15 best things to do in Tarragona, visit from Salou
Provincial capital, yeah 15 min drive from Salou, tarragona It is a beautiful city that you cannot miss if you are on vacation in Salou.
For ancient culture it is one of the best destinations in the country, with a set of Roman archaeological sites included in the UNESCO list dating from when it was the most important city in Iberia. It's amazing how these ruins blend in with the streets of the old town.
You will need more than one day to see everything, still, we have written this article about the best things to do in Tarragona and you can see it in one day.
- What to see in Tarragona in 1 day
- 1. Tarragona Amphitheater
- 2. Tarragona Cathedral
- 3. Aqueduct of Les Ferreres (Pont del diable)
- 4. Roman walls
- 5. National Archaeological Museum
- 6. Part Alta (old town)
- 7. Mediterranean balcony
- 8. El Seraglio, next to the port
- 9. Miracle Beach
- 10. Tamarit-Punta de la Móra
- 11. PortAventura World
- 12. El Poblet Monastery
- 13. Gastronomy
- 14. Castells, Catalan culture
- 15. Santa Tecla
What to see in Tarragona in 1 day
1. Tarragona Amphitheater
The Tarraco amphitheater had an exquisite location, carved into a steep hillside between the Roman walls and the Mediterranean.
Leaving the Part Alta, this elliptical sand stretches out before you framed by the blue sea.
It was built in the late 100s and could hold 15,000 spectators, who would have attended some rather grisly displays, such as the burning of the city's early Christian Bishop Fructoso during the rule of Emperor Valerian in the 3rd century.
You can easily make out the lower cellar of the amphitheatre, from which gladiators and wild animals were hoisted to the arena floor.
2. Tarragona Cathedral
One of the great things about the Romanesque and Gothic cathedral of Tarragona is the way it surprises you.
The surrounding streets, such as Calle de la Merceria and Calle Major, are compact alleyways with traditional local services, antique shops and restaurants.
And then, at Plaça de Santiago Rossinyol, everything opens up and you can see the regal Gothic façade.
There has been some kind of temple here since Roman times, through the Visigothic and Arab periods, until the 12th century, when the cathedral was built.
Head to the Diocesan Museum to see Renaissance tapestries and Roman artifacts recovered during excavations at the cathedral between 1999 and 2001.
3. Aqueduct of Les Ferreres (Pont del diable)
Five minutes to the north of Tarragona, crossing a valley of pine trees, there is a 250-meter section of an aqueduct that channeled the water of the Francolí river to the old Tarraco.
The monument has 36 arches and rises 27 meters from the bottom of the valley.
If you don't mind heights, you can walk on the specus, where the water used to flow, although the walls of this structure are not thigh-high for most people! You could combine the aqueduct with a visit to El Mèdol, which was where the limestone for Roman Tarraco was extracted.
The quarry is teeming with plant life, as the high walls have created a microclimate with high humidity.
We continue with our ranking of the best things to do in Tarragona.
4. Roman walls
On the west side of the Part Alta you can climb the original Roman walls and take a tour of the walls where there is a captivating mix of history.
Medieval shields and 18th-century gun positions appear alongside original Roman towers and 2,000-year-old inscribed stones.
These defenses have been in place since the 3rd century BC, when Tarraco became a base for Roman forces during the Second Punic War.
What is really interesting is that the lower sections of the walls are steep and clearly much older.
Much of this stone is actually megalithic, and supports more sophisticated defenses.
5. National Archaeological Museum
It was not until the middle of the 19th century that the city realized what it had, and excavations began at the different sites in the Part Alta.
Almost all of the objects discovered in these excavations are on display here, and there is a rich variety of Roman sculpture, ceramics, clothing, coins, and everyday household objects.
They have even managed to preserve a 2,000-year-old fresco of a peacock found in the amphitheatre.
The mosaic room also demands your attention, with impressive representations of Medusa and the muse Euterpe.
The museum incorporates the Roman Praetorian Tower and also gives you entry to the necropolis and circus next door.
6. Part Alta (old town)
The highest part of Tarragona is also the oldest, and in it is the old provincial forum of Tarraco.
For hundreds of years, until the late Middle Ages, the entire population of the city lived here, separated from El Serrallo, which was the maritime community of Tarragona.
Now is where you should come for a walk, with narrow streets that run below houses that sometimes incorporate Roman walls and masonry.
Some are preserved as museums, such as Casa Castellarnau, a 15th-century Catalan Gothic manor house with a pretty patio.
At any time of the year, people will be in the squares, chatting while eating or drinking at the tables of the open-air restaurants.
7. Mediterranean balcony
Couples and families walk along the Rambla Nova to this viewpoint with uninterrupted panoramic views of the sea.
Las barandillas de hierro forman parte del ritual, ya que se supone que debes "tocar ferro", tocar el hierro para tener buena suerte.
