Tarragona was founded before 500 BC
and later was a major Roman outpost called Terraco.
Now the Roman ruins are a World Heritage site.
Tarragona is about 90 km. west of Barcelona with a population of approximately 133,000. Many cruise companies will have a tour that will go there, and some cruises stop there. My company took us from Barcelona on a walking tour of the ancient walled city, and after that we were left on our own. Tarragona has quite a lot to see, especially if you are interested in history - it is a small town with a big history. In many places the 2000 year old ruins are incorporated into buildings today. Tarragona is Catalan, as Barcelona.
You can travel to Tarragona from Barcelona by train. The Renfe trains do this journey, and the trip is 35 minutes. The Renfe station is about 1 1/4 km. west of the foot of the Rambla Nova, along the streets by the ocean on the map beside.
I have put the walking tour of Tarragona into two parts - the map beside is the first part and the second part is the oldest part of the city, most within the old city walls.
Your tour bus will probably let you off where the map says 'Entrance to the old city'. and after seeing the old city, you will be 'dropped' at the other end of the yellow line.
This walking tour begins where your cruise tour ends, at the tower and the traffic circle, where the bottom of the red line meets the yellow line. When facing the sea, a large curved hotel is to your right and there is a very attractive pedestrian walk in front of it - first with shade trees, then palms (called Passeig de les Palmeres) that opens out to the Mediterranean Balcony with lovely views of the sea. Turn right where the statue faces up the street (middle pic below). If this street looks familiar, it copies Las Ramblas in Barcelona, with a pedestrian walkway in the center and traffic on either side. As in Barcelona, the street is paved so it appears to be wavy. The street is Rambla Nova.
Walking Rambla Nova
There are stately buildings along the street, and lots of benches where you can sit and people watch (above right). At six blocks up the street there is a statue with flowers around it. If you like Mediterranean markets, walk one block to your left. This is a lovely market, in an artistic building. (see the map)
After about seven blocks on Rambla Nova you will come to a low fountain, and to your right an impressive regal looking Spanish building (beside - far right).
Walk one more block to see something amazing! In Catalonia one of the favourite sports is conducted by 'castellers' who build castells - human towers. In the middle of Rambla Nova is a sculpure of a tower. The contests between the teams from Catalonia cities are attended by thousands. Yes, it is dangerous, especially for the children who often make up the top layer.
Walk to your right at the castellers statue, and then right again on the first street to go back to the old city. In the first block is a large religious school. Walk about four blocks until you come to a wide street with a pedestrian walkway in the center and the old city wall on your right. Follow the city wall to your left. The walkway is lovely, with stone mosiacs and benches. At the end of this is the entry to the old city (beside).
Walking the Old City
See the word 'entry' on the map beside. When you enter the gate in the Roman wall, look at the buildings directly ahead! You can see parts from many eras.... the large stonework from the Romans, the small irregular stonework from the medieval middle ages, and more recent work - people have lived in this building for almost 2000 years.
Watch for the different eras as you walk through the old city.
After entering the gate turn immediately to the left, following the wall up the hill (beside left... it was a dull day I was in Tarragona, so my pictures are dark.)
As you go up the hill, watch for a one story wall in front of you, with a fountain on the wall. Turn right even to the front of this (right hand picture).
This is a short street, and where it ends turn right for a few short steps and then turn left. In a block you are in the courtyard of the Tarragona Cathedral. Ahead are Roman arches where stores were located in the Roman era and today. Where the cathedral is now, was a Roman temple, built about 34 AD. The Cathedral was built in the 1100s.
Visit the cloister. with the lovely walkway and the attractive garden.
Back in front of the cathedral, walk beside the right hand wall of the cathedral, on an attractive ancient street. On your right is a modernized building that was the hospital in medieval times. See the photo beside. A small church is ahead, and turn right on the street before it. Ahead you will see broad steps, and above them the buildings of the Tarragona University. Walk up the steps and then turn right, to follow; a narrow ancient street down to an intersection where a gate gives you an ocean view.
The doorways are tall and curved at the top (see above left) - people kept horses on the ground floor - and other animals as well. Keep walking down the narrow street, until you see Roman ruins to your right, and turn right and right again onto a public square by the ruins. Follow that square into another, with an outdoor restaurant, and turn left into a larger square called Placa del Forum with part of a Roman wall in the center (above right).
Walk to the far left end of the Placa del Forum and then straight ahead until you can see the cathedral to your right, then turn left. Several blocks down this street there is a corner and a small hill, and at the bottom of the hill turn to your right.
Ahead you will see the charming painted house, perhaps the most photographed scene in Tarragona.
Go back to the street going downhill, and the next opening is for the largest and most important square in the old city, the Place de la Font. In the 1300s a deep well was on this site, and a big fountain was built in the 1800s - but no sign of it remains. Instead, under the square is a parking area.
The square has many restaurants and it is a delightful place for an outdoor meal.
From the street where you entered the square, continue one block and turn left. Now you are in front of what is left of the Circa Roma - the Roman Circus where horse races and chariot races were held. Below these ruins are underground passages. Go inside to see more information.
Cross the street by the traffic circle, and on the street to your right is a viewing area where you can see the Roman amphitheatre below and just above the sea. To your left is an elevator that will take you down to the garden area below. The photo at the top of the page shows the theatre and this one as well.
By the traffic circle is where we began the walk, and likely where your bus will pick you up after giving you time to sight-see for yourself.
I hope you enjoy visiting Tarragona!