Travel Guides Spain | Guide to Tarragona

Guide to Tarragona

What to do and see in Tarragona?

Tarragona is one of the provinces that makes up the Autonomous Catalan Region. It is also the capital of the 'Costa Dorada' with over 160 kms of coastline. Spain's largest theme park, Port Aventura, is in Salou, just south of Tarragona (see Hotels in Salou).

Tarragona city is situated on a hill next to the sea, something which as well as being important strategically, gives it excellent views over the mediterranean. It is principally a port city which has evolved and adapted over time. The petrochemical industry is an important industry for this province, the port is used for its transportation. Infact it is the second most used port in the whole of Spain.

One of the most outstanding features of Tarragona city is its important monumental heritage which is currently being evaluated by UNESCO to see whether it can be awarded world heritage status.





TarragonaIn 218 B.C. the city was invaded by the Romans who established themselves there and converted it into the capital of 'Hispania Citerior' calling it 'Tarraconenses'. In 45 B.C. Julio Caesar made it into a colony. Most of the monuments which form the city´s cultural heritage were built during the Roman occupation: the ampitheatre, the aquaduct, the city wall, the Escipions Tower and much more.

Following the Roman occupation it was recovered by the Christians, then it was invaded by the French, the Germans and later much of the city was destroyed by the Muslims in 716 A.D. a period of decadence followed this. Thanks to the Catalan-Aragonese kingdom and maritime trade the city quickly recovered. In the 12th and 13th centuries, following some years of conflict wine-growing, agriculture and fishing emerged as its main industries contributing further to its recovery.

Things to do and see in Tarragona city:

Roman remains include: the 'Forum de la Colonia' (3rd century) and the Provincial Forum (1st century), theamphitheatre (2nd century), the Circus (81 - 96 A.D.), the Cathedral and churches.

Walking around Tarragona:
You can find almost eveything of interest within the old city walls. The most important street is 'Las Ramblas' which leads to a great viewing point called the 'Balcón de Europa' where you can get great views of the lower part of the city (the fishing neighbourhood of Serrallo).

The Roman Wall: It was built in the 2nd and 3rd centuries B.C. A good part of it still remains as do 3 towers from the same period.

Cathedrals and Churches:

  • The Santa María Cathedral (12th century). It was built above an ancient Roman temple dedicated to the planet Jupiter. It has been added to over the centuries something which is reflected in its many architectural styles. You can see the transition from Roman to Gothic style. The main building and the doors are Roman but its arched ceiling is clearly Gothic.
  • The Santa María del Miracle Basilica
  • San Antonio Church: Iinteresting renaissance facade.

Churches in Tarragona Amphitheatre:

    • The Visigothic Basilica: Built in the arena in honour of Sant Fructuoso (a Christian Bishop of Tarraco who was killed).
    • Necrópoli: Built between the 3rd and 6th centuries by the Romans and later dedicated to Sant Fructuoso when it was taken over by the Christians.
    • The Roman Church: (12th century) It was built when the city was taken over by the Christians once again.


  • The Roman Museum: Located in the Pretori Tower, it contains interesting Roman and medieval artifacts.
  • The National Archeological Museum: It has the most important collection of Roman artifacts from Catalunya from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
  • The Museum of Modern Art :Opened in 1976, it contains Catalan works of art from the 19th - 20th centuries.
  • The Diocesan Museum
  • The Christian Museum


  • The Ferrán Castle: Dating back to 1197. It was given National heritage protection in 1949.
  • The Tamarit Castle: 7 Km from Tarragona. Roman style, built in the 2nd century by Sr. Claramunt and sold later on in the same century to Sr. Montoliu, who later adopted the name Tamarit. It has National heritage protection and is presently owned by a Sr. Deering.

The Ferreres Aquaduct (also known as the devil´s bridge): It was built in the 2nd century to transport water from Gaiá river in an area called Alt Campo some 30 kms north of Tarragona. It is 217 metres long and 26 metres high. Located on the A7 road into the city.

