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Mediterranean Cities: Tarragona

Less visited Catalonia: Historical Tarragona

by Matt Thomas

I spent a couple of days in Tarragona, a charming city about 100km south of Barcelona. Most commonly visited as a day trip as a way of escaping the bustle of the Catalonian capital for day, or used as an affordable base to explore the region, Tarragona has plenty to offer for either a day’s sightseeing or a slightly longer stay.

There are probably a couple of ways of spending time in Tarragona, depending on your inclination and the time of year. The Playa Milagro and nearby cafes, bars and restaurants of the marina may be all you need. Walk north for about twenty minutes and inland slightly, keeping to the coastal path and you’ll come across the slightly bigger Playa Tamarit that boasts a couple of beach bars. These beaches and the more than healthy smattering of bars, restaurants and cafés in the old town might well do you for a couple of days.

tarragona photo, matt thomas travel writing, travel and talk, tarragona

However, if you enjoy history, art and a bit of archaeology Tarragona has plenty of that too.

Overlooking the bay from the south end of town, the biggest draw is the ancient amphitheatre that dates back to the second century. At its peak could house up to 15000 spectators.

tarragona amphitheatre photo, matt thomas travel writing, travel and talk, tarragona

Venture up the hill to the Centro Historico for the main sights and museums which are handily situated within easy walking distance of one another. My personal highlight was the free to enter Museum of Modern Art which houses paintings from local artists going back around a century.

The architecturally impressive Cathedral sits at the top of the north end of the town and is certainly worth a circle around. Down a side road from the Cathedral we stumbled across a cool little Art Galeria with a friendly curator which was free to enter.

tarragona cathedral photo, matt thomas travel writing, travel and talk, tarragona

A walk around the 2nd Century B.C built City Walls and well kept Gardens, also at the north end of the town, make for a very pleasant stroll at the end of the day.

tarragona city walls photo, matt thomas travel writing, travel and talk, tarragona

The next morning, with a little time to kill, I visited the excellently curated Bible Museum which offers a global history of Bible production but also doubles as museum of the town and archaeology of the region. There are several stunning in their ornateness and attention to detail, miniature town models, and one can also take a trip down to the slightly eerie basement which was used as a refuge during the Spanish Civil War.

In terms of drinking and dining options, there are options to fit most tastes and budgets. There are several secluded squares that serve as great spots for a late afternoon beer. As the evenings draw on however the main action is around the Placa de la Font, and for even later action the bustling Highland Bar (we did pay a quick visit) is open at midnight til 5am.

tarragona photo, matt thomas travel writing, travel and talk, tarragona

Eat at:
XI Pizzeria – Excellent value for money, pizza, pasta and salads restaurant just at the end of the Placa de la Font.

Drink at:
Lola Bistro and Restaurant. We stopped at a few terrace bars for later afternoon drinks in the sunshine – this was the pick.

Stay at:
Hotel Placa de la Font is centrally located, quiet and provides excellent value for money rooms.

A couple of tips:
Bring a way of paying electronically with you as a couple of the main sights including the amphitheatre do not take cash. There are two train stations – alighting at Camp Tarragona will necessitate at short taxi trip and isn’t really walkable to the old town. Tarragona Estacio is central and walking distance to the town, main sights and beach.