20 Tarragona sights worth seeing
Tarragona, the capital of the province of the same name in the south of Catalonia, combines everything that attracts tourists to the Mediterranean coast of Spain. It is one of the best places in the country where you can see well-preserved examples of ancient culture.
Here is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Roman archaeological sites dating back to a time when Tarragona (then called Tarraco) was one of the most important Roman cities in Iberia.
And these ancient ruins do not look like foreign objects – they harmonize surprisingly well with the streets in the old part of the city. For those who are totally indifferent to history, there is also something to see in Tarragona. A short walk from the center of the city there are magnificent beaches, awarded with the “Blue Flag”, a little further away is “PortAventura”, the main theme park in Spain. So no one will be bored!
Roman Amphitheater in Taragonna
Roman Amphitheater in Tarragonna.
Carved into the steep hillside, you’ll find Tarragonna’s amphitheater between the Roman walls and the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. When you leave the old quarter of Parte Alta, this elliptical arena, framed by the azure sea, literally unfolds before you. The amphitheater was built in the late 100s AD.
This colossal structure could hold 15,000 spectators who came here to watch some rather gruesome spectacles. One such entertainment for the public was, for example, the burning of an early Christian bishop in the third century, during the reign of Emperor Valerian. You can still see the entrance to the basement of the amphitheater from which gladiators and wild animals were released into the arena.
Address: Anfiteatro de Tarragona, Parc de l’amfiteatre, Tarragona, Spain.
Cathedral of Tarragona
Cathedral of Tarragona.
Tarragona’s Romanesque-Gothic-style cathedral impresses visitors to the city first of all by the way it stealthily “sneaks up” on you. The streets around it are not even streets, but narrow narrow alleys with old houses on the first floors of which there are antique stores and restaurants.
And then in Santiago Rusiñol square the houses part and the majestic Gothic façade appears in all its glory in front of you. It is noteworthy that the temple on this site stood in Roman times. It was replaced by a Visigothic sanctuary, then a Moorish mosque.
The latter existed until the XII century, when the present Catholic cathedral was built. Visiting the Diocesan Museum of the Cathedral, you can see the Renaissance tapestries and Roman artifacts found during excavations in the cathedral from 1999 to 2001.
Address: Tarragona Cathedral, Pla de la Seu, Tarragona, Spain.
Las Ferreres Aqueduct (Bridge of the Devil)
Aqueduct Las Ferreres (Devil’s Bridge).
Five minutes north of Tarragona through a valley covered with pine forests is a 250-meter stretch of aqueduct that once directed water from the Francoli River to the ancient Tarraco and was called “Pont del Diable” – “Bridge of the Devil” in Catalan.
This extant fragment of the aqueduct has 36 arches and rises to a height of 27 meters from the valley floor. If you are not afraid of heights, you can walk along the canal where the water flowed.
A little scary really will be, because the walls of this structure are no higher than the thigh of an average person. You can combine the tour of the aqueduct with a visit to the quarry of El Medol, where limestone was mined for the Roman Tarraco. Today, this quarry is filled with lush vegetation because the high stone walls create a favorable microclimate with high humidity.
Address: Les Ferreres Aqueduct, Carrer de Pere Martell, Tarragona, Spain.
Roman walls. | Photo: wikimedia.
Another witness to history awaits you on the west side of the Parte Alta quarter: the Roman walls. These defensive structures existed as early as the 3rd century B.C., when Tarraco became a base for Roman troops during the Second Punic War.
Next to the original Roman towers and stones, with inscriptions dating back 2,000 years, weapons and gun positions dating from the Middle Ages to the 18th century have eventually appeared. But what is particularly interesting is that the lower portions of the Roman walls are clearly much older. Many of these stones supporting the later and more elaborate masonry are in fact the remains of megalithic structures.
Address: Roman Wall Of Tarragona, Via de l’Imperi Romà, Tarragona, Spain.
National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona
National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona.
