If you’re looking for a quiet escape from the hustling and bustling streets of Barcelona, Tarragona is waiting for you with open arms. From many Roman ruins and the medieval old town to stunning beaches and gripping events. Tarragona has it all, and even more. It’s a history buffs haven – a place where history comes to life at its best and surrounds you wherever you go. Are you curious and want to learn more? Stay with us and discover the best things to do in Tarragona, Spain.
This website uses affiliate links thanks to which we may earn a commission for purchases you made at no additional cost to you. If you like the content, consider using those links to support us. Thank you!
Tarragona, Spain FAQ
Tarragona is one of the most interesting and beautiful spots in Catalonia and you shouldn’t miss it. Whether you are into history, architecture, culture, good food, lying on the beach, or outdoor activities you’ll find something for yourself there. It’s a city with character and a great vibe that will keep you entertained. Also, the crowds are smaller and prices are more affordable than in Barcelona! Sounds encouraging, right?
Tarragona is best known for being home to numerous Roman ruins. In 2000, the city was awarded a UNESCO World Heritage site for its archaeological legacy, including sites such as the city walls, the circus, and the Amphitheatre. But that’s not all! Tarragona is also renowned for its charming medieval old town topped with Cathedral, and intriguing festivals featuring… human towers.
Yes, Tarragona is a walkable city with all attractions located within walking distance of each other. There are some small uphills and stairs, but nothing too tiring or really hard.
Tarragona is a perfect destination for a one-day trip, nice weekends, and even a home base for longer stays to slowly discover Catalonia. Without rushing we managed to see all we wanted in one day, in around 8 hours. But if you want to experience the city even better, we recommend staying for at least 3 days.
Yes, there are some beautiful beaches along Tarragona 15km long coastline. Many of them have fine, golden sand. More on Tarragona beaches later in the post.
Short history of Tarragona
Tarragona has a long and rich history. Everything started in 218 BC when a Roman colony known as Tarraco was founded and transformed into an important Roman stronghold. Various ruins (like an amphitheater, walls, racing track, or aqueduct) that we can nowadays admire in Tarragona come exactly from this period.
Visigoths captured Terraco after the fall of the Roman Empire in 475. In 714 Moors conquered the city and it became an important border city of the Caliphate of Córdoba up until 1013. Later it belonged to the Crown of Aragon and finally to the Spanish Empire.
Best Things To Do In Tarragona, Spain
Roman Amphitheater of Tarragona
Amphitheater of Tarragona (es. Amfiteatre de Tarragona) without a doubt is the most iconic city attraction. It’s located in an exquisite spot right by the Mediterranean Sea and is one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters in Spain. It dates back to the 2nd century BC when Emperor Hadrianus ordered the building of an arena for bloody gladiator fights, hunts and merciless public executions. The Amphitheater could fit a crowd of up to 15k bloodthirsty spectators from Tarraco.
Amphitheater is well visible from nearby Parc del Miracle and adjacent streets. But if you want to see it closer, you can visit it too. Tickets cost only €5 (October 2023). For current prices and opening hours visit tarragona.cat website.
Note. If you want to see another (even more) spectacular Roman Amphitheater in Spain head to Cartagena in the Region of Murcia.
Tarragona Old Town – Part Alta
Another amazing thing to do in Tarragona is exploring its Old Town, locally known as Upper Town or Part Alta. It’s a lovely maze of narrow streets and squares lined with restaurants, tapas bars, and cafes. It’s a perfect place where you can just wander around without a map, discovering all its secrets. Part Alta is the highest part of the city and also the oldest. We think that that’s exactly the place where Tarragona’s character comes out to shine.
At its heart and highest point, you’ll find Tarragona Cathedral and Pla de la Seu Square. Plaça de la Font is the biggest and busiest square, featuring a Town Hall and many restaurants and bars with outdoor terraces. Plaça del Fòrum and Plaça del Rei are other nice squares in Part Alta.
Our number one place in Tarragona Old Town is Plaça dels Sedassos. There you’ll find a huge stunning mural on the façade of the central building, created by painter Carles Arola. Do you want to admire more street art? Head to Carrer d’en Mediona for more and to visit some small artists workshops. There’s also a peculiar Carrer de Comte, known as Pillon Street, with a colorful array of painted pylons.
Other places of interest in Tarragona Old Town, about which we’ll write more later, include the National Archaeological Museum, Circ Romà, and the Roman Walls.
Rambla Nova & Mediterranean Balcony
Rambla Nova is about 1km long Tarragona main street, from Plaça Imperial Tàrraco to Mediterranean Balcony. It divides the historical center from modern areas. Rambla Nova is lined with trees, monuments, fountains, restaurants, cafes, and many beautiful historical buildings. It’s also a place where you’ll find the city’s largest concentration of modern shops.
“Monument als Castellers” is a sculpture that deserves probably the most attention. This bronze life-size sculpture shows dozens of people forming a traditional Catalan human tower (you’ll find more about human towers tradition later in the post).
