Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain

I recently spent a few days in a beautiful little city on the east coast of Spain, just south of Barcelona called Tarragona. I have to be honest before arriving there I had never heard of it and thought I would just be traveling through, but as fate would have it I ended up spending a few days and having the opportunity to see what the city had to offer.

Turns out, quite a lot.

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I guess one of the things I should lay out from the start is that I am not trying to compare Tarragona with Milan, Paris, Tokyo or another metropolitan city, but what I am saying is that if you and your significant other or even just a friend want to try a city break and go somewhere that easily has enough to keep you interested for 72 hours or so, then it’s worth putting up for consideration. If you are from outside of Europe and are visiting the continent and have a couple of days spare, see if you can work it into your schedule.

If you are from the UK or Ireland I know from being at the airport that Ryanair where ferrying the Irish and British to the local airport.

The 2 things with that are;

  1. You are willing to run the gauntlet of chance that is Ryanairs customer service
  2.  You can handle a short plane trip with some semi drunk hen/stag nighters who are on there way to the more commercial Salou further down the coast.

So what is it that created this need to blog about Tarragona? Well I’ll be honest the weather played a key part, the few days I spent there were glorious and the beaches were lined with bodies bronzing in the sun. As with any destination it plays a key role, but I’m happy to say on this occasion it came up trumps.

The clear skied and warm evenings became the perfect setting to sit at one of the many tapas bars and try the local fare, accompanied with locals(ish) beers and sangria that didn’t cost the earth. Many little squares in the city, some which could only be found by following the historic narrow backstreets were awash with people enjoying the temperate climate.

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The city’s coastal position means that seafood is well represented on the tapas menus, as is the local hams which the locals seem very proud of, along with plenty of traditional cuisine. Hours and euros could be spent on the menus trying the selections from bar to bar but where the tapas is the warm up the restaurants and the main courses are the next move on the city’s social circuit.

Paella is the obvious choice, and what I tried didn’t let me down, and as with the tapas the city’s location ensure that there are many restaurants whose selection of seafood prepared in a variety of ways makes selection a problem, but it’s a good problem to have.

Through the days, whilst giving my belly a rest I enjoyed the opportunity to stroll round the old city and just take it in. The cathedral, built in the 12 century seemed old, until you see the amphitheatre, built in the 2nd century it makes the cathedral seem like a contemporary piece of architecture by comparison. The amphitheatre itself sits not far from the beach and has the Mediterranean Sea as its back drop, even now in its reduced state its not difficult to imagine gladiators going at it Russell Crow style.

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The main strip of the city is the Rambla Nova, which serves as the hub of the city, while I was there a market took place on the central pedestrian area and walking from the west end down to the coastal cliffs overlooking the beach, you get the opportunity to scout out some of the restaurants and bars along with the shops on offer. The Rambla Nova is also home to a statue of castells – or human castles – a kind of sport in this part of the world that can compromise of up to nine storeys of precariously balancing people one on top of the other. Seems a bit mental to me, but whatever floats your boat.

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If the Roman and gothic architecture and good food get too much for you then just down the road is Port Aventura, a Universal Studios backed theme park where you can spend the day. I didn’t go so cant offer much on it other than to say that its there. Perhaps built with the idea that some traveling groups will need a barter tool when justifying a visit to another of the city’s UNESCO world heritage sites. Another couple of days and I would have gone, for the water park if nothing else,  like a say the weather was beautiful.

All in all a cracking piece of Spain that to my eyes seems largely unspoilt by mass tourism, go now, before everyone else does.

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4 Responses to “Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain”


  1. 1 Ben May 31, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Look beautiful (as you say, the weather helps with that).

    Will make a note to check it out if I am down in that part of the world.

    • 2 thethoughtherder May 31, 2009 at 8:49 pm

      Yeah its worth checking out, and as you can see from the pics there are not crowds of tourists blocking the streets, just enough to give it a bit of a vibe.

  2. 3 Jay June 2, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    It seems like if you are fortunate to have a lot of time to spare it’s a good idea to check out a smaller town or city just to enhance the overall experience.

    Back when I went to Japan, I felt fortunate to have been able to visit places like Hakodate (though I wish it wasn’t foggy like heck–they have a great night view), Beppu (quaint hot springs town which even locals say no one ever visits), and Kamakura (city of temples, shrines, and a huge Buddha you can go into). There’s a lot of added value that I got from having gone to these places.

  3. 4 thethoughtherder June 4, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Sounds like you made the right move!

    Japan is high on my list of places I want to visit, my bank balance doesn’t support the idea though.


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