Are you looking for things to do in Tarragona, Spain? Perhaps you’re looking for an excellent day trip from Barcelona or simply want to spend some time in a smaller city on the Catalonian coast — whatever your reason, heading to Tarragona is never a bad idea.
Many places in Catalonia tend to get overshadowed by Barcelona, but there is so much to see in this rich and historic region that it is incredibly worthwhile to venture away from the city and see what else the region has to offer. And a day trip or a few days in Tarragona is an excellent choice for this.
Boasting countless fantastic sites, a beautiful seaside location and fascinating history, there are a number of great things to do in Tarragona that can keep you occupied for a day or more. So if you’ve decided that Tarragona is a place you’d like to explore when visiting Catalonia, then you’ve come to the right place.
How Many Days in Tarragona?
Before we jump into what to do in Tarragona, let’s take the time to discuss how long you should spend in the city.
Those wondering how many days in Tarragona is ideal to see the city and do it justice will be happy to find out that you don’t need to dedicate a significant amount of time in order to really get a feel for the city. In fact, you can cover a lot of ground and see the majority of the sites if you simply opt for a Tarragona day trip.
Of course, we always advocate for spending as long as you can in any given destination and Tarragona is no different. The city is small and relatively compact and the major sites are all within easy reach of each other, making it the perfect destination to only spend a short time in.
Though the above things are true, you’re still going to get a lot more out of the city if you give yourself enough time to properly explore it. Go beyond the tourist sites and get lost, find some local restaurants, or shop for fresh ingredients in the market to cook yourself an authentic Spanish meal.
So if you’re wondering how many days in Tarragona, you are fine with just one day to see all the main sites, however, you can’t go wrong with two or three days if you want to travel slower and enjoy the way of life here.
Getting To and Around Tarragona
Now that you know how long to spend in Tarragona, let’s briefly discuss how to get to the city and how to get around once you’re there.
Tarragona is located roughly 100km (62 miles) south of Barcelona and you can reach the city in about an hour to an hour and a half if you’re going by car.
Renting a car when visiting Tarragona can be a great idea if you also want to explore a few other towns along the coast or even visit some other areas within Catalonia. We like booking through RentalCars.com because they have great deals across many major car rental companies.
If you don’t want to rent a car, Tarragona is easily reached by train, as well. There are numerous direct trains daily from Barcelona to Tarragona and the journey will take about an hour.
You can also reach Tarragona easily by direct train from Valencia in about 2.5 hours if you come from Spain’s third-largest city. You can book train tickets online in advance here.
If you don’t want to visit Tarragona independently, then there are plenty of tours to Tarragona from Barcelona. Many, such as this small-group tour or this full-day tour include stops both in Tarragona and in the lovely seaside town of Sitges.
If you’re more interested in heading solely to Tarragona, then this tour from Barcelona includes pick-up and drop-off from your hotel and will take you all around Tarragona with a qualified guide.
Once in Tarragona, you’ll find that it is incredibly easy to get around this compact city on foot. There are areas where it can be a bit hilly, however, the city centre and all of the sites are located quite close to each other and the need for public transit is virtually nonexistent.
Things to Do in Tarragona
Now that we’ve covered all of the things that you may need to know before visiting this beautiful seaside city, let’s talk about what to do in Tarragona. Follow this as a one-day itinerary if you’re planning a Tarragona day trip from Barcelona or split them into two days if you have the time to be a bit more leisurely.
Mercat de Tarragona
Begin your time in Tarragona at one the incredible Mercat de Tarragona, the city’s central market hall.
You may notice that stops such as this exist on pretty much every single one of my Spanish city guides and that is for good reason – if you want an excellent insight into the local culture and cuisine, the market is the perfect place to start.
This market hall is one of the best in the region and it is incredibly clean and modern inside. There are stalls selling everything from fresh seafood, cured meats and cheeses, olives and aperitivos, butcher’s counters, sweet stands and even sushi stands and coffee places.
Take the time to browse the stalls and see what is fresh and local. I recommend heading here early as this is when the majority of the stalls will be open. If you’re feeling up for it, you could even opt to pick up some food for a picnic or grab a pastry and a coffee for breakfast.
After enjoying the food and vibes at the market, take the time to stroll down Tarragona’s central thoroughfare – La Rambla. Not to be confused with the street of the same name in Barcelona, this Rambla is still the main artery in the city and it is very much worth wandering down.
Cutting the city down the middle, this is also where Tarragona’s main Christmas market is set up during the holiday season (which is when we visited) and the centre of the avenue is lined with many benches and trees.
There is also an interesting sculpture called the Fuente de Centenario that depicts Catalonian human tower.
Roman Wall of Tarragona
Follow La Rambla into the Old Town area to the lovely City Walls. These walls were originally constructed by the Romans in the second century BCE and you are able to walk along the base of them and admire their beauty and antiquity. The pathways at the base of the walls is referred to as the Archaeological Promenade.
You can enter the promenade at varying hours depending on the season. The price for entry is €3.30 for adults, however, there are concession prices for students, seniors etc.
If you intend to visit the majority of the archaeological sites and the noble houses, you can also purchase a combined ticket that will give you entry into everything rather than having to pay more for an individual ticket for each museum or archaeological site.
From the walls, wander into the Old Town a bit and make sure to visit the incredible Tarragona Cathedral. No visit to any Spanish city is complete without taking in its main cathedral and Tarragona is no different. This building is particularly impressive, with a beautiful spire and arched entryway that is truly breathtaking.
