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Magic of Tarragona or Back to Roman Times

This summer I fell in love with Tarragona, one of the most charming cities I have ever seen. Though it is a city with more than 2000 years of rich and extensive history, housing well-maintained ancient Roman sights, amazing carnivals and breathtaking nature, Tarragona often gets unjustly overlooked. I first visited it this July, then half a year later, in February, I had a chance to re-discover the city again. Usually, I don’t travel to the same place twice unless I really love it, and I did indeed enjoy Tarragona a lot. Moreover, my second visit made my love even deeper and stronger.

Tarragona old town views

Located in northeast Spain, it can easily be reached by public intercity transport. After a short train ride from Barcelona, I found myself in the port of Tarragona, having no premeditated plans, maps, or “to-do” lists. The weather was fantastic, so without waiting a minute, I headed to the city center. I couldn’t believe my eyes, as everything I saw looked like a wonderful decoration to a historical movie.

Some people compare Tarragona to Rome, and there is a good reason for that. Similar to Rome, Tarragona has more than two thousand years of vivid and colorful history. Back in the ancient times it served as a residence for emperors Augustus and Adrian. It was known as the second capital, right after Rome. Well preserved architectural and archeological monuments of Tarragona are now included in the list of Unesco World Heritage. Surprisingly, the forum, ancient walls, 2nd-century amphitheater, and even the gladiatorial arena look entirely natural nowadays.

Mediterranean Balcony

One of the first things you will see upon arrival if you travel in by train is the Mediterranean Balcony. Located just a few steps away from the train station, it offers a chance to enjoy the sweeping views of the coastal strip and the harbor with tankers lined up. To take a break before the city run, I ordered ice cream in one of the nearby bars and grabbed a seat opposite the fountain. I sensed the vibe of the city: people chattering, kids running around, a musician playing a lovely piece of music. Suddenly my heart filled up with pure joy. I had no doubts I am falling in love with Tarragona.

Roman Circus of Tarragona

Walking 5 min down the road, I stumbled upon the Roman Circus — a splendid ancient arena, harboring many miles of original underground tunnels and passages underneath. Back in Roman times, these tunnels were used to provide for performances, and are now tourist-walkable. The actual feeling of attending the place in person is hard to express. Being there is a beautiful experience that gives an idea of what the Circus looked like in the past. After walking long corridors and enjoying their remarkable engineering construction, visitors are rewarded with splendid views of the city from the tower. Tarragona is incredibly beautiful!

Tarragona circus

Right after the Circus, I followed the path to the 2nd-century Amphitheatre. It is an excellent historical landmark and one of the most exciting places to visit in Tarragona. Thanks to the ongoing government efforts, the ancient ruins are extraordinarily well-preserved. A few euros will let you take a look at the place from inside. However, if you are late (admission stops at 3 PM), you can admire the amphitheater for free from a distance. I felt delighted and relaxed, sitting in the park in front of the site, enjoying views of the amphitheater and the Mediterranean sea.

Archeologic passage (Passeig Arcqueologo)

Another part of the Roman complex is the Archeologic passage. This place is quite small but well worth visiting. A pleasant walk around the city walls will let you immerse into and soak up the 2000-year-old Roman history. What makes this place unique, is the number of kitties and birds, happily cohabitating there.

tarragona Archeologic passage

The little park at the end of the road was an unexpected cherry on the pie. I seized the opportunity and had my lunch in this little green oasis. Fantastic!

Tarragona Cathedral (Catedral Basilica Metropolitana Primada de Tarragona)

The Cathedral, located in the heart of the old town, is another charming spot of Tarragona.
Decorated with carvings and cloisters, it is beautiful both inside and outside. Moreover, it has a little secret. Come and find it! I am sure you won’t regret.

tarragona cathedral

Old town

What I loved, even more, was the surrounding area, known as Casco Antiguo.

tarragona streets

It has surprises at every turn! I enjoyed every single second of walking the narrow but full of sunlight cobblestone streets, passing by a little flea market, as well as perfect cozy bars

tarragona cathedral bar

and artisan shops

tarragona artisan shops

Tarragona old town is an ideal authentic area to have time travel of sorts, to sit in a small cafe and watch time go by. Relaxed and happy faces of Tarragona’s citizens make the scene even more idyllic.

Torre del Pretorio Romana

Last but not least, another remarkable sight is Torre del pretorio Romana, a tall tower which served different purposes throughout its life. First a watch tower, it later became a part of a palace and ended up being a prison afterward. Nowadays, this great landmark grants a spectacular view to most of the Tarragona from its top.

Tarragona Tower Torre del Pretorio

Advice

If you would like to visit all of these sights I would recommend taking the combined sightseeing ticket, which grants you entry to main attractions, including the amphitheater, forum, and ancient walls. Try to start your tour early in the morning as later on tickets can be sold-out.

Nature

Tarragona is an excellent place for nature-lovers as well, with a coastline that stretches for more than 15 kilometers. Its wide golden sandy beaches are washed by arguably the most transparent waters in all Catalunya region. I came in with no intention to swim but ended up in the sea nevertheless. Since I had no swimsuit, I just merely jumped into the water with the clothes I had. The water is indeed impossible to resist! It was my most enjoyable swim of that summer.

Tarragona beach

Later on, after a bit of drying up, I decided to walk one of the Tarragona hiking paths. The city has a fantastic network of trails, totaling 75 kilometers. I have chosen the most scenic one. The one which goes along the sea all the way from Tarragona to Tamarit. It turned out to have a surprise in store for me, but that’s another story.
So, what can I say about Tarragona? It’s honestly a magic place, radiating with love, joy, and happiness. Would I come back? Definitely yes.

