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Tarragona Travel Guide

Tarragona (Spain)
Coat of Arms of Tarragona (Spain)

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Coordinates: 41.1175°, 1.252778°

Population: 138,262 inhabitants (2023)

The impressive and beautiful Tarragona, the first Roman metropolis settled on the Iberian Peninsula, was the city where this powerful empire grew and gave birth to the Roman provinces of Hispania Citerior and Hispania Tarraconensis.

Tarragona is located in the northeast of Spain. It is the capital of the province bearing the same name, which belongs to the autonomous community of Catalonia.

Due to its vast cultural wealth, the Tarraco Archaeological Complex was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000. Walking through its beautiful streets, one can appreciate the great Roman heritage of this fantastic Catalan city.

Ancient Tarraco (although its real name was Colonia Iulia Urbs Triumphalis Tarraco) was founded in 218 BC by the brothers Gnaeus and Pluvius Scipio, two Roman generals. Initially, it was a military settlement, but over time it acquired the status of being the official headquarters of the Roman Empire in Spain.

Its period of greatest splendour was during the first and second centuries BC, when the large buildings were constructed. The Roman complex has numerous well-preserved buildings to visit, such as the Roman Circus, the Amphitheatre, the Devil's Bridge Aqueduct and the Roman Forum.
Tarragona is not only a Roman city but also a modern city, open to the world and an economic hub of Spain. Over time, it became one of the main port cities in the country.

In addition, this city has emblematic places such as the Mediterranean Balcony, a fascinating viewpoint where one can see the Roman amphitheatre, the port and an unparalleled view of the Mediterranean Sea.

For these reasons, one must discover the beautiful and magical Tarragona.

Top 10 places to visit in Tarragona

Old Town

Tarragona Old Town (Spain)
The historic centre of Tarragona has a particular charm, being located in the highest part of the city. It is a beautiful place full of narrow streets and charming squares.

The old town is surrounded by Roman walls. In this beautiful space are located the theatre, the circus and the amphitheatre, which are the main Roman monuments preserved in the city.

Other special places in the old town are the Tarragona Cathedral, the old Santa Tecla Hospital, the Jewish quarter and Ripoll House.
On the outskirts, near this area, one can see Roman constructions such as the El Médol Quarry, the Devil's Bridge and the Tower of the Scipios.

Walls of Tarragona

Walls of Tarragona (Spain)
Built by the Roman Empire in the third century, the Walls of Tarragona are, without a doubt, the symbol of this city and its main tourist attraction.

These walls had a length of almost four kilometres and a height that, in some sections, reached 10 meters. In addition, they were reinforced by a series of towers and bastions, from which the soldiers could monitor any enemy movement.

Despite the passage of centuries, some original elements can still be seen, such as the fortified gates that allowed access to the city.
One of the most spectacular is the Roser Gate. With its twin towers and pointed arch, it is a perfect example of Gothic architecture.

In addition to their historical and architectural value, the walls of Tarragona are an ideal place to take a walk and enjoy the outdoors.

A sign-posted route allows visitors to follow the layout of the walls and learn about some of the most interesting details of this magical place.

Mediterranean Balcony

Mediterranean Balcony (Tarragona - Spain)
If one walks along the Rambla Nueva to its highest point, one must visit a very special place near the sea. Along that route, one will access the Mediterranean Balcony of Tarragona, one of the most emblematic places in the city.

This beautiful place is located on a 40-meter-high cliff, on the Balcó del Mediterrani, as it is called in Catalan. It offers a wonderful view of the city's maritime façade, as from that point one can observe the Seaport, the Roman Amphitheatre and Miracle Beach.
This viewpoint is bordered by a spectacular wrought iron railing made at the beginning of the 20th century. This beautiful work was created by Ramón Salas Ricomá and Joan Miquel Guinart, and it is said to bring luck to whoever touches it.

In front of the railing is a monument in honour of Roger de Llúria, the famous Catalan navigator who fought under the orders of King Peter the Great.

Roman Amphitheatre

Roman Amphitheatre (Tarragona - Spain)
The Tarragona Amphitheatre was built at the end of the second century on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It had a capacity of approximately 14,000 spectators and a perimeter of 130 by 102 meters, with an elliptical shape.

This was where the Romans enjoyed their spectacles such as gladiator fights, animal fights, hunts and athletic exhibitions.

The amphitheatre was abandoned around the fifth century, to be used as a quarry for other buildings.
Today, this site is relatively deteriorated, but it still preserves its splendour, as it is one of the most representative Roman monuments in the Iberian Peninsula.

