Tarragona is the main city on the Costa Dorada and capital of the province which bears its name. This pleasant town boasts ancient ruins, fine beaches and some excellent museums. Tarragona's city centre can be divided into three main areas. The historic Old Town, Parte Alta, is situated within the city walls and is dominated by the cathedral. To the west is the busy New Town with the tree-lined Rambla Nova running through its centre, and lastly there is the marina and port area which is home to many bars, clubs and restaurants.
Tarragona was one of the most important towns in Spain during Roman times. The city has some significant Roman remains, most notably the amphitheatre near the seafront. This oval-shaped arena could accommodate around 14,000 spectators who would come to watch executions and gladiatorial contests. The church of Santa Maria del Miracle was built on the site during the sixth century. Close to the amphitheatre is the Romanitat Museum which incorporates the remains of the Roman Circus, as well as the Pretori (Governor's House), believed to be the birthplace of Pontius Pilate.
Linked to the Pretori is a modern building which houses the Archaeological Museum. This contains a collection of Roman artifacts including pottery, sculptures, tools and ceramics. The museumâ€™s highlight is the well-preserved mosaic of the Medusa's head which has become a symbol of the city. Tarragona's cathedral was built in the 12th century on the site of a former Roman temple. It is notable for its impressive Gothic rose window and intricately carved altarpiece from the 15th century. The huge walls that surround the old town originally date back to pre-Roman times but have been significantly added to and improved over the centuries.
At the end of the Rambla Nova is the lookout point known as the Balco del Mediterrani, from which there are superb views out to sea. The Rambla Nova is the city's main shopping street with big-name Spanish chain stores situated here. There are also fountains, statues and monuments, including one dedicated to a local hero, Roger de Lluria, and another paying homage the Castellers (or human castles) for which the region is known. Beneath the Balco del Mediterrani is the main city beach, Platja del Miracle. There are two further beaches to the north-west, Arrabasada and Llarga, the latter being regarded as one of the best on this coast.
Tarragona has a variety of bars and restaurants depending on where you are in the city. Around the Placa del Font in the Old Town are tapas bars, pizzerias and smart restaurants, while the Rambla Nova has numerous cafes serving coffee and cakes. For seafood restaurants the best places are the port area or the Platja Llarga beach outside the city. If you are looking for nightlife, the bars and clubs around the marina are usually very popular, especially with a younger crowd.
Tarragona hosts several good markets throughout the week, including a bric-a-brac and antiques market on Sundays by the cathedral, and an indoor flea market every Tuesday and Thursday at Placa Corsini in the Old Town.