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.


116 thoughts on “Tarragona

  1. thehungrytravellers.blog says:

    Wow wow wow guys you are not going to believe this but….. I have been to Tarragona over 20 times and know this wonderful city so well. In the 1990s/2000s I got addicted to Tarragona and kept visiting as often as I could. The Balcon del Meditarraneo…Place de la Font…the cathedral…Playa Miracle…La Rambla….I know every inch of that city!!! I even looked at the possibility of buying a property there so taken was I by Catalan culture, food, people….and Tarragona in particular. This is the first time I’ve EVER read a blog where someone else has been there. Needless you’ve so made me want to return!! Like NOW!!! Cheers guys…

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s amazing!! Out of all the day trips we took during our visit to Europe, Tarragona stands out as being one of my favourites. I couldn’t agree more about the rich Catalan culture and just how friendly the people are. I can see why you’ve returned so many times and even considered buying a place there. It’s neat to think about what your life would have been like if you went through with it. Take care. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks!! We couldn’t have asked for better weather for our day trip to Tarragona. We did regret not bringing our bathing suits though as it would have been so nice to go for a refreshing swim in the ocean after exploring the city.

  2. wetanddustyroads says:

    “Planning our escape” … it sounds as if your adventure has already begun in your hotel! Imagine being able to sit in that Roman amphitheater centuries ago with the blue ocean in your view – it must have been amazing! A visit to a cathedral and ancient Roman walls – undoubtedly a great day of exploring! Thank you for yet another lovely tour, I really enjoyed your holiday with you! Oh, and lovely photo of the two of you on the roof!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      No kidding!! We were eager to get a move on as the train service is rather limited to Tarragona. I’m glad it all worked out though and that we made it to the train station with a few minutes to spare. We had a wonderful time wandering around the old city. Our private tour of the cathedral was such a highlight. It was a great way to end our two week holiday in Europe.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      How lovely to spend a whole week in Tarragona. We were only here for a day and had to race through some of the main attractions. And yes, after spending a week in Spain, I can see why you love it here. The culture, food and people are all so amazing. Plus all that sunshine helps to keep you energized. I’m sure missing it these days as our weather is becoming gloomier and colder with the approach of winter.

      • Darlene says:

        We had visited Spain a few times before moving here. We fell more and more in love with the country, people and food every time. So when looking for a place to retire, it was our first choice. The sun is a great motivator for sure.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Glad to hear that you were able to retire in Spain, which was your first choice. I’m sure missing that sunny weather now that winter is approaching here in Canada. We had our first snowfall yesterday.

  3. kagould17 says:

    Too bad about the early wakeup call. So many people can be inconsiderate at early hours. They think everyone should be awake because they are. Tarragona looks like a good call for a last day visit. Beautiful setting, tons of history and gorgeous weather. Thanks for sharing your trip with us Linda. Happy Tuesday. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. When we booked our accommodations, they were very clear about the hours in which reception was open. Some people just have no consideration for others. I’m glad we made our train to Tarragona despite leaving a bit later to avoid having to interact with those jerks who woke up the whole floor. It was a wonderful day trip to end our time in Spain and Europe. I am sure missing those long days of sunshine now that winter is approaching. Thanks for reading. Linda

  4. Little Miss Traveller says:

    I’ve not visited Tarragona but have read about it and would like to explore the city one day. I e visited Girona on two occasions, staying there both times and enjoyed it very much. What a nuisance about those ‘guests’ walking everyone up and trying to get inside the hotel so early!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Tarragona was a great alternative for us not being able to visit Girona. It’s a charming town with a lot of history. Plus being by the coastline is always a huge bonus. Being woken up super early in the morning not so much. I couldn’t get over how inconsiderate those people were. When we booked our accommodations they were very clear about when reception is open and the hours for checking in.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. We were quick to get over feeling tired and grumpy as soon as we stepped off the train at Tarragona. The bright blue skies and brilliant views of the coastline were stunning. It was a wonderful way to end our trip to Spain.

