Tarragona is situated by the Mediterranean Sea in the southern portion of Catalonia. It is the capital of the Tarragona Province and covers an area of seventy square miles. Over one hundred and fifty thousand people are contained within its city limits, and over six hundred and seventy-five thousand people are contained within the urban area around the city. This city can trace its history back to the Roman Empire, when it was the capital of the Hispania Tarraconensis Province and went by the name Tarraco. It is believed to have been originally founded by the Phoenicians and it was seated on a rock that had an elevation of over eight hundred feet above sea level. After it fell to the Romans, and became a colony, it became the capital of the province it was located within.
Today, the city contains a large port and most of its economic activity is derived from a number of chemical industries located within the city and the surrounding suburbs. But, the major economic activity of the city comes from its thriving tourist trade. This is due to a number of critical factors. The first factor that gives the city a good tourist trade is the large number of beaches it contains. These beaches are recognizable by their golden sands and deep blue waters. Many of these beaches have been awarded the Blue Flag designation for their cleanliness and amenities afforded to visitors. The coastline of Tarragona stretches for almost five miles and is known as the Costa Daurada. There are five main beaches, which are occasionally dotted by smaller beaches. Arabassada Beach is the most popular of the beaches, but during the summer months can become quite congested with young men and women. The Playa Miragla is another popular beach. Its popularity arises from the fact that its close to the city center, however and not because it contains any better amenities than the other beaches. Another attraction that draws people to the city is the ancient ruins of Tarraco. These ruins are surrounded by a wall, and visitors can pass through one of the two gates into the old city, Portal de Sant Antoni and Portal del Roser. These ruins have been named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
A prominent feature of the ancient ruins of Tarraco is the Aqueducte de les Ferreres. The Aqüeducte de les Ferreres was built by the Roman Empire as a means to transport potable drinking water into the city. In its original design, the aqueduct transported water from the Francoli River, which is only about ten miles away from Tarragona. It is believed to have been built during the rule of Augustus and has a length of one thousand feet. It contains thirty-seven arches and rises to a height of eighty-one feet. Also contained in the ancient ruins of Tarraco is the Tarragona Amphitheatre (Amfiteatre Rom). But, the city of Tarragona is also known for its cultural places of interest. One of the most popular is the Tarragona National Archaeological Museum. This museum is the oldest of its kind in Catalonia and it contains many archaeological pieces of the ancient city. Exhibits in the museum include objects used in everyday Roman life, as well as a number of mosaics. The most noteworthy of the mosaics is the Medusa mosaic that was created during the time of Augustus.
Another prominent attraction in Tarragona is Miravet Castle. Miravet Castle is situated at the top of a three hundred foot hill and is considered a fine example of military architecture. The castle’s courtyard is divided into two distinct sections, the Jussa (which was built between the ninth and eleventh centuries) and the Exhibition Sovereign (which was built in the twelfth century. The Exhibition Sovereign is over seventy-five hundred square feet and has a polygonal structure with five towers. One of the towers is named The Tower of Blood. Its name reflects a supposed incident that occurred at the tower when six Knights of the Templar were executed for refusing to pay a fine. Important parts to see include the stables, the cellar, the chapter house, the tank, the silos and the Romanesque temple. Over the years, the castle has undergone a number of additions and restorations, but its original charm was not lost because of them. The Aqualeon is an attraction that is part open air safari park and part water park. It features over six hundred animals and has shows that contain marine animals, birds of prey and reptiles. The water park section has water slides, flumes, river rapids, wave pools and even a children’s wading pool. Also located at the Aqualeon is a zoo, volleyball courts, cafes, restaurants, a nature observatory and many souvenir shops.
The Catedral of Tarragona is another popular attraction in the city. It is believed to have been begun by St. Olegarius in the fourteenth century, and is a rich combination of Arabic, Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. It consist of three sections and has three naves. In the right nave is St. Tecla chapel which was begun in the eighteenth century by Don Jose Prats. Other religious structures in the city include the church of San Pablo, convent of the Poor Clares, church of the Capuchins, convent of San Francisco, convent of the Dominicans, convent of the Carmelites, convent of the Mercederians and the monastery of Poblet. Other attractions in the city of Tarragona include El Serallo, Cyclopean Walls, Balcon de Mediterraneo, Passeig Arqueologic and Museu Necropolis.
Tarragona is also home to a number of shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels. Popular restaurants and bars in the city include Restaurant Barquet, Rover Run, Restaurant passadis sociedad limitada, Camping Torre de la Mora and l’Anap Restaurant. Popular hotels in the city include the Hotel SB Express, Hotel Nuria, Hotel AC Tarragona, Hotel Husa Imperial Tarraco, Hotel Placa La Font, Hotel Lauria and the Hotel Urbis Centre. There are also a number of hostels and inns that visitors to the city can stay.