In no other European city will you find the amount of architectural findings you will virtually stumble across when visiting Tarragona. Captured in 218 BC by the Romans it soon became a hub for trade and warfare in the Mediterranean hemisphere and once housed the likes of Julius Caesar. Once a 4km long wall spanning six meters in length and twelve in height surrounded what remains today the old town and can be seen in several places around town. On top of this most impressive Roman Wall, originally four meters wide by six meters tall, and later enhanced to span six by twelve metres were built quadrangular towers of which three are known, the Minerva (or S. Magí) Tower, the Cabiscol (or Seminari) Tower and the Arquebisbe Tower.
Once home to close to a million people while the likes of London and Paris were mere villages this city had everything on offer. The remains of the Amphitheatre are amongst the most impressive and probably most intriguing are the ruins of the old Circus. The Circus, probably the biggest in the Roman empire, where regular chariot races were held, used to span nearly 360 meters. Over the centuries it was neglected and houses were simply built over it. With a bit of imagination and determination you can trace the structure of the circus throughout the old part of town according to the way the houses were built on top, within or around the complex. Many findings, like the main podium were discovered in one of these houses.
On the upper part of the hill on which Tarragona was built can be found the remains of the Forum, the religious and political hub of the city.
On the outskirts of town you’ll come across the Christian Necropolis, the main roman burial grounds, which was used in the 4th and 5th century for Christian burial ceremonies. Ironically the burial grounds were discovered during the construction of a tobacco factory beneath which now lays the biggest known Roman-Christian cemetery. And a bit further out of town lies the Aqueduct also known as the Devils Bridge and was an integral part of the water supply for the city. It is an impressive 217 meters long and close to 30 metres high.
The town itself hosts a multitude of museums to visit and each one is worth a visit if roman history is your thing. The most important and extensive one is the
National Museum of Archaeology
Placa del Rei, 5. Tel: 977 23 62 09, Entrance €2.40 which includes access to the Chrisitan Necropolis. Opens Tue-Sat 10:00-13:30 and 16:00-19:00 | Sun & Holidays: 10:00-14:00
There are numerous walks throughout town and probably the most spectacular is the Passeig Arqueologic which runs along the remains of the old roman wall where the Minerva tower still can be seen.
Your best bet to plan a day trip is to visit the tourist office at c/ Fortuny 4 and pick up as much information on the different attractions as will fit in your purse. They are open from 9am to 2pm and 4-6.30. As the amount of things to see and do in Tarragona is so vast you should make sure to come very early and make most of the day. Their telephone number is 97 723 34 15.
Now Tarragona is not only ruins and history. For those who are more into action and prefer Indiana Jones to Seneca the nearby Port Aventura can offer an interesting alternative. The pride of Universal Studios, packed with attractions and an impressive roller coaster ride with 8 inversions and the highest vertical loop in the world. The ride takes 3 1/2 minutes and will virtually blow you away. The amusement park has all the things on offer you would expect from a decent park, from countless candy stores to open air performances of pirate attacks and spaghetti western stunts. The park even has its own Train stop between Tarragona and Salou and trains run on a frequent basis from Barcelona and Tarragona alike. The entrance will make your purse 33€ lighter and expect to spend about the same amount while in the park for all the extra goodies like candy, lunch and souvenirs.
How to get there
Daily, 30 to 40 trains make the trip to and from the Barcelona-Sants station, and 12 buses go from Barcelona-Nord bus station. The bus trip will cost 12€ return. And takes approx. 1 ½ hours. The train will take anything between 45 minutes on the Euromed for 16€ each way and 1h15min on the Regional Express for 5€ each way.
To drive, take the A-2 southwest from Barcelona to the A-7, then take the N-340. The route is well marked. This is a fast toll road. Expect to pay 8€ in Motorway tolls each way.
Train info: http://www.renfe.es
Bus info: http://www.barcelonanord.com
Info on Tarragona’s Architectural History: http://www.mnat.es