It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that the city realized the heritage it possessed and excavations began around the Parte Alta. The National Archaeological Museum displays almost all the objects discovered during these excavations.
There is a rich collection of Roman sculpture, pottery, clothing, coins, and everyday objects. Experts have even managed to restore a 2000-year-old peacock mural found in the amphitheater.
The Hall of Mosaics with its stunning depictions of Medusa and the muse Euterpa is definitely worth your attention. Visitors of the museum also have a chance to visit the Roman Praetorian Tower and the Necropolis and the Ancient Roman Circus, which are located next door.
Address: National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona, Moll de la Costa, Port de, Spain.
Part Alta. | Photo: Jorge Franganillo / Flickr.
The Parte Alta is the highest and at the same time the oldest part of Tarragona. For hundreds of years, until the late Middle Ages, the entire population of the city lived here (only the coastal community of El Serralho was located outside the Parte Alta). It is the site of the ancient provincial forum of Tarraco.
Today Part Alta is a place revered by tourists. They walk through the narrow streets of the neighborhood, admiring the old houses and the ancient stonework of the Roman walls. Some of Parte Alta’s historic buildings have been preserved as museums. An example is Castelarnau, a fifteenth century Catalan Gothic mansion with a beautiful courtyard.
Address: Part Alta, Tarragona, Spain.
The rectangular space west of the Rambla Nova was once a public square until the ruins of the Roman houses, shops and other establishments, half-destroyed columns and arches which stood there during the classical Roman era, when Tarragona was called Tarraco and was the capital of the Roman province, were discovered under a layer of earth.
This is how the city got its Roman Forum, a monumental archaeological site that represents the remains of the center of ancient Tarraco. Today the Forum is open to the public. For a small fee, tourists can see what was once the vibrant center of the ancient city. Be sure to find the House of Curia, the most remarkable ruins found within the Roman Forum.
Address: Colonial forum of Tarraco, Carrer de Lleida, Tarragona, Spain.
Mediterranean Balcony Observation deck
Mediterranean Balcony Viewpoint.
Walking along Rambla Nova, you will definitely come to the “Mediterranean Balcony,” an observation deck with a panoramic view of the sea. Its iron railings are part of the ritual: you have to “tocar ferro,” that is, touch the iron at random.
If you are in town in late June or early July, you can see the fireworks launched from Playa del Miracle beach at the foot of the cliffs in the evening from this spot. On clear winter mornings you can admire the sunrise from the “Mediterranean Balcony”.
Address: Balcón del Mediterráneo, Passeig de les Palmeres, Tarragona, Spain.
Rambla Nova. | Photo: wikimedia.
We already mentioned Rambla Nova, a delightful pedestrian boulevard laid out in the 19th century. On both sides of it there are restaurants and numerous stores selling famous brands.
You can take the Rambla Nova down to the sea or up the hill and heading in either direction will guarantee that you get a different and interesting view of the city. Halfway down the hill is the newly renovated Mercat Central market, housed in a century-old modernist building and part of the daily life of the city.
Address: Rambla Nova, Tarragona, Spain.
Promenade and beach del Miracle
Beach del Miracle.
On the other side of the railroad tracks, at the foot of the cliffs, is Tarragona’s promenade and the city’s main beach. You can cross the railway tracks through a tunnel next to the amphitheater or at the railway crossing just behind the station.
Beach del Miracle is a long beckoning arc of golden sand. A promenade stretches along it, and there are numerous bars, restaurants, and nightclubs around the maritime club in the western port.
The water here has a moderate current, the strength of which depends on the weather, so inexperienced swimmers and young children are not recommended to move away from the shore. The picturesque promenade is one of the main attractions of Tarragona and a pleasant place for leisurely strolls. There are numerous restaurants along it, offering tourists a large selection of seafood dishes.
Address: Platja del Miracle, Tarragona, Spain.
Tamarit Punta de la Mora Natural Park
Tamarit Punta de la Mora Natural Park.| Photo: wikimedia.
