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Things you can't miss in Tarragona

Things you can't miss in Tarragona

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Meet Tarragona. It is part of the Catalonia family, and I would describe it as the eldest sibling – perhaps due to its extensive history and significant Roman influences. As one of the oldest cities in Spain, it is rich in history, culture, and art. Moreover, it is home to some of the most stunning beaches in the country. A visit to Tarragona is truly an unforgettable experience.

Discover what you can do and must-visit sites in this Catalonian city.

Roman Amphitheatre

The amphitheatre is part of the monumental ensemble of Tarraco, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Exploring this amphitheatre is like walking through the grandstands of the ancient arena, where gladiators fought for their lives while spectators cheered. Having the sea as a backdrop makes it even more epic. It's a surreal experience that transports you back nearly 2,000 years. Although you can have an overview through the fence, it is worth paying (£4) to get inside and truly soak in the experience.

Roman Circus & Roman Forum

As we are still discussing Roman influence in Tarragona, be sure to visit the Roman Circus , one of the best-preserved circuses in the West. Used primarily for chariot races, it was an expansive and grand structure capable of accommodating approximately 30,000 spectators. It was also the site of many public festivals and religious ceremonies. Today, you can visit the ruins of the circus, explore the labyrinthian tunnels, admire Roman artefacts in the accompanying museum, and enjoy spectacular views over the sea from the rooftop, the Praetorium Tower.

The Roman Forum was the centre of public and economic life in ancient Tarraco, the name by which Tarragona was known during the Roman era. It features remains of administrative buildings, temples, and market areas. The forum area provides a tangible connection to the daily lives of the Romans, highlighting their sophisticated urban planning and architectural prowess.

Roman Walls

Romans wouldn’t be Romans without their walls, and Tarragona is no exception. Tarragona’s ancient walls are known as the Paseo Arqueológico (Archaeological Walk), and you can witness some impressive walls still standing today, encircling the old town. Walking along these ancient defences offers a palpable sense of history and provides insight into the military importance of Tarraco during the Roman Empire.

Rambla Nova & Mediterranean Balcony

The Rambla Nova is Tarragona's main street. Enjoy strolling up and down this street, especially to see some of the buildings and famous works of art, such as the "Monumento a los Castellers", which showcases an important Catalan tradition of human towers.

Continuing to explore this vibrant social hub for tourists and locals, you will reach the end of it and find the Balcó del Mediterrani (Mediterranean Balcony), from where you have a magnificent view over the sea, harbour, the beach and the amphitheatre of Tarragona is just a few steps away. It’s a romantic spot that locals believe brings luck to those who touch the railing, embodying the spirit and beauty of Tarragona, so be sure to do it when visiting.

Tarragona Cathedral

Located on the highest point of the city, on a promontory, Tarragona Cathedral was initially used as barracks for the Roman armies commanded by General Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus (3rd century BC). This monument is truly something complex as it was an ex-Roman temple and former Moorish mosque, the architectural diversity – it was made in the Romanesque style, in transition to Gothic. Next to the cathedral is a monastery with a beautiful inner garden, which also includes a museum (Museo Diocesano).

Outside of it, you will find the Pla de la Seu, a square that connects the cathedral with some big long stairs where you can find locals and tourists sitting there chilling, and a quaint café with its major overhang on columns. This emanates a cosy but solemn vibe as they have the Tarragona Cathedral as a backdrop.

Plaça dels Sedassos

In Plaça dels Sedassos, you will be struck by the 1995 mural, illustrating Spanish balconies and their residents. The wall was painted by the local artist named Carles Arola. From a bare and boring facade, it was transformed into a stunning 19th-century-style facade and became the heart of the city. This mural is so iconic that there are plenty of postcards with a picture of it to serve as souvenirs. If you are curious about Carles Arola, you can see the artist himself on the 2nd floor.

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Central Market Hall

Located on Plaça de Corsini, this market has more than 100 years of existence. The fresh market in this modernist building – Art Nouveau and Mudéjar architecture – is a great place to grab something to eat.

Opening times: Monday-Saturday: 08:30 to 21:00

El Serrallo: An Old Fishing Village

If you go beyond the port, you encounter a cosy and charming fishing village - El Serrallo . If you are looking for a nice neighbourhood where you can eat fresh fish and view the local luxury yachts in the harbour, El Serrallo is the place to go. Make sure to taste the cod dumplings, cuttlefish, and pataco (potato, tuna, garlic, and almond stew).

The Beaches of Tarragona

A visit to Tarragona wouldn’t be complete without the Tarragona playas aka the beaches of Tarragona. Straddling the Costa Dorada, which translates to Golden Coast, they reflect the mild Mediterranean climate and the fine golden sand.

Crossing past the train line in the centre of the city and you’ll soon reach Platja del Miracle, the one at the foot of the amphitheatre. If you would like to explore other equally incredible beaches, here are some worth sunbathing: Llarga Beach, Playa El Milagro, Platja Arrabassada, Cala Fonda, Cala Romana, Llengüadets Cove and Platja Savinosa.

Santa Tecla Festival

Santa Tecla Festival is Tarragona's major festivity, which is around mid-September and lasts for about 10 days.

This festival is a vibrant celebration filled with processions, human towers (castells), traditional dances, fireworks, and cultural events that reflect the rich history and traditions of Catalonia. One of the most popular events is the Correfoc or fire-running, which is also the closing event of the fiesta. People run and jump over characters dressed up as devils and dragons, carrying fire.

In 2024, it will be held between 13 September and 24 September.

If you are in Catalonia, make sure to visit Tarragona and we promise you won’t regret it

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