  5. Josy A says:

    Wooah how rude for the 5am wake-up call folks! What weird behavior! I’m glad you had a great final day despite that.

    The Tarragona Amphitheatre and those roman walls look incredible. It’s always so impressive that buildings can stay standing for such a long time!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Right!?! We were not impressed to have been woken up at 5a.m. What was worse was that they just kept ringing that stupid bell. You’d think after several minutes that they would get the hint and give up, but no. We were quick to get over being grumpy as soon as we stepped off the train at Tarragona. The bright blue skies, sunshine and coastal views were lovely. It was fun to just wander around the historic centre and admire the medieval architecture. Agreed, it is pretty remarkable how many of these structures have been around for so long.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. It’s hard to stay grumpy when you’re in such a beautiful place like Tarragona. It’s too bad we didn’t pack our bathing suits though as I’m sure it would have felt so refreshing to go for a quick dip in the ocean after wandering around the hilly city in the heat.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and leaving a comment. It was neat to climb up into the tower and see the bells up close. Thankfully we made it to the roof just in time for them to start ringing. I imagine it would have been much louder if we were still on the platform with the bells above our heads!

  6. Bernie says:

    The final bell tower climb! Worth the views and great to see a photo of you two enjoying your trip to the max. You packed a lot into the last day and indeed your whole trip. You’ve gone a few places I’ve never heard but the Roman’s had obviously. Love love the old stuff they built! Bernie

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Climbing a tower seemed fitting for our final day of vacation! The timing worked out well as you can only climb the tower as part of the guided tours, which are offered twice a day. It also was a huge bonus that we were the only ones that had signed up for the tour, so we had the guide all to ourselves.

      We were a bit hesitant to travel to Europe in the middle of summer given the heat and crowds, but since we were going to Italy for my friend’s wedding, we decided to make the most of it. Overall we had a wonderful time. The food, history, culture and people were all amazing. And agreed, it’s pretty incredible how old some of the structures are and that they’ve been around for hundreds or even thousands of years and are still being used today.

  7. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    Beautiful photo of the two of you! Love your t-shirt. Too bad about the early wake-up. Unbelievably rude behaviour! I love the photo of the amphitheater. It looks to be in good shape – do you know if it’s still used? It’s in such an amazing location next to the ocean like that. Cheers.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks!! It was nice to represent Canada with my Kootenay NP t-shirt! We were not impressed to have been woken up so early in the morning. The worst part was that they just kept ringing that stupid bell, and then started banging on the door outside reception once they got inside. They were out there for three hours. Brutal. It certainly was an interesting start to our day trip to Tarragona! I don’t think the amphitheater is still in use (except as a museum to visit). But agreed, it’s too bad they don’t hold events or concerts there as the views overlooking the Mediterranean Sea are gorgeous.

  8. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    Such a wonderful place and this article you dear written so fascinating ✍️🙏👍🏻
    Inside Europe the Churches ⛪️ legend and so Divine ,wonderful 👏💐
    Then the building also the Mediterranean Sea marvellous too 😊🙏👍🏻
    Thank you for sharing and grace wishes 🌷🙏♥️🌷

  9. Laura says:

    I would have done the same thing as you in the morning at the hotel- it would have made me nervous to let those people in! Despite that rude awakening, it looks like you had a beautiful last day of your trip. The colour of that water is completely gorgeous! It’s been a joy to follow along on your European adventures 😊

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. We figured that they weren’t in a good mood considering the time and that they were stuck outside for nearly three hours. We didn’t haven’t any interest in trying to deal with these randoms or to figure out what they wanted. Thankfully we were able to make our train, despite the delay. We were quick to get over our frustrations from being woken up so early as soon as we stepped off the train into Tarragona. It’s such a beautiful city.

