Travel back in time as you lose yourself amidst astonishing Roman architecture, ancient aqueducts and medieval buildings in a city that was one the capital of the Roman Empire: Tarragona. Located just an hour outside of Barcelona, in the South of Catalonia, this beautiful seaside city makes for a great getaway from the buzzing Barcelona. Situated on the Costa Dorada, Spain’s ‘Golden Coast’, the area welcomes visitors from all corners of the world who have come to admire its amazing Roman ruins, gorgeous Mediterranean beaches, and scenic alleyways that are decorated with brightly colored orange trees. For those seeking a fun family outing or even a romantic retreat, Tarragona (or Terraco, to give it its ancient name) has plenty to offer everyone.
Roman Tarragona – Ruins, Amphitheatres and Aqueducts
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tarragona’s ruins are known to be some of the best preserved in Europe. With all of the ancient Roman sites within a fifteen minute walk from each other, you can easily tour them all on foot. We recommend starting by heading down the city’s main street, Rambla Nova, where you will find the Foro de la Colonia, the Provincial Forum and the National Archaeological Museum to be easily accessible. Don’t forget to stop at the end of the Rambla where astonishing views of the Mediterranean Sea await you from the famous Balcón del Mediterráneo. Here, you will also be able to look out over the 2nd century AD Roman amphitheater, which once hosted gladiator fights for the viewing pleasure of up to 15,000 spectators!
Towards the other side of Rambla Nova you will come across the ‘Old Town’, where the Praetorium and the Circus Complex offer yet another in-depth look at this bygone period.
Other notable sites along the way:
- The Ferreres Aqueduct
- The Roman Wall
- Tarragona Cathedral (although not a Roman ruin, this beautiful cathedral is most definitely worth a visit)
After a long day of sightseeing, you may find yourself to be a bit peckish! Rest assured, Tarragona has plenty to offer in the way of delicious delicacies. Make your way to Plaça de la Font, the city’s main square, where you will find many bars, cafés and restaurants serving up tasty Mediterranean dishes, ranging from fresh seafood paella to pasta. For the younger crowd, this historic area also has a few nightclubs. We suggest checking out ‘El Cau’, an underground club set in a Roman circus vault!
The Golden Sands of Tarragona
Tarragona may be revered for its Roman architecture, but there’s plenty more to be discovered in and around the city, such as its fine, golden sands that stretch a whopping 211km. Why not take a break from sightseeing and opt for a day under the Spanish sun alongside the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea?
Situated just a short walk or bus ride away from the city center, Arrabassada beach is one of Tarragona’s most popular beaches. Fine sands, warm waters and volleyball nets make this a favorite among families with kids and a great place to relax, too.
Another preferred beach is Playa Larga, which offers jet ski rentals and some of finest seafood restaurants in Tarragona, making it the ideal spot to have some fun during the day, then unwind at night!
For families with kids seeking a truly memorable day out, we recommend the theme park, PortAventura! Just a few minutes from Tarragona City, this 34,000 square meter adventure park is a great idea for those visiting the area with children. From high-speed roller coasters, to more soothing rides for the youngsters, as well as an Aquatic Park, spending a day at PortAventura should definitely be atop your list of things to do in Costa Dorada!
How to get to Tarragona from Barcelona:
- Public transportation: Renfe trains from Sants station (approx. 1 hour)
- By Car: Take the AP7 Motorway (approx. 80km from Barcelona)
So, whether you prefer marveling at the sheer beauty of this historical city, or spending some time at the pristine beaches, a day trip to Tarragona offers the perfect getaway from Barcelona’s hustle and bustle. And, if you wish to lose yourself in this Roman Empire for more than just a day, rent an apartment in Costa Dorada, and experience the powerful remnants of this ancient Roman capital at your own pace.