Tarragona, rightful heiress to the Tarraco Empire, is a unique city that has managed to successfully combine its Roman legacy and medieval ancestors with its genuine gems of modernist architecture. Tarragona is a city that projects itself into the future without forgetting to explain its history. Now it is up to the current generation to mark a milestone on our history with what will probably be the most important event of the city: the Mediterranean Games of 2018.
History of the city
Legend has it that the god Jupiter left his wife, the mortal Tiria, when he fell in love with Tarragona, a city that captivated him. The story tells that in the 3rd century B.C. the Romans established themselves strategically in this place.
To find out about the origins of the city one must go deep into Tarraco. This was the first stable Roman military base to be situated outside the Italian peninsula which would become the backbone of Spain. In 218 B.C. a city was rapidly built, a city that years later was to be the capital of the Hispania Citerior (Hither Spain) or Tarraconensis.
Captivated by the beauty of its beaches and the prosperity of his climate, the Romans developed the planning and the urban design of the city, examples of it are the theatre and the local forum. It is worth mentioning that this planning served as a model for the provincial capitals of the Roman Empire.
World Heritage Site
Tarragona has managed to respect and care for the legacy left by the Romans. As a result, the Roman artistic and monumental area of Tarraco that lives on today was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2000. The 14 elements that received this recognition were: the Roman Walls, the Imperial Cult Enclosure, the Provincial Forum, the Circus, the Amphitheatre, the Colonial Forum, the Roman Theatre, the Paleochristian Cemetery, The “Centcelles” Villa-Mausoleum, the Aqueduct, the Tower of the Scipios, the Médol Quarry, the “dels Munts” Villa and the Triumphal Arch of Berá.
Culture and leisure
Tarragona is a place that offers a great variety of leisure and free-time options that will certainly surprise the visitors. On the one hand, the more active visitors can enjoy the sports port, underwater park, the urban cave, the golf course and the heated swimming pools. For culture lovers there’s a theatre, an auditorium and museums. Guided tours of the city are also available for those who wish to have a more in-depth experience of the places of most interest in the city.
The city has a number of theatre shows playing on a regular basis throughout the year; they are staged in the Metropol and Tarragona Theatres in autumn, winter and spring. During the summer theatre events take place in the Theatre Auditorium Camp de Mart, in the open air and at the foot of the Roman walls.
It’s also worth mentioning the great entertainment that offers the Port Aventura theme park, located at only 10 kilometres from the city centre and welcoming thousands of visitors every day.
Another great attraction can be found in the 15 kilometres of coastline that provide easily accessible beaches, attractive coves with fine sands and crystalline waters. Comfort is guaranteed with a wide range of services and options that have resulted in an annual recognition in the form of blue flags for the urban beaches and for protecting the environment on ecological beaches.
Festivities and traditions
Every city has in its festivities the living expression of their own culture. Tarragona is a city of light and colours. Its mild weather and its Mediterranean character, the warm streets and the hospitality of its people turn this city into a great playful, festive and cultural outdoor space.
Tarragona lives intensely through the holiday with different festive cycles and events with great people’s involvement. In this respect, it is the festivities of Sant Magí and especially Santa Tecla, the patron saint of the city, the ones which stand out.
Santa Tecla is the greatest festivity par excellence. It is one of the most emblematic festivities of Catalonia that goes back to the year 1321 and that in 1996 was declared Traditional Festive of National Interest by the Generality of Catalonia, one of the most important distinctions in the country in the area of popular culture. In the year 2002 the Spanish Government declared it a Festivity of National Tourist Interest. Santa Tecla is a spectacular combination of tradition, spectacles of famous artists coming from all over and activities promoted by the rich social fabric of the city.
City of Castells [human towers]
The Castells are a Catalan tradition, originally from the Tarragona region, which has been celebrated since the 18th century and was declared Cultural and Immaterial Heritage of the Humanity by the UNESCO. Tarragona has an important role in this tradition, which is nowadays a very popular activity thanks to the presence of four groups of Castells and the importance of their actions, especially the organization of the Castells’ contest. As a result, Tarragona is known as the capital of the human tower world.
Photo: Rafael López-Monné
Tarragona’s cuisine is a reflection of its historic and cultural character: as a Mediterranean port, it owes much of its richness to the sea. Abundant fresh seafood from Catalonia’s largest traditional fishing port together with a rich agriculture give rise to a regional cuisine with a distinctive flavour and genuine personality.
Tarragona’s trademark dish is cassola de romesco, a casserole made with a rich regional nut sauce. Visitors can also taste the city’s renowned seafood paella, as well as arròs negre (rice cooked in squid ink), grilled or fried fish, rossejat (seafood rice simmered in fish stock), fideus rossejats (sautéed noodles cooked paella-style in fish stock) and a wide assortment of creative and avant-garde recipes. Moreover, many of the city’s restaurants have exceptional seaside locations, offering dinners with spectacular port views in a traditional maritime setting.
One of the most emblematic dishes, available from January to late April, is the calçotada, a dish that originated in the neighbouring city of Valls. Calçots are long, sweet spring onions, which are roasted over an open fire and eaten dipped in succulent romesco sauce.
The olive oil, the select D.O Tarragona wines, the hazelnuts and all kinds of creative and original recipes shape our gastronomic culture. A quality offer and a tourist asset which is a witness of history, tradition and creativity.
Source: Tarragona Turisme
Other interesting links:
TERRES DE L’EBRE www.terresdelebre.travel
COSTA DAURADA www.costadaurada.info