Rambla Nueva

Rambla Nueva (Tarragona - Spain)
The Rambla Nueva is the main road in Tarragona and the centre of citizen life. Along its route are the main terraces, restaurants and luxury shops. In short, it is the social heart of the city.

In it, one can see interesting examples of the architectural style of the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, such as the Modernism of the Salas House, the Noucentisme of the College of the Teresianas and the Neoclassical of the Bank of Spain Building.
Its construction began in 1854 by the architect Crivillé, although it underwent various changes and restructuring over the years. After the inauguration in 2006, its last section is a total of one kilometre in length, from the Francolí River to the Mediterranean Sea.

On this street is a series of monuments of great importance, such as the Statue of Roger de Llúria, 125th anniversary of the Gimnàstic Club, Monument to the Sardana, Statue of l'avi Virgili, Tarragona to the heroes of 1811, Fountain of the Centenary, Monument to the Castellers, Lluís Companys and the Tower of the Winds.

The Rambla Nueva is the ideal space for family walks, as it is full of entertainment and leisure for almost everyone.

Devil's Bridge

Devil's Bridge (Tarragona - Spain)
The Devil's Bridge, which is also called the Ferreres Aqueduct, is a magnificent archway of Roman origin that is part of the aqueduct that supplied water from the Francolí River to the Roman city of Tarraco from a distance of 25 kilometres.

The aqueduct was built in the first century, under the rule of Emperor Augustus. In those years, the Roman city of Tarraco was at its greatest splendour and brilliance.

This work consists of two levels of superimposed arches. The lower one has 11 arches and the upper one has 25 arches.
The maximum height of this construction is 27 meters and its length is more than 210 meters.

Its unique name is due to the belief that such a beautiful and magnificent work could not be built by humans.

Roman Circus

Roman Circus (Tarragona - Spain)
The Roman Circus of Tarragona was a venue for the chariot races of the Roman civilization based in this city. Its location was between the Via Augusta and the Provincial Forum, in the upper part of the city.

It was elongated, about 325 meters long and 95 meters wide, and had a capacity of between 20,000 and 25,000 spectators.

Theatre presentations and circus shows were also held here.
The Roman Circus of Tarraco was built in the first century AD and has very special and unique architectural characteristics, as it is within the walled city. In the 12th century it became the palace of the kings of the crown of Aragon and was later used as a prison.

It is considered one of the best preserved Roman circuses, although part of its structure is still hidden under buildings from the 19th century.

Tarragona Cathedral

Tarragona Cathedral (Spain)
The Metropolitan Basilica and Primate Cathedral of Saint Tecla, also known as Tarragona Cathedral, is located in the highest part of the city. It is the most emblematic Medieval building.

Its construction began in the mid-12th century and it was consecrated in 1331. It is a good example of transitional architecture from the Romanesque style to the Gothic style.

It is a temple with three naves and a transept. Its main façade features an impressive rose window located at the top.
In addition, it has a large portal with a beautiful image of the Virgin Mary with the child as well as figures of the prophets and the apostles.

The bell tower houses 15 bells, some of which date from the early 14th century. The main altar has a magnificent front from the 13th century. There, scenes from the life and martyrdom of Saint Tecla are represented.

Miracle and Arrabassada Beaches

Arrabassada Beach (Tarragona - Spain)
Both beaches are the closest to the city centre and can be accessed by walking and public transport.

The two spas have the main services, such as showers, bathrooms, restaurant areas and parking for vehicles, among others.

The two beaches are perfect for playing sports in the sand. They also have bicycle lane areas and routes for walking and running, among many other options.

Tarragona Museum

National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona (Spain)
The National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona is a public museum that houses the most symbolic elements of this city's rich past.

It is home to a permanent exhibition of the eight centuries of the history of the first Roman city on the Iberian Peninsula.

This site offers a chronological tour so that visitors can discover Roman architecture, society and territory throughout its history, including to the present day.
Furthermore, in this museum one will find the most representative selection of Tarragona in terms of sculpture, painting, goldsmithing, ceramics and jewellery.

How to get around Tarragona

The best way to get around Tarragona is on foot, as its historic centre can easily be explored this way. However, there are other ways to get around the city, such as urban transportation, taxi and even bicycle.

Regarding the urban transport service, Tarragona has 20 daytime lines and four night lines. The most used by tourists are lines 08 and 22. Also, a tourist train offers a tour of the main points of interest.