The Barà Arch:
Located on the N-340 road, 20 Kms from Tarragona. It is a monumental Arch built in the 1st century.

Located on the Granada road. It was built in the second half of the 2nd century B.C. It is connected to the city wall and was used to transport weapons to the city walls if the city was under attack. In the 15th century a 2 storey house was built. Charles 4th stayed there in 1802. It is currently used as the City´s Historical Museum and Archive Centre.

Castellarnau House:
A 15th century mansion which is used as the Tarragona History Museum.

The Cister Route:
This not only takes you to 3 monasteries, but also offers the opportunity to see interesting scenery and make cultural and historical visits along the way. It is 104 kms long and can be done on foot, bicycle or even on horseback, it covers 3 areas: Alt Camp, Conca de Barberá and Urgell (this last one being in the province of Lérida):

  • Santa María de Poblet Monastery: Founded in 1151 by king Ramón Berenguer IV.
  • Santas Creus Monastery: Founded in the 12th century by the Cistercian order. It is no longer used as a monastery.
  • Santa María de Vallbona Monastery: In Urgell which is in the province of Lérida, it was founded in 1153 and was integrated in the Cistercian order in 1176. Not very large but beautiful and it is the only one out of the three which is soley female.

The Mèdol Quarry: A Roman quarry 9 kms north of Tarragona, near the old Roman road 'Vía Augusta' which links Rome with Tarragona.

Centcelles Mausoleum:
It has some outstanding mosaics.

You can buy many products from the province such as olive oil and wine - we recommend the Conca del Barberà, Priorat-Montsant, Penedès, Priorat, Tarragonès and Terra Alta wines.

Hotels in Tarragona


Tarragona Province: See also Hotels in Salou if you are planning on visiting Port Aventura (see video of roller coaster in Port Aventura Theme Park at bottom of page).It has a lot to offer tourists. As well as 216 kms of golden beaches, small coves and marinas, it has some natural areas ideal for hiking, mountaineering and canoeing. There are 4 golf courses and 4 Pitch & Putt courses; water parks and Portaventura a well known theme park. Most outstanding is the number of historical monuments, medieval villages, prehistoric caves with wall paintings, Roman churches, monasteries (Roman and Cistercian) and other remains. There is a Parador in Tortosa (see photo on the right).

Natural Areas

Tarragona EL EBRE NATIONAL PARK: It has World heritage status. It consists of 320 square kilometres of Mediterranean marshland, making it the second largest marsh in Europe. There are both fresh water and salt water lakes, rice fields, salt mines and forests. It has an ideal ecosystem for flowers and plants. There are over 300 types of birds and beautiful natural beaches.

MONTANYES DE PRADES: Mountain range consisting of ravines and pine and oak and forests. The Francolí, Brugent, Ciurana, Glorieta rivers start from here. An outstanding natural area.

: Within the area known as el Priorat. It is 20km long. A beautiful area it has:mountian peaks (the highest being 1163 metres high), ravines, you can do a wide range of adventure sports here such as bungee jumping...The Montsant river starts here.

MERAVELLES CAVES: in Benifallet: Exceptional formation.

FONT MAJOR CAVES: in l'Espluga del Francolí: prehistoric caves, interesting geology.

ABRICS RUPESTRES de Ulldecona: Picturesque 8000 year old caves. World heritage site

Towns and villages in Tarragona:

  • Tortosa
  • El Vendrell
  • Montblanc
  • Vilanova i la Geltrú
  • Reus
  • Valls
  • Falset
  • Mora de Ebre
  • Gandesa

Travelling to Tarragona? The following links may also be useful
Guides provinces bordering with Tarragona and beautiful places in Spain nearby
Travel guides to Spain Travel guides to Spain
Guide to Alicante Guide to Almeria
Guide to Avila Guide to Barcelona
Guide to Caceres Guide to Castellon
Guide to Cuenca Guide to Girona
Guide to Guipuzcoa Guide to Lerida
Guide to Murcia Guide to Tarragona
Guide to Valencia Guide to Zamora
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