Zaragoza may not be the biggest or most glamorous of Spanish cities but if you've got an appetite for superb food and wine then the ancient capital of Aragon has plenty to offer.More Spain:
In the north-east of the country within sight of - and just an hour's drive from - the Pyrenees, Zaragoza has its fair share of up-market, fine-dining restaurants.
But if informal eating is more your thing, you can enjoy a real treat by touring the city's tapas bars. There are hundreds of them all over Zaragoza, many not much bigger than the average front room, offering the most mouth-watering, bite-sized snacks to ever tickle your taste buds.
Of course, some are better than others, and the locals - as well as regular visitors - all have their favourites. But for new visitors, I've devised a "tapas trail" - kind of a pub crawl but with decent grub - which I guarantee will give you a taste for real Spanish food at its best.
Right, off we go.
First, get a taxi or hop on one of Zaragoza's cheap and efficient bendy buses to Plaza de San Pedro Nolasco and call in at Stemar, which offers a wide range of delicacies, all of which are laid out on display like some exotic buffet.
These include superb local cheeses, seafood and all the other tasty treats which - after being washed down with a glass of reasonably priced Rioja - make touring the tapas bars such a good notion. I suggest you order ham, quail's eggs and fois gras on a slice of toast. Any of them will cost you to ($6 to $7), a fairly typical price for tapas, plus the wine.
If you can resist seconds - which isn't easy, let me tell you - head out and turn left for the very short walk into Plaza de Santa Marta, because that's where you'll find El Rincon de Curro.
Fortified by a further glass or two, it's out again into the evening air to head for the nearby Marpy, just a few yards away, which, with its walls covered in bull-fighting memorabilia and pictures, is everybody's idea of what a Spanish bar should look like. The food is authentic too, including - you won't be surprised to hear - plenty of beef.
Another glass of wine and the next destination is Los Victorinos, just off the plaza in a side street called Jose de la Hera, where you can find some of the best and most elaborate tapas in the city. It's a small place and does get busy, so get there early before the crowds.
Having sampled the house Rioja, it's time to make tracks towards our last destination of the night, Casa Juanico, just round the corner in Plaza de Santa Cruz. My recommendation here is the jamon con chorreras (ham, egg, cheese and bechamel sauce).
A few more rounds of Spain's finest should set the seal on the evening, unless, of course, your liver is up to extending the trail with a few more bars of your own.
While you can comfortably stagger between all of these bars on foot, there is another, somewhat off the beaten track, which is worth an excursion all of its own.
It's called Hermanos Teresa, and offers arguably the best tapas in the whole of Zaragoza. You can find it at Calle del Generale Ricardos in the city's outlying San Jose barrio. The place regularly wins shed-loads of prizes for its food in Zaragoza's annual tapas competition, which considering the standard of competition is no mean feat.
But to other matters, well fed and watered - or rather wined - where should the intrepid tapas traveller lay their weary head between bouts of culinary indulgence? No problem, as you have a whole range of choices, with something to suit every budget.More Travel for connoisseurs:
For those with a few euro to throw around, there's the five-star Hotel Melia Zaragoza on Avenida Cesar Augusto. It's centrally located and boasts the kind of facilities you'd expect from a hotel of this calibre, including a spa and gym.
For those looking for more moderately priced accommodation - albeit still in the centre of the city - the three-star Eurostars Plaza Delicias could fit the bill, both figuratively and literally.
A little further down the pecking order is the Hotel Central Zaragoza for those watching their eurocents.Any of these would be an ideal base from which to explore and enjoy Zaragoza's tapas scene - which is itself a five-star experience.
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