Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: August 2022
Tarragona is a port town located in northeastern Spain along the Mediterranean Sea. It features a beautiful coastline, sandy beaches, cobblestone streets and ancient Roman ruins. It is a compact city that is best explored on foot.
Today was our last day in Spain and of our vacation. We initially planned a day trip to Girona, but had issues booking our train tickets online. At the last minute we decided to go to Tarragona instead, which is an hour south of Barcelona by train. We woke up earlier than expected as someone was repeatedly ringing the bell outside to get onto the floor of our hotel at 5a.m. After about an hour and a half, they must have gotten inside the building and changed their tactic to loudly banging on the door to get onto the floor. Reception didn’t open until 8a.m.
Despite getting up early, we were hesitant to leave as we didn’t want to let the randoms inside. It’s not like there was anywhere for them to go. At one point someone tried to go out to talk to them through the door, but there was a bit of a language barrier. It was best to let reception deal with these gems. And so we waited for reception to open before planning our escape. You better believe we gave these people the death glare as we were leaving. So rude.
We were now running a bit late, so we hopped on the subway to get to the train station. It was a scenic train ride along the coastline to reach Tarragona. Given that it was the weekend, the train was completely packed as most people were planning to head to the beach. But for us, we planned to explore the historic city centre.
After exiting the train, we walked along the shoreline. The sun was shining and the water looked so sparkly and blue.
We walked to the Tarragona Amphitheatre, which was built on a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in the second century AD. Back in the day this Roman amphitheatre could hold up to 14,000 to 15,000 spectators.
We continued our slog uphill to reach the Cathedral of Tarragona, which is located at the highest point of the city. We signed up for the guided tour, which also includes a visit to the Bell Tower. It turns out that we were the only ones that had signed up, so we had our own private tour of the cathedral. Starting inside the cathedral, our guide explained more about the history of the town and the church. The cathedral, and much of the city, was built on the site of a Roman army barracks. Part of the cathedral was even built using some of the remaining materials from the Romans.
Our guide then took us up the Bell Tower where there are 150 steps to reach the top. Along the way up the spiral staircase, we made three stops to catch our breath and continue our history lesson of the church. One of the stops provided a close-up view of the bell. The top of the Bell Tower provided sweeping views of the surrounding area. The timing worked out well as while we were on the roof, we got to hear the bells ring to signal that it was noon.
Once we returned to the cathedral, our guide took us to the altar to admire the intricate details and learn about its significance. We then went to the cloisters which marked the end of our tour. Since it was lunch o’clock, we went to grab some pizza. The dude said it would be a 15 minute wait, when in reality it was closer to 40 minutes. We found a spot in the shade near the cathedral to eat our lunch. At least it was delicious.
We then went to Casa Castellarnau Museum, which was built in the 15th century for the wealthy Castellarnau family. The main floor showcased some pottery and artifacts, which we weren’t really sure what their significance was since the signs were all in Spanish. The upper floor displayed lavish furnishings and decor.
We didn’t have much time before we had to take the train back to Barcelona, but we squeezed in a visit to check out the Archaeological Promenade, a walking path at the base of the ancient Roman walls. The walls were built in the second century around the ancient city. Several sections of the original wall are still intact today.
Once we finished our walk along the base of the city walls, we raced to the train station to head back to Barcelona. The next day we’d be flying home.