A short walk from Tarragona is a magnificent stretch of coastline starting with Playa Llarga. This golden beach seems like it will stretch forever, but it eventually gives way to Tamarit Punta de la Mora, a natural park on a promontory covered in pine forest. Here along the trails you can find wild herbs, mushrooms or asparagus, depending on the season. The trails lead to small coves such as Cala Beck and Cala Fonda, where few tourists venture.
Address: Punta de la Móra, Spain.
Port Aventura theme park
Port Aventura theme park.
“PortAventura is one of the most visited theme parks in Europe and a guarantee that you will spend the best day with your family, at least when you are in Spain. It is ten minutes by train from the Renfe station in Tarragona.
What you do at the amusement park depends entirely on your tastes and the age of the children traveling with you. For example, for younger visitors there is a whole area with a “Sesame Street” theme with eleven rides.
For older children and adults there are roller coasters such as Dragon Khan with eight inversions or Hurakan Condor, which “drops” you to the ground from a height of 100 meters. There are shows for spectators of all ages as well as a water park and golf courses.
Address: PortAventura World, Avinguda del Batlle Pere Molas, Vila-seca, Spain.
Monastery of Poblet
Monastery of Poblet.| Photo: xiquinhosilva / Flickr.
On a trip through the Catalan countryside, you are sure to reach the monastery of El Poblet, located half an hour’s drive from Tarragona. This medieval UNESCO monument is located at the foot of a mountain range with magnificent views of the vineyards.
This amazing Gothic complex was founded in the 12th century, after the retreat of the Moors, by French Cistercian monks as part of a plan to consolidate the power of the Catholic Church in the new Christian Catalonia.
The most historically significant part of the monastery is the Gothic Royal Chapel, where several kings of Aragon were buried, starting with Alfonso II in the 12th century and ending with Juan II at the end of the 15th century. On the way to El Poblet, make a short stop in the town of Mont Blanc. It is completely surrounded by medieval walls protecting the old city streets in which you won’t mind getting lost.
Address: Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Poblet, Plaza Corona de Aragón, Poblet, Spain.
The old fishing village of El Serralho
The old fishing village of El Serrallo. | Photo: Jorge Franganillo / Flickr.
El Serralho is an old fishing village located near the center of Tarragona. This area has managed to retain the charm of past centuries, although Tarragona itself has long been transformed into a modern city.
Most of the city’s restaurant owners get their daily fresh local fish from the fish market in the area.
But you don’t have to go far; the best fish restaurants are in this unassuming quarter overlooking the port. Try the local cuisine, such as cod dumplings, cuttlefish in its own sauce or pataco (a hearty stew of potatoes, tuna, garlic and almonds).
Address: El Serrallo, Tarragona, Spain.
Castelarnau Mansion (Museum of the History of Tarragona)
Mansion Castelarnau (Museum of the History of Tarragona).
The Castelarnau was built in the 15th century by one of the most influential families of the city at the time. Today the mansion is open to the public and you can see the delightful interiors which were intended for aristocratic owners.
The elegant Gothic building is furnished in the style of Queen Isabella II. Interesting architectural details of the mansion are the staircase with Gothic columns and capitals and the patio. Nowadays, the Castelarnau Mansion houses the Historical Museum.
The basis of its permanent collection consists of archaeological and ethnographic relics donated to the museum. The age of the artifacts stored here varies widely, from prehistoric times to the 20th century. The Historical Museum can be proud of its vast collection of coins, dating from Roman times to the 19th century.
Address: Museu d’Història de Tarragona – Casa Museu Castellarnau, Carrer dels Cavallers, Tarragona, Spain.
Streets and squares of the city.
Streets and squares in the city.
To the east of the “Mediterranean Balcony” is the Paseo de le Palmer, a beautiful avenue with attractive terraces. It intersects with Rambla Vella and halfway down you’ll see the Plaza de la Fuente, the Plaza of the Fountains, located on the site of the ancient Roman circus.
