Where to Stay in Tarragona: A Guide to the Capital of Costa Dorada
Tarragona is a coastal city located in the south of Catalonia, on the Costa Dorada. This city, capital of the namesake province, is famous for its well-preserved historic centre (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), its art-nouveau architecture, its Roman ruins and its beaches. In this post, we will explore the best areas to stay in Tarragona, Spain.
Why you should visit Tarragona
With a historical legacy going back thousands of years, the founding of present-day Tarragona is surrounded by a halo of fable and mystery. While the most accepted theories of its origin point to an Iberian or Phoenician origin, a popular legend attributes Tarragona’s foundation to Tubal, Noah’s grandson. We know for sure that this city began to gain special importance after the arrival of the Romans to the Iberian peninsula.
The Romans called it Tarraco and made it the capital of Hispania Citerior and later of Hispania Tarraconensis, which covered a good part of the north of the Iberian Peninsula, from the Cantabrian Sea to the Mediterranean. The political and economic importance of Roman Tarraco gave us an important architectural legacy, visible to this day in attractions such as the Roman Amphitheater, the Roman Circus, the Colonial Forum or the Pont del Diable aqueduct. The National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona preserves a large part of the archaeological finds of the Roman city. See accommodation near the Archaeological Site of Tarraco.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city went into the hands of the Visigoths until the conquest of Hispania by the Muslims. Under Islamic rule, Tarrakuna became a major border city. In 1117 Tarragona returned to the hands of the Christians under the kingdom of Aragon until its merger with Castile under the Catholic Monarchs in the 15th century.
By the 19th century, and fueled by the prosperity resulting from the Industrial Revolution, the cities of Catalonia began experiencing a cultural movement known as Renaixença (Rebirth). This artistic trend, fed by the Catalan bourgeoisie, vindicated the local culture and language. This cultural renaissance, mixed with an unprecedented economic prowess, a powerful and optimistic bourgeoisie and the scientific advances of the time, created the perfect recipe for creating a new movement. Catalan modernism was born.
Some of the most prominent modernist works in Tarragona are the Metropol Theater, the Ximenis House, the Jaime I Mausoleum or the chapel of the Sant Francesc church. The central Rambla Nova and the L’Eixample district are home to most of the city’s Art Nouveau heritage. See accommodation in L’Eixample.
As if a historical legacy spanning 2,000 years wasn’t enough reason to visit it, Tarragona is also known as an important beach destination. This Catalan city has several sandy beaches and rocky coves, among the most popular are El Miracle, Platja Gorda, Savinosa and l’Arrabassada. See accommodation near Arrabassada Beach.
Lastly, Tarragona is located just 15 kilometres from PortAventura World. This amusement park, the largest in Spain, is one of the most important family destinations in the country and the most visited attraction in the province of Tarragona. The park has five themed areas (Mediterranean, Wild West, Mexico, China and Polynesia), in addition to an area inspired by Sesame Street and a second park, Ferrari Land, with attractions centred on the legendary Italian Formula 1 team. See accommodation near PortAventura World.
What’s the best time to visit Tarragona
Tarragona’s location on the Costa Dorada, in the south of Catalonia, means the city has a very warm and dry climate, with long, hot summers (19 – 30 ºC) and cool winters (4 – 15 ºC). Generally speaking, the best time to visit Tarragona is during the spring as accommodations don’t yet have their high season rates, there are fewer tourists than in the summer, and the weather is pleasant. The average daytime temperature in May is 22 °C.
The best time to visit Tarragona to go to the beach is from June to September. During the summer, the average sea temperatures are 25 °C. However, transport and accommodation costs rise considerably during July and August, coinciding with holidays in Spain and the rest of Europe.
The quietest and cheapest season to visit Tarragona is the winter. If you travel between November and February, you will find the lowest prices, but the temperatures are not high enough to go to the beach.
Getting there and around
The province of Tarragona is connected by air thanks to the Aeroport de Reus (REU). Located 15 km northwest of the city centre, this airport, the third-busiest in Catalonia, is an important hub for low-cost connections, especially for Ryanair. Reus offers several connections to many destinations in Europe and a couple of domestic destinations. For a much greater offer of flights to Spain, Europe and the world, the Barcelona-El Prat Airport is located 113 kilometres north of the city.
