Once home to Romans, Iberians, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, Zaragoza has an eclectic history best told by its buildings. The fifteenth-century La Seo cathedral (Plaza Ntra. Sra. Del Pilar 16, 34-976-201-953) combines Romanesque, neoclassic, and Moorish architecture—the latter is seen in the geometric brickwork and dazzling mosaics of the façade. Across the Plaza del Pilar, Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar houses frescoes by a young Goya as well as a five-foot jasper and silver column marking the spot where the Virgin Mary is believed to have spoken to St. James in 40 C.E.. A few blocks east is the Caesaraugusta Theater Museum (Calle San Jorge 12; 34-976-20-50-88), an ear-shaped ruin and adjoining museum of first-century Roman theater.
Marvel at Moorish architecture at La Aljaferia (Calle de los Diputados; 34-97 6-28-96-85), a gargantuan, fortified palace begun by the Arab dynasties in the eleventh century. Take a guided tour of its filled-in moat and gardens and hear about its storied past as home to the Catholic kings, Ferdinand and Isabella, and the court of the Inquisition. Note the delicately carved mosque, ornate throne room, and Troubadour’s Tower—the oldest remaining part of the palace and also the inspiration for Verdi’s opera Il Trovatore.
See architectural wonders from the future at the International Expo 2008. From June 14 through September 14, 106 countries will showcase cultural and technological innovations in "Water and Sustainability" on a 62-acre, $1.25 billion site. For ultimate wow factor, visit the partially submerged River Aquarium (the largest in the world); starchitect Zaha Hadid’s Bridge Pavilion, a two-story spiraling footbridge and water exhibit; and Enrique de Teresa's translucent, water-drop-shaped Water Tower. To take it all in in relative peace, take advantage of the Expos' 2 a.m. closing time.