There are bars, restaurants and cafes along the promenade behind this place.
If you are in the city at the end of June or beginning of July, here you can also see the night shows of the International Fireworks Competition, which are launched from Platja del Miracle, at the foot of the cliffs.
On a clear winter morning it is also a divine place to watch the sun rise.
8. El Seraglio, next to the port
We have already mentioned Rambla Nova, a sophisticated pedestrian boulevard laid out in the 19th century.
On both sides there are restaurants and many of Tarragona's big brands.
From there you can go down or up the hill to see more of the city.
To see the old fishing district of Tarragona, you can go down to El Serrallo, an unassuming neighborhood facing the port, which also has the best fish restaurants in the city.
Halfway up the hill is the recently restored Mercat Central, a central part of the city's daily life, in a century-old modernist building.
9. Miracle Beach
At the foot of the cliffs, on the other side of the train tracks, is the main beach on the seafront of Tarragona.
You can cross the tracks through the tunnel near the amphitheatre, or through the level crossing that is just past the station.
It's a long, enticing arc of golden sand, and there's a short promenade to the east, as well as bars, restaurants and clubs around the marina's yacht club to the west.
The waters have moderate currents which, depending on the weather, are not always suitable for younger swimmers.
10. Tamarit-Punta de la Móra
A few minutes from Tarragona there is a beautiful stretch of coastline that begins at Platja Llarga.
This golden beach seems to go on forever, and behind it are low-impact vacation communities and campsites with chalets.
Finally, the beach leads to Tamarit-Punta de la Móra, a natural park on a promontory covered in pine forests.
On the fragrant paths you can find wild herbs, mushrooms and asparagus depending on the season, and the paths will lead you to small coves like Cala Becs and Cala Fonda, where few tourists venture.
11. PortAventura World
Surely the best family excursion in Spain, and one of the most visited theme parks in Europe, PortAventura is a ten minute train ride from the Renfe station in Tarragona.
The way you spend time depends entirely on your tastes and the age of the little ones you take with you.
There is a whole Sesame Street-themed area, for example, with eleven attractions for the little ones.
For older children and adults, there are dizzying roller coasters like the Dragon Khan, which has eight inversions, or the Hurakan Condor, which makes you fall to the ground from 100 meters.
There are also shows for all ages, and a water park and golf courses as part of the larger complex.
12. El Poblet Monastery
A half-hour road trip through the Catalan countryside will take you to El Poblet Monastery, a medieval UNESCO site at the foot of a mountain range and overlooking vineyards.
This wonderful Gothic complex was founded in the 12th century by French Cistercian monks after the withdrawal of the Moors.
It was part of a plan to shore up power in the new Christian Catalonia.
The most historically significant part is the Gothic Royal Chapel, where several kings of Aragon were buried, from Alfonso II in the 12th century to Juan II at the end of the 15th century.
On the way to El Poblet, stop in the city of Montblanc, totally surrounded by its medieval walls, which protect a core of old stone streets where you won't mind getting lost.
If you are here in winter, you have to try the calçots.
These are large green onions, roasted with their skin on over a wood fire and served with a romesco sauce made with walnuts, garlic and olive oil.
las "calçotadas" son reuniones en las que la gente sale a comer estos manjares o los cocinan ellos mismos, y beben de porrones, jarras de vino con un pico que se supone que hay que levantar por encima de la cabeza.
Vineyards (many make cava), olive groves and hazelnut orchards abound in the Tarragona countryside, and there are several great restaurants in the Part Alta serving seafood rice dishes such as arròs negre.
14. Castells, Catalan culture
You may have seen castells in other places in Catalonia, but they originate from Tarragona and have been around for more than 300 years.
Teams compete against each other in the incredible Concurs de Castells, which is held in the Plaza de Toros every second October, but there are also events and exhibitions every year during the summer.
People gather in matching outfits with a sash that helps those on top (smaller and younger!) to hold on and climb.
You will then hear a fanfare from the gralla (a medieval woodwind instrument), and the tower will begin to form.
The towers usually reach between six and ten levels, and at the crown are children as young as five, who wear riding helmets for safety.
There is a monument dedicated to this art on the leafy promenade of Rambla Nova.
15. Santa Tecla
Every year, from the middle to the end of September, Tarragona almost literally explodes in fun, dances and celebrations fueled with no little gunpowder.
For example, the Correfoc, a traditional Catalan ritual in which people, usually dressed as mythical animals such as dragons, parade through the streets setting off sparks from fireworks and making a lot of noise.
In this festival, sardanas are also performed, in which men and women hold hands and dance in a circle.
There are nods to Tarragona's Roman history, the city's gegants and capgrossos (tall ceremonial sculptures) are also present, and you're sure to see Castells going up and down as well.
We hope this post about the best things to see in Tarragona will help you plan your vacation.
Do not forget to look at other posts that may interest you such as best things to do in Salou.