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Vila Closa Altafulla

Getaway to Altafulla: Living history

Visit remains dating from the Roman and Medieval periods, and explore the mouth of the River Gaià

Written by
Xavier Amat

In Altafulla, an iconic town in a privileged location on the Costa Daurada, you can enjoy all the calm and beauty of a coastal resort with an important artistic and cultural heritage that still conserves many remains bearing witness to its past: its historical centre, known as the Vila Closa, Els Munts Roman Villa, the seafront promenade... The town also offers a wealth of entertainment and sporting and cultural events all year round.

Afternoon day 1: A visit to the Vila Closa

Afternoon day 1: A visit to the Vila Closa

The Vila Closa is the town’s walled medieval historical centre, though most of the houses you'll find here date from the 18th century. It was declared a historical-artistic ensemble of national cultural interest by the Generalitat government in 1998.

The Plaça del Pou is one of the iconic sites in the Vila Closa. Dominated by the porticoed town hall building, it dates from the early 19th century and is surrounded by a number of noble mansion houses that make up a harmonic and balanced ensemble. Opposite the town hall is the monument to the human castles which was sculpted by the local artist Martí Royo. The ensemble made up of the castle, the Church of Sant Martí and the rectory ennobles one of the squares with the best acoustics in Catalonia, which has played host to the many music and poetry performances held on summer nights, such as the town’s Voices Festival and Concert Cycle.

The town’s barns and threshing houses and its dry-stone huts were built for agricultural and fish-farming purposes. Many of these buildings are expressions of the heritage of an agricultural past that has now largely disappeared. Nowadays, most of them have been converted into municipal buildings or are the headquarters of the town’s cultural, social and sporting associations, such as the Mostra d’Altafulla and the Era del Senyor, which offer insights into the town’s rural past.

Day 2: Where the River Gaià meets the sea

This second day of your visit will prove especially enjoyable for nature lovers and fans of beaches and castles (of brick and mortar, not the human towers). We recommend that you head for the beach and start walking south, toward Tarragona. You’ll soon come across the mouth of the Gaià River. The waters in the final stretch of the river flow by very calmly and are home to a large variety of water birds. On the horizon you can make out the Castle of Tamarit, a private building used for hosting celebrations and festivals, but very photogenic nonetheless. But before going there, you might like to call in at Hort de la Sínia, an organic farm that's devoted to raising awareness about organic farming, aromatic and medicinal plants, renewable energy, and healthier lifestyles. You can explore this farm and, if you like, sign up for one of the activities that they organise.

At lunchtime you’ll find plenty of restaurants serving good seafood, and later you may feel like following the Castles of Baix Gaià route, to explore the region’s legacy that dates from the 10th century onwards. At that time, the River Gaià was the border between the county of Barcelona and El Andalus, and this territory is therefore dotted with castles like Altafulla, El Catllar, Nou de Gaià, Montornès, Montoliu, Vespella, Ferran and Tamarit. The route calls in at all of these castles, following the river and the GR-92 long-distance footpath and can be done on foot or by mountain bike.
Day 3: The neighbourhood of Les Botigues and Els Munts Roman Villa

Day 3: The neighbourhood of Les Botigues and Els Munts Roman Villa

Begin the last day of your visit to the region in the neighbourhood of Les Botigues. During the 18th century, small storehouses began to be built on the seashore and were used by fishermen to keep their tools in and by merchants to store goods before they were shipped to the colonies. The neighbourhood of Les Botigues was consolidated in this location in the 20th century, when those old storehouses were transformed into houses and used as summer residences.

Your next stop is a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Els Munts Roman Villa. A large number of villas were built around the great Roman city of Tàrraco and were used for both agricultural and leisure activities. One of these is the Roman Villa of Els Munts, which is located very near the beach of Altafulla and dates back to the 1st century when it was home to Valerius Avitus Caius, an important administrator in Tàrraco, and his wife, Faustina. Many years later, in the mid-20th century, the site was taken over by the Tarragona Archaeological Museum (MNAT) and excavations began. The villa is open every day except Monday all year round, but on certain dates (Jun 27, Jul 11 & 25, August 8 & 22, Sep 5) you can take part in a special guided tour in the company of Caius and Agustina, who will personally show you around the villa where they once lived.

Cultural venues

  • Attractions

This Roman villa is located in Altafulla, 12km from Tarragona, and is one of the most important Hispanic complexes of its type. An important residential town, with rich decorative elements, it demonstrates what the residences of high-level administrators in Tàrraco were like.    

Castell dels Montserrat d'Altafulla
  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites

Records of the castle can be dated back to 1059. It belonged to the Requesens family from the beginning of the 14th century to 1472, when it was acquired by Francesc de Montserrat, the first Marquis of Tamarit, whose descendents have maintained the property until now. In its current state, the building dates mostly from the 17th century and is in magnificent condition. It is a private residence and is not open to visitors.


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