Tarragona is an ancient town on the Costa Dorada in the province of Catalonia
The fortified city became an imperial resort under the rule of Augustus, and inevitably Tarraco became capital of Rome’s eastern Iberian province – the most elegant and cultured city of Roman Spain, boasting at its peak a quarter of a million inhabitants.
Time spent in the handsome upper town quickly shows what attracted the emperors to the city: strategically and beautifully placed, it’s a fine setting for some splendid Roman remains and a few excellent museums. There’s an attractive medieval part, too, while the rocky coastline below conceals a couple of nice beaches.
The City of Tarragona
Heart of the upper town is the sweeping Rambla Nova, a sturdy provincial rival to Barcelona’s, lined with fashionable cafés and restaurants. Parallel, and to the east, lies the Rambla Vella, marking – as its name suggests – the start of the old town. To either side of the Ramblas are scattered a profusion of relics from Tarragona’s Roman past, including various temples, and parts of the forum, theatre and amphitheatre.
Top things to do and see in Tarragona
Perhaps the greatest jewel of the Iberian cities is represented by a complex of Roman Ruins and the Roman Coliseum Amphitheatre mentioned above, both part of the UNESCO Patrimony. built during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian, the place where gladiators fights were held. Part of the Roman walls with their wonderful gardens can be visited by the public, for a small amount.
There are a selection of lovely cafeterias, great boutiques and many tapas bars along with the colourful and lively markets. A walk on Las Ramblas, followed by such beautiful scenery over the city from the viewing area called the ‘Balcony of Europe’, outlines a perfect day!
Santa Maria del Miracle is a beautiful church, built in Gothic style on the ruins of this amphitheatre, which later became a place of worship in memory of those who lost their lives in this place. Near the church is the Provincial Forum, which was the seat of the court and also the place where officials meet. Surrounded by impressive galleries of columns, here is the Praetorium – that might be part of the Augustus’s Palace. Make a visit to the Colonial Forum which is visually more appealing than the other.
Near the old town, you can find monuments of great importance, such as an aqueduct, 21 m long and 3 m in height, which crosses a long valley. The Roman Ruins of Tarraco offers clear evidence of Mediterranean history in the ancient period, being visited by tourists from all over the world.
You can travel to Tarragona city in an hour and a half from Barcelona, by bus or train, which makes it a reasonably lengthy day-trip, if you are thinking of staying the night ensure you book Tarragona accommodation well in advance, especially if you plan to visit during July and August.
There are trains every thirty minutes between the Tarragona train station ( Sants Estació ) and Barcelona, the journey takes around 1 hour. Tickets cost around €10 if you book 28 days in advance. The train station (information on is in the lower town: turn right and climb the steps ahead of you and you’ll emerge at the top of the Rambla Nova, from where everything is a short walk away.
The Tarragona bus terminal is at the other end of the Rambla Nova, at Plaça Imperial Tarraco; buses from Barcelona’s Estacio del Nord run at least eighteen times daily and, again, the journey takes ninety minutes. There are taxi ranks on Rambla Nova (at the Moto Club ), in Plaça de la font, and at the bus and train stations.
The Tarragona tourist office is located on Calle Major 39 in the old town, and there are also seasonal information booths at Plaça Imperial and at the beginning of Via Augusta. Many banks have offices located along the Rambla Nova.
Most visitors to Catalonia concentrate on Barcelona and the coastal resorts any many miss out visiting this beautiful city by the sea.
Heart of the upper town is the sweeping Rambla Nova, a sturdy provincial rival to Barcelona’s, lined with fashionable cafés and restaurants. Parallel, and to the east, lies the Rambla Vella, marking – as its name suggests – the start of the old town. To either side of the Ramblas are scattered a profusion of relics from Tarragona’s Roman past, including various temples, and parts of the forum and the impressive Roman Amphitheater.
