Tarragona - Location
Tarragona is located on the Costa Dorada, 60 miles southwest of Barcelona, Spain, in the region of Catalonia. While earlier settlements may have inhabited the area, the first occupation of Tarragona is attributed to Gneus Scipio, who founded a Roman military camp here in 218 B.C. It grew quickly and was named a colony of Rome in 45 B.C. by Julius Ceasar. Tarragona is considered the most important Roman town in Spain.
Tarragona is home to about 110,000 people.
Tarragona - Getting There by Train
The Tarragona train station is in the Plaza Pedrera. There are 8 trains a day to and from Madrid, and many to Barcelona, just up the coast, about an hour and a half away. The station at Tarragona is close to the port and to the main street, the Rambla Nova. Turn right out of the station and go up the hill; there are several hotels on this end of the Rambla.
Where to Stay
Look for a hotel near the sea, where the Rambla dead-ends. We stayed at the Hotel Lauria at Rambla Nova 20, and found it comfortable, centrally located, and air conditioned.
If you'd prefer a vacation rental home or apartment, check out the Costa Dorada - Tarragona Vacation rentals from HomeAway (book direct).
Tarragona Food, Wine & Cuisine
Think seafood, nuts, onions, tomatoes, oil and garlic. Romesco sauce is a product of this area.
Tapas are plentiful in the Rambla Nova area, as well as the interesting Placa de la Font, which you'll find loaded with cafes and restaurants--this is the place to head on your early evening stroll. Tarragona is know for its fine wine as well.
Tarragona Beaches and Naturism:
Tarragona is the main city on the Costa Dorada.
There are many beaches and coves nearby. TarragonaGuide has a discussion of beaches in or near Tarragona. Nudist Beaches in Tarragona is our Spain Guide's recommendations on where you can get naked and sunburned in public.
Tarragona Closing Days:
Unless quiet is your ultimate goal, don't go for a day trip to Tarragona on Monday--everything is closed.
Amfiteatre Romà - The Roman Amphitheater is located seaside, just off the Rambla Nova.
Cathedral - At Tarragona's apex sits the 12th century cathedral. Inside is the Museu Diocesà, with a collection of Catalán art you can visit for 2.40 Euros.
The Archaeological Museum - At Plaça del Rei 5, overlooking the sea. Free on Tuesdays.
Museu Necròpolis - The Necropolis Museum outside town that's one of the most important Christian burial sites in Spain, used in the 3-5th centuries.
You'll find some interesting bars and seafood restaurants in the Port area near the marina. I also heartily recommend the Placa de la Font area for its lively cafe and tapas scene. Remember that Spaniards eat dinner very late in the evening. Often 9pm is a bit early for eating.
Tarragona, besides being a fine city peppered with Roman ruins and good restaurants, is a relatively inexpensive place to stay while visiting Catalonia.
You can get to Barcelona in about an hour and a half, although it's quite a walk from the Barcelona station to the Gothic Quarter--you can take a bus or cab.
Building human pyramids is a Catalonian sport. Castellers have been building human pyramids here, some as high as 5 story buildings, for hundreds of years. You can see them in action in Tarragona during the Sant Magi festival in mid-August. Jill Yesko has written an excellent article about this phenomenon called Castells in Spain in Away.com. You'll see pictures commemorating the Castellers in our photo gallery.
For a virtual visit of Tarragona, see our Tarragona Picture Gallery.