At the end of Rambla Nova, you’ll find a viewpoint, Mediterranean Balcony (es. Balcó del Mediterrani). From it, you can admire views over the sea, port, train tracks, and Tarragona city beach – Playa El Miracle.
Unfortunately, the Mediterranean Balcony didn’t make much of an impression on us. Maybe because we were expecting something similar to spectacular views from a Benidorm viewpoint with the same name? Maybe! But we can totally get why many consider visiting it as one of the best things to do in Tarragona (so be sure not to miss it too!).
At the highest point in the Tarragona Old Town, stands Tarragona Cathedral (es. Cathedral Basilica of Tarragona). It’s a Roman Catholic Church that was built between the 12th and 14th centuries in Romanesque and Gothic styles. Its highlights include a large rose window above the front entrance and a 70m bell tower. The cathedral has been a national monument since 1905.
Tarragona Cathedral stands on the site which was previously occupied by a Roman temple dedicated to Augustus, a Visigoths cathedral, and a Muslim mosque. Such a popular place!
In the cloister of Tarragona Cathedral, you’ll find the Diocesan Museum of Tarragona (es. Museu Diocesà de Tarragona) showcasing some of the cathedral’s art treasures like religious paintings, sculptures, and silver. It also features a beautiful garden, perfect for a short, peaceful escape.
Entrance to Tarragona Cathedral and Diocesan Museum costs €5 for adults, and €3 for children (October 2023). For current prices, opening hours and online tickets visit catedraldetarragona.com website.
Tarragona Roman Circus
Roman circus (es. Circ Romà de Tarragona) are the ruins of a 1st-century track used for horse and chariot races. In its heyday, the track measured 325 by 115 meters, and its stands could fit 30k spectators. Nowadays you can visit only a small part of this enormous track, but some of the original structure still remains hidden under old 19th-century buildings. Many consider Roman Circus to be one of the best-preserved circuses in the world.
Entrance to Roman Circus costs €5 for adults (October 2023). For current prices and opening hours visit tarragonaturisme.cat website.
National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona
National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona (es. Museu Nacional Arqueològic de Tarragona) is located right next to the Roman Circus, and just a few steps from the Amphitheater. Inside you’ll be able to learn quite a lot about Roman history. You’ll also discover many excavations and archaeological gems from that period, like sculptures, mosaics, ceramics, ancient clothing, or old coins.
Currently, the Archaeological Museum is closed for renovations (October 2023). In the meantime, you can see a selection of its best pieces at the Tinglado 4 (Shed 4) in the Port of Tarragona. For the latest opening information check out mnat.cat website.
Roman Wall of Tarragona
Back in time, since the 2nd century BC, the Roman city of Tarraco was fortified by the wall. It ran for about 3.5km and initially was made from stones, wood, and earth. Later all of that was replaced by megaliths and reinforced with towers, 3 of which are still standing today. Nowadays, the best-preserved section is roughly 1km long and borders Tarragona Old Town from the north. It’s called the Archaeological Promenade (es. Passeig Arqueologic) and can be walked along.
Entrance to Passeig Arqueologic costs €5 for adults (October 2023). For current prices and opening hours visit tarragonaturisme.cat website.
More Tarragona Roman Ruins
If you’re a real history buff you’ll be glad to know that there are even more Roman ruins and sites in Tarragona. Those are for example: Local or Colony Forum, The Ferreres Aqueduct, Paleochristian Museum and Necropolis, Provincial Forum, or Roman Theatre. To learn more about each of them please visit tarragonaturisme.cat website.
El Serrallo neighborhood
Looking for other things to do in Tarragona than visiting the next Roman sites? We got you! Direct your steps to the El Serrallo neighborhood, an old fishing village located only about 20min on foot from Playa El Miracle. Stroll among its colorful buildings, experience the flavors of freshly caught seafood in one of many restaurants and gaze at the shiny yacht in its busy port. If you need a quieter time in Tarragona, that’s an ideal place.
A day (or two, or ten, or more) on a beach is definitely one of the best things to do in Tarragona, especially during the summertime. The city boasts 15km of coastline, along which there are some beautiful beaches with fine, golden sand. Tarragona beaches are also known for the very mild slope, which sometimes allows walking out in the water up to 200 meters from the beach line.
Playa El Miracle is the main Tarragona beach, located right below the Amphitheater. It’s busy, loud and in our opinion without any spectacular views.
For a better beach experience, it’s best to move east. There you’ll find beaches located in more natural settings like Platja Arrabassada, Platja Llarga, Platja dels Capellans, or Platja de Tamarit. If you’d like to leave your clothes behind you, head to Cala Fonda or Platja Savinosa where you’ll find nudist sections.