This train crosses the most interesting points, such as the ancient Roman city. It travels from the amphitheatre and passes the Queen's Fort, the Saint Anthony Gate and the old Roman walls.
Meanwhile, the taxi service is available 24 hours a day, with authorized stops throughout the city.

When it comes to getting to and from the city, the best option for long distances is plane. Near Tarragona is Reus International Airport, which offers direct flights to and from several European destinations.

Likewise, very close to the city are the airports of Barcelona and Valencia. These are 90 kilometres and 260 kilometres away, respectively.

The train option is also highly recommended, as the city is an important centre for railway connections. Tarragona has a train station with medium- and long-range connections. High-speed trains and conventional lines pass from here. This service provides daily trips to cities such as Barcelona, Madrid and Zaragoza.

Another alternative to get to Tarragona is by land. The city is close to Barcelona, at a distance of 100 kilometres, while Madrid is about 550 kilometres away, most of via highway.

Accommodation in Tarragona

Tarragona is a city with a lot of charm and has several accommodation options for visitors.

The old town is the most popular area to stay in Tarragona due to its proximity to tourist attractions such as the cathedral, the Roman Amphitheatre and the Medieval walls. In addition, the historic centre is the area with the best restaurants, bars and shops, which makes it very lively and busy. If one wants to stay in a hotel with charm and history, one will find many options here.

The second best option is the Rambla Nueva, one of the main avenues, which is very close to the city centre. Those who like to be at the centre of the action will have easy access to all the city's attractions.

On the other hand, if one prefers to be near the sea and enjoy the beaches of Tarragona, the Miracle Beach area is an excellent option. This area also has restaurants, bars and shops, making it attractive for those seeking a more relaxed atmosphere. In addition, it is well connected to the historic centre through urban transport.

Another recommended area of the city is the El Serrallo neighbourhood, located in the western part, very close to the marina. This is a quiet and safe fishing neighbourhood, with a wide gastronomic offer of seafood and fresh fish. It is the best option if one is looking for a quiet environment away from the tourist bustle.

In short, Tarragona offers a wide variety of accommodation areas, each with its own advantages and characteristics. Everything depends on one's preferences and what one is looking for during their stay in the city.

Gastronomy in Tarragona

Tarragona's cuisine is varied due to its status as a coastal city. Thus, it has a great gastronomic offer, combining seafood with renowned elements from the garden.

Rice with Lobster

Rice with Lobster
This is one of the most popular dishes among Tarragona's seafood cuisine. It is made with rice, lobster, fish broth, tomato, onion, garlic and red pepper.

It is a tasty and filling dish comprising the flavour of the sea.

This dish gains a special touch when it includes bomb rice grown in the Ebro River delta area.

Romesco Sauce

Romesco Sauce
This is a typical sauce made with almonds, hazelnuts, tomato, “ñora”, garlic, toasted bread, olive oil, vinegar and salt. It is served cold accompanying various dishes such as fish, seafood and grilled vegetables, among many others.

The sauce gains a particular flavour when consumed with “calçots”, which are a variety of grilled spring onion typical of the area.

It is a very popular dish in the winter and spring, at gatherings of family or friends.

Escudella i carn d'olla

Escudella i carn d'olla
This hearty dish is made with pork, beef and chicken, bones and vegetables such as potatoes, turnips, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, green beans and chickpeas.

Great writers, cooking lovers and chefs have promoted this succulent stew throughout Spain and across the world.

Also known as Christmas soup, it is a very traditional dish throughout Catalonia.

Bull de Tonyina

The “Bull de Tonyina” is a typical culinary dish from Tarragona, although it is also very popular throughout the Catalan and Balearic coasts.

It is made with tuna gut. Once dried and salted, it is cut very finely, especially to make stews, especially with potatoes or beans.

Hazelnut Ice Cream

Hazelnut Ice Cream
The latest culinary proposal from Tarragona is a delicious hazelnut ice cream, which is a classic in the ice cream parlours of this city due to the nuts with which it is made.

The Reus hazelnut is a dried fruit with a Protected Designation of Origin. It is grown in a town neighbouring Tarragona, whose gastronomic qualities are excellent. This hazelnut is very healthy and nutritious due to its high values of proteins, minerals, vitamins, fats and carbohydrates. It is an energetic food full of flavour and tradition in Tarragona.
These are just some of the most representative dishes of the gastronomy of Tarragona and Catalonia. However, many other dishes are also worth trying during a visit to the city.