Tarragona’s history According to legend, the god Jupiter left his mortal wife when he fell in love with the city of Tarragona. Through history, we know that Tarragona was, more than two thousand years ago, the residence of Augustus and the capital of the Roman Empire. Tarragona, retains in its splendor a large number of monuments that UNESCO has declared a World Heritage Site in 2000. Years later, during the Middle Ages, Tarragona was an important ecclesiastical center; the Cathedral and the Jewish Quarter are samples of the religious art and noble legacy of this period. And as to its Modernist period, the city offers visitors the works of architects, as for example, Gaudi, Domenech i Muntaner and Jujol.
The Roman Tarraco Publius Cornelius Scipio , called “the African” regarded this rich piece of land a unique place to set up a camp for the conquest of Hispania in 217 BC. And it was there where the Romans, aided by the Iberian settlement of Kese, raised the walls of the future city, a city that would be the oldest outside Italy.
Tarraco soon became a strategic point to become both a communication link and a very important base for the conquest of the peninsula; a conquest that lasted over 200 years. The importance of the city was such that in 27 BC the first Roman emperor Caesar Augustus lived there for two years during his official visit to the city to supervise the campaign. The city grew, as well as its port, its trade, the passage of the invincible Roman legions along the Via Augusta, the spectacularity of the gladiatorial games, the chariot races in the circus, the worship of their gods, their wine, their people, and it was thus how the wealth of the empire was reflected in the Tarraco Romana. A whole story that today is alive thanks to having been declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its rich heritage that can be seen in Tarraco Romana, a city that contains so many secrets in the walls and stones of its streets and which will live eternally between the progress of a changing world and the wonderful and glorious history of this Iberian Roman city.
The Medieval Tarragona After the glorious Roman period, Tarragona also played an important role in the old medieval Europe, while at the same time it retained part of the urban heritage that the city received from the Romans; the city became a consolidated and powerful center of population. The Arabs occupied Tarraco in 711 until it was liberated by Ramón Berenguer III in the 1116 reconquest. A few years later the city became the Principality of Tarragona under the commandment of the Normans and thanks to a pact of allegiance controlled by the archbishop of Barcelona. The ancient Roman Pretorio’s tower served Robert Bordet as a fortress and from it the new phase of the city begin to take form. The importance of the city can be seen in the construction of the great cathedral in 1711, which occupies the top of the city and is today one of the most visited monuments, despite it doesn’t belong to the Roman Tarraco. Many centuries later, Tarragona survived both the European plague that brought down the number of people of the city, and the various military conflicts, from which the Catalan civil war in the fifteenth century is an example.
Modern Tarragona The conflicts continued between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, as for example the War of the Reapers, a conflict that pitted Catalans against French, or some time later the Succession War and the occupation of the city by King Philip V of Spain, a monarch who almost succeeded in destroying the Catalan culture, origins, and language. Also, pirate attacks were frequent and took place between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; watchtowers, such as Torre de la Mora, were indeed very helpful for defending the city against those sea robbers.
The Tarragona of nineteenth century On June 28, 1811, Tarragona was stormed by the French army and the city remained occupied for two long years; it was one of the most tragic episodes in the recent memory of this city. This memory is still alive in the monuments erected to the heroes of the war against the French army; monuments that occupy a privileged place in the Rambla Nova. But the economic and social recovery of Tarragona finally arrived, and with it the free trade with America, while all this brought along the urban expansion of the city outside those walls that were raised in 1896. New streets were projected and they now make up the main artery of trade and entertainment of the city of Tarragona, and they include the Ramblas, Calle Unión, as well as new areas, such as the so-called Parte Baja, or Marina, which over time has become the engine of an economy that is open to the sea. It was at this time when the process of saving the remains of the Roman Tarraco began, and it has served as the basis for the construction of the Archaeological Museum that is now a must-see.
The gray days of Tarragona The postwar years of the Franco regime were a very difficult time for Tarragona, as it struggled between rationing and the black market In the 50s, a new recovery stage began with the arrival of the first chemical companies in the city, an event that boosted the constructions of new quarters, such as Sant Pere i Sant Pau, Sant Salvador, Torreforta, Camp Clar, etc. Over time, the port has become both a strategic location for this new industrial city and an engine for its economy.
Today’s Tarragona Today, the industrial growth and the economic expansion that has taken place in Tarragona in recent decades coexists with leisure, culture, and especially the preservation and enhancement of its rich architectural and historical heritage. The beauty of its coastline and beaches becomes united to the rhythm of a strong economy that the port provides, and to the traditional trade that can be found in those streets on which the patricians used to walk on their way to the Roman Forum; in short, it’s a city steeped in history and culture that continues its pace through its glorious past. Culture in Tarragona All sort of cultural expressions can be found and lived to the fullest by visiting museums, going to the movies or attending a play, a concert, or any sporting events, among others. Festivals and traditions Tarragona offers visitors a variety of traditional festivals, where citizens show their most enthusiastic side during those days of community culture that can be felt and enjoyed in the streets and squares of the city. The festivities begin with the magic and charm of the Magi in January; Carnival arrives in February; April gives way to the traditional festival of Sant Jordi; in June, the night of San Juan announces the arrival of the summer solstice; in July the International Fireworks Contest of Tarragona opens its doors to the world; in August, Sant Magí, the town’s small festivity; in September, the festival of Santa Tecla. And on the first October Sunday, and in even years, the traditional competition of Castells (human towers) fills with delight the hearts of the numerous visitor who crowd the streets of the city with visitors.
Music All styles of music have a place in the city. If you want to enjoy the great classics of the best symphonic music and attend performances by singer-songwriters, you have to go to Palau de Congresos of Tarragona, or pay a visit to the Camp de Mart where the International Music Festival of Tarragona takes place. It’s also noteworthy to mention the International Dixieland Festival, as well as the Underground Festival of Blues Film and Theatre Tarragona offers a very interesting theater program at the Metropol Theatre, where all sort of plays are performed for all audiences. The Youth Theatre Festival and the International Theatre Festival are two good examples of the quality of the performances. The “Camp de Mart” also becomes an outdoor stage in both spring and summer.
Beaches The golden Mediterranean beaches and the natural beauty of the Tarragona’s natural settings, such as the wildlife reserve of Gaià, represent another attraction spot that we can find in the city. Tarragona also offers the possibility to practice all kinds of water sports. The Royal Yacht Club, has a large marina, while light-sail sports can be practiced at the Club de Vela Playa Larga. The so-called Playa de Miracles stands out of the rest of beaches and is part of the entire coastline of the city; also, the Playa de l ‘Arrabassada at 5 kilometers north of the city is ideal for practicing jogging on sand.