Tarragona and the Costa Dorada
Tarragona, located on the Costa Dorada coast, is a destination of choice on the Catalan coast with its beaches and leisure centres, tradition and historical heritage.
Roman, medieval and modern at the same time, thanks to its oil and maritime activities, the city has become highly industrialised without losing its status as a university and seaside resort, which makes it the main economic and cultural centre of South Catalonia.
The archaeological complex of Tarraco which extends around the city, PortAventura, Spain’s largest leisure centre and the religious or civil monuments that make up the city, complete the nautical offers on its coastline.
The Cathedral dedicated to St. Thècle, built on an ancient Roman temple and a former mosque, is located in the old quarter of the city; not far from the Calle Cavallers, it transports the visitor to the medieval period.
Port of mouth encroaching on the sea, the port of Tarragona, which, together with Barcelona, has the largest fishing fleet in Catalonia, has always played an important role in the history and development of the city.
At one end of it, isolated in the extreme west of the city, between a curve of the río Francoli and the fishermen’s pier, bigger village than district, the barrio El Serrallo. In this picturesque district of fishermen, fish and crustaceans, elvers, snails, supported by five regional growths of appellation d’ origine contrôlée, are the kings of the tables.
A trip to the beaches of the Costa Dorada
From Tarragona to the Ebro Delta Natural Park in the south of the province, the Costa Dorada spreads out its marina and beautiful beaches.
Only 10 km from Tarragaone, Salou, tourist capital of the Costa Dorada and endowed with a well sheltered marina, offers a whole range of shops of souvenirs, activities related to the sea and attractive sites.
Its dry and sunny climate attracts many families to its beautiful and long beaches. A vast promenade, Passeig Jaume I, runs along the beach of Llevant, the most famous for its grandeur.
Pltaja de Ponent, Platja dels Capellans are among the 34 beaches of the municipality benefiting from a European Blue Flag. In the evening, restaurants, bars and discotheques liven up the evening evenings of this fashionable resort.
Neighbour of Salou, the very long beach of La Pineda, situated on the commune of Vila-seca, offers a festive and dynamic atmosphere through nautical and sports activities as well as an Aquatic Park with many attractions.
In the vicinity of the Ebro Delta Park, Sant Carles de la Ràpita, with an important marina and fishing port, and Ríumar, well equipped with campsites, is where the beaches surrounding Cape Tortosa are concentrated with their seaside activities and water sports.
Visits and monuments of Tarragona
Built on the heights of the city, the Cathedral of Tarragona, whose construction began at the end of the 12th century, was erected on the site of an ancient Christian basilica, which was installed on the site of a 10th century mosque that had replaced a Roman temple.
The Cathedral was built in the Gothic style of transition and Romanesque influence until the 14th century. The Cathedral, dedicated to Sainte-Thècle, the patron saint of the city, was declared a National Monument in 1905.
With its facade with a rose window and a large portal, emblematic image of Tarragona, the religious building and the works it encloses is a true museum of sacred art. A large cloister in pink stone, an alabaster altarpiece recounting the life of Sainte Thècle are the main elements.
Liturgical objects, paintings, Romanesque and Gothic sculptures, tapestries and the Pere Anton de Aragó shroud from the nearby monastery of Poblet are to be discovered in his diocesan museum.
Access: Plá de la Seu.
Opening hours: mid-June – mid-September: Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm. November to mid-March: Monday to Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm. The rest of the time Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm. Admission: 5 €. Guided tour of 1 h 30: 15 €.
THE ROMAN REMAINS OF TARRACO
The origins of Tarragona go back to the ancient Tarraco, capital of the Roman province Hispania Citerior Tarraconsis. The archaeological complex of Tarraco, which includes walls, a provincial forum, a circus, an amphitheatre, a necropolis to name but a few, has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
TARRACO PROVINCIAL FORUM
A huge monumental complex of 18 hectares, the Forum consisted of two squares surrounded by the main administrative, cultural and religious buildings of Tarraco, the capital of the Roman province of Hispania Citerior Tarraconsis.
In this vast archaeological site built in 73 under the reign of Emperor Vespasian, the Torre Pretori offers beautiful collections of objects including the Hippolyte sarcophagus, dating from the 3rd century, discovered in the Mediterranean in 1948.
Even if they were told funny stories, the vaulted tunnels connecting the Pretori to the city are always open for visits.
