From Santo Domingo de Silos, we travelled to Burgos and have now arrived in the Northern Spain City of Zamora. We arrived late at night and hungry, so the real sightseeing could only start the next day. It soon turned out there is plenty to see and do in this Romanesque capital of Spain!
In this article, I’d love to show you around the city of Zamora and introduce you to the Romanesque Heritage route that I followed from Spain to Portugal together with Transromanica, a network of Romanesque heritage sites.
As part of the Council of Europe’s Cultural Route, Transromanica shows us the shared cultural heritage in Europe and really take us on a journey without boundaries, through different countries and cultures, space and time. I travelled with them last year to the region of Saxony Anhalt in Germany exploring the cultural routes there as well!
On this year’s route, I also visited the Spanish cities of Santo Domingo de Silos and Burgos and in Portugal, we visited Lousada, Amarante and Porto, on which I will be writing city guides and give you a full northern Spain itinerary soon!.
What we'll cover in this article
- ONE DAY IN ZAMORA ITINERARY
- How to Spend Your Morning in Zamora?
- How to Spend Your Afternoon in Zamora?
- How to Spend Your Evening in Zamora?
- Do You Have More Time in Zamora?
- PLAN YOUR TRIP TO ZAMORA!
- Products from Amazon.com
ONE DAY IN ZAMORA ITINERARY
How to Spend Your Morning in Zamora?
Zamora is a small town located on a rocky hill in the Northwest of Spain, close to the border of Portugal and crossed by the Douro river (río Duero). Because of its compact size, you can easily explore Zamora on foot.
What makes Zamora interesting, is that it has the highest concentration of Romanesque art and architecture in Europe. No wonder it is known as ‘The city of Romanesque’ and it was part of our Romanesque road trip with Transromanica.
Here is a nice day-filling route that takes you along all the highlights:
Walk Through the City Gate
Zamora has maintained a strong medieval feel to it and there are a lot of historic buildings, including many Romanesque churches, a cathedral and a castle.
Start your day by walking through the Puerta del Obispo (Bishop’s Gate), which was built in the 11th century and gives entrance to the area around the city’s main cathedral.
On one side of the arch, you can find the Troncoso Viewpoint, from where you can see the Duero River and the stone bridge and on the other side you can find the square where the Episcopal Palace and the Casa Del Cid are located.
Spot Palacio de Arias Gonzalo (Casa del Cid)
After you go through the gate, make sure to spot the door leading to Casa del Cid (also called Palacio de Arias Gonzalo), which is a Romanesque civil property integrated into the first walled enclosure. In 1931 it was declared a historical artistic monument and is currently a private house.
I was so busy snapping photos of the gate and the cathedral that I completely missed it, but you can see more photos here.
Admire Zamora Cathedral
Walking further, we reach the large Catedral de Zamora. This building has an unusual Byzantine-style dome (supported by 16 arches) and golden coloured stone square tower that is easy to spot across town.
They build the cathedral in record time between 1151 and 1174, originally in Romanesque style. Today, the main facade of the cathedral is Renaissance and there are also Gothic and Herrera designs to be found inside.
The cathedral contains intricately carved stonework, cloisters, apses and three naves. You can also find the Museo Catedralicio inside the cathedral. The Zamora Cathedral Museum was inaugurated in 1926 and houses works from both the Cathedral itself and other parishes in the diocese.
See Sculptures by Baltasar Lobo
Next to Zamora Cathedral, you can find the Baltasar Lobo contemporary art centre. This Museo Baltasar Lobo (Baltasar Lobo museum) is the only one to be entirely dedicated to the life and works of the famous Zamora-born sculptor and painter Baltasar Lobo.
His works mainly focus on the female form, particularly that of the mother and I quite liked his style! Besides inside, you can also find his artworks throughout the park behind the cathedral.
Visit More Museums
Looking for more museums in Zamora? How about these:
Museo de Semana Santa (Museum of Holy Week)
Here you can find artefacts and history related to Easter Week (Semana Santa) in this region. It showcases the carved and painted pasos (figures) that are paraded around town during the colourful processions. During this time, local churches and brotherhoods commemorate the Passion of Jesus Christ and this has been done since the 13th century!