Here you can still see the remains of the ancient foundations. On the north side of the square is the Ayuntamiento de Tarragona, a 19th century town hall built on the site of a former monastery. The beautiful facade of the town hall is decorated with Ionic columns.
Walking from the “Mediterranean Balcony” along Rambla Nova is just as much fun. This wide boulevard includes beautiful gardens in the heart of the city. Along the boulevard are two notable churches, Iglesia de San Agustín and Iglesia de San Francisco.
Address: Fuente del Centenario, Rambla Nova, Tarragona, Spain.
Paleochristian necropolis. | Photo: wikimedia.
Just south of Tarragona archaeologists have discovered a Roman burial site consisting of over 2,000 tombs. Some of them are believed to belong to a bishop and his deacons who were publicly brutally executed in the city’s amphitheater around 259 AD.
The well-appointed burial grounds and the basilica erected in honor of these martyrs give an insight into Roman burial traditions and culture. The museum of the necropolis displays many tombs and sarcophagi from the Roman cemetery.
Address: Early Christian cemetery of Tárraco, Avinguda de Ramón y Cajal, Tarragona, Spain.
Sites to see in Tarragona
Tarragona sights are amazing with its greatness and ancient history. Of course you can hardly see them all in one day, so today we will mention only the most interesting and popular sights.
“Devil’s Bridge – Roman Aqueduct
The review of the main sights of Tarragona in Spain begins with the aqueduct, an ancient waterworks that once provided fresh water to the entire city. The stone construction is 27 m high and 217 m long and was built in the 1st century B.C. The name “Devil’s Bridge” or “Bridge of the Devil” came from an old legend, according to which the construction was directed by Satan himself. Naturally, the lord of hell planned to take the soul of the first person to drink from it. However, his plans did not come to fruition, because the unfortunate one was an ordinary donkey, whose soul was of no interest to the devil.
Today the Pont del Diable, in the heart of a vast parkland, doubles as a lookout point. The widest part of the building has a walkway overlooking the city, with a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside.
The park is located in the heart of Tarragona Sant Pere | Outside of Town on N240, 43006.
Photo and description of Tarragona sights continues with the ancient amphitheater, built around the 2nd century AD right on the Balearic Sea coast. The giant arena surrounded by stone grandstands for 13,000 spectators served as a platform for gladiatorial fights, executions of the first Christians and bloody fights between slaves and wild animals. Two centuries later, after Christianity was recognized as an official religion, a small basilica was built in the middle of the amphitheater as a reminder of the martyrs who died here. The Gothic church of the 12th century is now only ruins, but it is well preserved.
Location: Parc del Milagro, 43004.
- Fri and Sat 10:00 to 21:00;
- Fri: 10:00 to 15:00.
Tickets cost about 3€.
If you only have a few days to explore Tarragona on your own? Be sure to go to the ruins of the ancient wall, the total length of which reaches a kilometer. In the 2nd century B.C. it was a mighty fortification serving to protect the ancient settlement from enemy attacks. Today Murallas de Tarragona, which together with other historical sites is part of the famous Archaeological Route, is one of the most visited sights in the city.
Unfortunately, not much remains of the once majestic stone fort, which was as much as 12 meters high. Now in the remains of the wall, which partially covers the quarters of the Old City, you can see a few windows made in the Middle Ages, and a couple of arched entrances created in the Roman period. The oldest part of Murallas de Tarragona is made up of polygonal blocks of stone, and no mortar was used in their installation.
Location: Via de l’Imperi Romà, 13B, 43003 Tarragona, Spain.
When examining the map with the sights of Tarragona in Spain in Russian, pay attention to the historical center, located between the medieval walls and the sea coast. Casco Antiguo de Tarragona, formerly known as the Upper Town or the old quarter of Parte Alta, holds a special place in the life of the locals. For one, the narrow, winding streets are a joy to walk through in this sweltering Spanish climate, and this is where most of the city’s historical monuments are housed. The most noteworthy are the tower of the monks, built in the mid-14th century, the pedestrian Fontana Square, which is considered the largest forum of the city, and the old town hall, made in the neoclassical style.