To get to Tarragona by train, the city has two stations. Tarragona Station, located in the city center, offers commuter connections to places such as Salou/PortAventura, Reus and Torredembarra and regional trains to Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia. Long-distance rail traffic stops at Camp de Tarragona station, 12 kilometres north of the city. Camp de Tarragona offers high-speed AVE connections to Barcelona, Zaragoza, Madrid, the south of Spain and France, as well as Intercity trains on the Mediterranean Corridor to destinations such as Castellón, Valencia, Alicante or Murcia. See train schedules, routes & fares.
The best way to move between Tarragona and the towns of the Costa Dorada is by rental car. If renting a car is not an option, Tarragona has an efficient network of urban buses, taxis and mobile applications such as Uber and Cabify.
Where to stay in Tarragona
The best area to stay in Tarragona is the Historic City Centre (Part Alta). Tarragona’s Old Town is home to the main historical and cultural attractions, the liveliest nightlife and is close to the beaches. The centre of Tarragona also has some of the best hotels in this Catalan city. See accommodation in Tarragona Old Town.
Keep on reading to find out more about the best areas to stay in Tarragona, Spain.
The Best Areas to Stay in Tarragona, Spain
1. Recommended area: Part Alta (Old Town)
Tarragona’s Old Town is home to Tarraco’s Archaeological Complex, a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
This charming area is located on top of a hill surrounded by gardens, from where you get the best views of Tarragona.
This area invites you to get lost in its labyrinth of narrow streets, full of historic buildings.
Tarragona’s Old Town still preserves a one-kilometre-long stretch of the original walls of Tarraco, one of the oldest Roman constructions outside of Italy.
Other unmissable attractions of Imperial Tarraco in this area include the Praetorium tower, the Roman Circus and the Roman Amphitheater.
In addition to its Roman heritage, Tarragona’s Old Town also hosts medieval attractions such as the Cathedral, the King’s Castle and the Medieval hospital.
The Upper Part of the historic centre of Tarragona also houses a large number of museums such as the History Museum of Tarragona, the Biblical Museum, or the Museum of Modern Art of Tarragona.
Why is this a recommended area to stay in Tarragona, Spain:
- Best area for tourists
- Central location
- Tarragona Cathedral
- Excellent restaurants
- Best views of Tarragona
- Hotels of all kinds
Accommodation in this area
- Top Choice
Located in Tarragona, 500 metres from Miracle Beach, Hostal 977 offers air-conditioned rooms and a shared lounge. It is located about 1.5 km from Arrabassada Beach and 2.4 km from La Savinosa Beach. It offers free WiFi access. The hotel has family rooms.
Plaça De La Font
Hotel Plaça De La Font is located in the old town of Tarragona, 500 metres from the sea. It offers rooms with air conditioning, TV and private bathroom.
2. Eixample de Tarragona
Eixample de Tarragona is located in the heart of the city and includes the lower part of the histocric center of Tarragona.
Separated from the Old Town by the Rambla Vella, Eixample has it all: commerce, culture and leisure within easy reach.
The Rambla Nova, Tarragona’s main promenade, is located in this area. On it, you can see several examples of modernist architecture such as the Metropol theater.
At the end of Rambla Nova is the Balcón del Mediterráneo, a viewpoint from where you can get excellent panoramic views of the amphitheater, the sea and the city.
In the Eixample, very close to the beach, is the Tarragona Station, with regional and suburban connections to Barcelona and PortAventura.
Very close to the station is the Palau Firal i de Congressos de Tarragona, the main convention and events centre in Tarragona.
The Colonial Forum of Tarraco, located next to Plaça de Ponent, shows the ruins of the original enclosure in which the administrative and commercial affairs of the Roman city were carried out.
This area of Tarragona is very well-connected by public transport and has an excellent hotel offer and several tourist apartments.
Why is this a recommended area to stay in Tarragona, Spain:
- Best area for shopping
- Best area for business travellers
- Tarragona Central Station
- Rambla Nova
3. Around Arrabassada Beach
Arrabassada Beach is located in the east of the city of Tarragona, on Passeig Rafael Casanova.
This popular fine sand beach is considered one of the best urban beaches in Tarragona. It has parking, beach bars watersports equipment rental and left luggage services.
It is a quiet area to stay in Tarragona.
Not far away lies Platja Savinosa, Tarragona’s main naturist (nude) beach.
Both areas are connected by the city’s public transport system (bus lines 8, 11, 12, 13) and offer family-run accommodation and some tourist apartments.
Why is this a recommended area to stay in Tarragona:
- Beach area
- Cheap hotels in Tarragona
- Quiet area
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