Tarragona: Why You Should Visit the Roman City by the Sea

Barcelona is an amazing city. It’s no secret we love the city. But part of what’s so amazing about Catalonia is that the region is full of interesting cities and interesting history. Today, we’re focusing on Tarragona, a seaside city about 90 minutes south of Barcelona. Enjoy!
Photo of Tarragona's Roman amphitheatre
Tarragona’s Roman Amphitheater (photo courtesy of  paradiseintheworld.com for the photo!)
About Tarragona
The secret of Tarragona’s sun-soaked Mediterranean shores was out long before the first travel books filled the shelves of local bookstores.
Spanish poet Martial longed for the shores of Tarragona, then known as Tarraco. “And when rimy December and winter wild shall howl with the hoarse North Wind, you will go back to the sunny shores of Tarraco,” he wrote to a friend nearly two thousand years ago.
Two millennium of time has seen Tarragona sprout buildings, roads and transportation, but the old section of the city still remains the rustic, seaside city that captivated Spain’s first poets.
A magnificent Roman amphitheater unfolds toward the sea. Roman aqueducts dance along the landscape. Balmy Mediterranean waters lazily roll up on toe-tickling, golden sand.
The city’s surrounding areas were home to Antoni Gaudì and Joan Mirò, two of Catalonia’s most famous artists.
Rich history and breathtaking natural beauty are just a few reasons why Tarragona is a must-see destination (and, not to mention, a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Tarragona Highlights
Tarragona’s is a timeless, elegant handshake between past and present. The city offers visitors a tangible experience with Roman ruins unmatched in the Iberian Peninsula.
Ramparts, walls, villas and other public structures built by master craftsman from Rome highlight Tarragona’s Old District. The Amphitheater, Tarragona’s jewel, was built at the end of the first-century.
Just outside the city, a section of aqueduct known as “The Devil’s Bridge” stretches more than 500 feet across a ravine.
A fantastic seafood culture pervades the city’s many restaurants, where you can taste romesco, the city’s trademark sauce made from nuts, oil and red pepper. Also, Tarragona’s Port Aventura amusement park is one of the most popular theme parks in Europe.
A photo of a roller at Port Aventura, a Tarragona tourist attraction.
One of the scream-inducing coasters at Port Aventura (photo courtesy of www.thomson.co.uk)
Tarragona History
Iberians settled in Tarragona around 500 BC. Romans swept in and took over the city in the third-century BC.
UNESCO points out that Tarragona became the seat of power for Roman interests in the peninsula in the years after the settlement’s capture, playing an important role in defeating Hannibal’s Carthaginian fleets. Barbarians ravaged the city in the 250s.
Near the end of the fifth century, Visigoth forces wept in to capture Tarragona. The city then fell to the Moors in the early 700’s.
For many years, the city was the Spanish version of the Wild West, enduring violence and bloodshed. In the thirteenth century, however, Alfons the Warrior pushed out the Moors and Tarragona became part of Catalonia.
Interesting Facts About Tarragona
-Horse-drawn chariot races took place in the “Circus,” an ancient version of a sports arena.
-Stones from the amphitheater were used to build the cathedral.
-Port Aventura, the city’s famous theme park, is home to Shambala, the tallest and fastest roller coaster in Europe. The ride features a 256-foot drop, and reaches speeds of up to 83 miles per hour.
-At the turn of the century, Tarragona became the short-term home of the Carthusian monks’ Chartreuse liquor distilleries.
-In its days as Tarraco, Tarragona was the Roman capital of the entire Iberian Peninsula.
-Spanish architect Antonio Gaudí and painter Joan Miro hailed from the Tarragona region.

 

A photo of Tarragona's Roman Circus, an ancient sports arena.
The Roman Circus, an ancient version of a sports arena (photo courtesy of upload.wikimedia.org)

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