Museo Etnográfico de Castilla y León
This museum hosts a valuable collection of 10.000 pieces reflecting the enormous and varied heritage of Castilla y León tied to their traditions and customs.
Museo Provincial / Museo de Zamora (Zamora Museum)
Museum about the history of Zamora city and the whole region, including interesting archaeological findings and fine art.
Stroll Around the Park
From the Cathedral Square, walk past the Museum of Baltasar Lobo to the tranquil Parque del Castillo (Castle Park). With some nice open space and trees that give you some shade, it’s the perfect place for a picknick with the cathedral in the background.
From here, you can also access Zamora Castle, where we’ll be going next!
See the View from Zamora Castle
Castillo de Zamora has been restored from its 11th-century original fort and while there hasn’t been done much in terms of tourist signs on the inside, it’s worth to climb the few steps to the tower of the castle to enjoy the view over the park and the cathedral. There is free entrance, so why not go when you’re there?
Apparently on Friday and Saturday nights, the city is illuminated, so this would be a great time to have a look! It’s definitely the most Instagram-worthy place of the town, if you ask our group of bloggers, haha!
Greet the Storks of Zamora
One of the nice surprised we got in Zamora was the fact that there was a whole group of white storks nesting on the tower of an old Romanesque church. They are a protected species in Spain and you can find them in a lot of the bell towers in this area.
In the past, just about all storks would fly south to Africa in the summer, and return to the Peninsula at the end of the winter, but in the last 20 years white storks have begun to stay here all year round.
How to Spend Your Afternoon in Zamora?
Have Lunch at La Oronja Bar & Restaurante
La Oronja is one of Zamora’s restaurants where you can enjoy a fantastic lunch with local ingredients. The interior of the restaurant is very elegant, with high ceilings and large windows and service is good.
You can find it on the street of Santa Clara, on the first floor of a modernist building, close to Plaza Mayor and in front of the Palacio de los Momos.
The restaurant combines its traditional market restaurant service with an innovative ‘taberna‘ gourmet concept with a weekly offer of haute cuisine in tapas. If you want to splurge a little (prices are still much lower than most Western-European cities), then this is the place to do it!
Just have a look at some of the gorgeous dishes we got served:
Walk the Old Streets of Zamora
Zamora lies on the European modernist route and there are 19 buildings in town with clear influence from Catalan modernism (‘modernista’). The Art Nouveau houses were designed by a Catalan architect who settled in Zamora and imported the style from his region.
Make sure not to miss Lucina Editorial, the grey building with all the tiles that you can see on the pictures below. This is a publishing house that was founded in 1987 by Agustín García Calvome and it features almost a hundred titles, versions or translations of classic works by Agustín and some of the collaborations he did with others.
Balboraz Street is a colourful street with many different styles of architecture and lovely little balconies that you also don’t want to miss.
Go Church-Hopping in Zamora
If you’re a fan of visiting churches, then you are in luck in Zamora! The city has a total of 24 Romanesque churches (14 in the old town), which of course are well-worth visiting (we saw plenty of them, as our guide was quite eager to show them all!), but here are some of the most highly recommended ones:
- San Juan de Puerta Nueva – 12th century Romanesque church at Plaza Mayor, featuring a stained glass circular window, symbol of Zamora.
- La Iglesia de Santa María Magdalena – 12th century Romanesque church that is small and rustic, with a simple interior, but still grand in style. The southern doorway of this church, decorated with floral motifs, is considered the city’s finest.
- La Iglesia Santiago del Burgo – 12th century Romanesque church that maintains its original structure of three naves, typical of the Hispanic Romanesque, as well as a quadrangular tower located in the southwest corner.
- Iglesia de San Claudio de Olivares – Some historians consider this small church as the oldest surviving Romanesque in the city.
- Santa Maria la Nueva – This church is actually a medieval replica of a 7th-century church destroyed by fire in 1158.
- Santiago de los Caballeros – 11th century church with detailed carvings on the columns. This is perhaps the simplest and smallest temple of the city’s Romanesque temples.