Access: Plaça del Rei.
Opening hours: May – September: Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a. m. to 9 p. m., until 7 p. m. the rest of the year, every Sunday until 3 p. m. Admission common to the historical museums of the city: 11,05 €.
MURELLAQ – PASEIG ARQUEOLOLOGIC
Formerly encircling the Roman Tarrago for 3500 meters, of these walls date from the 2nd century, there are only 1100 meters remaining the Paseo – Passeig Arcqueolòcic.
Reinforced by the English in 1707, these walls, which would be the oldest Roman architectural construction outside Italy, now see a pleasant promenade lined with gardens along them. A romantic and poetic evening stroll under the walls in a beautifully illuminated Passeig.
Access: Avenida Catalunya.
Visits Tuesday to Saturday from 9 am to 9 pm in summer, until 7 pm in winter and 3 pm on Sundays and holidays.
ARQUEOLOGIC MUSEU OF TARRAGONA
Created Plaça del Rei in the 19th century following the merger of the Museum of the Commission of Monuments and that of the Archaeological Society of Tarragona, the Archaeological Museum has a collection of architectural fragments, sculptures, mosaics, ceramics and marble statues of Roman emperors. In the basement of the museum also remains a fragment of a Roman wall.
Access: Plaça del Rei, 5.
Timetables June – September: Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30 am to 8:30 pm. October to May Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30 am to 6 pm. From 10 am to 2 pm every Sunday of the year. Admission: 4,50 €.
Built from 89 to 96 A. D., the Roman circus, mainly dedicated to horse racing, was to be at least impressive with its 325 metres long and 115 metres wide.
Access: Rambla Vella.
Visits: May – September: Tuesday from 9 am to 9 pm, until 3 pm The rest of the year from 9 am to 7 pm, on Sundays until 3 pm. Common entrance to museums of history of the city: 11,05 €.
ROMAN VILLA OF CENTCELLES
Situated 6km from Tarragona, this large scale funerary residence is supposed to be that of Emperor Constant 1st murdered in 350, is endowed with a circular room, a crypt and a mosaic dome testifying to the Christian faith among the Romans.
Access: Afores. Constantí by the A-27 towards Valls.
Visits: Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 1:30 pm and then from 3 p m to 6 pm, from June to September from 4 pm to 8 pm, from November to February from 3 pm to 5:30 pm, Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm. Admission: 2,50 €.
TORRE DELS ESCIPIONS
This Roman funerary tower dating from the 1st century, whose upper part received the ashes of the deceased, is located 6 kilometers from Tarragona on the RN 340 which runs along the Mediterranean towards Torredembarra. Free access.
EL PUENTE DEL DIABLE
Probably from the 1st century, Aqueduc des Forgerons – aqueduc de les Ferreres, is located in a wooded park off the N-240 road towards Valls.
Made of stone assembled without mortars, it is composed of two levels. Beautifully preserved, 27 m high and 217 m long, its construction is attributed to Auguste.
NATURAL PARK OF THE EBRE DELTA
The park’s ornithological richness, 400 bird species and some of the most important marine breeding colonies in the Mediterranean, as well as its sustainable tourism offer, have earned the Ebro Delta Natural Park the distinction of being recognized as a “European destination of excellence”.
Catalonia’s largest wetland, the park’s relief is flat, with a multitude of canals and islets, dune ridges and moors.
Surrounding the mouth of the river, the park is crossed by a few small roads leading to vast beaches. They showcase rice fields, market gardening and fruit crops as well as splendid colours that change with the seasons.
The access being restricted, observation towers, ideal for ornithologists, have been installed. You can also see the lighthouse, the Sierra de Montsià inland, the marina of the Alfacs de Sant Carles or the salt marshes of the Trinitat, a paradise for flamingos.
In the extreme south of the park, facing the coasts of Sant Carles de la Ràpita, the Trabucador isthmus extends its dune cord 4 km long and 100 to 200 m wide to the Punta de Banya, literally the Pointe de la Corne. Inside, the Bay of Alfacs is one of the largest natural harbours in Europe.
In Deltebre, the transshipper, a barge, allows you to cross the river and reach the village of Riumar, which concentrates beaches, campsites and restaurants on the cape of Tortosa, 10 km away.
