Tarragona is a small city situated a 57mins from Barcelona by train, looking over the Mediterranean sea and Costa Dorada. Tarraco (the old name) was one of the main towns in the Roman Empire in the Iberian Peninsula. From 2000 it is declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
DAY 1: The Essence of Tarraco
Balcon del Mediterraneo
Your first live postcard from Tarragona can be made here. The Balcony is one of the main and most romantic pedestrian streets in Tarragona. The tradition said that the people come to ¨knock on iron¨ as the railing is made by iron. The 180º view is stunning during sunrise from the east and the sunset on the west. The local people here a lucky one for sure! Don’t forget to back here at the end of the day, because there are never two equal sunsets in the world.
It’s maybe one of the best Roman Amphitheaters with sea view I have seen. Earlier in the morning is the best time to visit it to avoid the crowd and the hight temperature (in a summer). In the Middle Age, the Amphitheatre was used for gladiators fights. The access is free of charge and in Summer the City Hall organizes a gladiators fights.
Pass through the park and in front of you will be the Pretori i Circ Roma. The Roman Tower from 1st Century was used as building for horses and chariot races. Take a look at the Roman Residence too from the 14th Century.
If you want to learn more about the local fiestas like Santa Tecla or Can Magi, don’t forget to take a look at the Casa de la Fiesta. Inside you will find giants and big heads which usually runs along the main streets during the popular fiestas in the city.
One of the places you definitely should visit is the Nobel house at the end of carrer (in Catalan means street) Granada. The Canal’s Family mansion count you the story of this local reach family. I loved the blue room and the mirror in the living room.
From there back to Plaça del Forum and carrer Merceria. In a moment, you will be on Plaça Santiago Roçinol. Pass through the old medieval market place (on the right-hand side), close your eyes and imagine the live centuries ago. Follow your way ahead climbing the steps to the Cathedral.
Visit the Cathedral
The Cathedral is not like any other Cathedral. You can still recognise elements from the Roman Tarraco and Middle Ages.
Insider tip: Now a day you can also visit the Cathedral cloister and the Capella Sant Pau. The entrance ticket costs 5€
Have a sit on the stairs for a while and observe the people. Carrer Major or Main Street is the busiest shopping street in the town, where you can buy everything you may need. Don’t forget to visit the most ancient shop in Tarragona and even in Spain……
Foodie, it’s a lunchtime…
Before we follow our route, I recommend a short break for lunch. There are plenty of options between tapas, local food, Mediterranean food or fancy vegan restaurant. Check for options at the bottom of the article.
After lunch, I recommend the visit of the other Nobel house in the city centre - Casa Castellarnau Museum. This house will back you to the Middle Ages when Cavaliers Street was the Street where the reachest families live. You can visit only some rooms on the main floor with furniture from 18th and 19th century.
The Pilol’s Street
Once you finished with the visit don’t miss to walk through the Pilol’s Street (Carrer Comte). It’s one of the most pintoresc streets in Tarragona, where each Pilol is decorated in a different way. The tradition to pain the pilol repeat every first Saturday of July on the last 15 years.
Be Lost in the Old Town
Find the essence of Tarragona on your own, discovering all small streets in the old town, have a coffee in the city centre, some tapas or have a picture of graffiti. Observe the local people and learn more about the culture and traditions.
Time for shopping
Don’t forget that Sunday is not a good day for shopping as in the small cities everything is closed. So enjoy the end of the day to check for some local shops for souvenirs, food or clothes. My choice:
- Casa Corderet – the most ancient shop in the city and one in the ancient in Spain
- Toni Pons for typical Spanish shoes
- CalGram – local products, zero waste
- El Quesero – local products
During you walk into the city centre, don’t forget to visit plaça del Sedassos. You will recognize easily the square, because of the big graffiti.
A few steps from there you will found Plaça de la Font and the building of the City Hall. The entire square is full of local restaurants and bars. If you are a bit hungry taste some tapas at Quattros Cervecería.
