- Lifestyle & Sports
- 28 Aug 14
A tenner’s train-ride away from Barcelona, the enchanting coastal city of Tarragona has no shortage of treasures to recommend it...
Where is it?
Tarragona is a historical port city located on the northeast coast of Spain. A fascinating blend of old Roman history and new Mediterranean beach life makes it one of the most interesting spots in southern Catalonia.
How do I get there?
Ryanair has flights from Dublin to nearby Reus three times a week. From there it’s a 15-minute bus or taxi ride into Tarragona, with the former €3 and the latter costing around €25. Barcelona El Prat is also a viable option, the only added expenditure being a €10 train journey and an hour and a half of your time.
What language do they speak?
As in the majority of Catalonia there are two official languages, Spanish and Catalan. Fun fact of the day: although many people think Catalan is just a Spanish dialect, it is in fact an entirely separate language that developed from the Latin spoken by the Romans who colonised Catalonia.
What is the local beer like?
Traditionally a land of wine-drinkers, Catalonia has had a major expansion of craft beer breweries in recent years. The local Rosita Cervesa Artesanal De Tarragona deserves a special mention; a spiced beer made with honey and brewed in nearby Alcover, it’s refreshing and perfect with good food on a sunny day.
Vermouth, served on ice with a few olives, is a local speciality as, of course, is wine with Macabeo, Garnacha blanca and Pedro Ximénez (white) and Garnacha tinta, Cariñena and Tempranillo (red) the Tarragonan Denominación de Origen reds you should try. Tucked away down a quiet side-street, Bar Corjito (Rebolledo. 27) has a great selection of boutique organic wines along with superb local dishes rustled up by brothers Santos and Luis Massegosa. Formerly a brothel servicing seamen and warehouse workers, it’s open weekdays only from breakfastime until around 7pm, and is the perfect place to hang with the locals.
What’s the transport like?
Tarragona has a relatively good public bus system, running every 10 minutes in and around the city. Taxis can be quite expensive, but as a lot of the medieval old town is pedestrianised you’ll be spending most of your time walking anyways!
What’s the food like?
Being a port city, seafood is Tarragona’s specialty. For the best paella imaginable check out El Palau del Baró (Carrer de Santa Anna, 3), a low-lit, romantic spot set in an 18th century mansion. Raco de l’Abat (Carrer de L’Abat, 2) in the old town near the cathedral has a stunning menu del dia - make sure to try the homemade Vermouth! - while El Tiberi (Marti d’Ardenya, 5) normally has rabbit, quail, calamari, mussels, gazpacho, jamon and a wondrous Crema Catalana on its eat-as-much-as-you-want buffet menu.
What’s the nightlife like?
In typical European fashion, the nightlife starts late and ends late, with the majority of venues opening at 12 and calling it a night around 5. There’s a mesh of pubs and clubs along the lower boardwalk catering to all tastes and ages. Bar Toful (Arc de Sant Bernat, 4) is to be found on one of the old town’s most picturesque plazas with Bar Quattros (Plaça de la Font) another excellent city-centre bet.
Why should I go?
Simply because it really does have something for everyone. If interesting history and exquisite architecture is what you’re after, it’s got it. Alternatively if it’s Mediterranean beaches with crystal clear waters and cocktails on hand, it’s got that too.
What are the touristy things to do?
As an old Roman city there are countless historical sights to be seen. One of Tarragona’s biggest attractions is its amphitheatre situated right on the beach. Used for the persecution of Christians in 259AD, its monumental stone structure is capable of holding up to 15,000 spectators. Free in, but probably best avoided during the hottest parts of the day, because of the lack of shade. There’s an equally well-preserved Roman forum 10 minutes walk away, and a World Heritage aqueduct a few miles out of town dating back to 27BC.
If you’re heading to Tarragona in October, make it your business to attend the Tarragona Human Tower Competition. These improbable structures consist of between 75 and 100 people, with the heavier members forming the base and the lightest scaling their way to the top of the tower to form the peak. It really has to be seen to be believed. There was great excitement in June when Gimnàstic de Tarragona won their play-off final to return to the second tier of Spanish soccer for the first time in donkey’s years. Their 14,000-capacity Nou Estadi is a wonderfully atmospheric place to take in a game.
Anything to avoid?
If you’re planning on taking a day trip to Tarragona on a Monday, don’t waste your time as pretty much everything is closed. Head instead to Altafulla, a historic seaside village just 20 minutes up the coast,
which boasts one of the best beaches in Catalunya. Train times can be found at renfe.com.
What should I bring home?
Skip the standard souvenir shops in Tarragona and take a stroll down one of the sunlit cobblestone streets to the Galeria Tarraco, a beautiful medieval space filled with jewellery, paintings, ceramics and sculptures by local artisans. Between the high quality art work and the varying price range, you’ll be hard pushed to find anywhere better!
When should I go?
June and Spain are both ideal, with temperatures in the low to mid-twenties, and a wonderful lack of fellow tourists vying for beach space.
What’s my challenge?
Be open to trying new food. If someone hands you a plate of calamari-flavored churros dipped in squid ink sauce, you say “thank you” and eat it up because that stuff is good.
What’s the currency?
Good ol’ Euro, plain and simple.
Something to remember?
Make sure to fit in a few day trips to nearby Barcelona, Cambrils or the Port Aventura theme park, you won’t regret it!