Home Spain Don’t Miss These Things to Do in Tarragona, Spain

Don’t Miss These Things to Do in Tarragona, Spain

by David
Best Places to Visit in Tarragona Spain

Disclosure: This post (probably) contains affiliate links. If you click on one, I may make a small commission. Of course, this will come at no extra cost to you and helps keep this site running.

It’s hard not to get excited about visiting places in Spain. But one destination that looked to check all my boxes was the seaside city of Tarragona. History, coastal views and quaint streets to get lost in; sounds right up my alley. But even though I had a general idea of the highlights awaiting me, I underestimated just how many great things to do in Tarragona I had to look forward to. Chances are I’m not alone.

Tarragona seems to suffer from the same problem as Girona, namely the huge shadow cast by Barcelona. When people visit Catalonia, Barcelona is and always will be at the front of their minds. Sure, they may consider a day trip to Tarragona from Barcelona, but Barcelona is still the main attraction.

I didn’t have that problem when visiting Tarragona though, as Barcelona was amid political unrest at the time. Instead, I was able to dedicate more time to Tarragona and hopefully below you’ll see why I think it’s worth it.

 

Visit the Roman Amphitheatre

Things to See in Tarragona Spain

As it’s the most iconic attraction in Tarragona, we may as well start with the city’s impressive Roman Amphitheatre. Nestled between the Old Town and the beachfront, it’s one spot that’s hard to miss. In fact, with the sea behind, it’s the perfect setting for this large and striking amphitheatre. You immediately see why it graces the front of so many postcards.

Stepping down the hill through a park to reach it, it’s very easy to peek inside the ruins of this ancient structure. Still, it’s worth paying entry so you can get a proper look at its interior from the viewing platforms.

The amphitheatre dates from the 2nd century and has been left as is, with little in the way of reconstruction. It’s this fact, among many, that makes it a key component of the Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Roman Amphitheatre, Tarragona Sights

Tárraco was the first Roman settlement in modern Spain and there are plenty of remains, some from as far back as the 3rd century BC. But truly, the amphitheatre is the one I had to see. As someone who loves visiting UNESCO sites and experiencing Roman ruins from across Europe, I really couldn’t resist, could I?

 

Stroll the Old Town Streets

Tarragona Old Town

While the modern city has quite an open orderly layout to it, that’s not the case with the Old Town. No, the deeper you get into Tarragona Old Town the more narrow and unpredictable it gets. This is where the city’s character comes out to shine, with stone walls, faded facades and plenty of balconies everywhere.

Known locally as Part Alta, the Old Town is a great place to wander about. While a bit of a maze, it’s easy enough to find your way out, as Part Alta is on a slope and surrounded by the remains of town walls.

If you need a further incentive to explore here, know that there are random pieces of street art throughout that will no doubt reward you for your effort. Of course, there are also guided tours of the city if that’s how you prefer to do your sightseeing.

Spain Street

 

Stop in Pla de la Seu

Pla de la Seu

There are quite a few small squares around the Tarragona Old Town, as well as one or two that are a bit more substantial. One is the Plaça de la Font in front of the Town Hall, but that’s simply lined with restaurants and not all that interesting.

The Pla de la Seu on the other hand felt more my speed. Connected to another small square by stairs, it rests right outside the Tarragona Cathedral.

Despite its small size, the Pla de la Seu always felt like a hive of activity. The cathedral has an ornate facade but seems to be more important to locals than tourists. While that’s refreshing for Europe, it means I didn’t pay it much notice.

The square though caught my attention, thanks to surrounding buildings, like the one below with its major overhang on columns. I like coming across things that look different and this certainly qualifies.

Pla de la Seu

 

Climb the Roman Wall of Tarragona

Old stone walls

Having already mentioned the town walls of Tarragona, let’s talk about them next. Running right around the northern end of the historical centre, these restored fortifications are known as the Roman Walls.

That’s because, even though they received additions and reconstruction over the years, the walls do date back to the 2nd century B.C. Roughly a third of these ancient defences still stand today and are worth the price of entry.

Walking along what’s known as the Archaeological Promenade, visitors get to follow the walls and learn more about their history and use. The high walls are home to some pretty gardens, not to mention some wonderful views inland.

Along several sections of the walls, there are cannons that date from 1811, giving you a sense of just how long this fortification was important to the city.

Tarragona Sightseeing

 

Finding the Roman Ruins of Tarraco

Things to Do in Tarragona Catalonia

So far we’ve touched on a few landmarks that make up the Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco like the amphitheatre and Roman walls. But there’s a huge variety of ruins all around Tarragona that are worth exploring for if you have time. They’re scattered all about town and not always obvious, so there were even several that I missed.

In terms of other major ones, perhaps focus on the Roman Circus, Roman Theatre and Colony Forum. The Roman Circus is just up the hill from the amphitheatre and is quite large as you can see below. There’s a little you can see of the Circus before having to pay for entry.

There are more ruins scattered about Part Alta like this small ruin up the hill (above) and the Provincial Forum. Down in Eixample Tarragona, you’ll also find the Roman Theatre and Colony Forum, giving you plenty to hunt down. 

old Roman ruins in Spain

 

Admire the Balcó del Mediterrani Viewpoint

Balcó del Mediterrani

Views aren’t in short supply when it comes to Tarragona, with the Balcó del Mediterrani hard to beat. Situated at the end of the Rambla Nova boulevard, this wonderful viewpoint provides superb coastal views.

