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How about traveling from Barcelona to Tarragona and Back to the Roman Times? Let’s have a look at the impressive historical sites of Tarragona, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire!

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A day trip to Tarragona from Barcelona

Visiting Tarragona

Alongside Montserrat, Tarragona is one of the most emblematic day trips from the Spanish artsy capital of Barcelona. It´s a great place to time-travel back to Roman times. The city is known for some of the most impressive Roman ruins in Spain. However, the biggest advantage of Tarragona is its accessibility. You have numerous travel options to get to Tarragona from Barcelona (100km). Moreover, Tarragona can be also reached from Castellon (180 km), or even Valencia (250km).

How to get from Barcelona to Tarragona

The easiest way to get from Barcelona to Tarragona is to rent a car. Tarragona is located more or less 100 km from Barcelona and 90 km from Barcelona’s airport El Prat.

Also read: The Millenary Olive Trees Route in Canet lo Roig

However, you can also find a few convenient bus options from both Barcelona´s airport and Barcelona Nord Bus Station.

If you prefer traveling by train – head to Barcelona Sants Train Station and get a ticket to Tarragona. Note that there are two railway stations in Tarragona – Camp de Tarragona for high-speed train Ave and the railway station of Tarragona for all the other trains. While the railway station of Tarragona is located in the city center, Camp de Tarragona is situated 11 km from the city center. So you´ll need to take a taxi (or bus) to the city center in case you´re traveling with a high-speed Ave. Additionally, Camp de Tarragona station offers bus services to Valls, Reus, Salou, Port-Aventura, and Cambrils. Check the schedules here.

What to see in Tarragona

Founded before the 5th century BC, The Roman town of Tarraco (modern Tarragona) was one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire. With all the ancient walls and defensive towers – exploring the streets of Tarragona feels like time-traveling back to the Roman Times. Especially, if you visit on a day trip from Barcelona to Tarragona ( preferably in the offseason) – you feel yourself like such an explorer compared to the crowded streets of the Gaudi capital.

For more landmarks near Tarragona, check out my Tarragona road trip.

As we were on the road with a little baby – skipping the museums and just enjoying a walk through the old town and its ancient walls seemed like the best plan. Here are the main stops on our Tarragona sightseeing route.

Top places to visit in Tarragona

1. El Balcó del Mediterrani / The Roman Amphitheatre

Once you arrive from Barcelona to Tarragona, almost everyone starts the sightseeing program at the Balcó del Mediterrani viewpoint (we left our car in one of the local parkings nearby). Here, you get the most amazing coastline panorama of Playa del Miracle and stunning views of The Roman Amphitheatre, where Gladiator contests and public executions took place. Built in the II century, it accommodated around 15 000 people.

El Balcó del Mediterrani in Tarragona
The Roman Amphitheatre in Tarragona

2. The Roman Circus

300m long and 100m wide, The Roman Circus of Tarragona was used for numerous events, for instance, chariot races. It accommodated around 30 000 people.

The Roman Circus in Tarragona
Torre de les Monges in Tarragona
Torre de les Monges, XIII – XV century

3. Petrori Tower

Petrori Tower is another place, where you could enjoy some wonderful views of the Mediterranean coast.

views from Petrori Tower in Tarragona, Spain

4. The Old City

The Old City of Tarragona is a curious combination of ancient walls, stone, arches, fountains that blend together with modern terraces and local shops. After entering the city walls via Plaça del Rei we went all the way towards the Tarragona Cathedral, but it was quite spontaneous. The Old City of Tarragona is way too small to get lost and sometimes I really love not having a route and just “going with a flow“.

Also read: 10 secret villages in Spain you´ve never heard of

The ancient squares were full of people having drinks and tapas in the sun. Consider having lunch in one of the local terraces only if you have time – the service was so slow, I felt like that lunch would have transformed into an early dinner! But still, this switch from a busy Barcelona to a more-local Tarragona felt great.

Tarragona old city
exploring the old city walls of Tarragona
the fountains of Tarragona old city

5. The Cathedral of Santa Tecla

Built during the XII-XIV centuries, The Cathedral of Santa Tecla is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles. Previously, on its place, there was a Roman temple dedicated to Emperor Augustus, a Visigoth Cathedral, and even a Moorish mosque. While Tarragona´s cathedral is not on my list of the most beautiful cathedrals in Spain, The Cathedral of Santa Tecla still absolutely deserves a visit.

The Cathedral of Santa Tecla in Tarragona

6. Portal San Antoni

Another impressive monument from the XVIII century you can´t miss in Tarragona is Portal San Antoni.

Portal San Antoni in Tarragona

At the end of our city tour (in front of the Portal San Antoni), there was a playground for kids and another amazing balcony with some great sea views… Romans knew where to build cities, didn’t they?!

tarragona spain - beautiful views

7. Brief list of Roman Historical Sites in Tarragona

If you´re a history geek and love Roman Ruins in Spain, here´s your Tarragona Checklist:

  • The Roman Amphitheatre ( where Gladiator contests and public executions took place; was built in the II century and accommodated around 15 000 people)
  • The Roman Circus (300m/100m wide, it was used for numerous events, like chariot races, and accommodated around 30 000 people)
  • Pretorio ( the only remaining palatium in Spain built around I A.C; currently house Tarragona History Museum)
  • St. Anthony Gateway or Portal San Antoni in Spanish (a monumental gate on the wall of Tarragona)
  • Arch of Bera (built on the Via Augusta to pay tribute to the Roman emperor Augustus)
  • The Ferreras Aqueduct (located 4 km north of the city)
  • Tower of the Scipios (a funerary monument of Tarragona)

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For more Barcelona day trips check my Pinterest board Barcelona & Catalonia. If you want more Spain travel tips and ideas don´t miss Travel to Spain board.

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This post is linked up with The Weekly Postcard and Feet Do Travel