What to do in a day in Tarragona

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.

What to do in a day in Tarragona - Looking down Placa de la Font towards the town hall in Tarragona
Looking down Placa de la Font towards the town hall in Tarragona

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.

The exterior of the central market in Tarragona
The exterior of the central market in Tarragona

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

A stall selling fish inside Tarragona's central market
A stall selling fish inside Tarragona’s central market

 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.

The monument on Rambla Nova celebrates human tower building
The human tower building monument

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.

A wide angle view of the gardens of Tarragona Cathedral
A wide angle view of the gardens of Tarragona Cathedral

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.

Panorama of the Roman Amphitheatre in Tarragona beside the Mediterranean Sea
Panorama of the Roman Amphitheatre in Tarragona beside the Sea

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.

The promenade at the Balco de Mediterrani in Tarragona
The promenade at the Balco de Mediterrani in Tarragona

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.

The Roman Forum in Tarragona contains the remains of a basilica and a street
The Roman Forum in Tarragona contains the remains of a basilica and a street

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.

The outside of the national archaeological museum in Tarragona
The outside of the national archaeological museum in Tarragona

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.

A section of the Roman walls in Forum Square, Tarragona
A section of the Roman walls in Forum Square, Tarragona

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.

Tarragona's city walls are a mix of Roman and Medieval building
Tarragona’s city walls are a mix of Roman and Medieval building

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.

Tarragona beach is an integral part of life in the historical city
Tarragona beach is an integral part of life in the historical city

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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