Darlene Foster's Blog

Tarragona, a City of Living History

Posted on: June 10, 2019

I love history and can never get enough of it. Visiting sights and structures from long ago makes it all seem so much more real to me. On a recent visit to Tarragona in Catalonia, Spain, much to my delight, I was immersed in it.

The entire city of Tarragona was deemed a World Heritage Site in 2000. And I can see why. Roman ruins are everywhere and appear naturally amongst more modern apartment blocks, restaurants, coffee shops and commercial buildings. It is fitting as, after all, they were there first.

Amphitheatres always intrigue me and the one in Tarragona, built in the time of Augustus, is quite intact and overlooks the Mediterranean sea. Imagine watching a play there. It is still used for reenactments of gladiator fights, plays and even weddings.

Imagine having lunch with a view of the sea and the amphitheatre!

Not far from the amphitheatre are the remains of the Roman Circus built in the first century which was used for horse and chariot races. It doesn’t take much to imagine the excitement of such an event.

A museum inside the Roman Circus held interesting artefacts

The old indoor market, Mercat Central, still sells fresh fish, meat, fruits and vegetables and was worth a visit. I bought some lovely tea to bring home.

Coming across the Forum, the remains of a Roman street and basilica, in a residential area, was incredible. It was as if timelines had blurred together. And I had the place almost to myself!

This would have been part of someone’s home two thousand years ago. I touched the walls and my Roman heart sang.
The base of a sculpture

Tarragona is famous for its Concurs de Castells where people called Castellers in matching outfits and sashes, compete for building the tallest human pyramid. This exciting and well-attended event is held every other October at Plaza de Toros, the former bull ring. (Bullfighting is outlawed in Catalonia.) I found posters for the event and in the middle of the Rambla Nova, the city’s main business street, is a bronze sculpture commemorating the .

A poster for Concurs de Castells. Look at all the people cheering them on.
Hubby contemplating climbing the tower of people.

Tarragona has wonderful buildings, fountains and statues everywhere and much to see is in walking distance.

Mosaic on the sidewalk outside the theatre

As if all this wasn’t amazing enough, we drove 4 kilometres outside the city on a quest to find a two-thousand-year-old Roman Aqueduct. We drove past the entrance three times but eventually found the parking lot. A short hike through the forest and there it stood as it has for centuries. I truly felt time stand still.

The Romans built things to last!

I touched the stones that centuries of folks before me have, and all that history ran down my arm and into my heart. I was so happy.

99 Responses to "Tarragona, a City of Living History"

Wonderful images, Darlene!

Thanks, Sue. As you can tell, I was totally enthralled by all of this.

I can see that…and see why πŸ™‚

What a fabulous place, Darlene.

It was amazing. I find the lesser known places can often be the best.

This is amazing! I’ve seen the Roman ruins in Ampurias, Costa Brava, north of Barcelona, but not the ones in Tarragone. It certainly looks beautiful and hopefully we’ll visit next time we are in the area. Thank you for sharing. One can’t help but feel touched and overwhelmed by such historical beauties.

Tarragona is not as well known as some of the other sites in Spain but it is well worth visiting. I will return as there were other things I didn’t see.

It looks absolutely amazing Darlene. No wonder you loved it so. πŸ™‚

Thanks, Marje. It was wonderful to see another part of Spain with so much history.

So many amazing things in this post. A human pyramid–I can’t believe they got it so tall.

I know. And the one at the top is often a small child! It would be amazing to see the actual event. The next one is in October 2020.

I agree with Jacqui: Amazing! Your travels certainly feed your writer’s soul, and maybe even contribute to future plot lines. And a bonus: a change of pace from the daily routine. Thanks, Darlene!

Yes. it is always good to see and do something different. This was a pleasant surprise. xo

Wow stunning…I love history also. It astounds me that way back then in roman times they really knew architecture and yes they did build things to last. Thank you for sharing this x

A person after my own heart. It is quite amazing that these things are still around!

Considering how long ago some of these structures were built, one has to be amazed at the ingenuity of the Romans.

The Romans were pretty clever people. Thanks for stopping in and commenting.

This looks a stunning place, my kind of place alongside Cartagena as a city or even Malaga or perhaps Segovia with its aqueduct etc.

We live near Cartagena and it is one of my favourite Spanish cities. Tarragona was a nice surprise for us. You would love it.

