Only 100 km far from Barcelona, you can visit one of the world’s most important archaeological sites from the Roman Empire: the remains of Tarraco, in the modern-day city of Tarragona.
The Romans founded Tarraco in the 2nd Century AD and it soon became the principle army base in Hispania, a major harbour in the Peninsula and the capital of Citerior Hispania. The Roman remains of Tarraco are of exceptional importance in the development of Roman urban planning and design and served as the model for provincial capitals elsewhere in the Roman world. There are remains of main buildings like the forum, the circus, the theater, the walls,… and there were also found a remarkable number of sculptures, jewelry, pottery and other utensils from the Roman Period which make an unparalleled testimony to a significant stage in the history of the Mediterranean lands in antiquity. Tarraco was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.
A few kilometres before arriving to Tarragona, you can visit the Mèdol. This is one of the quarries where the Romans took the stones to build their buildings. It is a huge hole with a spire of stone in the center which serves as an indicator of the the real depth of the quarry. It is amazingly well-preserved considering that this quarry was used more than 2000 years ago. In the city outskirts, you can also visit the Roman Aqueduct, which used to be 40km long, 26 of which are the still very well-preserved, as well as the Berà Arch. The arch stands as it used to be and it is precisely on what was one of the main roads in Hispania, the Via Augusta. It can be found 20km far from Tarragona.
The Tarragona Circus is among the best-preserved from the Western Empire. Its structure is located beneath some XIX buildings but it you can visit it and walk through its ancient vaults. But probably the most breathtaking Roman monument in Tarragona is the Theater. The circular stands are very well-preserved and it allows the visitor for an image of what it would be like to witness the gladiators fight and the executions which take place there during the II Century AD. Various remains of the Roman Forum are mingled with the current squares and streets of the city, specially the different porticos that surrounded what it used to be the political and civilian center of the city and the Roman Province.
Once visited the remains of the buildings, to get a clearer picture of what Tarraco used to be, a visit the the Archaeological Museum is highly recommended. All the findings regarding everyday life in the Roman City of Tarraco and remarkable pieces of art are exhibited in the Museum.
A one-day trip to Tarragona is like a long distance travel in time to the cradle of the western civilization. Don’t miss it!