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48-hour getaway to Tortosa

Tour ancient Tortosa, which has been embraced by Muslims, Jews and Christians throughout history

Dertosa, Turtutxa, Tortosa... Nowadays Barcelona may be a multicultural city, but in ancient times Tortosa was occupied by a host of different peoples, giving the city a character that's difficult to find anywhere else. Crossed by the River Ebro, it was shared for many centuries by three different cultures, Muslims, Christians and Jews. The beautiful views of the town from the area around the Castell de la Suda and the ancient walls that surround the historical centre make it an attractive site that is unknown to many visitors, who taken by surprise by surroundings that are so imposing yet somehow humble at the same time. After arriving in Tortosa, it's essential to have a stroll around the city's recently restored river walks, which offer superb views of the town, from the old quarter on the left bank, to the Ferreries neighbourood on the right bank of the river. You can start this walk from the Municipal Market, one of the most distinctive modernista buildings in the city, built by Joan Torras i Guardiola, who was known as known as the Catalan Eiffel, between 1884 and 1887. Fully restored inside and out, it's worthwhile taking a walk around the interior, where will see up close some of the most common garden produce, meat, fish and canned goods from the area.

Once we have made this first approach to the Ebro, we can take the path that runs alongside the river towards the old railway bridge, now known as the Pont Roig (Red Bridge), which is one of the most picturesque sections of the Via Verda (Greenway), a disused railway track transformed into a walking and cycling path, which passes through Tortosa. It has recently been restored and looks set to become, over time, a sight that is going to appear in all the postcards printed in Tortosa. The views from the bridge will help us to get a global perspective of layout of the city.

nce we have crossed the bridge and entered the neighbourhood of Ferreries, we can continue waling in the opposite direction, towards the Pont de l'Estat (Bridge of the State), which holds a special place in the imaginary universe of the city, since it replaces the bridge that was blown up by the Republican Army in April 1938. Once you've recrossed the Ebro, head for the historical centre, where we recommend that you follow a walking trail based on tapas called Sabors del Nucli Antic, designed by local businesses to promote this emerging area of town. Here, wine cellars and fusion cuisine restaurants stand next to the shops and workshops of craftspeople, designers and photographers. Good morning! Tortosa is one of the most important cities in southern Catalonia, and as well as behaving like a high class Madame, it's also got something of the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of a small regional city. So, this morning we'd like to recommend that you wake up early and you mix with the market traders while having a hot breakfast at the Municipal Market. Order a sandwich stuffed with baldana, a rice sausage that's a local speciality, and accompany it with wine drunk from a porró, the traditional spouted glass pitcher. To round of your breakfast, try some pastissets, small cakes stuffed with sweet cabell d'àngel (pumpkin jam), which will set you up for the day.

From the market, we'll head for the river and the old municipal slaughterhouse, a Modernista-style building that nowadays hosts the Museum of Tortosa. For an admission fee of 3 Euros you'll have access to an itinerary that will introduce you to the history of Tortosa and its territory, from prehistory to the end of the 20th century. There are exhibits from all these time periods from the museum's own collection, as well as pieces on loan from institutions like the Prado Museum in Madrid and the MNAC in Barcelona. You'll find everything from prehistoric flint tools and Roman funeral stellas to Andalusian ceramics and testimonies to the many floods that have affected the town.

Now that you're more familiar with the history of Tortosa, you may want to explore its streets in more depth. The town's historical centre, which is located inside the old walls, boasts iconic constructions such as the Royal Colleges, an ensemble of three buildings belong to the Dominican order located in Carrer de Sant Domènec, as well as a number of mansion houses belonging to local noble families during the Renaissance. It's a good idea to go on a guided tour to explore them all. After that, we'd like to propose lunch by the river. There are three or four establishments that offer magnificent views of the river and the Suda Castle. It's now time to venture outside the city walls to one of the busiest and most commercial avenues in   Tortosa. Avinguda de la Generalitat is one of the city's main thoroughfares and has an extensive and varied range of shops. If we walk towards the new neighbourhood of Temple, we'll reach the Teodor González municipal park, the town's most iconic green space. Its central avenue, which is lined with hundred-year-old plane trees, standing among date palms, pines and some cedar and eucalyptus trees, is a well known sight. The park is a venue for a large number of events and celebrations, including the fiesta mayor, military parades, dances and concerts. It's worth losing yourself on its footpaths and coming across hidden corners like the 14th-century wheat porch, which is the old auction block, though it's currently used to display the city's giant and animal figures that appear in parades.

