The tantalising coastal city of Tarragona is only one hour down the road from Barcelona. It tends to get overlooked by many tourists, as it seems to pale into insignificance when compared to the buzzing city of Barcelona. However my advice to you is – Don’t Believe The Hype! Barcelona is a fabulous city, but Tarragona is a city that has even affected the Gods! It is said that Jupiter left his wife, the mortal Tiria, because the city of Tarragona captivated and enraptured him.
Beautiful beaches & culture are crowned with Mediterranean blue skies
Tarragona is blessed with layers upon layers of fascinating culture and history, some excellent food and wine offerings, and beautiful beaches, crowned with Mediterranean blue skies. You may be holidaying in a city, but with four blue flag beaches, you could just ignore all that amazing heritage and culture!
UNESCO World Heritage-Tarraco
In 2000 the Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco was declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tárraco, which is modern day Tarragona, was the headquarters of the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis, since 218 BC. Today a number of Roman monuments, including the circus and amphitheatre make up this World Heritage site.
An amphitheatre by the sea
In Tarraco, or modern Tarragona the amphitheatre overlooks the sea. This is the first time I had visited a site where an amphitheatre is right by the sea. I know there are some others around the world, but it is hard to describe the romantic way this affected me. It is a striking sight, with a lovely beach below.
If your own senses and imagination of how life must have been like here in Roman times don’t kick into play sufficiently, then you can always visit Tarragona during the Tarraco Viva festival. This has been running since 1999, and takes place for around 2 weeks from early May. The festival includes re-enactments, and a range of important aspects of Roman life are explored. Come to see the gladiators, the theatre, the engineering, the homes, the fashion and more besides.
The Mediterranean Balcony
Tarragona has two main Ramblas, that are both striking places. Wander down to the Mediterranean Balcony, from either of the Ramblas, and drink in the spectacular views for a while. Apart from the splendid views, it is said that if you “Tocar Ferro”- touch the iron of the railing, it should bring you good look! Try it out and let me know!
Festivals, fiestas, culture and fun
It almost doesn’t matter which month you decide to visit Tarragona, there should be some type of fiesta going on! It’s such a vibrant cultural city, and one of the best ways to absorb this is to visit during one of city’s numerous festivals. These include festivals for all the family, food and wine fairs, traditional fiestas and of course Carnival. During the summer there’s a festival program, that runs from July until mid-August, and includes dances, theatre, music and different shows in various spots around the city.
Great food & friendly people
I have been to Tarragona a few times over the years, and have had a number of good experiences with both the food and the local people. The Tarraconeses that I have met (people from Tarragona) have been naturally friendly and helpful. The food is a simple, but delicious combination of fresh fish from the sea and a range of locally sourced Mediterranean products.
Human towers – the city of Castellers
This is another pretty amazing sight, and an important Catalan tradition. Tarragona is known as the City of Human Towers. The phenomenon has been UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2010. It is said to have originated in Valls towards the latter part of the 18th century.
Don’t miss visiting the striking Basilica Cathedral of Tarragona. Built on the same site as a previous temple, construction work for the current Cathedral started in 1154, and it was consecrated in 1331. Dedicated to Saint Thecla, the Cathedral has a combination of Romanesque style, from its earlier construction days, and Gothic from its later construction period.
There are a variety of interesting routes you can do to discover Tarragona. These include the Roman Route, the Medieval Route and the Modernist Route, but there are lots more besides. The city, and the province that it is capital of, has an immense wealth of gifts to stimulate all of your senses. This article just touches on some of the best known highlights of the city of Tarragona.
Tarragona from the sea
However if like me, you enjoy boat trips. then an excellent way to get a different perspective of the city of Tarragona, is from the sea. Boat trips can include visits to the marina and fishing port, the city from the sea, its beaches, La Mora Tower, and last but very certainly not least, Tamarit Castle.
Jackie de Burca is Co-owner of Catalonia Valencia.