  10. leightontravels says:

    Your death glare sounds more than well-deserved. The sea is gorgeous, I would be tempted to head for the beach. But in that case I would’ve missed out on a beautiful little city. The Cathedral and the Roman amphitheatre are stunning. The Romans always did choose the best locations for their building projects. I enjoyed reading about your European summer, you managed to do a lot.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I just don’t understand how some people have no self-awareness or consideration for others. Despite the rough start in the morning, we had a wonderful day trip to Tarragona. Even though the train was packed, we mostly had the historic city centre all to ourselves. The tour of the cathedral was such a highlight. Thanks for your kind words. It felt amazing to start travelling further afield post-pandemic.

      • leightontravels says:

        Ha, I think we would have a good time complaining about people together over some drinks. We shake our heads daily at the state of humanity. It’s a daily struggle having to deal with people. Assholes in cars seemingly on a mission to kill you as you try to make your way safely along a zebra crossing. Assholes on motorbikes (ban them all in urban areas) revving, polluting and speeding through every road they inhabit. Assholes in supermarkets elbowing into you and then gawping at you as if it were your fault. Staff in supermarkets, cafes and restaurants having absolutely no pride in what they do and treating customers like garbage. Assholes letting their dogs shit wherever they please. Neighbours screaming at their kids, shouting on phones and generally crashing around after midnight. Maybe I’m just starting to get old, but we are dreaming more and more of crafting some isolated home away from everything. Let us know if you have a spare cabin somewhere 😉 Oh yeah, and how about that cathedral 🙂

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I’m pretty sure we’d have a good time chatting about anything over some drinks!! There certainly would be no shortage of stories about stupid people. It seems like you already have a pretty good list going! I would add: assholes who litter and throw their garbage everywhere; assholes who listen to their music loudly without any headphones on; and assholes who are paving over our green spaces for a new subdivision or mall. I would honestly just love to just live off the land someday away from other people. The cabin is definitely a good escape plan!

  11. ourcrossings says:

    So rude indeed. I could never understand how some people can behave in such a manner in the early morning hours knowing that everyone is still asleep.
    Tarragona looks like a beautiful destination for those who want to explore Catalonian history and culture, combined with fabulous white sand beaches. You’ve got to love the mild climate, the charm of the streets and the warmth of the people that make it an ideal spot for outdoor leisure and cultural pursuits. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. Some people have zero self-awareness … or ability to read the details about the places they booked. When we booked our accommodations here, they were quite clear about the hours in which the reception was open. Thankfully they didn’t interfere with our day trip to Tarragona and that we were able to make the train. It’s such a lovely coastal city with a very laid back vibe. The Catalan culture and history is fascinating. And the people are very hospitable.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      No kidding! It certainly made for an eventful last day of our vacation! I’m glad we were able to still catch our train to Tarragona. We had a wonderful time just wandering around and admiring the medieval architecture and ancient Roman relics and ruins.

  12. Diana says:

    Wow, what a beautiful city! Seems well worth the change in plans. I find myself wondering, based on the name, if this is where the spice tarragon originated?

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Isn’t it amazing how convenient it is to travel around Europe by train?! Our day trip to Tarragona was very spontaneous and I’m glad it all worked out and that I was able to just go with the flow (which is not how I normally travel!). I don’t think there is any connection between Tarragona the town and tarragon the spice.

  13. Ab says:

    It looks like a wonderful time, Linda! I’ve never heard of Tarragona before so it was nice to learn more about it.

    The buildings, cathedrals, promenade and Bell Tower all look wonderful as do the view of that blue water! The Casa Museum reminds me a bit of Versailles from Paris.

    Those randoms sounded annoying. I’m glad you gave them the death stare!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was an eventful last day of our vacation. Despite having a bit of a rough start to the day, I’m glad we caught our train to Tarragona. It didn’t take long for us to forget feeling grumpy. The city has so much charm and history. Taking a tour through the cathedral and visiting the bell tower was such a highlight of our day trip, especially since we were the only ones that had signed up for the tour. Don’t you just love it when that happens!?

