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Getaway to the Costa Daurada: From Tárraco to medieval castles

An excursion into Tarragona to discover some of the area’s rich Roman history and buildings from the Middle Ages

©Manel Granell

The Roman town Centcelles, the Devil’s Bridge, the quarry at Mèdol, the Anilla Verde route, the Francolí and Gaià rivers, and the Catllar, Montoliu and Tamarit castles, are just a few of the places to discover on this two-day visit to Tarragona and its surrounding area on the Costa Daurada.

IN COLLABORATION WITH PATRONAT DE TURISME DE TARRAGONA.

Afternoon, day 1: A unique peep into the early Christian age

Afternoon, day 1: A unique peep into the early Christian age

As soon as you arrive in the lands of Tarragona, you can immerse yourself in history, with a visit to the Vil·la Romana de Centcelles. Six kilometres from the city and run by Tarragona’s Nation Museum of Archaeology, the town has been declared a UNESCO Site of Human Heritage. We recommend you take a guided tour so as not to miss any details of its history as a unique example of the oldest preserved early Christian archaeology of the Roman world. Children will also enjoy Centcelles, where there is a range of activities available for them, including workshops and story-telling with mosaics.

The tour of the historic town makes the perfect aperitif to an evening meal in Tarragona, where you can choose between dozens of restaurants specialising in local Mediterranean cuisine, in a beautiful architectural setting.

Day 2: The Anella Verda, the rivers and the Mèdol quarry

Day 2: The Anella Verda, the rivers and the Mèdol quarry

Tarragona’s Anella Verda route stretches for 34 kilometres and takes you through its magnificent natural setting, formed by the courses of the Francolí and Gaià rivers and the coastal paths. You can walk or cycle the route, and part of it is also open to cars, with several connections for public transport along the way, so you can choose your preferred method of exploring and the time you want to spend, and enjoy the Anella as much as you like. Our recommendation is to start at the Francolí river park and go upriver to the Pont del Diable park (which is also known as the Ironmongers’ Aqueduct and is a UNESCO site). The eco history park at the Pont del Diable also organises plenty of activities, which include guided visits and games for children, and it makes a fun place to spend a morning or afternoon.

Another good place to stop on the Anella Verda route is the Mèdol quarry, which was one of several that provided the stone 2,000 years ago for the great architectural works of Tárraco. The quarry is now run by the Tarragona History Museum, free to visit, and open every day from 9am to 4pm. Its most impressive sight is a huge pit more than 20 metres deep, which gives you some idea of the original depth before the quarry was fully exploited.

The Anella Verda route is lined with towers, farm buildings, countryside and cove beaches, with surprises and something for everyone who explores it.

Day 3: The castles of Baix Gaià

Day 3: The castles of Baix Gaià

For your last day we have left the castles of the Baix Gaià walk, which will give you a taste of the heritage of the area, and which date back to the 10th century. In those days the Gaià river marked the border between the counties of Barcelona and El Andalus, and the way was lined with castles, including Altafulla, Catllar, La Nou de Gaià, Montornès, Montoliu, Vespella, Ferran and Tamarit. The walk passes through all eight of these sites, along the river and the GR-92 trail, and is suitable for walking or mountain biking. As with the Anella Verda route, you can choose to do as much of the walk as you like. Parts of it can be quite strenuous, so preparation and an awareness of the capabilities of your group are important.

If you still have time before you have to head off, it’s worth visiting Creixell, where you can see its 10th-century castle, its virgin beach, and the local plant and wildlife. The perfect place to end your visit to the Costa Daurada.

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Cultural venues

Vil·la Romana de Centcelles

Located in Constantí, just 6 kilometres from Tarragona, is an important monument in Paleochristian art. In one of the rooms you can take in the Roman world's oldest Christian-themed dome mosaic, preserved in its entirety. You can opt to take a guided tour, and they organise activities for kids. The Villa has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Can Bofill

This old house, surrounded by palm trees and located at the end of the Passeig Marítim in Torredembarra, was built at the start of the 20th century by some summer residents of the town, and it’s currently the headquarters for the management of Areas of Natural Interest of the Muntanyans.

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Roman Amphitheatre

Possibly the best known image of Tarragona is that of its amphitheatre beside the sea. Oval in shape and with the stands sculpted into the rock, it was the venue for gladiatorial combats between men and men and men and animals, as well as for public executions. A Visigoth basilica was built here in the 6th century and it was also the site of the construction of a later medieval church.

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Tarragona Cathedral, Cloister and Diocesan Museum

The Cathedral, dedicated to Santa Tecla, stands at the highest point of the city, and was consecrated in 1331. It’s worth visiting to see the cloister, an exceptional architectural and sculptural ensemble dating from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Diocesan Museum has a remarkable collection of tapestries.

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National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona

This is the oldest archaeological museum in Catalonia and an important centre for the recovery, conservation, research and dissemination of the heritage of the Roman city of Tarraco and its area of influence. On display are numerous pieces from the Roman era and the mosaics are considered to be of special value. Other sites also make up the museum, including the Roman villas of Munts and Centelles.

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Praetorian Tower and Roman Circus

A visit to two of the most important constructions that remain from the Roman period. Firstly the circus, built in the first century AD with an estimated capacity for 30,000 spectators. While a lot of it is now buried under the streets of the city, some of the original construction is still visible. It is connected by underground passageways to the Praetorian tower, which housed the stairs that allowed people to pass from the lower city to the provincial forum, and which, in the sixteenth century, became the palace of the kings of the Crown of Aragon.

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