- Iglesia de San Pedro y San Ildefonso – 12th century Romanesque church that has undergone various architectural renovations in the past. It has a mix of Visigothic, Romanesque and Baroque styles in the building you can see today. The tower has been adorned with Baroque sculptures of San Pedro. While the exterior is simple, the interior is very dark and overly extravagant.
Admire Teatro Ramos Carrión de Zamora
You cannot miss the light blue building of the Ramos Carrión theater when walking down the street. The modernist style architecture is the work of the architect Francisco Ferriol, who entered in an ideas competition in 1996.
They completely renovated the building that had been abandoned for more than a decade at the beginning of the 21st century, so it could be used again as a cultural space. It opened end 2011 to the public, in honor of local humorist Miguel Ramos Carrión, who was born in a house located just in front of the theater.
The new building includes a cafeteria with a gazebo overlooking the Douro river and a small exhibition hall. To see what’s on, check their website.
Go Shopping in the City Center
The shopping areas of Zamora are mainly centered around Tres Cruces Avenue, Calle Pavos, Calle de Santa Clara and the parallel-running Calle San Torcuato. The biggest mall is the Centro Comercial Valderaduey, or ‘Eroski’ as the locals know it. Of course there are plenty of modern shops as well that you can find on the mentioned streets, a little of of the historic center.
Great souvenirs to get are delicacies such as local wines, cheese, chickpeas and sausages. You can find some good food at:
- La Buena Jera – gourmet food shop (local cheeses, wines, pastries, honeys and other delicacies)
- La Despensa – delicatessen with focus on jamón and other cured meats
How to Spend Your Evening in Zamora?
Gaze over the Douro River
Close to our hotel was the stunning bridge Puente de Piedra, crossing the Douro River. It’s over 800 years old!
There is also a nice riverbank path close to the historical center (where the cathedral is), that is nice to walk around sunset time. Start at the Paseo de Los Tres Árboles (thoroughfare of three trees) and you can even cross to one of the islands in the river.
Walk over the Roman bridge and see the three watermills (Aceñas de Olivares) from the 10th century. Inside the watermills, you can find a small Interpretation Center.
Go for Tapas
Good food is everywhere in Zamora, but here are some suggestions on places to eat:
- De Picoteo – budget-friendly daily menus, as well as well-priced tapas
- Ocellum – cocktails and an outdoor terrace in summer
- La Abacería – local gourmet foods and wines from the Zamora area
- Agape – tapas bar
- El Rincón de Antonio – tapas bar, as well as sit-down meals in a classy dining area
- La Rua – Zamora cooking
- Bar Lobo – tapas bar
- Dolfos – tapas bar
- Restaurante Sancho II – local tradition and international culinary trends
- Restaurante París – seafood, traditional dishes and international meals
Wander the Streets at Night
Zamora is a very safe place, even at night, but of course I would recommend to not walk alone in poorly lit areas or parks. If you follow the streets that in the old city that have restaurants and bars on them, you’ll always see people and can enjoy a lovely stroll in the evening!
Eat Tapas at Los Abuelos I
At the night of our arrival, we had some amazing food at Los Abuelos I, a small tapas bar. It’s located in a small side-alley that you probably would pass (check the map at the bottom of this post to see where you can find it!), but I’m glad we went in!
There are so many different tapas to choose from, and I especially loved the squid and the chicken. The menu comes in three languages, so you’ll have no problem ordering here!
Stay Overnight at Hotel Hosteria Real Zamora
One of the most beautiful places we stayed on our Transromanica road trip was Hosteria real de Zamora, located close to the river Douro and the Roman bridge over it. The hotel is located in a 16th-century Renaissance building that was built on an important Jewish house. Inside, you can find a fantastic inner courtyard and a preserved Mijhbe (Jewish Bath).
I had a room on the top floor of the courtyard and while it was simple and a bit dark (with only a window leading to the courtyard), it had everything I needed, including a bathtub and shower. The breakfast of hotel real Zamora was lovely as well and made for a good start of the day!
Do You Have More Time in Zamora?
