Madrid, Barcelona, Seville or Valencia… everyone knows them and everyone is dying to go there. Without a doubt, all of these well-known Spanish metropolises have their own charming character but in search of my next travel destination I was looking for something different. I was looking for smaller and less known cities. Cities like Tarragona.
The Roman Tarragona
The Catalan small town is situated about 100 km to the south of Barcelona, directly by the sea. Tarragona captivates above all with its great variety of medieval and, especially, Roman buildings.
It is not surprising that a big part of the city has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. On my first day I decided to follow the traces of the Romans. If you’re like me and you absolutely love sightseeing you should get the cheaper combined ticket including the most important buildings.
Early in the morning, after a delicious Xuixo and a cafe con leche, I start my archeological promenade with the first and most popular Roman monument. Located directly by the sea, the ancient amphitheatre dates back to the 2nd century AD. In Roman times countless gladiator fights took place in the ancient monument. Nowadays there are still fights happening in the summer but of course only for the tourist’s entertainment!
A city full of history
While enjoying the view from the remains of the Roman amphitheatre, I’m already looking for the route to the next monument. I don’t have to do a lot of planning though – the Roman Circus where horse and chariot races were held, and the provincial forum with its vaults and pilasters are less than 5 minutes away.
Hidden underground passages lead from the Roman Circus to the Praetorium, a Roman-era tower with a viewing platform.
As I make my way up the stairs, I have to stop again and again to look at the different sculptures. It is quite impressive to see how detailed and multi-faceted the Roman works are…
On top of Tarragona
Finally, a narrow staircase leads up to the viewing platform on the building’s rooftop. With the excellent view of the old historic part of town on the one side and the endless Mediterranean on the other side, the platform is the perfect spot for a short breather. What better way to relax?
Walking along the Roman walls
But off I go again! The next sight is located only 15 minutes away. My path leads me through Tarragona’s beautiful and bustling alleys until I reach the Roman walls. As I am walking between palm trees and the impressively high Muralla, that has been surrounding the city since the 2nd century AD, I can almost imagine what life must have been like during the Roman times…
After a short break in the trees’ shadow, I continue my way to the last monument of the day: the Local Forum. What was once used as the religious and social hub, now surrounded by modern day buildings almost seems a bit bizarre. Bizarre but interesting! I definitely envy the residents living around the remains of the ancient Fòrum Local. Because who wouldn’t like to wake up every morning with such a view?
Tarragona’s modern side
A new day, a new cafe con leche. Today I want to explore Tarragona’s modern side. The first sight on my schedule is the old cathedral which was built in a transitional style between Romanesque and Gothic. But, wait! Didn’t I talk about visiting Tarragona’s modern side? Well, the beautiful Catedral de Santa Maria is at least less old than the Roman part of town.
The outside of the ancient church doesn’t fail to impress me but, in my opinion, the real gem lies on the inside. The mysterious cloister with its beautiful rose garden truly amazes me and even reminds me a bit of Hogwarts!
The beauty of the Cathedral’s cloister is truly captivating…
A walk through Tarragona’s modern history
I continue my promenade to the grand Plaça Imperial and from there I’m walking in the shadow of the trees along Tarragona’s beautiful Rambla. Not long after, I reach the town’s landmark: the Monumento a los Castellers. The iconic statue with its Castellers, the traditional Catalan human pyramid, towers high above my head.
Continuing along the Rambla…
As I continue along the Rambla, I pass numerous sculptures and statues until I reach the majestic Monument a Roger de Llúria. Behind the huge statue I find of the most beautiful places Tarragona has to offer: the Balcó del Mediterrani. From the charming terrace lined with palm trees I have an excellent view of the sea, the beach and the ancient Roman amphitheatre.
A perfect ending in the city by the Sea
As I’m enjoying the sun and the sea air in this beautiful and relaxing spot, I can suddenly hear Catalan folk music in the distance. Soon after, I spot the traditional Giants dancing wildly through Tarragona’s streets.
Fascinated I follow the procession which leads me back to the cathedral. For the first time I can witness the famous Castellers in action! What I had previously seen in form of a statue, unmoved and made out of bronze, is now brought to life on the church square. Definitely the perfect ending in one of Catalonia’s most beautiful cities!