How to Spend a Day in Tarragona
The city of Tarragona in the Catalonia region of northern Spain might sit in the shadow of Barcelona, its famous neighbour, around 60 miles away, but its a city bursting with 2000 years of history and things to do. Roman ruins, medieval buildings, traditional tapas bars and a lovely stretch of beach close to the centre of town are just some of its attractions. Its only an hour by train from Barcelona so it is an easy day trip. Here are our tips on what to do in a day in Tarragona, or longer if you like.
Visit the Central Market
A visit to the central market is always the best and quickest way to get a feel for a place. Its the beating heart of most cities and Tarragona is no different. The market is situated close to Rambla Nova, the main street, and is easy to find. Its a busy bustling place with traders selling all sorts of fresh seasonal produce. Wander round the stalls soaking up the atmosphere and perhaps being tempted to buy something.
When you are inside the market make sure you look up as the central area has a really impressive wooden ceiling. As always in busy city centre locations make sure you keep your belongings safe and out of sight. The website for the market is: https://www.tarragona.cat/empreses/comerc/mercats/mercat-central
Take a walk along Rambla Nova
The city’s main street is a wide tree lined avenue. It is pedestrianised in the middle with lots of seats under the trees providing shade from the sun during the hot summer months. In the evening it is a great place to people watch when both the locals and tourists gather. At one end you’ll find the Monument als Castells, a tribute to the human pyramids the locals build during festival times. At the other end is the promenade and the seafront.
Explore Tarragona Cathedral
The medieval cathedral is a must see when in Tarragona and is well worth the €5 entrance fee (2018 prices). Its located in the old town area, on the site of an old Roman temple. It dates from the 12th century when it was built in both Romanesque and Gothic styles.
The entrance fee also gets you access to the museum, a collection of medieval art, the chapels, cloisters and gardens. It is easy to lose a couple of hours in the peace and tranquility. Check out the cathedral’s webiste for more details. https://www.catedraldetarragona.com
Check out the Roman Amphitheatre
The amphitheatre is undoubtedly one of the top highlights of Tarragona. It was built in the 2nd century overlooking the sea. Its a spectacular setting and in its day would have housed around 14,000 people. Its well worth the €3.30 entrance fee (2018 prices) although you can still get a good view of it from the roadside if you dont want to spend the time exploring it in detail.
Soak up the Atmosphere at Balco de Mediterrani
There are a number of ‘balconies’ with same name throughout Spain. Tarragona’s version sits at the bottom of the the Rambla Nova and provides great views of the Tarragona coastline and the sea. You’ll find the promenade gets particularly busy at sunset as its popular with a mix of locals and tourists.
See the Roman Forum
The remains of the Roman Forum are situated next to Placa Ponent in the city centre close to the central market. The best preserved ruins are the remains of a basilica and a street. Again entry is €3.30 per person which seems like reasonable value for money.
Visit the National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona holds a lot of artefacts on the cities historical heritage. There are findings from both its Roman and early Christian past including sculptures, ceramics, mosaics and coins. There is also a library and video presentation. If you are into history then this is a must see.
See the Lower Square of the Roman Forum
Within the walls of the old town The lower square of the Provincial Forum is located at Placa del Forum within the walls of the old town.
The Forum’s lower square was originally a large rectangular space surrounded on three sides by an intricate portico with gardens inside. The remains are treated as part of the square as it is today. Sections of the portico also survive in neighbouring buildings including entrances and staircases.
Walk Sections of the City Walls
Don’t miss the opportunity to walk sections of the city walls in the old town. Some sections date from Roman times, others from the medieval period.
Spend Time on Tarragona Beach
One of the main attractions of Tarragona is that you are able to have a city break and beach break at the same time. Mixing sightseeing with time on the beach is easy. The Platja de Miracles sits between the port and the headland to the north east.
You need to cross the railway line that runs along the coast to get to the beach but there are a number of bridges that provide access to the seafront.
If Your Time is Short
If you are wondering what to do in a day in Tarragona then our suggestions will help give you a feel for the city. Tarragona’s historic centre is fairly compact with most attractions being within 5 to 10 minutes walk of each other. However, if your time is tight consider taking the little tourist road train. It might seem a bit corny but for €7 you get a hop on hop off pass which takes you round most of the main sights.
Just make sure you don’t miss the walled town centre which is a UNESCO site, the medieval cathedral and the Roman remains including the 2nd century amphitheatre.
Getting to Tarragona
The city is pretty well served by nearby Reus airport which is used by a number of low cost and chartered airlines. Bus services run from the airport into Tarragona itself. Tarragona is also reachable from Barcelona by train and bus so makes a great day trip option if you are staying in he Barcelona area.
More info on what to do in a day in Tarragona
For more information on what to do in a day in Tarragona try the Tarragona tourism website at www.tarragonaturisme.cat
Looking for More?
If you are looking for some further reading then below you’ll find more of our articles on Spain. For related reading check out the Tag links as well at the bottom of the page.
More Reading on Spain
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