Other popular destinations include the Pretoria Tower, which houses two museums, the Castelarnau, a late antique palace, and the Jewish Quarter, which boasts a small Gothic arch. And if you want to do some shopping, or souvenir shopping, head to Via Mayor, the main avenue in the Old Town.
Looking at photos of Tarragona’s sights, you will surely notice the Catedral de Tarragona, the largest Catholic church located in Catalonia. The Basilica, built in the middle of the Cathedral Square and surrounded by the remains of Roman walls, is among the most visited sites in the city. What is curious, the place where the main symbol of Christianity stands has always been associated with religion. True, each time with a different one. First it was a pagan temple built in honor of the Roman god Jupiter, then a church of the Visigoths and, after that, a traditional Muslim mosque.
In spite of such a favorable location, the construction of the Cathedral lasted for the whole 200 years and was finished only in the middle of the 14th century.
The result of such meticulous work was a majestic construction, whose architecture is a mixture of two popular styles. The façade overlooking the square, which has a beautiful marble staircase, is complemented by tall Gothic windows.
Elements of the same trend can be seen on the portal above the central entrance to the building. Its main decoration are the lancet arches, stained-glass window in the form of a rose, and figures of famous biblical characters – the Virgin Mary with the child in her arms and the 12 apostles. The second style, Romanesque, has side aisle entrances, stucco ceilings and carved wooden benches typical of Catholic churches.
The most important treasure of the Catedral de Tarragona, which every self-respecting tourist should see, is the ancient altar from the first half of the 14th century. They were destroyed a few centuries ago.
Today, the Cathedral of Tarragona in Spain is a functioning Roman Catholic Church. It has transepts, apses, an octagonal dome and an old bell tower which has one of the oldest bells cast in Europe.
Where to find: Placa de la Seu | Entrada por Carrer Mare de Deu del Claustre, 43003.
- 17.0 – 15.06: Mon – Sat 10:00 – 19:00;
- 16.06 – 14.09: Mon – Sat 10:00 to 20:00;
- 15.09 – 02.11: Mon – Sat 10:00 – 19:00;
- 03.11 – 15.03: Mon – Fri from 10:00 to 17:00 and Sat from 10:00 to 19:00.
- Adult – 5 €;
- 3€ for kids;
- Up to 7 years old – free of charge.
Monument of the Castellars
If you don’t know what to see in Tarragona, pay attention to the Monument of the Castellars, a famous sculpture dedicated to castells. This ancient Catalan tradition, which involves the construction of living pyramids, is closely related to the Muixaranga dance, which was performed during all mass celebrations in the middle of the 17th century.
The design of Monumento a los Castellers in Spain accurately reflects the events of long ago and allows you to understand the customs of the Catalans. The sculptural composition consists of 259 human figures standing on each other’s shoulders, thus forming a high pyramid. At the top of this unusual monument is placed the lightest figure – a child or an adult with a miniature build. In honor of the fact that the construction of the cone is over, he raises his hand up.
Where to find: Rambla Nova, 129, 43001 Tarragona, Spain.
Mediterranean Balcony observation deck
Among the pictures of Tarragona attractions in Spain, which adorn the tourist avenues, especially stand out the pictures of the so-called Balcony of the Mediterranean. One of the most famous natural monuments of the country is an observation deck, built at an altitude of 23 m above sea level. It is very easy to find, just walk to the end of the Rambla Nova.
The Balcó del Mediterrània, in Catalan Art Nouveau style, is famous for its beautiful panorama of the surrounding areas and the sea. The area underneath is also worth a visit, and if you look down, you can see the beautiful lawn where the flowers are planted in the form of the city’s coat of arms.
