The sights of Tarragona are a legacy of several eras, reflected in the architecture, the appearance of city streets and the customs of local residents.
Who and why goes to Tarragona
The ruins of ancient Roman buildings left on the territory of this city will be of interest to people whose hobby is history. There are surprisingly many of them left.
The majestic Gothic cathedrals and monasteries will impress any cultured person, and the non-obligatory believer, as they are of architectural value in themselves.
The museums and monuments of Tarragona are a reflection of the spirit and philosophy of memory of this ancient city.
Ancient sights of Tarragona
Built in the I‑II centuries AD. the Roman amphitheater was the epicenter of cultural life. The forum, measuring 130x120 m, accommodated up to 15,000 spectators who came to watch gladiator fights.
The first Christians were burned alive here, and when this religion acquired official status in the state, the amphitheater fell into disrepair. Some of the stones were dismantled to build dwellings and a basilica in memory of the Christian martyrs.
During the period of the Muslim invasion, the church was destroyed, and in the 12th century, a new Romanesque temple arose in its place, which was destroyed in a fire in 1915. Today, the amphitheater operates as an open-air museum.
The Roman aqueduct, also known as the “Devil’s Bridge”, is located 4 km from the city. It was part of a conduit that brought water from the Francoli River to Tarraco (as Tarragona used to be called). Water was taken from a height of more than 90 m, then passed about 10 km through a complex system of aqueducts, after which it entered the city.
The bridge was built of huge boulders without mortar. The design consists of two sections: the lower one has 11 arches, the upper one — 25. The height of the 250-meter aqueduct is about 28 m, the width is 2 m.
The name “Devil’s Bridge” is associated with the legend. It says that the unclean one built an aqueduct and was going to take the soul of the first person who decides to drink water from it. The insidious plans were not destined to come true, since the donkey was the first to cross the bridge.
A large-scale structure in the shape of an ellipse appeared during the reign of Emperor Domitian in the 1st century BC. Here, under the roar of the crowd, chariot races were held, musicians performed and actors gave performances.
The construction was used until the 5th century, until Christianity became widespread — the new religion did not encourage entertainment of this kind.
Now the circus is almost completely destroyed, but tourists can see part of the stands, fragments of a stone staircase and the ruins of a facade with arches.
Defensive walls with a length of 4 km were erected in the II century BC. Their height reaches 12 m, and the width reaches 6. To this day, a fragment of a fortification about a kilometer long has been well preserved. It partially covers the historical part of Tarragona and several arched gates that appeared in the Middle Ages.
The oldest part of the walls is built of gigantic, perfectly fitted blocks without mortar.
Early Christian necropolis
Burials of the 1st-7th centuries AD were discovered during the construction of a tobacco factory in the early 1920s. The discovery turned out to be so significant that it was necessary to stop the construction of a new object for archaeological excavations.
Scientists managed to find more than 2,000 graves of people of different classes who professed Christianity. Traces of the new religion can be seen in the decor and shape of the tombstones.
The first Christian martyrs Saint Fructuosus, as well as his followers Augurius and Eulogius, are buried in this cemetery. They were executed in the central square of Tarragona.
Abbey of Poblet
Founded as a monastery in 1151, the abbey of Santa Maria de Poblet is located about 50 km from Tarragona. Here is the tomb of the rulers of Aragon. In total, eight kings and their spouses rest in it. The graves are decorated with white alabaster statues.
In the 1830s, the monastery was seriously damaged during the civil war and was abandoned. A hundred years later, it was restored and restored. Today, approximately 30 monks live in Poblet.
Tourists can see the church, the main decoration of which are the covered galleries, the pantheon and the bell tower in the Gothic style. Of interest is also the monastery museum with ecclesiastical and historical values.
Monastery of Vallebona de les Monges
The beautiful monastery, also known as Santa Maria de Vallbona, is located 56 km from the city. When it arose is not known for certain, but the first mention of this place dates back to 1157.
Tourists are offered to see the monastery church, built in the XII-XIV centuries. The building has the shape of a cross with four apses and an octagonal dome. The nave is decorated with gothic lancet arches.
Be sure to see the bell tower and massive church gates, whose columns are decorated with intricate carvings.
The inner part of the pediment is decorated with the image of the Virgin Mary with the baby in her arms, surrounded by angels. Inside is a colored statue of the Virgin made of stone.
Monastery of Santes Creus
Founded in 1158, the monastery enjoyed the patronage of the kings of Aragon for a long time. Their tombs are located on the territory of the monastery church of the XIII century. The one-nave church in the Gothic style is built in the form of a Latin cross.
The main facade is decorated with a vaulted Romanesque portal, above which there is a stained-glass window. The interior of the church is ascetic, its only decoration is the 17th century altar. You can also see the tombs of the monarchs here.
