Zaragoza’s Endless Outdoor Possibilities
Hey, do you like walking, running, skating or biking? Zaragoza is a great place for all of those. Anytime people are off work, you can see the city’s green spaces fill with people enjoying the fresh air, even more so during this year’s pandemic. After spending the past year walking and exploring nearly every day, I’ve found this city to be full of outdoor gems. My Strava app tells me I’ve clocked 155 kilometers JUST running so far in 2021! Aside from that, I’ve walked and biked plenty of kilometers more, and taken hundreds of photos in the two years I’ve been getting to know the city. Here are some of the top outdoor spots in Zaragoza, marked with some fun (and slightly lame) homemade maps.
1. Weekend Morning Run or Bike Ride: Parque de Agua (bonus: you end up at my favorite terraza)
For this paseo, let’s start at the Expo, a huge open space originally built for the 2008 World’s Fair. It’s a great place for skating, running, biking and walking. We’ll head west along the Ebro River through Parque del Agua Luis Buñuel and stick with the woods-y trail rather than the more populated and man-made park. (That part of the park is nice, but a little dry for my liking.) Here there are plenty of people mountain biking on the trails, as well as running and walking. Lots and lots of dogs here – and there’s even an amazing dog training park nearby. There are picnic tables too, if you want to pack a snack or lunch and take it with you.
Coming out of the wooded part, cross the bridge over the river to the other side and head back toward town. Here you’ve got a bike lane all the way back into town and a nice wide walking trail, and great views of the river. Very peaceful.
Admire the pedestrian bridge Paseo del Voluntariado, connecting the neighborhoods El Actur and La Almozara.
Soon after passing this bridge (don’t cross it), you’ll come to a brick walkway and a bar/terrace called Playa Los Angeles. This is my favorite outdoor bar in the city. It’s got great vibes and tons of outdoor seating, even under the trees. On a sunny day this place is always full! My favorite thing here is having a beer and an order of homemade potato chips sprinkled with paprika, which come on a roof tile, because why not? After the morning exercise, you’ve earned your vermut.
2. City Center: Parks and a Sort-of Castle/Palace Thing
Leaving Playa Los Angeles, head into town. On the way toward the city center, you can stop to check out La Aljafería Palace, which is Zaragoza’s version of La Alhambra in Granada. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot smaller and not nearly as exciting, but still cool to walk around.
Heading southeast toward the center, you’ve got bike lanes that you can take down to Fernando Católico, and there you’ll take a right along the tram lines and head south to Parque Grande José Antonio Labordeta. Parque Grande is, of course, the city’s biggest park. Not quite as majestic as Madrid’s Retiro Park, it’s still pretty great and always attracts a crowd on the weekends. It’s got paved streets, dirt paths, and plenty of grass to spread out and have a picnic. Along the canal, there’s also a “mountain” (let’s be honest, it’s a hill) with trails going up and down it – a huge hit among mountain bikers and runners looking to practice hills in this otherwise very flat city. There are a few nice terrazas in the park to sit and have a drink. My favorites are Las Ocas, El Corazón Verde and El Rincón de Goya.
3. Canal Walk: Southeast
Walking along the canal that runs through the park, you can head east, continuing to follow the canal all the way out to a park full of pine trees called Esclusas de Valdegurriana. You’ll pass the Bridge of Sighs, which sounds pretty enchanting. It’s a long walk without much shade after you get out of the park, best to do it early in the morning before it gets too hot!
4. Canal Walk: West
Fun fact: In this canal, in September there’s a “boat” race. I say “boat” because the participants construct objects to float on. Plastic tubs, bottles, anything that floats. The fun thing is that most of the boats eventually start to fall apart. So funny to watch!
Right, moving on. Another option is to head southwest along the canal toward the neighborhood of Valdefierro. Here you’ll pass by one of the city’s wealthier neighborhoods as well as the Embarcadero. You can actually follow the canal for a loooong time, I don’t even know where it ends, so you can just turn around and go back when you’re tired.
5. City Center: Casco Histórico, Pilar and east along the river
Of course you can’t visit Zaragoza without seeing the most important part! Heading into the historic district – you can access it from several areas – be sure to check out El Tubo, the most popular place to have drinks and tapas. It’s an area with several different bars, sort of like El Barrio Húmedo in León. There are plenty of bars and cafés in the plazas to sit outside in nice weather too. I almost forgot: churros! The best churrería in town is La Fama, just around the corner from the Basilica of Pilar. Fresh and delicious churros con chocolate, and you can eat them at the tables outside. Actually, because of this place I’m starting to like porras more – they’re way bigger!
While you’re here, definitely visit the Basilica del Pilar. You can even take an elevator to the top and see the whole city!
Back on the ground, head east along the river. You can get some nice views of the various bridges, especially the Puente de Piedra, the most iconic bridge in town. Part of the time you can actually walk right next to the river. I love taking my e-book and a blanket and finding a spot next to the river to sit and read.
Coming to a blue and white pedestrian and cycling bridge, cross the river. Turning right, keep walking along the river, which takes you to a park. At the end of the park there’s a path that leads into the woods. The first time I came across it, I was a little nervous I’d get lost in the forest. But then I saw the path is covered with wooden boards, so I thought, it can’t be so scary. It’s like stepping into the wilderness, with lots of birds chirping. You can follow that trail a bit until you come to a lookout point where you can see – you guessed it – the river. You could keep walking on those trails, but the last time I tried I actually did almost get lost in the woods, on the one day I didn’t carry my phone. No idea where I’d end up!
Coming out of that little forest and back through the park, head back toward the bridge but don’t cross it. Keep walking along the river. This is one of my favorite walking areas because it’s on the side of the river where I live. You get some stunning views of the Basilica del Pilar from this side. There’s a cute spot for sitting and taking photos just before the Puente de Piedra. In the winter this area gets super flooded and you can’t access that point, which makes for some pretty dramatic photos.
6. Venturing outside town: La Alfranca
Just a few kilometers to the east, passing through the Movera neighborhood, is a nature preserve called Los Galachos de La Alfranca. There’s a bird observatory station, a cool tower to climb, a palace (or it looks like one anyway), and lots of open space and paths. Great weekend morning activity, especially with kids!
7. Venturing outside town: El Anillo Verde to Cartuja Baja
Here’s a nice 24 kilometer loop that you can walk in around 4 hours. When S and I did it, we hadn’t planned on going so far but we decided, why not? And those last 3-5 kilometers before getting back home were brutal. So, prepare yourself!
You stay on a path by the river until you reach a sign to turn right to Cartuja Baja. That’s a cute and quiet little outer neighborhood. Then you cross a bridge over a big highway and then follow the signs for Anillo Verde, which will take you back to the Esclusas I mentioned in #3. From there you follow the canal back to the center of town!
There you have it: Seven different ways to spend a day outside in Zaragoza!