  14. Linda K says:

    How lovely to spend time down near the water after so much time touring the larger cities inland. Sounds like the perfect choice to end your travels!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s a shame we didn’t bring our bathing suits though as I’m sure it would have felt so refreshing to go for a dip in the ocean after we were done exploring the city! The water was a great distraction for the other tourists though as the historic downtown was pretty quiet. Taking a day trip to Tarragona was definitely a great way to end our trip.

  15. Bama says:

    Ugh, I would also give those rude people the death glare if that happened to me. I’m glad it didn’t disrupt your plans. Although you ended up not being able to see Girona, Tarragona seems to be a good alternative. I love how blue the skies and the sea were when you were there. And that amphitheater… the Romans really knew where to build these structures!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Right!? Those people have zero self-awareness. Despite having both an early and late start to the day, we certainly made the most of our day trip to Tarragona. While it wasn’t our first option, it definitely exceeded our expectations. It was one of the best day trips we took during our trip to Europe. It was neat learning more about the history of this charming coastal town.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. We had a wonderful time wandering around Tarragona and admiring the ancient Roman architecture. It was the perfect way to end our trip to Spain.

  16. TowardsZEROAccident says:

    Beautiful pictures, of Shoreline, Cathedral, Amphitheater, Museum, Archaeological Promenade. Hope you would have enjoyed your instant changed trip to Tarragona and conclusion of your exploratory vacation in Spain. Good luck and Stay safe.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Tarragona is a fabulous option for a day trip from Barcelona. I highly recommend signing up for the tour at the Cathedral of Tarragona. It’s a great way to learn more about the history of the town, plus you get to climb up the bell tower for a nice panoramic view of the area.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for lovely comment. It’s wild how old the Tarragona Amphitheatre is. It’s too bad it’s not in use like some of the other Roman amphitheatres in Europe, as the views of the Mediterranean Sea are gorgeous.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Tarragona is such a scenic city with all those ancient ruins and medieval architecture. Plus it’s located along the Mediterranean coast. We had a wonderful day trip just soaking in the sights. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Linda

  17. BrittnyLee says:

    The canons are so cool and the rooms with the hot pink furniture and violet furniture. The colors are so rich . Wow. You can tell furniture and other things took time to make back then with how elaborate and ornate it is. Those rooms are beautiful . I’m so glad you got to visit such great places 🙂 . How was the food ?? I know you said great but was it spicy or like Italian or Mexican ?

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Tarragona was a fun day trip. While most people were at the beach, we were exploring the historic centre. I couldn’t get over how cheap the museums were in comparison to when we were in some of the bigger cities like Madrid or Barcelona. It was neat to tour through that fancy house and imagine what it would be like to live there. The food in Spain was pretty good. It wasn’t spicy or anything (but then again, I don’t really seek out spicy food). We ate a lot of tapas, which are pretty much just a bunch of little appetizers. It was a great way to sample and share a bunch of different food.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        I love doing that! I toured a mansion in a place called Jim Thorpe and imagined having lived there. It’s so fascinating. I love exploring those kind of places. That’s nice that the museums were better priced, too. That’s cool. Yeah, I like sampling different foods, too. It’s nice because then you get a little bit of everything. 🙂 I’m glad it wasn’t spicy. I like spicy food but not authentic spicy because that would be too spicy. I made a conversation dish with my brother from scratch and the spice was so hot and that was considered regular, not even super spicy.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Newport in Rhode Island has a big collection of luxury mansions that have been restored and converted into museums. It’s definitely a lot of fun to creep through them and see all the fancy furniture and decor. Around the holidays a few of them are even decorated with Christmas trees, twinkling lights and hundreds of poinsettias. It’s kind of funny how our tolerance for spicy food is all over the place. I can’t handle spicy food, but my husband on the other hand lives for it.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        It is funny. Spicy food doesn’t agree with me like it used to. I love it but my belly doesn’t. It’s a shame . It makes me feel old saying that lol 😂 Matt is the opposite. He doesn’t like spicy food at all. That’s pretty funny . I love exploring mansions and old buildings. I love the small and large doors that keep going and going. I enjoy spiral staircases and dusty attics. It’s incredible. I have a lot of dreams involving exploration of random mansions I end up in somehow. I find these hidden doors and keep opening them only to find more rooms with really comfortable mattresses and clothes that fit just right . It’s the coolest.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Well said and I couldn’t agree more about how fun and exciting it can be to explore old houses and buildings. It’s too bad that walls can’t talk as I’m sure they’d have a lot of interesting stories.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        I have thought that so many times !!!! I actually made a video years ago about an old drive inn movie area. The song I picked was an Imogen heap song called Neglected Space. That song is almost like a talk song with music about objects being left for dead and is being spoken from their perspective. It’s an awesome song. Incidentally, after that, it has been fixed up and reopened. I plan on going and seeing something once spring comes and it opens for season 🙂