In the evening we'll head for Plaça de la Immaculada, which is also known as Plaça del Paiolet, to begin our visit to Tortosa's ancient Jewish Quarter. One way of doing it is on a dramatised tour with a local guide, Pili Cugat, who plays the part of a Jewish woman of the period. With her, you'll learn all about the everyday life of Tortosa's Jewish community while exploring the maze of narrow streets and alleyways that make up the Jewish Quarter, to a background of Sephardic melodies. Once your nocturnal visit has finished, we'll complete the day in the area around Suda Castle. This impressive fortress, which dominates the city and the river, is a must-see for any visitor.

Nowadays, the castle is part of the Paradors Nacionals hotel network and is a good accommodation option when visiting the city, though it's obviously not the cheapest. On Saturday nights you'll find plenty of leisure options and atmosphere in both the old town and the more modern Eixample district. In the area around Carrer Cervantes and Plaça d'Alfons XII there are a number of restaurants specialising in tapas and small dishes that are ideal for sharing. If you're looking for a night out we should warn you that Tortosa doesn't have a really wide assortment of venues, but you could try your luck along Carrer Ramon Berenguer IV, which is the main pub zone. One place with Cuban airs stands out for its programme of live concerts and stand up performances. Sunday is a good day to visit a church, and Tortosa's Santa Maria Cathedral is open to the public from 10am to 2pm on that day. Behind its unfinished façade that mixes baroque and neoclassical styles, you'll find a gothic church made up of three naves. The visit also allows you to explore the old dependencies of the seventh-century Augustinian monastery and the eighth-century cloister. The cathedral's permanent exhibition will also help you to deepen your knowledge of Tortosa and the role that the city has played throughout history.

In the basement there's an exhibition of Roman, Visigothic and Arabic stone epigraphy and stones from the Cathedral choir. In the old refectory you'll find a tapestry depicting the Last Supper, the altarpiece of the transfiguration, which is attributed to the school of Jaume Huguet, the altarpiece of the Holy Entombment of Christ and a collection of religious clothing, paintings, sculpture, furniture and gold jewellery. In the former dormitory there is a collection of chairs, the Saint Christ from the choir, the Corpus Custody and displays of sacred relics, tapestries, chests and choir books. After our overdose of culture this morning, it's time to concentrate on more earthly matters. We'd like to suggest that you get in your car and drive towards the Ports mountain range, stopping off at Reguers. This town is within the bounds of Tortosa and located at the foot of the Ports. It's famous for its restaurants serving grilled lamb. We recommend that you stop here for lunch and to take a walk around the town, where you'll see fields of olive trees and pines, as well as people hinting for snails and collecting asparagus when they're in season.

After a relaxing lunch and a stroll, it's time to head back to Tortosa to pack your bags, take a last walk along the river and say goodbye to the city of three cultures until another occasion.

Where to eat

Los Banys

Set in a semi-basement with rough cut stone walls, this establishment occupies what was once an 8th century medieval bathhouse. And, like the cafes in the Jewish quarters of cities like Girona and Barcelona, the owners have given the place a warm and cosmopolitan atmosphere that makes it very attractive. In the evening, Basque-like pintxo tapas appear on the bar and people start to stop by for a glass of wine or beer. Some have enough with the tapas while others go for a full-blown dinner. The most popular pintxo here is the potato omelette one but the boards of Iberian cold cuts, prawns in garlic sauce and fried eggs with potatoes and ham or sobrassada are also very recommendable.

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La Tasca Bohèmia

This is one of the most iconic and recommendable culinary venues in Tortosa. With over 30 years history, this old mill was converted into a rustic and cozy restaurant in which it’s difficult to find a table without a reservation. Set in the middle of the Rastre neighbourhood, in the historical centre of Tortosa, La Tasca Bohèmia offers market and home-style cuisine, as well as some more creative dishes. It also has a generous fixed price lunch menu and is popular for tapas in the evening.

