Here in Catalonia, the government did a lot of going back and forth with restrictions. For a few months we were not allowed to leave our city limits, so when that restriction was finally lifted (which only lasted a few days) the first thing I did was take a quick day trip outside of Barcelona. Although some of the restrictions were lifted, the nightly curfew remained in place, starting at 10pm. With the curfew in mind, I wanted to take a trip outside of the city but not too far away so as not to have to cut my day short to make sure I was home by 10pm. My first trip to another city since my move to Spain (thanks COVID) was a day trip to Tarragona from Barcelona.
A little about Tarragona …
Tarragona is situated on the Costa Daurada by the Mediterranean Sea. Tarragona is not only home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site – The Roman ruins of Tarraco, but also beautiful beaches, and museums. The streets are colorful and lively everywhere you turn, with beautifully painted walls, and historical monuments as well as talented street performers. Even though there were some restrictions still in place preventing museum entrance, there was so much to see by just walking around the city.
How to get to Tarragona from Barcelona
The fastest and easiest way to start your day trip to Tarragona from Barcelona is by taking the train. The trip is an hour-long ride along the East coast of Spain giving you an array of views as you leave the hustle and bustle of city life in Barcelona and pass through the small coastal towns. The first thing you see as the train pulls into the station is the beautiful Mediterranean Sea views.
You can purchase train tickets at www.trainline.com. You can print your tickets once at the train station, but you don’t have to if you have the confirmation email on your phone. The email will have a PDF format attached which includes a QR code that the attendant on the train can scan. Although the price depends on the time you choose, it is a very affordable trip. I paid €17 for a round trip, leaving at 10am and getting back into Barcelona by 8:30pm. This journey goes from Barcelona Sants station and takes you to Tarragona Estació. Once you get off the train at Tarragona Estació, Tarragona Old town is just a short 5 minute uphill walk …with a beautiful view I might add. You can also take trains leaving from Passeig de Grácia and Estació Franca.
Other options for transport are taking the bus or private car. Click here to access different options for travel in one place.
What to do in Tarragona
At the top of the hill from the train station, you find yourself on Rambla Nova. This is the main street in Tarragona. The Rambla Nova is lined with restaurants, cafes and shops. Being that we got into Tarragona just minutes after 11am this was our first stop for a snack and cold cerveza in the square… yup I said.. a nice cold beer before noon…well are you even in Spain if you wait until noon for a beer? As this is a pedestrian walkway, there are lots of outdoor seating along this street in front of the restaurants and bars. My trip was on a Sunday and so the stores weren’t open but definitely lots of bars and restaurants to enjoy being on the Rambla.
Monumento a Los Castallers (Human Tower)
A short walk down the Rambla will take you to the Monumento a Los Castallers (Human Tower). This monument is an almost life-size 219 person bronze statue commemorating a Catalan tradition in which a human tower is built by groups of people. Some popular faces in the Monumento a Los Castallers are those of Pablo Picasso, Antoni Gaudi and Joan Miró to name a few.
The Roman Circus is a former racecourse for horse-drawn chariots from Ancient Roman times. In the 12th century it was used as a prison. It is very well preserved – said to be the best preserved in the Western world. You are able to see parts of the Circus from the street, usually you can enter for a tour, however due to COVID restrictions at the time, they were not allowing patrons in. You can check opening hours and prices here.
Placa de Rei
This plaza is home to restaurants and cafes as well as the Tarragona Archeological Museum. The museum was also closed due to COVID restrictions, but it houses a collection of Roman ruins. You can check opening hours and prices here.
The Tarragona Cathedral is just atop some stairs in the old town. It’s definitely a sight to behold as you ascend the stairs and see the Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The entrance fee for the cathedral is €5. You can find more info here.
Placa del Sedassos
In this square you will find an eye-catching mural painted on a large building surrounded by bars. The mural is the work of artist Carles Arola. The people are painted with large heads, a feature seen in most Catalan festivals.
In my opinion, the Roman Amphitheater is the star of the show! It is on the slope of a hill… a hill that gives you a view of the enormous amphitheater but also a view of the breathtaking glistening Mediterranean Sea in the backdrop. Yet another site that was closed due to the restrictions, however you get a complete view from the hill. This is where the Romans would watch the fights between the gladiators and the beasts. Just alongside the greenery of the hill is a restaurant and bar. I recommend grabbing a drink and having a seat on the grass and transport back in time and imagine what it was like back in ancient times… Or just stare off into the sea… ya… That’s where I got lost!
While I love Barcelona, this day trip to Tarragona was a nice escape. Whether you live in Barcelona or just visiting, this quick day trip to Tarragona is so well worth it. Although I felt like I was able to see a lot considering the circumstances, I would definitely go back post COVID.
Have you been to Tarragona? What else should I include on my return trip – let me know in the comments.
For more day trips from Barcelona , check out my other posts here.
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