Sant Carles de la Ràpita and Deltebre, the village in the heart of the park, are the two most important towns. Rural tourism, with many gîtes, is very present in the Terres de l’ Ebre, bordered by beaches.
Access: 90 km from Tarragona on the N-340 to Sant Carles de Ràpita or 15 km before this small seaside resort, turn off at the Ampola village in the direction of Deltebre by the picturesque TV-3401.
SANT CARLES DE RAPITA
Founded by the Muslims near the banks of the Ebro to control commercial and river access, the small village for which Charles III had great plans became a seaside resort for the Ebro Lands.
Well sheltered by the dune cord of the Trabucador, the port has seen over the centuries, from the frigates of Alfons the magnanimous to the Napoleonic ships, many flotillas wet in its calm waters.
It is from these quays that the Moriscos expelled from the Ebro valley left in 1610. The port of Alfacs is now one of the most dynamic fishing ports in Catalonia.
Charles III Square, 14. Open daily from 9 am to 2 pm and 3:30 pm to 6 pm.
Ecomuseum of the Ebro Delta Natural Park
The ecomuseum covers all aspects of the park’s human activities, from agriculture to rice farming, fishing, inland navigation, canals and irrigation.
Aquariums populated with fish, reptiles and amphibians characteristic of the park are also presented. Small traditional houses showcase the tools traditionally used for fishing and agricultural work. In addition, the Ecomuseum’s Information Centre advises on birdwatching routes.
Access: Carretera Dr Martí Buera, 22. Deltebre.
Museum of the Mar de l’ Ebre
Located in a building built in the second half of the 19th century by the Compagnie Royal des Canaux et de l’ Irrigation, the museum aims to highlight the maritime identity of the Ebro Lands.
Four themes are presented: geology, marine and coastal ecosystems, maritime activity and fisheries.
Access: Carrer Bisbe Aznar.
Open every day from 11 am to 2 pm and then from 4 pm to 7 pm. Admission: 2 €. From 7 to 25 years old: 1 €.
SERRA DE MONTSIA
The Serra de Montsià, included in the Plan of Natural Interest of Catalonia, rises parallel to the sea at the edge of the Ebro Delta Park.
Although the Torreta is its highest peak, the Roca Foradada offers an extraordinary view of Sant Carles de la Ràpita and the bay dels Alfacs at an altitude of more than 500 m above sea level.
Climbing between shrubs and holm oaks, dwarf palm trees and rosemary trees, you can take the Mata-rodona path starting from the Sant Carles football field.
Several hiking trails and mountain bike trails have recently been built and the Serra, despite intense human activity and forest fires, has kept its authenticity wild.
NATURE PARK ELS PORTS
A limestone mass with a steep and abrupt relief situated on the borders of the province of Tarragona, Aragon and the Valencian country, the Natural Park of the Ports, whose Mount Caro rises to 1447 metres, extends some twenty kilometres west of the Terres de l’ Ebre and the park of the delta.
Its wild character, the richness of its flora and fauna make it a very sought-after area for hikers. While numerous paths cross this massif, two main GRs, marked out and punctuated by refuges, allow an in-depth discovery. The GR 7 runs along its entire length along the southern slope, the GR 8, at the limit of Aragon, leads through the north-western part of the park.
The southern flanks of the Flagedes dels Ports area have extensive vineyards and olive groves with designations of origin:” del Vi de la Terra Alta” for wine and” l’ Oli del Baix Ebre Montsià” for olive oil.
Access: from Tortosa (15 km) via the picturesque TV-3421 to Mas de Barberans.
Ideal starting point to visit the park Els Ports, Tortosa, is a small town of 35 000 inhabitants built on the banks of the Ebro river. Famous for its agricultural work, this population has 100 different nationalities.
Conquered for a time by the Moors, who built the fortress of the Zuda or castle of Sant Joan, which dominates the city, the town was then strongly marked by the Renaissance, a period of its splendour.
The Cathedral of Santa María, whose construction, begun in 1347, lasted 412 years, and the convent of Santa Clara, one of the oldest in Tortosa, founded at the end of the 13th century, remain.
Access: 75 km southeast of Tarragona by the coastal roads N-340 or AP-7.
Tourist Office: Rambla Felip Pedrell, 3. Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 1.30 pm and then from 3.30 pm to 6.30 pm. From 11 am to 1:30 pm on Sunday, closed on Mondays.
EXCURSIONS AND WINE