Visitors’ safety is ensured by an openwork cast-iron fence created by a famous Spanish craftsman. There is a popular belief among local residents that good luck awaits everyone who cracks the bars of this fence. By the way, you can wait for it in a cozy cafe – they say that very fragrant coffee is served there.
Location: Passeig de les Palmeres, s/n, 43004 Tarragona, Spain.
If you decide to see the sights of Tarragona on your own, do not forget to visit the famous Roman circus. During the reign of Emperor Domitian (I century AD) it was part of a grandiose archaeological complex, which served as a venue for theatrical performances, chariot races, musicians and other public entertainment.
Only a small part of this ancient structure has survived, among which the Pretoria Tower, stone stairs, Pilate’s Palace, and the remains of the facade complete with 3 arches occupy a special place. According to a long-standing legend, Hippolyte, son of Greek ruler Theseus, was buried in the courtyard of the circus, and many underground corridors stretch throughout the complex, where you can easily get lost.
Location: Rambla Vella, 2, 43003 Tarragona, Spain.
- Summer season: Tuesdays to Sundays 10:00 to 21:00;
- Winter season: 10:00 – 19:00;
- Holidays: 10:00 – 15:00.
To see the Roman circus, prepare about 3€ for an admission ticket. Children up to 16 years of age can go free.
Looking at photos of Tarragona (Spain) attractions with descriptions, you will surely notice one of the best city squares.
Piazza Sedassos, which is the square in question, is lined with beautiful decorative tiles that give it an antique look, and framed by lush green plantings that provide a comfortable atmosphere even in the hottest weather.
But that’s not what makes Placa dels Sedassos famous! Most visitors come here for one reason only: to see a house with a false facade created by one of Spain’s best artists. The structure, painted in the technique of trompey (from English – “deception of vision”), creates a three-dimensional image effect. At first glance at the building begins to seem that all the figures depicted on it have a shape and outline. In fact, this is far from being the case, and the impression created is nothing more than a successful optical illusion.
Since the first day of its “appearance”, which happened in 1995, both the house with the deceptive facade and the square itself have become one of the most visited sites in the city. It is also home to many cafes and restaurants where you can have a delicious lunch.
The Rambla Nova, a picturesque boulevard with a wide pedestrian zone, starts at the square Imperial Tarraco and runs through the city to the coast. The history of this place began in the summer of 1854 with the demolition of the San Juan wall and the unification of the two parts of Tarragona into one. If you look at old maps, you will notice that it was originally called the Esplanade, but it was soon renamed the Rambla de San Juan, in honor of the old wall that ran in this place. However, this name also did not stick, and subsequently the avenue became Rambla Nova.
Currently, the street is considered the main city promenade, the total length of which is about 1 km. Its main decoration are picturesque modernist buildings, unusual monuments, “live” sculptures and strolling musicians representing a variety of musical styles. And there are several excellent restaurants serving food from different regions of the country.
Tarragona Central Market
Tarragona, which you can hardly see in a day, has another interesting place to visit. We are talking about the Mercat Central de Tarragona, a huge central market with an area of more than 20 thousand square meters. This monumental building was designed by architect Josepe Maria Pujol and was built in 1915 in order to gather all the sales outlets of the city under one roof. The main feature of this structure are four identical facades, each of which is complemented by three graceful arches.
Not so long ago the market building has gone through a large-scale reconstruction, which cost about 50 million euros. Today the Mercat Central de Tarragona is not only the main decoration of Corsini Square, but also one of the most popular commercial points of the city. In addition to a wide range of food, the market has several departments with ready-made meals, its own bakery, supermarket and traditional Spanish bars where you can have a drink and a snack.
- Location: Plaça de Corsini, 43001 Tarragona, Spain.
- Open Mon-Sat from 08:30 to 21:00.
Map of Tarragona with places of interest in Russian:
Where to eat in Tarragona and what to see?
Author: Olga Sheiko
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