One of the most beautiful cathedrals not only in Tarragona, but also in Catalonia is located in the historical part of the city. It was built in the 12th-13th centuries on the ruins of an ancient Roman temple glorifying Jupiter, which at one time was replaced by a Visigothic church, and then a mosque.
The style of the building is an organic mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles. The main façade, which is reached by a high staircase, is decorated with a lancet portal and a stained-glass window with complex geometry. Here you can also see the figure of the Virgin Mary with the baby, surrounded by the apostles.
Under the roof there is a giant rose window with a diameter of about 11 m. Naves with pointed turrets are built on both sides of the portal. Remains of an ancient Roman wall have been preserved near the cathedral.
Museums in Tarragona
Modern Art Museum
Established in 1976, the museum occupies three buildings of the 18th century at once in the heart of the historical part of the city. The exhibition presents the creations of outstanding Catalan masters, including: Ramon Carrete, Luis Saumelsa, Salvador Martarell and Josep Sancho. A special place is given to photographs and installations that have won thematic competitions.
In addition to painting, sculpture and graphic arts, the museums display a collection of ceramics from the 12th-18th centuries, jewelry, interior items and handmade tapestries.
The museum, founded in 1848, occupies an old building on Royal Square. It presents artifacts found during excavations of the ancient city of Tarakko and its environs. These are weapons, jewelry, coins, fragments of buildings, sculptures, household and religious items. Of particular interest is the skillful mosaic depicting the head of the Gorgon Medusa and the frescoes of ancient temples.
House Museum of Castellarnau
This old Gothic mansion was built in the 15th century. Three centuries later, it was acquired by the aristocrat Carlos de Castellarnau. He rebuilt the building, adding baroque elements to it. The result is an architectural fusion that deserves attention.
The interior decoration is an example of luxury and elegance. Handmade furniture, a collection of Chinese porcelain, paintings by eminent masters, panels, tapestries and cute antique knick-knacks are impressive.
There is a legend that the ghost of the insane daughter of the owner roams the house. She plays the harpsichord or screams in the corridors.
Architectural landmarks and monuments
Monument to Kateleros
In Catalonia, there is a tradition — on the days of national holidays to build pyramids of people. The living structure, wide at the base, gradually narrows towards the top, and its top is crowned by a man of small weight with a raised hand.
The Castelleros monument of 259 full-length human figures is dedicated to this ancient fun. It is believed that a long time ago castells was an element of folklore dance, then it was transformed into the idea of national unity, which shows the unity of the inhabitants of this region.
Arena Tarraco Plaza
The massive building with arches and high windows was built in 1888 by the architect Ramon S. Ricoma in the very center of Tarragona. Bullfights were held here: matadors in colorful costumes staged exciting shows with a sad ending for the bulls.
The diameter of the arena is 55 m. At the same time, 17 thousand spectators could attend Tarraco Palace. In 2008, the building underwent a large-scale renovation, during which it acquired a large sliding dome. Today, concerts, festivals, competitions and other events are held in the arena, but bullfighting has been banned in Catalonia for 7 years.
El Serallo area
A small fishing village in the past, and now a popular tourist area, is distinguished by its beauty and original architecture. Small houses with wrought-iron balconies and arches closely adjoin each other, and shady stone streets have the charm of bygone times. Yachts and boats of all sizes are moored in the port — a real vanity fair for respectable gentlemen.
In the evening, family taverns and restaurants offering local cuisine begin to work here. Dinner and a walk along the beautiful promenade is a great end to the day.
“Balcony of the Mediterranean”
The observation deck with a poetic name is located in the city center and is well-deservedly popular with tourists. The Balcony, 23 meters high, offers a panoramic view of the coast, terracotta roofs of houses and the Roman amphitheater. Under the balcony there is a flower bed with colorful flowers in the shape of the city’s coat of arms.
The structure is surrounded by a cast-iron fence designed by architect Ramon S. Ricoma. There is a belief that if you rub yourself against a fence, then good luck will always accompany a person.
The resort’s main pedestrian street starts at Piazza Imperial Tarraco and stretches across the city to the Balcony of the Mediterranean. The promenade is about 1 km long and about 45 m wide.
You should not miss the opportunity to walk through the historical center, past the centuries-old sights and monuments. The walk promises to be exciting, and the photos are interesting.
The building was built in 1915 according to the project of a talented native of Tarragona, Jusepe de Barber. The market has the shape of a rectangle 75x35 meters, and its four identical facades are oriented to the cardinal points. Above all the entrances hangs the coat of arms of the city. The outer walls are painted by the artist Carles Arola. He depicted the scenes of the holidays and the trading everyday life of the market.