The history surrounding this building is fascinating. Originally a Roman temple, it then became a Visigothic church, then a Moorish mosque before becoming the Catholic cathedral it is today after the Reconquista. If you’d like to enter the cathedral, you can book a ticket online here.
After taking in the cathedral, you may be interested in visiting a few house museums in Tarragona. There are a few noble houses to visit in the Old Town that were once home to Spanish nobility.
The Casa Castellarnau Museum is located inside a home that was originally constructed in the 15th Century and today contains furnishings of it’s 18th and 19th Century inhabitants.
The Casa Canals, also located in the Old Town, is of a similar ilk and is very much worth visiting if you’re interested in this particular era of history and they both make for excellent things to do in Tarragona.
Now that you’ve had some 18th and 19th Century history to take in at the Noble Houses, it’s time to head back to Ancient Roman times and visit the Circ Romano.
This museum houses a Roman circus – a facility that was once used to hold chariot races. It is a well-curated museum that will take you by a number of interesting points of the circus.
It is also very much worth climbing to the top of the observation deck of the museums in order to gett incredible views of Tarragona — including the iconic Roman Amphitheatre — and the Mediterranean.
Meander down the hill from the Roman circus toward the sea and you won’t miss one of Tarragona’s most iconic sites — the Roman Amphitheatre. This incredible structure overlooking the Mediterranean was constructed in the 2nd Century BCE and originally held over 14,000 spectators.
You can tour the theatre today (hours will vary by season) and see everything up close. You can also get a great view of the amphitheatre from the hill above the theatre, as well, along with a great view of the sea beyond it.
If you want a guide to see all of these Roman sites in Tarragona, consider booking this guided Roman Heritage walking tour of Tarragona.
If you’re visiting Tarragona in the warmer months, you would be missing out if you didn’t hit the beach.
Whether you want to spend the day lounging on the sand or simply want to take a stroll and dip your toes on in the water before you continue onto all of the other places to visit in Tarragona, the beach is definitely an essential stop on any itinerary in the warm season.
Tarragona has many kilometres of coastline so if you’re looking for something a bit more quiet, you may need to venture a bit further from the city centre but you’re sure to find something that suits your fancy.
If you don’t want to go to the beach, wander back into the city centre and consider eating at the tavern Can Xiulet which has a fantastic (and massive) set lunch menu for €12 per person.
Puente del Diablo
If you have a car, then another fantastic place to visit on your Tarragona itinerary would have to be the Puenete del Diablo — the Devil’s Bridge — an ancient Roman aqueduct located a few kilometres outside of the Tarragona centre.
There is a small car park close to the aqueduct and then you need to walk about five minutes on a well-marked trail before reaching the aqueduct.
Constructed during the reign of Augustus and of the same antiquity as the other Roman artefacts found in the city, you can even walk across this fascinating scrutcure should you choose to visit. Entry is free.
End your day in Tarragon in the fishing district along the water of the city, El Serralló. This area is packed with waterfront cafes, beautiful murals and fantastic restauants. In fact, if you’re looking for a great place to grab a fresh seafood meal, then make sure to head to El Serralló.
I would recommend spending the beginning of your evening having a drink or a small snack at one of the waterfront cafes before heading a street or two behind the waterfront to find a restaurant to have a meal at.
There are countless great restaurants in this area. We had a great meal at El Crank, which is a bit more upmarket, but there are plenty of great options no matter what you’re after.
Have More Time?
If you have more time to spend in Tarragona, then you can certainly spread the activities listed above over two full days and spend mroe time in each place or simply go at a slower pace. This would be particularly helpful if you’re visiting in the summer and you want to spend a good amount of time on the beach.
Planning for more than a day trip to Tarragona will also give you time to explore areas of the city a bit away from the main tourist areas. While there aren’t necessarily a ton of great sites, there are fantastic restaurants only about a 10-minute walk from the Old Town.
Spending a few more days in Tarragona is also a great oppertunity to explore the surrounding area. For instance, you can head to some other seaside towns in region, such as Sitges. You could also opt to go on a day trip places like Montserrat, which isn’t located too far from Tarragona.
All in all, if you have more than a day in Tarragona then it’s all the better – there’s plenty to do to keep you occupied.
Where to Stay in Tarragona
If you’ve decided that you want to spend more than a day in Tarragona, then you’re going to need to find a great place to rest your head.
Luckily, there are plenty of places in this beautiful Catalonian coastal town that can suit all kinds of travellers and budgets. If you’re wondering where to stay in Tarragona, have a look through these suggestions:
B&B Hotel Tarragona – If you’re looking for a plush, boutique hotel that is located in the centre of Tarragona, then this is a great choice for you. They have a number of wonderful rooms available, a fantastic location, an on-site bar and include breakfast in the nightly rate. Click here to see their availability
Placa de la Font – If you’re looking for a more budget to mid-range accommodation option, then this hotel is a great choice. Located in the Old Town of Tarragona, they have a range of basic yet clean and comfortable rooms available (all ensuite), a restaurant and bar on site and even a terrace to enjoy the warm evenings on! Click here to see their availability
Apartamentos Astoria – If you’d rather have your own apartment in Tarragona than stay in a hotel, then these apartments are an excellent choice. There are numerous different options to choose from that can suit any budget in a central location. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Tarragona hotels!
There are so many things to do in Tarragona that you’re sure not to get bored. Whether you choose to visit as a day trip or as part of a longer holiday, Tarragona is an excellent city to explore on the Catalonian coast.
Are you wondering what to do in Tarragona? Have any questions about planning your visit? Let us know in the comments!