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Tips for a day trip to Tarragona from Barcelona?

After doing a little research, I'm kind of surprised that Tarragona doesn't show up in Rick's Barcelona book. It looks beautiful with terrific Roman ruins and ocean views, and an easy train ride from Barcelona! For our upcoming trip to Barcelona in November/December I was looking into spending a day or half a day in Tarragona.
If anyone who has been there can recommend a good place for lunch, if we need to make any special considerations (overly busy weekends, train schedules, etc), or if there is a not to be missed sight besides the aforementioned ruins.
Would 5 hours be enough to get a relaxed exploration of Tarragona, just a little taste of the town?
Thanks in advance!

Posted by
1524 posts

Claire - You can make a full day in Tarragona. Leave Barcelona early in the morning and take an evening train back. In Tarragona, explore the Amphitheater, Intact Aqueduct, Cathedral, El Poblet Monastery, Mediterranean Balcony and Praetorium Tower.

These restaurants are very good in Tarragona:

https://www.restaurantlacaleta.es/

And

Txantxangorri

Mediterranean, European, Spanish

Placa de la Font, 16, 43003 Tarragona, Spain
+34 977 23 00 62

Posted by
2267 posts

Hello! You know, it's sometimes a good thing a place is not covered by a RS guide, it means you may be on to something lol! Tarragona is one such place, as a local of Barcelona and Roman history buff, I made many trips down there over the years, it makes for a great day trip from Barcelona :)

Here would be some of my tips for Tarragona:

For lunch:

  • Option 1 - La Cúpula de Garraf: this is located about halfway between Barcelona and Tarragona, at the small beach community of Garraf, it's one of the stops on the train line. It has incredible views of the Mediterranean as it's perched atop a cliff directly overlooking the water. For here make sure to order Fideuà, which is like a Paella, but with short noddles instead of rice.

  • Option 2 - El Llagut: this one is located in the centre of Tarragona, on a square across from the Roman Museum. Very nice place with great local seafood, try the arroz caldoso con bogavante which is a rice dish made with a fumet of lobster, so that it tastes like the sea, it's so good!

Sights + Experiences:

  • Vermuteria crawl - Vermouth (Vermut), a wine-based blended drink, is the traditional drink of the southern Catalonia area. Especially in Tarragona, one can find many local Vermuterias, and hop from one to the other, doing a bit of a tasting tour. There is even a Vermouth museum in Tarragona.

  • Pont del Diable - About 2 miles west of Tarragona is a totally intact Roman Aqueduct that is worth a look too. You can actually walk over it like a bridge (if you dare). The surrounding forested area is great for some casual hiking too. Not sure how to get there without a car.

  • Museu Nacional Arqueològic (MNAT) - don't miss this great museum of Roman artifacts in Tarragona, showcasing various unique treasures from antiquity.

  • Tarragona Cathedral - In the centre of the twisting medieval old town of Tarragona. It's had a long and rich history as first a Roman Temple, then Moorish Mosque, and finally Catholic Cathedral. The interior is textbook Gothic, with a nice cloister one can visit. Apparently one can walk on the roof too, with stunning views of Tarragona, though I have not done this myself.

Honestly if I wanted to see most of what Tarragona has to offer, I would give her more than 5 hrs, probably more around 8 hrs and spend the whole day there.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you so much! We are going to Tarragona for a day in February, and this is so very helpful!

Posted by
14404 posts

I went in February too. Sit on the sea side of the train for some lovely views. I was frankly disappointed by the Roman ruins. The amphitheater looked quite small, not worth entering if you've been to any others. There was another "Roman" sight just above that, it was mostly medieval, interesting/enjoyable but not ancient Roman. The historic center was fun to walk through and the cathedral's cloisters are beautiful. I didn't see any restaurants in the center, so I ended up on the Rambla where I had my first vermut. Was it good? I wasn't sure so I ordered a second one :-)

Posted by
315 posts

The aqueduct can be reached by walking along the river, under a overpass and through a homestead. Not the a beautiful walk. Take a Taxi. Very safe to walk upon the top.

The cathedral is beautiful. Very few visitors. The organist was practicing while we were there. Unlike Barcelona you will be able to walk through the Market.

Check open times for the ruins. I was a bit disappointed to not go within the ruins. They are closed on election day. We walked the sites and had lunch at the pier. There was a site open in the old town with a model of the roman city. It is amazing to imagine the current town built upon the old city.

The Roadalie train ride against the sea is beautiful.

Posted by
1657 posts

I have spent several days in Tarragona, including attending semana santa processions and a national orchestra performance in the cathedral. When I win the lottery, I will want an apartment in one of the buildings above the medieval tunnels beside the theater ruins where the Roman circus was located (and which was used during the Franco putsch to hide republicans).
Those apartments face the beach on one side and the restored old square on the other. The beach has not been discovered by hawkers or advertisers.

I hesitate to give away some of the secrets, but consider this restaurant that serves modern cuisine in a setting marked by 14th century architecture:
http://restaurantarcs.com/en/

Walk the walls. Everywhere mentioned above will be enriched if you have a tourguide.

Some example enrichments: •The Catholic saint Peter Claber (Pere Claver i Corberó in catalan) was born in Catalunya and had a Jesuit education in Tarragona, and went on to become the patron saint of slaves and of Columbia (the country).
•Tradition holds that St. Paul and St. Thecla established the Church in Tarragona in the year 60, and today there are plenty of restoration projects ongoing at early Christian burial sites (most are not in the old town, though, but over near the port)
•The movement of materiel and information during the Franco coup through Tarragona was entwined with not just European politics but worldwide maneuvering in the great game going on between the colonial powers and the various 'East'ern powers as well.

Posted by
4524 posts

I also liked Tarragona and its Ancient Roman ruins and Medieval walls. A better day trip than some of those commonly suggested here IMO. The museum is excellent if you like such things and Ancient Rome. Tarragona was the first major Roman settlement in Hispania. Did not see the aqueduct, but a taxi ride out might be worth it.