Tarragona, bathed in light, a temperate climate, in a prime location facing the Mediterranean, with its historic city centre conserved on the top of a hill. A World Heritage Site thanks to the extraordinary legacy left by the Romans, seen in its town walls, amphitheatre, aqueduct and Archaeological Museum. It also has one of the best preserved Roman circuses in the world. Add to this its mediaeval district crowned by the imposing Cathedral, part Gothic and part Romanesque, guarding an immense historical treasure inside. Without forgetting the refurbished warehouses in the port and the vitality of the fishing port at Serrallo where Tarragona meets the Mediterranean.
LIVE THE TÁRRACO EXPERIENCE
When May comes round, the Tárraco Viva Historical Roman event allows visitors to enjoy reproductions of life in Roman times. There are re-creations of trials, military parades and gladiatorial contests, and the restaurants of the city serve the dishes once cooked by their Roman ancestors.
From its vantage point, the historical part of the city of Tarragona, complete with its Roman and mediaeval remains, contemplates the wide streets and busy avenues that make up the new city. Lose yourself among the streets of the old part of town with preserved Roman remains that bear witness to the city’s golden age, where you hear the echo of the Emperor Augustus at every step. Enter the complex made up of the Circus and the Praetorium from the Rambla Vella, through the wall that precedes the Torre de las Monjas. The vaulted ceilings still to be seen there are, without doubt, the most evocative part of the complex. The end of this route takes you to the Praetorium, which was once the administrative centre, royal palace, military barracks, presidio and, today, a museum. Following the trail of the Romans, overlooking Miracle Beach and set against the turquoise horizon of the Mediterranean Sea, stands the Amphitheatre. If you follow Calle Lleida, in the lower part of the city, you will see the Forum of the Colony, which was the most important public space of political life.
For its part, modern Tarragona offers another historical view of the city. From the 16th until the beginning of the 19th century, the city was turned into a stronghold and the fortines (small fortified constructions) of Sant Jordi and Reina Maria Estuardo were built on the point at Miracle Beach. The noble houses of Canals, Montoliu and Castellarnau, with their magnificent interior patios, date back to this time. The Casa Castellarnau building we know today was constructed in the early 15th century and was the residence of some of the most influential families of the city. You can enjoy the modernist legacy dotted throughout Tarragona on another itinerary on which you will be witness to the aesthetic that ruled in the city in its places of leisure and work, houses and religious objects.
Tarragona has two railway stations, one in the city centre offering connections by regional and long-distance national and international routes. The other, only 10 minutes from the city centre, is the Camp de Tarragona high-speed train station, inaugurated in 2006 and which represented a great leap forward in the external connections of the city. The new station offers a wide range of rail links with Barcelona, Lleida, Zaragoza, Madrid, Cordoba and Seville.
Once in the city, there are four different companies offering guided tours. They will help you to learn the details of the history of the Roman monuments and surprising facts and anecdotes about the different places and historical monuments of Tarragona.
The tourist train also offers a panoramic view of the city, providing information in eight languages: Catalan, Spanish, French, English, German, Italian, Portuguese and Russian.
Tarragona offers you a wealth of options for your leisure time: a yachting marina, a sub-aqua park, a golf course, theatre, an auditorium and a casino. The effervescent cultural agenda and the different activities in this city cover the autumn, winter and spring seasons in the Metropol Theatre, while in the summer, they are programmed in the Campo de Marte auditorium theatre in the open air at the foot of the Roman walls. Tarragona also has a 16-screen multiplex cinema. To all this must be added the attractive offer of the theme park, Port Aventura, just 10 kilometres from the city centre, which receives thousands of visits every day.
And if you want to enjoy the nightlife, the old city centre and the establishments around the port are particularly attractive. Different pubs and open-air bars will offer you a pleasant night out enjoying a cocktail in a relaxed atmosphere or a whole night dancing until dawn.
Festivals are another attraction in Tarragona. If your visit is in the first week of July, you will be able to see the firework competition on Miracle Beach. The main annual fair in Tarragona honours its patron saint, Santa Tecla, and lasts for 10 days around 23 September, with numerous leisure activities and a procession of folklore and traditions of the city. The first Sunday in October on even years sees the traditional Concurso de Castells in the Tarraco Arena Plaza, bringing together the most famous colles de castellers of the country, who build dizzying human castles crowned by the anxaneta, the child who climbs to the very top and raises his or her arm.
Gastronomy combining the highly-prized local seafood with the fruits of the soil is the secret of the excellent cuisine of Tarragona. The abundant fresh fish landed at the largest traditional fishing port in Catalonia mixed with the wealth of agriculture blends to create autochthonous cuisine with a very special flavour.
Enjoy the flagship dish, the traditional romesco, a thick soup with nuts from the Tarragona countryside, such as toasted hazelnuts and almonds, which is used as an accompaniment for the fish dishes: monkfish, seabass, hake, shrimps, langoustines and Norway lobsters, cooked in an earthenware pot. Some seafood restaurants in the city have earned great fame for their rice and their rossejats, another traditional rice dish.
A typical delicacy served from January until April is the calçotada, which originates from the neighbouring city of Valls. The calçot is a long, tender onion which is roasted over vine branches and eaten dipped in a romesco sauce. And to accompany these succulent dishes, you can choose from the wine list of Tarragona Designation of Origin wines.
An essential part of your visit is a stroll along the Rambla Nova and the adjacent streets, where you can find the small, traditional shops of the city with a wide range of produce and services. In the historical city centre you will find antique dealers, designer jewellers and renowned masters of the art of working precious materials. Some of these shops preserve elements that have not changed for centuries. The open-air markets are also quite singular and of great interest.