I’m with you Darlene, constantly fascinated by history, and always wanting to learn more about it. Those aqua-ducts are amazing structures. πŸ™‚

Only another history buff would understand. I was so glad we found the aqueduct as it was fascinating, especially tucked away in the forest with no one else around!

Even better still! πŸ˜‰

The history of this place is amazing, I would love to visit next time I am in Spain. The Amphitheatre by the sea just looks gorgeous, it is wonderful to see how well preserved it is. I am glad you also managed to find the magnificent aquaduct.

I would highly recommend a visit to Tarragona and area. We actually stayed in Salou, about 15 minutes away by car or bus. I was so pleased we didn’t give up and eventually found the aqueduct.

Have always wanted to see Roman ruins in Europe. Understand much has been destroyed in war in Syria and early Christian churches and sites too.

War does terrible damage to these historic sites which is such a shame. So when you find something intact, it is amazing.

Evocative memories of Tarragona: A caged bird singing on a balcony on a hot, still afternoon and the poignant sound of a lone violin drifting across the ancient stones. Lovely snapshot of the old Roman city, Darlene. Thank you. xx

Sounds like you have some great memories of Tarragona. Glad this brought them back to mind.

Wow! What a beautiful city. And your photos as always are first class.

Thanks, Anne. It was a lovely city with a lot to see and savour.

Wonderful Darlene.. fabulous tour.. hugsxx

Thanks. Pleased you enjoyed it.

Wow. Such an amazing range of sights and experiences. Love your last line, it’s just how historical places and objects catch me.

Not everyone understands it but nice to see some do. It was amazing.

Awesome city, Darlene!

Wow! Lovely place Darlene. So enjoyed reading this and seeing all your beautiful photos.

Thanks, Diane. It was a great find.

What an incredible place!

It was a great holiday. More to come.

Oh Darlene, this is wonderful! I can see why you were so enchanted. The aqueduct is amazing! I like how you put it, that it seemed as if the timelines had blurred together. The old sitting right there amidst the new. I experienced something similar in Scotland a few weeks ago. We drove to Aviemore to see the prehistoric stone circle there and there is was, smack dab in a residential neighborhood. It almost looked silly sitting there right beside 21st century homes. Nice post, Darlene. I look forward to seeing more of Tarragona.

Yes, the juxtaposition of old and new always amazes me. It is a sign that human life goes on. Without history, there would be no today.

Stunning photos, Darlene! It’s amazing how some of these structures stand the test of time ❀

I find it fascinating!! Glad you enjoyed the photos.

I love the last sentence of this post, Darlene. I also love history. Your photographs and commentary are lovely.

Thanks, Robbie. It was truly how I felt. Glad you enjoyed the post. xo

Oh wow, this looks incredible! I went to Salou two years ago and it was a toss up between Barcelona & Tarragona for a day trip; I chose the former but would love to go back some time and visit Tarragona. You have fantastic photos! 😊
Caz xx

Barcelona is pretty awesome! I have been there a few times so I chose to visit someplace I hadn’t been to before. Salou was where we stayed as well. I’ll write about some of the other day trips we took soon. Watch this space!

That view overlooking the amphitheater is stunning! I’d love to have lunch there – and maybe bring a book with me.

Imagine living in a city with an amphitheatre right downtown. I would take a book and sit there reading every day, or maybe bring a notebook and write!

[…] via Tarragona, a City of Living History […]

Wow. Great pictures. So inspiring. Makes me want to take a trip there!

Great! I was hoping it would do that. If you do, I’ll meet you there.

Oh, so beautiful. I do hope to get there someday. And like you, my favorite lunches are with the ocean ❀

Meals by the sea always taste better! You would so love it in this part of the world. πŸ˜ŽπŸ’•

Oh, don’t I know it Darlene. I’ve felt the pull for years now. Almost time for action! I’ll call you when I get there. πŸ™‚ x

You better call!!

Of course!!!!! I want the best tourguide! LOL πŸ™‚ x

I love the blending of the old with the new, so that it is right there for people to explore and enjoy. The Romans definitely built things to last! Gorgeous photos, Darlene!

Thanks, Jennie. I love that blending as well. It proves that life continues. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

Well said! Best to you, Darlene.

Love the pics!