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El Parc

El Parc serves traditional cuisine with modern touches and has a menu where you’ll find good traditional rice dishes alongside sushi and tataki. One of the pleasures of eating here is that the surroundings are truly unique. It’s located in the middle of Parc Teodoro Gonzalez in Tortosa and its chillout terrace with sofas and cushions is a very pleasant place to unwind over a coffee or a drink after your meal. During the summer, its one of the most active places in town in terms of hosting concerts and outdoor activities.

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Bar Cocteleria Xapla

Located on the right bank of the Ebro River on its way through Tortosa, and with magnificent views of the castle and cathedral, Xapla has a modern design and two different indoor environments, one designed especially for diners to taste their range of culinary options, and the other reserved for cocktails, drinks, hot chocolate and churros, ice cream or even for watching a football game. Xapla always offers professional and thorough service.

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Lakinoa

Patricia Suarez is a chef who has trained with masters like Joan Roca, Sergi Arola and Martin Berasategui and who offers discreet and natural Mediterranean signature cuisine that makes use of seasonal products while offering unbeatable value for money. Lakinoa first opened in September 2005 with the intention of serving elaborate cuisine based on traditional recipes with creativity and sensitivity for the product. Now it offers cutting edge tapas and small dishes that are suitable for more informal meals.

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Ermita de Mig Camí

With fantastic views of Tortosa and its valley, this restaurant serves simple but well-cooked home-style cuisine, set price menus, combination platters and pizzas. It’s a good idea to book since it’s not a particularly big place, but it is very friendly and welcoming.

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L'Olivera

This restaurant located in the old town of Tortosa preserves its original essence, combining stone walls and wooden beams with a modern design. It has a terrace overlooking the Cathedral and the facade of the Casa Grego. They serve a selection of very tasty homemade tapas and the outstanding patatas bravas are considered to be the best in town. You’ll find all kinds of dishes here including sandwiches, homemade daily set menus, an elaborate a la carte menu and an extensive wine list. In the afternoon, you can enjoy a variety of teas, coffees and 'porres' with hot chocolate.

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Where to stay

SB Corona Tortosa

This is one of the largest hotels in the city and is well equipped both for leisure and business travel. It has an interior garden terrace with a pool that’s ideal for relaxing and sunbathing. Its restaurant specializes in rice products and local products. Although it’s located in the city centre, it’s is well connected with the major roads around Tortosa.

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Parador Castell de la Suda

Tortosa’s heritage spans more than two thousand years and this hotel is a fine example. The Parador is housed in the stunning Suda Castle, which dates from the Moorish period. From up here, you can enjoy views of the city in an environment that combines monumental beauty and the attraction of the different natural spaces that surround it. At the hotel, which is one the most comfortable in the area, you can enjoy the swimming pool, a cozy dining room with Gothic windows, comfortable rooms and great views of the final stretches of the River Ebro.

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Lo Molí de la Jòrdia

This hotel occupies a house dating from 1850, which has recently been renovated. Inside, a conserved oil mill is one of the great attractions of the house, which also has a bakery which is currently being restored. Here you’ll find an original ceramic floor, wooden decks and a stone facade. There’s also a garden area with a swimming pool and a farm which is home to a number of different animals.

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Berenguer IV

Located on a street in the city centre, Hotel Berenguer IV offers the ideal location to fully enjoy the centre of Tortosa. The hotel is one minute's walk from Plaça d’Alfons XII, the real centre of the town and, at the same distance, you’ll find Parc Teodor González and the River Ebro. The rooms are very comfortable and a breakfast buffet is served. There is also a car park that will be very useful during your stay, since free parking spaces are not easy to find in the city centre.

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Torre de Prior

The architectural ensemble of Torre de Prior occupies one hectare and consists of a 12th century defense tower defense. It’s surrounded by a series of farm buildings, and in the garden there’s a monumental plane tree and an irrigation pond that’s been converted into a swimming pool. Both the tower and the buildings have been restored and the latter are now rural lodgings with a capacity for 15 people. The house has six double rooms and one triple room with bathrooms, a living room, a kitchen, dining and leisure areas and spaces for leisure and resting.

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