The Catalan port city of Tarragona is a large shipping port which has been occupied since before the time that Romans settled (perhaps 5th Century BCE). The Azamara Quest docked at the end of a massive breakwater-pier-jetty that was well over a mile long. Taking the free shuttle bus into the center of the city (we usually walk), we passed the industrial port including mountains of coal, presumably stored there prior to shipping. It was an oddly beautiful sight. After passing the security gate of the port we traveled north along the Mediterranean before we got to the entrance to the walled city.
Between the old city and the sea are the ruins of the Roman Amphitheater. As in many other places much of the stone used in the arena was hauled away centuries ago to be used in other buildings. So much of what remains is a reconstruction. Interestingly within the amphitheater are the remains of two early Christian churches.
The old city itself has two sets of walls – the Roman originals and more recent walls built by the British. Within the old city are narrow winding alleys with old foundations and much newer structures built on top. I suspect during the peak of the Summer tourist season, these alleys are packed with visitors, but our early November visit was busy enough so that the stores were open, but cool and quiet enough to make the visit very relaxing. We did not visit the archaeological museum just inside the walls, near the amphitheater, but it gets excellent reviews.
The Tarragona Cathedral is the largest in all Catalonia. Begun in the late 12th century, the major architecture is transitional between Romanesque and Gothic, but the interior is much more mixed with stunning chapels in many style including over-the-top Baroque. Perhaps the highlight of the visit was the cloister with orange trees and fountains.
We walked past the Placa de la Font near City Hall past the old Ramblas to the new Ramblas, where we walked a few blocks. It was a nice with interesting shopping and attractive restaurants, but definitely did not compare to the Ramblas in Barcelona.
Since Tarragona was a replacement port due to congestion in Barcelona, the ship tours mainly took passengers up to Barcelona where the ship was scheduled to arrive at 7pm. And if you haven’t been to Barcelona, you should definitely take a Barcelona tour. But Tarragona is definitely worth a nice walking tour in the old city.