Thanks, Kevin. A picture is worth…well, you know the rest.

The whole city looks like one endless museum! I would love to see the Castellers in action. The sculpture is stunning and I too would be tempted to climb it!

Knowing you, you would be climbing it for sure and Dave would be videoing it!! Would make a great blog post. It would be great to see them in action. One would have to plan the visit around the time the competition is on, every other October. Although, apparently they do practises you can watch too.

W O W! And truth be told, I knew nothing about this place. Thanks for sharing history with us here, Darlene, with your great photos and text.

It was a nice surprise for me as well. It is not a well-known place in Spain but certainly worth a visit. Glad you enjoyed the post!

I’m so hoping I can get to Spain sometime (never been there, how sad!) and if so, I’d LOVE to meet up with you (and Dot of course). That would be the highlight.

Of course, we would meet up. That would be great!

It would be SO great. And what’s also great is that I’m sitting here at my writing desk on a beautiful late spring morning looking out over a landscape of New England trees, conversing with you there in beautiful Spain. Love this blogosphere. xo

I know. It’s so great! We could just be in adjoining rooms. xo

[…] This is a brilliant post taking you back in history to Tarragona via Tarragona, a City of Living History […]

We loved our travels in Spain but unfortunately we didn’t see Tarragona so I thoroughly enjoyed your delightful post.

That’s what I love about blogging. You can see places through the eyes of another. Tarragona is overshadowed by Barcelona which is very near so many people miss it. But it was so worth it!

We were supposed to go to Barcelona again this fall but unfortunately had to cancel our plans. Perhaps another year but until then I’ll travel to Spain through your posts.

A couple more coming up you’ll like then. xo

Thanks for introducing me to Tarragona! It looks so charming. I’d like to take my family there and to Barcelona. Gracias, Rebecca

You and your family would just love it! I do hope you get a chance to visit one day.

What a beautiful spot to explore! My hubby and I are going to visit Spain for the first time in September. I can’t wait to go!

There are so many great places to see in Spain. You will love it.

Simply astonishing, Darlene. I could spend all day in places like that – preferably ending up with a nice paella and a couple of glasses of a nice crisp white wine. Loved the face in the wall – and you’re right, the aqueduct is amazing. As for the human pyramid, well..!

You would just love this place. We didn’t even see everything so plan to return one day.

What a beautiful city, and I love seeing how the old and modern co-exist in such harmony.. And bravo for them for banning bullfighting.

Thanks for stopping in, Dee. Perhaps someday all of Spain will have banned bullfighting. It is a beautiful city.

I think the aqueduct would be my favourite.

It was the highlight of my visit.

Love that tower of people! Amphitheatres fascinate me too. Have you ever sat in that one at Pompeii?

Not the one in Pompeii but I sat in the one in Cartagena. They are amazing!!

Fascinating. A great article. Makes me want to visit Tarragona especially the aqueduct. We enthuse about our 1,000 year old churches and buildings in the UK but the 2,000 year old aqueduct still standing is truly amazing.

There are some pretty old things in the UK as well. The Roman walls around the city of York come to mind as well as some ancient standing stones. But that aqueduct was amazing! Thanks for visiting and following my blog.

Wonderful photos. So inspiring.

Darlene, I’m always amazed at how much Roman architecture there is scattered around the Med. I’m sure that the locals are probably thinking: “Hohum another Roman ruin,” but it’s exciting for me as a traveler. And even though the Roman invaders were sometimes cruel, I think they added a good deal to most of the cultures in the area.

And BTW, you’ve unknowinly made a great addition to an incomplete visual image. Not long ago I read Noah Gordon’s book “The Winemaker” which was set in a small, Spanish Village, and the castellers played played a part in the story line. Gordon’s description of the tower was very good, but still, it’s great to see a real photo. I didn’t know it still went on. Thanks for an interesting post. ~James

The Romans certainly left their mark wherever they went. It’s great that the picture of the castellers helped give you a good visual to the story. I must make a note of the book. Tarragona was a pleasant surprise for us. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

Darlene, Noah Gordon wrote my favorite epic roadtrip/quest book of all time: “The Physician.” Living in Spain, I’m sure you’d enjoy the Winemaker.

I just looked him up. He has written a number of books. I see The Winemaker is listed as La bodega on Goodreads. Thanks.

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