Immediately in front of you lies one of the Tarragona beaches and of course the Balearic Sea. Look up the coast and you’ll spot one end of that beach, while in the other direction lies the port and marina.

 

Walk Down Rambla Nova

Rambla Nova, Sights to See in Tarragona

Dividing the historical centre of the city with more modern areas is the Rambla Nova boulevard. Lined with trees and some fascinating architecture, it’s the main boulevard of the city and feels like the heart of Tarragona. I enjoyed strolling up and down this street, especially to see some of the buildings here.

Below is just one example of the kind of curious buildings along here. The other thing of note about Rambla Nova is that it hosts seasonal markets, which can be insightful if you visit at the right time.

Spain ornate architecture

 

Duck into the Central Market Hall

Mudejar architecture Spain

One thing I noticed during this trip in 2019 was just how important these market halls are in Spain and France. Other parts of central and western Europe have these markets, but they never feel quite as monumental as these ornate halls you have in Spain.

Just look at the Central Market in Tarragona and you’ll see what I mean. While it has an interior that’s fairly typical of Spain, the exterior is another story. It has a neat mix of Art Nouveau and Mudéjar architecture that makes it stand out which I like.

 

Wander Down to The Port

Large yachts in port

Having seen all the great places to visit in Tarragona so far, it might seem strange that next on the list is the city’s port. But there are a few reasons why I think this part of Tarragona is worth visiting.

While its large port is primarily commercial, it also hosts a marina of shiny new yachts and superyachts. Who doesn’t like ogling the toys of the super-rich and wondering what travelling around on one must be like?

Beyond that, there are a few things on the land side of the port to check out as well. All around the port, you’ll spot historical remnants of its long maritime tradition, from disused cranes to old warehouses, that help lend the area character.

But then there’s the small neighbourhood of El Serrallo, known for its busy seafood restaurants, that are popular with locals. If you’re after seafood, this is no doubt the place to go.

El Serrallo

 

Walk Along the Beaches

Playas Tarragona Catalonia

Saving the best for last we have the Tarragona playas, i.e. the beaches of Tarragona. Cross past the trail line in the centre of the city and you’ll soon reach the waterfront. There below a small promenade lies Platja del Miracle, a narrow beach that widens out as you venture north. Sitting here watching the waves break, even in November, was super pleasant and peaceful.

But El Miracle isn’t the only Tarragona beach to see. Follow the coast north and you’ll reach a small point that’s home to the ruins of Fortí de la Reina and some scenic cliffs. From there keep going along the road and soon enough you’ll be at Platja de l’Arrabassada.

There you’ll find a beachside restaurant and not much else, which makes it another relaxing spot. Be mindful that these beaches have names in both Spanish and Catalan, so don’t get confused by that.

Tarragona Playas

 

Travel Tips for Visiting Tarragona

Empty street in Spain

As is always the case, there’s no way I could or did cover everything to do in Tarragona in just a few days. I skipped many of the museums, including the Museum of Modern Art to the museum attached to the Roman Circus ruins.

That’s not a judgment on their quality but more the reality of just how much there is to do here. This is why I don’t think a Tarragona day trip is enough.

So if you’re planning on spending more than the day in Tarragona, you’re going to need somewhere to stay. The good news is that there’s loads of accommodation in Tarragona, covering a wide range of budgets and areas.

Those in need of somewhere cheap and friendly should consider Hotel Pigal. Their staff stand out as some of the friendliest I’ve encountered and as a budget hotel, it’s pretty good value for money I think. For other well-rated hotels, you can also try:

 

No matter how long you stay, you’re going to need to know how to get to Tarragona.

Unless you’re planning on renting a car, the easiest option, especially when coming from Barcelona, is by train with the regional trains your cheapest option.

You can also store your luggage in Barcelona or Tarragona if you are visiting on a day trip. Alternatively, there are tours to Tarragona from Barcelona if you don’t want the hassle of working out timetables and finding your way around.

 

Stay safe while away

Need travel medical insurance? With Nomad Insurance by SafetyWing, you can get affordable coverage for if you get sick or injured while abroad, flights home if there’s a death in the family and other unfortunate circumstances.

What’s interesting is that you pay for Nomad Insurance like a subscription every 4 weeks, rather than one big sum upfront. A nice perk is that it even comes with coverage for short visits back home, which isn’t often the case. Plus, you can buy a policy even when you’re already away from home.

Get a quick quote below and visit SafetyWing to check their inclusions and exclusions.

 

 

Before You Go

If you have plans to see Tarragona for yourself, you may also be looking for other destinations in Spain or Catalonia to visit. The following Spain blog posts may be of use to you:

 


Have you had the chance to visit Tarragona, either as a day trip from Barcelona or on its own? Which of these things to do in Tarragona most appeals to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

You may also like

2 comments

California Globetrotter March 5, 2021 - 1:01 am

This is 2019, pre-Covid…and the streets are dead! Where are all the people at! That beautiful beach is yet again empty! The streets are empty! I dream of photos like that! How in the heck did you get so lucky? 6am roll call?

Reply
What to visit in Catalunya? – mariaiaugusto October 2, 2022 - 6:40 am

[…] Constructed by the Romans in 200 BC, Tárraco is a living museum. Whether walking around the amphitheater where gladiators used to the fight or visiting the old city wall and aqueducts, it’s easy to step back into time in this Unesco World Heritage city. Don’t miss the Tárraco Viva festival in May when performances and reenactments bring the stories of Roman Tárraco to life. Tarragona has many history, views and quaint streets to get lost! See guide here. […]

Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.