LivingTravelThe best things to do in Tarragona

The best things to do in Tarragona

Tarragona is just an hour south of Barcelona by train, and in many ways it’s a mini-Barcelona culturally, without the huge crowds of tourists. Some of the best-preserved Roman ruins in Spain, a charming old town full of Gothic architecture, and the golden beaches of the Costa Daurada are just a few of the many attractions. Here are our best things to do in Tarragona.

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Roman Amphitheater of Tarragona

The Roman amphitheater, with its stunning seaside setting, is one of the main highlights of a trip to Tarragona, just an hour by train south of Barcelona. Built in the 2nd century AD, the amphitheater is an impressive legacy from a time when Tarragona, or Tarraco as it was called, was one of the capitals of Roman-ruled Hispania.

Walking down the steps of this Roman amphitheater, it is easy to imagine the spectacles that Roman citizens loved to enjoy: gladiatorial contests, fights, bloody executions, exotic animals; they were all on the bill.

With such entertainments and an exciting Mediterranean backdrop, Emperor Augustus, among others, was an enthusiastic attendee.

Roman is not the only fallen civilization witnessed on this site. In the center of the stadium are the remains of a Visigothic church that was built in honor of the Christian martyr San Fructuos, assassinated in 259 AD. C.

You can get a combined ticket for all the historical sites in Tarragona (except the Archaeological Museum), including this amphitheater, at the tourist office on Calle Mayor. The amphitheater is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and until 3 p.m. on Sundays.

Essential information

Address: Passeig de les Palmeres, 43003, Tarragona
Phone: 97 724 2579

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National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona

The National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona, or MNAT, is located in the old town of Tarragona (Casc Antic), in Plaça del Rei. The museum houses an impressive shop of ancient artifacts, including Catalonia’s greatest treasure of remains from Roman times, when Tarragona was the capital of an important Roman province.

Occupying a neoclassical building from the 1960s wedged into the city walls, MNAT is justly famous for its classic treasures.

There are Roman mosaics, including the head of Medusa and hunting scenes, while on the upper floor there is a room dedicated to busts and statues, including the Roman emperors Trajan, Claudius, and Hadrian, and a pantheon of mythical deities and beasts.

Another collection that may be of interest is the section dedicated to Roman domestic life, where you can see objects such as keys, belt buckles, bells and other accessories from everyday life in ancient times.

An audiovisual room that shows an educational video that interprets the history of Roman Tarragona is also worthwhile.

The museum is open 10-8 between Tuesday and Saturday and until 2pm on Sundays. You can see the rest of Tarragona’s historical attractions, not including this one, at a reduced price by purchasing a combined ticket at the nearby tourist office on Calle Major.

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cathedral of santa maria

The 12th century Tarragona Cathedral has Romanesque and Gothic elements, is built in the distinctive golden sandstone of the Costa Daurada and dominates the old town of Tarragona.

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Seafood in the marina of Tarragona

The port of Tarragona is packed with excellent seafood restaurants serving paella negra (paella cooked with squid ink) and wine from the Penedes vineyards. Take a look on a deck, order a feast, and enjoy the view of the yachts swaying in the harbor.

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Get lost in the old town

Perched high above the sea, Tarragona’s old town (Casc Antìc) is an enchanting maze of winding medieval alleys, Gothic spiers, and colorful squares enclosed within the city walls.

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Hit the beaches of the Costa Daurada

The best beaches in Tarragona are outside the city, along the Costa Daurada. Waikiki, Altafulla and Tamarit offer exceptional stretches of golden sand, half an hour from downtown.

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