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Agreed, that is an awesome song. How cool that the old drive-in theatre has been restored. You should definitely check it out to see how different it looked compared to when it was abandoned.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        I have to look up what exploring dreams mean . I am very curious what my mind is trying to discover while I’m dreaming these kinds of dreams . They’re so fun

      • BrittnyLee says:

        It does !! I just had a series of dreams when I was sick with the flu. I’m working on writing the series of dreams down. I am almost done writing them down . They are so wild but memorable. I can remember all of the colors and feelings and heat and cold. It was a complete experience of all my senses. It’s so odd that many of the times I dream this deeply is when I’m sick or having had a very deep deep sleep and I remember the dreams so clearly when they’re wild like these were. The giant toy train strung up with rope in the canopies of trees was my favorite part of the dream. It eventually broke free, coming to life chugging along the air without tracks. It was amazing. I could feel the wind in my hair through the old wooden window frames, see the shadows cast from the lantern lights rocking as the train soared up and down in the air. The train was yellow and the seats were red blue and green. It’s nuts.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        It’s wild that we have such vivid dreams when we’re sick or feeling feverish. It’s also pretty awesome that these wild dreams have provided inspiration for your poetry. Looking forward to reading them!

      • BrittnyLee says:

        Thank you !!! It is weird. I will never understand why it happens that way. I’ve read many different opinions over the years. Some people think it’s your way of solving problems and others think it’s foreshadowing or premonition based. Either way, it’s fun to explore them 🙂 thank you, Linda 💗

      • BrittnyLee says:

        It is !! It makes me wonder . I often wonder what I’d be like if I was born in Europe or China or Estonia. I wonder if my personality would be the same or if my interests would be different. It’s so cool. I really wonder what it would be like to have a twin

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        It makes you think about how much of our interests and personalities we’re born with versus a result of who we hang out with, how we’re raised of where we live. I used to read a lot of Sweet Valley Kids and watched all the Olsen twins movies when I was growing up, which really made me want a twin too.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        I used to watch them too!!!! A lot actually!!! They made me want a twin. I used to think about how fun it must’ve been for them to switch and play pranks on people. I used to watch “sister sister” too. I loved the idea of having someone who understood you better than anyone else by your side. It just seemed so special and ( never lonely) to me. Then, I met Matt and met the male me but much calmer and more grounded version. Haha 😂 He’s his own person. I just mean we have a lot in common. It’s funny thinking about it. Instead of a twin, I found the next best thing aw, even better. 🙂 It is interesting though. So much of who we are is who we choose to be around.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        Aw, thank you. He’s a sweetheart. He really is. I am fortunate to have met him. 🙂 He deals with my goofy self 😂 and he likes to be as equally goofy. Thank you !

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We were initially planning to take a day trip to Girona, but we had some issues booking our train tickets online, so we decided to go to Tarragona instead. I’m glad we did as it ended up being one of my favourite day trips during our holidays. While the beaches were packed, the historic city was pretty quiet, which is just how we like it.

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