The Roman legacy in Tarragona is overwhelming. The atmosphere of terraces, the good vermouth of the area and the reds of the region are the icing on the cake for an hour’s drive from Barcelona or just over an hour by door-to-door train with the suburban service.
No matter how many amusement parks are built around it, no matter how many charters land at Reus airport, no matter how many cruise ships dock at its coast, no matter how many records of mass tourism beat the nearby Barcelona, I still have the firm feeling that the beauty of Tarragona has not yet been exploited at a tourist level as its legacy and heritage deserve.
For the pleasure of a few, we hope it goes on.
Culture and cultural weight mix wonderfully with modernity in Tarragona and far from that sensation of showcase that offer historical places like Venice or Rome where the weight of stones overwhelms and makes the present uncomfortable.
On the contrary, in Tarragona the past and the present combine perfectly without getting in the way.
Next we offer you a route on foot through Tarragona so that you can discover its most emblematic places in a walk of no more than 3 or 4 hours.
The Mediterranean Balcony and the Amphitheatre of Tarragona
Personally I would recommend you to visit the city from bottom to top as you can see in the map. In other words, my proposal begins by leaving the car in the Balcó del Mediterrani car park in the Rambla Nova de Tarragona and gradually ascend through the old town to close the day with a good gastronomic feast in the Plaza del Rei, my favorite of the city.
We begin the trip walking along the Rambla Nova where the trees shelter us from the sun and offers us a pleasant walk along its spacious avenue. Despite its name, this boulevard has more than 150 years of history and you will find all kinds of shops for your purchases.
At the end of the Rambla Nova we will arrive at the Balcó del Mediterrani. From this viewpoint, which is about 40 meters above sea level, we will have a splendid view of the Miracle beach and the Amphitheater of Tarragona. You will see many locals walking through this area that converges between the Rambla Nova and Via Augusta.
Once here you can choose to descend and visit the Roman amphitheater. Built in the second century by digging into the rock, this amphitheater was home to some 15,000 people to witness the battles between gladiators as well as public executions that were carried out at the time. With its privileged sea views, it is one of the most beautiful prints in Tarragona.
The Museum of History of Tarragona
A single ticket allows access to the historical sites of Tarragona under the name of MHT. Among them we have the Roman Circus, the Amphitheatre, the Forum of the Colony, the Pretorium, Casa Museo Castellarnau, Casa Canals and the Archaeological Walk (Roman Walls).
From 1 October to 11 April: Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 to 19:00. Sundays from 9:00 to 15:00. Closed on Mondays. 11 April to 30 September: Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 to 21:00. Sundays from 9:00 to 15:00. Closed on Mondays.
3,30 euros for adults. Free for children under 16.
The Roman Circus of Tarragona
After visiting the Amphitheatre we enter the historic centre crossing the mythical Via Augusta and climb the street of Sant Oleguer that leaves us in front of the Roman Circus of Tarragona.
If we make a mental effort to situate ourselves in the middle of the Roman era when Tarraco was one of the main cities of the Empire, we will have in front of us a space where the protagonism was limited to the races of chariots and horses. With an extension of more than 300 metres long and more than 100 metres wide, the Roman Circus of Tarragona was capable of hosting more than 30,000 spectators.
It is undoubtedly one of the best preserved Roman circuses of Roman times.
The Praetorium is the tower that you will see closing the building of the Roman Circus and opening the square of the Rei.
In this tower ran stairs that gave access to the lower city from the Provincial Forum through underground tunnels. At the time he welcomed the Emperor Augustus.
During the Middle Ages and later times, the Praetorium tower underwent several changes to become a palace of the kings of the Crown of Aragon and finally became a prison.
La Plaça de la Font
Following the pleasant Rambla Vella in a few minutes we will arrive at the Plaza de la Font. This large rectangular square is overflowing with terraces and a good atmosphere at any time and especially at dawn.
The Plaza de la Font is presided over by the city council with its neoclassical façade, and if on your visit to Tarragona you coincide with a day of castellers, don’t miss the fabulous atmosphere breathed by the various colles that try to defy the laws of gravity.
The Cathedral of Tarragona
We go up the Carrer Major without forgetting to observe the historical buildings that surround us until we arrive in front of the great portal and the enormous rose window of the Cathedral of Tarragona is one of the symbols of the city. Built during the 12th century with a Romanesque base and Gothic finishes, the cathedral is dedicated to the patron saint of Tarragona, Santa Tecla.
It was built on the foundations of the old Provincial Forum and inside its cloister we can see some examples of its ancient architecture. Also, once in the cloister you can visit the Diocesan Museum with its collection of medieval art and the altarpiece of Santa Tecla built during the late twelfth century in Romanesque style.
Another interesting advice is to surround the Cathedral by the lateral streets to be able to see the cloister from outside since we will obtain a beautiful visual of the same one and in addition the alleyways to his around are very pretty.
The Plaça del Rei
After visiting the Cathedral we enter again through the alleys of the old town of Tarragona, passing through several restaurants and bars, until we reach the Plaza del Rei.
This square and ample square is presided over by the Praetorium that we will have visited previously after following in the footsteps of the Roman Circus. The same square also houses the National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona and the churches of Natzaret and Trinitat. An ideal place if you find in Easter since they take place great part of the processions that are left to see in the city.
In the Plaza del Rei you will find several terraces where you can stop and reward your walk with an aperitif or lunch.
To begin with we can have an excellent vermouth at La Casa del Vermut and then eat one of the best rice dishes I have tasted in Catalonia.
I can’t get enough of visiting El Llagut restaurant. They don’t always open the terrace, but the interior is also pleasant. Between rice with sardines or rice with crab I wouldn’t know which one to decide next time.
The last two times we visited Tarragona we stayed at the hotel Ciutat de Tarragona. A 4 star that usually has good discounts and high quality. If you want to avoid searches you can book it on the following link without any increase in price:
In our last visit to Tarragona, the restaurant Itaca Tarragona left us a bitter taste in our mouths. Previously, the restaurant Ca l’Òscar was built in this establishment. Without realizing it, we sat down with a dish in mind that we had tried repeatedly. We look forward to our blessed baked octopus with mashed potatoes and alioli and to the image I send myself to show the decline in quality at similar prices.
For the next visit I have clear, after our usual walk through Tarragona we will return to the restaurant El Llagut. What is less clear to me is what rice we will taste among the succulent menu they offer daily. Also, if you can also have a look at the ranking of the best restaurants in Tarragona according to the users of El Tenedor where you can also reserve a table.