Follow the Camino de Santiago
The province of Zamora has the ‘vía de la plata’ (silver way) running through it. This is a Roman route that connects Seville to Gijón and also traditionally has been used as a southern route of the Way of St. James by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela.
These days, the route is very popular (and thus crowded) and in Zamora you can find accommodation especially for pilgrims, such as the Pilgrim’s hostel next to the Church of San Cipriano.
Salamanca is only an hour away from Zamora, which makes either one perfect for a nice day trip. The historic centre of this university city has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Relax in Nature at Douro Natural Park
You can find the stunning 122 km long Douro National Park in the northeast of Portugal, on the border with Spain. The Douro river flows through it and has carved the banks of the river for centuries, forming monumental canyons.
There is a rich biodiversity in the entire park and it’s great for birdwatching. No less than 60 bird species have been confirmed nesting in the park! Most special are the birds that nest in rocks, such as the Egyptian vulture or Britango, the park’s symbol. You can also spot other birds of prey and endangered species such as the Black Stork, the Golden Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, the Peregrine Falcon, the Alpine Swift and the Eagle Owl.
The best way to see these animals is to take an environmental cruise. To do this, you need to drive to the International Biology Station in Miranda do Douro. The best time to visit the park is from April to June and from September to November, when temperatures are milder.
The church of San Pedro de la Nave in the town of El Campillo is an early Medieval church that was originally built on the banks of the river Esla in the 7th century, but when a dam was built it moved to avoid submersion in the higher waters of the river between 1930-32. This was all done stone-by-stone under the direction of the architect Alejandro Ferrant Vázquez, so the church you see today is exactly what the original would have looked like!
While this little church is located a bit in the middle of ‘nowhere’, and wasn’t very significant as a place of worship perse, it does show just how high the level of Visigothic architecture in Spain reached in about hundred years since the conversion to Catholicism and the Arab invasion, something that you can’t see in any other country in Western Europe.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO ZAMORA!
I hope this article helped you deciding what to do in Zamora. Here is more information to help you plan your trip:
Time Zone in Zamora? Spain is in the Central European Summer Time (GMT+2)
Currency in Zamora? Euro (EUR). Check the latest exchange rate here.
Electrical Plugs in Zamora? In Spain, you can use plug types C (two round pins) and F (two round pins with two earth clips on the side). The country operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.. We recommend getting a universal travel adapter to never worry about having the right plug on your travels!
Languages Spoken in Zamora? While you can get by with English just fine in this part of Spain (especially in the larger villages), in the rural villages most people prefer to speak Spanish (Castilian, or castellano). In the restaurants, you can find English-language menus, but you will find that places such as museum will mostly have Spanish labels, so it’s always wise to download the Spanish language set on the Google Translate app and to learn a few words!
Best time to visit Zamora? The hottest months to visit Zamora are July, August, and then June. The months with the lowest chance of significant precipitation are August, July, and then September. The lowest chance of rain or snow occurs around early to mid August, which is also the least humid month (the most humid is January). It is most likely to rain or snow in late October to early November.
Insurance for Zamora? Make sure to get travel insurance! We recommend checking out worldnomads.com
How to get to Zamora? Zamora well connected to other cities in Northern Spain (such as Valladolid/Madrid, Salamanca and Benavente) by several new highways. If you’re travelling with public transport, there is a bus connection to Salamanca, Valladolid, Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Sevilla and many other cities of Spain and Portugal. There are also train connections (two lines). The train to/from Madrid is the AVE (Alta Velocidad Española) line.
Madrid airport is a 3-hour busride to Zamora, but there is also a small airport in Villanuble (a few kilometers out of Valladolid, 90 km from Zamora / 1h15min by bus).
How to get around Zamora? Zamora is compact and so you can easily explore on foot. Most of the city is car-free. If you need a bus, you can buy a ticket directly from the driver. In Summer, there is a Tren Turístico (Tourist Train), which drives you all around the city.
Where to stay in Zamora? For Zamora hotels check Booking.com for the best deals > >
Map of Northern Spain Zamora
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Disclaimer: I was invited by Transromanica on this trip and was compensated for creating content on our website and social media channels. All photos and words are our own, as always.