

This March 29, 2017 photo shows diners strolling "El Tubo," the narrow grid of alleys lined with tapas restaurants and bars in Zaragoza, Spain. The area hums at lunchtime and after dark, but most places are closed from about 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Michelle Locke via AP) © The Associated Press This March 29, 2017 photo shows diners strolling "El Tubo," the narrow grid of alleys lined with tapas restaurants and bars in Zaragoza, Spain. The area hums at lunchtime and after dark, but most places are closed from about 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Michelle Locke via AP)

Basilica del Pilar, topped with brightly colored cupolas, is a cathedral featuring ceiling paintings by Goya. You'll also find two unexploded bombs on display; they were dropped during the Spanish Civil War. Open most days, free admission. About $3 to visit the cathedral's museum, closed on Sundays, and about $4 to access the tower, closed on Mondays. Next door is the Cathedral of the Savior, which has a tapestry museum (entrance about $5) featuring wall-sized Flemish tapestries from the 16th to 18th centuries.

This March 27, 2017 photo shows a view of the Plaza del Pilar in Zaragoza, Spain. A global sculpture is in the foreground, the Basilica del Pilar is to the left and at the far end of the square is the Cathedral of the Savior of Zaragoza, known as La Seo. (Michelle Locke via AP) © The Associated Press This March 27, 2017 photo shows a view of the Plaza del Pilar in Zaragoza, Spain. A global sculpture is in the foreground, the Basilica del Pilar is to the left and at the far end of the square is the Cathedral of the Savior of Zaragoza, known as La Seo. (Michelle Locke via AP)

La Aljaferia, originally built as a country retreat for the city's Islamic rulers and later the palace of Aragon's Catholic monarchs, is now home to the regional parliament. It features a beautiful and tranquil garden — and a room where trials of the Spanish Inquisition were held. Open daily, but closed during parliamentary sessions, held some Thursdays and Fridays, http://www.zaragoza.es/ciudad/turismo/en/que-visitar/detalle_Monumento?id=7 , admission about $6.

This March 26, 2017 photo shows a view of Zaragoza's Basilica del Pilar from the banks of the River Ebro. Tree-lined paths make the riverside a pleasant place for a stroll. (Michelle Locke via AP) © The Associated Press This March 26, 2017 photo shows a view of Zaragoza's Basilica del Pilar from the banks of the River Ebro. Tree-lined paths make the riverside a pleasant place for a stroll. (Michelle Locke via AP)

NEARBY

In this March 26, 2017 photo a couple takes a selfie in front of a statue of Caesar Augustus in Zaragoza, Spain. The city in Northeast Spain was named after the emperor. (Michelle Locke via AP) © The Associated Press In this March 26, 2017 photo a couple takes a selfie in front of a statue of Caesar Augustus in Zaragoza, Spain. The city in Northeast Spain was named after the emperor. (Michelle Locke via AP)

The wine region of Carinena is about a 40-minute drive from Zaragoza on the A-23. Wine tourism is an emerging business here so you won't find the glitz, or the crowds, of a more developed region. Carinena refers to a grape (carignan in the U.S.), the region and a town, where you'll find Bodegas San Valero, which offers tours and tastings starting at about $11, including tapas, and a $32 option that comes with a full lunch in their newly opened restaurant. Weekends from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., phone 011-34-976-620-400.

Also in Carinena is Grandes Vinos y Vinedos, which has tastings and English-language tours starting at around $7 and includes a take-home bottle. Booking in advance highly recommended, phone 011-34-976-62-12-61 or http://www.grandesvinos.com/en/contenidos/vinos_6.html#Pagina5 .

TIPS

Fancy a tapas crawl? Head for "El Tubo," the series of tubes (narrow alleys in reality) that hums with chatter and the smell of crispy fried things as darkness falls. The district is not far from Plaza del Pilar; look for Calle Estebanes and Calle Libertad, the two main streets. Don't show up hungry between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., though, as most of the restaurants will be closed.

The Zaragoza Card offers convenience and a discount. Prices start at about $22 for a 24-hour pass, http://www.zaragozacards.com/en/ .

Zaragoza is easily reachable by train from Madrid or Barcelona.

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Online: http://www.zaragoza.es/ciudad/turismo/

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Michelle Locke tweets at https://twitter.com/Locke_Michelle

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