Take the Portalet Street and in less than a minute you will be in Rambla Nova. On this main street, you can see several Modernisme Buildings made by Ramon Salas and Josep Maria Pujol de Barberà.
Insider tip: More or less in the middle of the Street you will find the famous figure of ¨Castellers¨ (Human Tower), declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Tarragona is the city of Castellers and especially this year2020, which is dedicated to the Castellers Show, which normally takes place at the beginning of October in Las Arenas de Tarragona. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.
Last but not least if you are a lover of the local food and you are on time, have a look at the Local Market after a complete refurbishment in 2017. Are you able to find some Gaudi's artworks in the building?
Don’t miss the sunset
Enjoy a drink and snacks on the rooftop at hotel H10 Tarraco, followed by dinner. Today was a long day and you have seen almost everything in Tarraco. Tomorrow we will enjoy more leisure day.
Day 2: Tarraco Surroundings and Fisher District
Start the day earlier (before it’s too hot outside) and rent a bike to Pont del Diable. Situated only 4km away from Tarragona is an easy way to discover another hidden gem of Roman Tarraco. The Aquaduct is one of the well-preserved monuments of the Roman Tarraco, situated in a privileged área. Don’t forget to bring with you a sun protector and your reusable bottle of water.
☞ If you are for more adventurer experience try the Scuba Diving or Paraglide over the Mussara Mountains
On a way back have a check-out and dedicate the rest of the day to discover the El Serrallo Fisher district.
But lunch first, you are hungry, right?
Enjoy seafood and paella at El Pòsit del Serrallo sustainable restaurant. The restaurant has a fresh Mediterranean style and a nice terrace. The restaurant applies sustainable fishing and Green energy. 100% of the energy comes from non-polluting sources that respect the environment. Last but not least the linens and menu are 100% recycled, among other things the restaurant separate and manage their waste.
Closet to the restaurant you can see the San Pedro or Sant Peter church the patrón saint of fisherman. Have a walk through the small Fisher boats, observe the colourful buildings, which contrasted with the blue Mediterranean sea and sky. On the way back pass through Trafalgar Street and observe the open-air museum of small figures made by Beatrice Bizot in 2007. At the end of the Llevant Wharf, you can visit the Banya Lighthouse, a unique example of metal lighthouse created in 1860.
♨ Foodie Spots
♥ - Hmm, not so bad
♥♥ - I’ve expected a bit more
♥♥♥ - Wow, definitely my place
1. El Vergel Veggie Restaurant - ♥♥♥
2. El Terrat Restaurant – ♥♥♥
3. Twins Sisters – Craft Beer - ♥♥
4. Martí Café – Coffee Roasters– ♥♥♥
5. Crusteau – The best bakery in Town– ♥♥♥
6. El Posit del Serrallo – Sustainable restaurant – ♥♥♥
✮ Places to stay in Tarragona and Surroundings
Tarragona offers different options between touristic apartments, small hotels and some old school hotels. Be careful when you select the property where you will stay.
H10 Imperial Tarraco, 4* Sup (in Tarragona) - brand new, after a full refurbishment in 2020 opens door this boutique hotel with amazing view over the Amphitheatre.
Gastronomic House and Hotel Mas Mariassa, 4* (outside Tarragona). If you are looking for some rural escape with 1 day visit to Tarragona I recommend this rural house with nice swimming pool
✈ How to get to Tarragona
The nearest airport to Tarragona is Reus, but is a small airport with less frecuency, most of the time used by low cost companies.
By train from Barcelona
Take the Plana Bus service from the Bus station in Tarragona to the Train station (Camp de Tarragona).
Check in google maps how to get to your final destination. Take the AP-7 motorway or N-340 road to get to Barcelona. Don't forget that depend of the way you will take, you should pay a motorway tax.
✈ How to get around Tarragona
Tarragona is a small town and all monuments are situated in the old town which is accessible on foot. As alternative options I can suggest segway or bike. Don’t take the touristic train. Be a traveler, not a tourist.