When people ask where I went on holiday and I tell them Tarragona they all give the same ‘never-heard-of-it’ shrug, and I’d never heard of it either until I found it on the LuckyTrip app.
It’s a town of two very separate halves; the beautiful Old Town, where I ended up staying, and a much less attractive port area which I avoided as much as possible. It’s fairly small, particularly the prettier part of town, so getting around on foot is really easy. There are also plenty of Airbnb’s in the area, so for a couple of twenty-somethings, who spend the majority of our salaries on rent, it made for a perfect holiday within our budget.
All I really wanted from my holiday was somewhere to laze on a beach, spend lots of time outside in the sun, and see some nice things. And Tarragon didn’t disappoint. Here’s my list of the best things to do in this little Spanish city.
1 - See Roman stuff.
Tarragona is full of old Roman ruins. When I was researching it before we got there, the main one that was referenced online was an amphitheater which overlooks the sea.
We went to visit the amphitheater on our second day in the city, and it is really cool. Not only because of the amphitheater itself, but because there are another two churches which were later built into the center of it/over the top of it and parts of those have also been preserved. Those restoring it have done a great job at physically showing the layers of history and the many ways the space has been used, and I loved being able to walk around it.
It soon became clear that there was a lot more Roman stuff across the city. We wandered into a part of the Roman Circus (where chariot races used to take place), and what we thought was going to be a small restored area turned out to be connected to thousand-year-old tunnels under the city which we could wander down and explore.
These places are easy to stumble across all over Tarragona and were also free to enter and explore. (Sometimes it looked like we were going to have to pay but we were waved away by friendly guards and told it was free.) It’s a city where every other street has something remarkably old that has been surrounded by different generations of new, and the Old Town, in particular, has that charming falling-into-disrepair feel that only works in hot cities near the sea.
2 - The Beach
The sea, the sea, the sea—It was my main reason for wanting to go on holiday this summer, and Tarragona has some beautiful beaches. There is one right in town (Platja del Miracle), but we only walked along that one; it’s quite small and overcrowded and also has the train tracks running right behind it. Instead, we walked to a beach a little further away (15-20 minute walk), called Platja de L’arrabassada. The beach was busy but big enough for people to spread out, and the sea was the perfect blue—clear enough to see the fish swimming around us.
There are a few bars along the beach as well as a place to hire pedal boats (with slides!), kayaks, and paddle boards relatively cheaply—paddle boards were 12 euros an hour and the boats, which were big enough for four, were 20 euros. The sand was clean and soft, perfect for lying around between swims and reading (although I was reading A Little Life so I had to hide my tears behind my sunglasses a few times), and it was so warm that we often stayed on the beach until the sun disappeared behind the hills.
3 - Have dinner or drinks in Placa de la Font.
There are plenty of nice places in the old part of town for dinner or drinks, but the place we found ourselves going back to was a square near the Roman Circus called Placa de la Font. The square was lined with different bars and restaurants and we ended up there at some point almost every day. There was a bar with the perfect offer—two Aperol Spritzes, crisps, and olives for nine euros, while there were plenty of others offering cheap beer, wine, and tapas.
It was great sitting outside at one of the restaurants late into the evening as the square got continually livelier; kids ran around playing; sophisticated looking people drank wine, deep in conversation, and locals returned home to the flats rising up around the square; looked out over their balconies or shouted down to friends at the bar below.
4 - Walk along the coast to Tamarit.
I actually got this idea from the LuckyTrip app, and I’m so glad I did. The walk started off along our usual beach, then took us round a rocky headland close to a creepy looking deserted building.
We speculated wildly about what this was, and what it used to be while we walked past, and it turns out one of our theories was correct. The complex was once a sanatorium, dating back to 1929 and there is a main building, chapel, streets, plazas, and a fountain all fenced off and abandoned. Apparently, the building was later a home for orphaned children, but closed down in the 1970s and has been abandoned ever since….
Anyway, the rest of the walk took us past loads of beautiful beaches (some of which were tiny while another was ridiculously long!) a forest overlooking the sea, and finally, Castelle deTamarit, which is a castle built right on the beach.
It was a long walk and took us most of the day including a stop for a beer on the beach, but it was by far my favorite part of the holiday.
So if you’re looking for somewhere with the perfect combination of relaxation, outdoor activities, and history, then look no further than Tarragona.