As the capital of Spain’s north-eastern region of Aragon, Zaragoza (or Saragossa), is a world-class and wonderfully scenic cosmopolitan city. It is bisected by the Ebro River and its tributaries, but expats moving to Zaragoza will realise that it's far more than just the waterways that pulse energy throughout the city. Its vibrant culture incorporates a blend of tradition and architectural treasures with a modern lifestyle and contemporary infrastructure, keeping pace with constantly evolving demands.
Expats living in Zaragoza appreciate how its sense of history is balanced with modern conveniences. Zaragoza’s past stretches back two millennia, evidenced by Roman ruins including an impressive amphitheatre, now showcased in a museum. Mudéjar architecture characterises many historical buildings, incorporating ornate Islamic motifs with Christian, Gothic and Renaissance designs. The must-see Aljafería Palace is a classic example of this.
Additionally, the baroque neo-Mudéjar Cathedral-Basilica with blue, green, yellow and white tiles cannot be missed; it honours Zaragoza’s patron saint, the Virgen del Pilar, who is also celebrated in the lively annual Fiestas del Pilar where the whole city seemingly transforms into a festival ground. The Cathedral-Basilica proudly stands in the Casco Antiguo or Old Town – a neighbourhood which is anything but outdated and dull.
Residents can kickstart the morning with coffee at a nearby cafe, shop along Calle Alfonso or Paseo de la Independencia, walk through the quintessential narrow streets, or get a drink or eat some patatas bravas with friends around El Tubo – the perennially buzzing central area.
Terraced housing and balconied apartments very much dominate Zaragoza’s housing market, as they do in the rest of Spain. The city has also developed modern architecture and a high-tech tram system and bus network for the ease of getting around. What’s more, Zaragoza is well-situated to explore Spain. It is located halfway between Madrid and Barcelona and is connected by the AVE high-speed train for expats doing business in or wanting to travel to these metropolises. Only a couple of hours north lies the Pyrenees, offering a multitude of activities from hiking and abseiling to skiing and snowboarding, with many picturesque villages along the way.
The catch of relocating, for many expats, is the language barrier. Integrating into the local community, finding the best school for expat kids, overcoming paperwork and even going about one’s day can be harder for new arrivals who do not speak Spanish. On the flip side, many locals are keen for language exchanges to practise their English, and expat English teachers may easily find a job in Zaragoza.
Prospective expats can rest assured that Zaragoza is a generally safe city with cheaper accommodation and a lower cost of living than in major metropolises. While the initial relocation may present challenges, this Spanish city offers expats prestigious universities, exciting opportunities, tasty tapas, great weather, breathtaking vistas and countless things to see and do.