Salou is best known for its energetic nightlife and beautiful beaches. Playa Llevant and Playa Ponent offer swaying palms, fine sand, action-packed water adventure and plenty of sunny relaxation.
Avenida Jaume I runs parallel to Llevant beach and is filled with souvenir shops, clothing boutiques and craft shops. The popular Adrenaline Park gets it flowing with a bungee rocket and go-kart track.
The promenade has plenty of cafes and restaurants and Salou is packed with vibrant bars and trendy nightclubs around Avinguda de Carles Buigas. Here, expect a mix of karaoke, live entertainment, theme pubs and clubs spinning a mix of R’n’B, house, pop and dance.
La Pineda is more quaint than Salou, yet more lively than the village of Cambrils.
The Spanish flock to La Pineda on the Costa Dorada on holiday and the rest of the world is beginning to be lured to its Blue Flag beaches and family-friendly atmosphere.
Tranquil waters and gently sloping sands make La Pineda a mecca for beach enthusiasts with pedalos, jet-skis and windsurfing equipment rentals for the adventurous.
For even more adventure, visit Aquapolis the massive seafront water park featuring slides, rides, pools, and dolphin and sea lion shows.
The picturesque fishing village of Cambrils offers old town charm filled with markets, night-life and traditional Mediterranean restaurants. Cambrils’ 7 km coastline possesses nine Blue Flag beaches filled with umbrellas, sun loungers and beach bars.
La Pineda Beach is the longest and liveliest beach in Cambrils although much less crowded than other beaches along the Costa Dorada. El Raco beach is another beautiful beach lined with pines providing shade while Els Prats beach is the best beach for sunbathers.
Visitors can learn to kitesurf, windsurf and sail in Cambrils’ tropical breezes. A day trip to Barcelona is only an 80-minute drive.
Spain’s most popular theme park, the giant PortAventura is also located on the Costa Dorada. Three million visitors flock to PortAventura each year for white knuckle rides like Shambhala, the highest roller coaster in Europe, and Furius Baco, the world’s quickest accelerator.
The resort also boasts a popular sandy beach, lively bars and restaurants. This is definitely an all-encompassing and fun family destination.
Costa Dorada Festivals
If you love Spanish festivals a good time to visit is February and March during the Carnival days.
The Dia de Sant Jordi – also known as the Book Day is celebrated on April 23rd. The Revetlla de Sant Joan ( Nit del Foc or Fire Night ) is celebrated on June 23rd and is the prelude to a series of summer events which include parties, firework displays and authentic dancing.
For food lovers the Catalan cuisine is second to none with a wide variety of international dishes, authentic Mediterranean cuisine can be found in numerous restaurants all along the Costa Dorada.
As as you can imagine the sea influences much of the Tarragona cuisine which includes a wide variety of grilled and fried fish, fresh-caught baby octopus, sea bass cooked in salt, baby squid and sea cucumbers.
Many more dishes and numerous award-winning restaurants make eating out in these parts something very special and unforgettable.
Tours & Excursions
Recommended Accommodation on the Costa Dorada
The Apartments Salou Beach by Pierre Vacances are located in Salou just a 5 minute walk from the beach. The 4 star facilities include large modern apartments, garden and pool area, gymnasium and sea view balconies. Reviewer Rating: 8.7
The 3 star private lodges Siesta Salou is a great choice for family holidays. Located within a large parkland area just 5 minutes from the beaches of Salou. Modern fully equipped family lodges with all the amenities to ensure comfortable stays. Facilities include large swimming pool and and gardens, water slides, kids play area, bar, dinning hall and sports facilities. Regular Reviewer Rating: 9.0
Located a few minutes walk from the port in the center of Cambrils is the popular 2 star Hotel Vila Mar. Facilities include spacious rooms, a sun deck, good breakfast, flat screen TV and free wifi. Close to plenty pf cafeterias, bars, restaurants and nightlife. Reviewer Rating: 8.0