42 thoughts on “Magic of Tarragona or Back to Roman Times

  1. Thank you very much for the wonderful post! I truly enjoyed reading it and discovering Tarragona through your experiences! Looking forward to reading new articles!

  2. This is in Spain? It’s really look vintage and with the archaeological rock art, pretty amazing. I agree that this place is an authentic area.

  3. Wow, the architecture in Tarragona looks breathtakingly enchanting! And I absolutely love the thought of cats and birds hanging out in Passeig Arcqueologo.

  4. Tarragona looks and sounds wonderful, I can’t believe how uncrowded it looks! Like you, I have revisited places only to fall in love with them even more. And I think it’s wonderful that you ended up jumping into the ocean with all of your clothes on – I would have done the same.

  5. Beautiful! I love those little bars in narrow alleyways in the Mediterranean. Perfect place to sit and watch the sun go down with all those lovely colours! Swimming with your clothes on is perfectly acceptable in Asia, so why not bring it to Europe?!!

  6. Tarragona looks really beautiful! I love the Casco Antiguo and the beach looks lovely too. I’ll definitely visit here.

  7. I understand why this place has entered your heart. The images you posted have captured its beauty and atmosphere beautifully.

    I am a bit of an archaeology nut and I love seeing and reading about the Roman history and ruins. The fact there is a place called archeologic passage gets me extra excited to see the place in the flesh.

    How does this compare to other Roman sites around the Mediterranean? We have not visited any yet, but we would love to add this to our list for our travels in the near future.

    Thanks for sharing. Keep travel blogging. Adventure is better shared with friends!

  8. Yes, this looks like memories of a nice summer trip – beautiful. Do they speak Catalan in Tarragona? Passeig Arcqueologo sounds like it. It’s amazing how many old Roman remnants there are in Spain.
    How I would love to sit in a street cafe like the one in your picture this very moment….

  9. Love reading your post and it did bring back fantastic memories of when I passed through Tarragona (didnt stay long but enough time to check it out very swift). If I was back in the area, I would take another hit at it. 🙂

  10. Wow, I’ve never heard about Tarragone before, such a beautiful town, thanks for sharing this. It’s so close to Barcelona as still very unknown. Definitely adding it to my buckelist for the next time I visit Spain. I love those balconies! 🙂

  11. Tarragona sure does look like an amazing place to explore! I just love how it’s a combination of old and the new added with inviting beaches and cool trails! I can definitely see why you love it. I’d visit again if it were me! Such a laidback and charming vibe! 🙂

  12. What a great city. It has that rich architecture and authenticity of all Spanish cities. I’ve been to Spain many times, but not here. I should add it to my list. Thank you.

  13. Tarragona looks like a beautiful city. We kind of did the same thing when we were in Barcelona in October – we got on a train and went to Sitges. Best unplanned decision ever!

  14. I’m sold out with Tarragona! never heard of this place but the way you describe it makes me curious and excited. and unplanned swimming is always the best!!! 😀 bookmarked!

  15. Thanks for sharing the road less travelled in Spain, apart from Madrid and Barcelona! It is heartening to hear that Tarragona has preserved its ancient Roman heritage so well by retaining many relics and monuments for us and our future generations to admire – I would love to visit it someday! 🙂

  16. One of my favorite things about Spain was sitting and watching the ppl in the square. Just rest and sip wine and take it in. I enjoyed Barcelona very much. I’m glad to know this is close. I want to visit

  17. Lovely blog you have! Spain is such a beuatiful place. It felt like love at first sight. 🙂 I visited Barcelona and Valencia, hope to visit Tarragona too because my friend just moved there.

  18. Tarragona looks so peaceful and quiet. Although quaint and old, it’s alluring. Maybe is history or the city itself, there’s something more tan the eyes can see. Imagine getting lost on the street of old town, I’m sure I’ll find something unique to keep me from being sad. Comparing it to Rome for architecture, I can’t help but agree, the bilidngs are spectacular. Thanks for the tips too. So useful.

  19. Tarragona is stunning! I still haven’t visited, but after reading your post, I’ll seriously take a ticket. Your photos are very inspiring too, especially in the glorious sunshine!

  20. What a great post. I had never heard of this place before but your article made me feel like I was right there exploring with you. I will be sure to add it to my list of places to visit this summer when I travel through Europe.

  21. I have been to a number of different cities in Spain but not this one! You have inspired me to visit! Thanks so much for sharing your experience 🙂

  22. Been to Spain many times but I didnt know this place! I may have to visit it when I am back in Europe! Thanks for the info, always great to learn about new cities!

  23. Wow, it looks absolutely lovely! I didn’t know Tarragona, and my hometown is Rome, so now you made me really curious to visit this city! One of my travel bucket list items is a road trip to explore Spain properly, and now I will make sure I include this gem in my itinerary 🙂 I loved your post and your pictures made me fall in love (how beautiful is that little balcony on top of columns, with tables and chairs underneath? <3 ). Keep up the good work on your blog, I'll follow you 🙂

  24. It’s such a beautiful place reach with history and definitely worth to be visited. You brought it closer to us, thank you for that 👍

  25. Itis hard to find a Spanish city without a lot of history and amazing “cascos viejos”. I know a lot of Spain, as I live nearby in Portugal but Tarragona is missing, I need to go there.

  26. Thank you for sharing your experience. I fell in love with Tarragona about 2 years ago and going back there in a few days. The place is magical.

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