Tamarit Castle & Platja de Tamarit
Finally, we cannot fail to mention our favorite place right next to Tarragona – Tamarit Castle and its surroundings. It stole our hearts in a heartbeat. The area is located only about 15km from Tarragona center, and it’s best to get there by car but you can also take a bus.
Tamarit Castle (es. Castell de Tamarit) was built in the 12th century and contains both defensive and residential elements like a prison, watchtowers, and a Romanesque church. It looks really spectacular against the setting of azure sea waters. Unfortunately, Tamarit Castle cannot be visited, unless you plan to organize a wedding or a business event there.
On both sides of the castle, you’ll find a beach. Cala Jovera is smaller and more private. Platja de Tamarit is long and wide, filled with golden sand. Both beaches provide excellent views over the castle and the surroundings. It’s an ideal place to spend the day, away from the city.
Tarragona Human Towers
Human towers, locally known as castells, is the most popular cultural tradition in Tarragona that has been practiced for more than 300 years. It even originated in Tarragona! What is it about? Large groups of people in matching outfits (Castellers) construct impressive multi-level human towers. Towers usually reach 6-10 levels, depending on the strength of the team, and are crowned with the smallest and youngest participants.
You can see this unique event at some festivals and local events. The most popular one is called Concurs de Castells and takes place every two years in October in Tarraco Arena. We’re sure that it’s one of the best and most unique things to do in Tarragona.
How to get to Tarragona, Spain?
Where to park in Tarragona?
If you’re traveling by car you can choose from many parking lots in town. We recommend leaving a car in this parking lot right under Rambla Nova, located only about 15min on foot from the Mediterranean Balcony and 20min from Cathedral.
Airports near Tarragona
The closest airport to Tarragona is located in Reus (15km away) but it looks like it’s used mostly by travelers from the UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands. The next airports, the more popular ones, are located in Barcelona and Girona. All airports offer bus connections to Tarragona. To learn more about connections that might interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Tarragona by bus
You can easily reach Tarragona by bus. For example, a trip from Salou will take about 25min (€1-3), 25min from Reus (€1-4) or 1h45min from Barcelona (€10-15). To learn more about bus connections that might interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Tarragona by train
From some places like Girona, Barcelona, Salou or Castellón de la Plana you can also easily get to Tarragona by train. You can check out a map of available train connections on the acprail.com website.
To Tarragona by taxi
The most expensive option, but also the fastest one if you care about time. For example, a trip from Cambrils will take only about 15min (€26-32) and 10min from Salou (€17-21). To learn more about taxi connections that interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
Camping in Tarragona
Best Things To Do In Tarragona, Spain – Summing up
Rich history, many well-preserved Roman ruins, archeological sites, charming old town, nice beaches… There are many great things to do in Tarragona, Spain and for sure no traveler will be bored there. For history lovers, it’s without a doubt one of the best destinations in Spain. Those who want to escape bustling Barcelona also will be delighted here as well. We hope you found our guide useful and you’ll have an amazing time in the city choosing the best attraction for yourself.
Our opinion about Tarragona
For us, a visit to Tarragona was a one-day trip from Salou where we lived for a few weeks. We visited it in mid-June and during that time the city was still fairly quiet, without many tourists.
Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Tarragona. What we liked most was slowly strolling among its old town streets and squares – they had such a great vibe! But… Tamarit Castle and beach stole the show for us and that’s the part of Tarragona we’ll remember the longest.
What we didn’t like about Tarragona? To be honest, nothing in particular comes to mind right now.
Restaurants, accommodations, and map
Check out various recommended places below.
Where to eat in Tarragona?
Here are your best, high-rated options in Tarragona:
Where to sleep in Tarragona?
Hotel Lauria in Tarragona offers a warm and welcoming stay within a historic setting. Located in the heart of the city, it provides convenient access to Tarragona's rich cultural heritage, including its Roman ruins and medieval architecture. With comfortable rooms and a friendly atmosphere, it's an ideal choice for travelers looking to explore this charming Spanish city.
Port Plaza Apartments
Port Plaza Apartments in Tarragona offer a fantastic urban retreat with contemporary and stylish self-catering accommodations. Located near the city's maritime promenade, guests enjoy beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea and easy access to Tarragona's historical sites, shops, and restaurants.
B&B Hotel Tarragona
B&B HOTEL Tarragona provides a comfortable and affordable stay in the heart of the city. With a central location, it offers easy access to the city's historical attractions, vibrant dining options, and cultural landmarks, making it a convenient choice for travelers. The hotel combines modern amenities with excellent value, making it a suitable base for exploring the charming city of Tarragona.
H10 Imperial Tarraco 4* Sup
H10 Imperial Tarraco is a luxurious hotel in Tarragona offering a sophisticated and comfortable stay. Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, it provides stunning views and easy access to Tarragona's historic sites and cultural treasures. With its stylish design, excellent amenities, and a prime location, it's an ideal choice for travelers seeking a blend of relaxation and exploration in this beautiful coastal city.
Accommodations photos source: booking.com