A guide to Tarragona, one of Spain’s best-preserved Roman cities

Roman city of Tarragona near our Spanish boutique hotels

Situated just an hour away from Barcelona on the gorgeous Costa Dorada is the city of Tarragona, one of the oldest cities in Spain as well as one of the country’s best-preserved Roman cities.

Its enormous Roman legacy can be admired throughout the city’s streets, with its beautiful Roman buildings charting its rise as one of the most important ports in the Roman Empire, its design paving the way for other provincial capitals of the Roman world.

When you first approach the city, you’ll see it perched high above a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean Sea – a tactic by the Romans to give it the protection it needed against potential attacks. From the city itself, the views of the water are truly incredible. The amphitheatre, facing the sea, in its perfectly preserved condition makes for a picture perfect scene of Tarragona.

Entering the old quarter from its southern entrance, you’ll find even more of the city’s Roman legacy, including remains of the Circus and ruins of the wall that helped to defend the city in centuries gone by.  The nearby Plaza del Rei is home to Tarragona’s Archeologic Museum, where you can discover many more intriguing artefacts telling the story of the city’s rich heritage.

Going from here via the Carrer de Santa Ana, you’ll reach the Forum Square, which was the former home of the Provincial Forum. This was the former location of all political and economic decision-making, though today you can admire the history from one of the square’s many restaurants and terraces. Continuing down the Carrer de la Merceria, you’ll reach the heart of the old quarter and a stone stairway leading to the city’s great cathedral, built in 1331 in a contrasting Gothic style. Other medieval buildings also line the square, and you’ll also see performances by castellers, who come together to form tall human towers.

Finish your exploration of Tarragona’s old town with a wander down the Carrer Major, where you’ll find the old town hall, which has been turned into the Historic Museum of Tarragona. From here, feel free to browse the small backstreets, filled with small art galleries with works by local artists, and discover Pallol Square, a quiet and beautiful square to relax in.

A wonderful blend of the old and new, Tarragona not only boasts an amazing Roman history, but also collides with the beaches of the Costa Dorada, lively nightlife and an excellent culinary scene. Perfect for enjoying both this historic city and the wonders of the coast is our Spanish boutique hotel Hotel Gran Claustre. Housed in an important 18th century building, the hotel lies in the centre of the medieval town of Altafulla, and has its own onsite spa and gourmet restaurant.

Image: Jorge Franganillo, available under Creative Commons

Andrew is a firm believer that travelling like a local inevitably leads to the best off-the-beaten-path finds which truly make a destination remarkably more memorable. From traditional Indian festivals in humid Hyderabad to fresh seafood pasta by the Sorrentine Peninsula, he appreciates variety when travelling. He hasn't been everywhere, but it’s on the list.