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For other uses, see Tarragona (disambiguation).
View of Tarragona
View of Tarragona
Flag of Tarragona
Coat of arms of Tarragona
Coat of arms
Tarragona is located in Catalonia
Location of Tarragona within Catalonia
Tarragona is located in Spain
Location of Tarragona within Spain
Coordinates: 41°06′56.51″N 1°14′58.54″E / 41.1156972°N 1.2495944°E / 41.1156972; 1.2495944Coordinates: 41°06′56.51″N 1°14′58.54″E / 41.1156972°N 1.2495944°E / 41.1156972; 1.2495944
Country Spain
Autonomous Community Catalonia
Province Tarragona
Comarca Tarragonès
Founded 5th century BC
 • Mayor Josep Fèlix Ballesteros Casanaova (2015)[1] (PSC)
 • Total 57.9 km2 (22.4 sq mi)
Elevation(AMSL) 68 m (223 ft)
Population (2014)[1]
 • Total 132,199
 • Density 2,300/km2 (5,900/sq mi)
Postal code 43001 - 43008
Area code(s) +34 (E) + 977 (T)
Website Official website

Tarragona (English /ˌtɑrəˈɡnə/, Catalan: [tərəˈɣonə], Spanish: [taraˈɣona]; Phoenician: טַרְקוֹן, Tarqon; Latin: Tarraco) is a port city located in the north-east of Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. It is the capital of the Tarragona province, and part of the Tarragonès county and Catalonia region. Geographically, it is bordered on the north by the province of Barcelona and the province of Lleida. The city has a population of 132 199 (2014).


Inscribed marble base of the Roman Consul Tiberius Claudius Candidus, unearthed in Tarragona and now in the British Museum, 195-199 AD.
Main article: Tarraco

One Catalan legend holds that it was named for Tarraho, eldest son of Tubal in c. 2407 BC; another (derived from Strabo and Megasthenes) attributes the name to 'Tearcon the Ethiopian', a 7th-century BC pharaoh who supposedly campaigned in Spain. The real founding date of Tarragona is unknown.

The city may have begun as an Iberic town called Kesse or Kosse, named for the Iberic tribe of the region, the Cossetans, though the identification of Tarragona with Kesse is not certain.[3] Smith suggests that the city was probably founded by the Phoenicians, who called it Tarchon, which, according to Samuel Bochart, means a citadel. This name was probably derived from its situation on a high rock, between 75–90 m (250–300 ft) above the sea; whence we find it characterised as arce potens Tarraco.[4] It was seated on the river Sulcis or Tulcis (modern Francolí), on a bay of the Mare Internum (Mediterranean), between the Pyrenees and the river Iberus (modern Ebro).[5] Livy mentions a portus Tarraconis;[6] and according to Eratosthenes it had a naval station or roads (Ναύσταθμον);[7] but Artemidorus says with more probability that it had none, and scarcely even an anchoring place; and Strabo himself calls it ἀλίμενος.[8] This better reflects its present condition; for though a mole was constructed in the 15th century with the materials of the ancient amphitheatre, and another subsequently by an Englishman named John Smith, it still affords but little protection for shipping.[9]

In Roman times, the city was fortified and much enlarged as a Roman colony by the brothers Publius and Gnaeus Scipio, who converted it into a fortress and arsenal against the Carthagenians. The city was first named Colonia Iulia Urbs Triumphalis Tarraco and was capital of the province of Hispania Citerior. Subsequently it became the capital of the province named after it, Hispania Tarraconensis, in the Roman empire[10] and conventus juridicus.[11]

Augustus wintered at Tarraco after his Cantabrian campaign, and bestowed many marks of honour on the city, among which were its honorary titles of Colonia Victrix Togata and Colonia Julia Victrix Tarraconensis.

Tarraco lies on the main road along the south-eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.[12]

According to Mela it was the richest town on that coast,[13] and Strabo represents its population as equal to that of Carthago Nova (modern Cartagena).[13] Its fertile plain and sunny shores are celebrated by Martial and other poets; and its neighbourhood is described as producing good wine and flax.[14] The city also minted coins.[15]

An inscribed stone base for a now lost statue of Tiberius Claudius Candidus was found in Tarragona during the nineteenth century. The 24-line Latin inscription describes the Governor and Senator's career as an ally of the future Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus, who fought in the civil war following the assassination of Commodus in 192 AD. This important marble block was purchased by the British Museum in 1994.[16]

From the demise of the Romans to the Union of Spain[edit]

After the demise of the Western Roman Empire, it was captured firstly by Vandals, then by Visigoths. Visigothic rule of Tarracona was ended by the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 714. It was an important border city of the Caliphate of Cordoba between 750 and 1013. After the demise of the Caliphate, it was part of Taifa of Zaragoza between 1013 and 1110 and Almoravids between 1110 and 1117. It was taken by County of Barcelona in 1117. After dynastic union of Aragon and Barcelona, it was part of Kingdom of Aragon between 1164 and 1412. After dynastic union of Aragon and Castille, it was remained part of Aragon till founding Spanish Empire in 1516. During Catalan Revolt, it was captured by Catalan insurgents with French support in 1641, but it was retaken by Spanish troops in 1644. It was captured by allied Portuguese, Dutch, and British troops in 1705 during War of the Spanish Succession and remained in their hands until Peace of Utrecht in 1713. During the war, Catalans supported the unsuccessful claim of the Archduke Charles of Austria against the victorious Bourbon Duke of Anjou, became Philip V. He signed the Nueva Planta decrees, which abolished the Crown of Aragon and all remaining Catalan institutions and prohibited the administrative use of Catalan language in 16 January 1716.

Peninsular War[edit]

During the Peninsular War, In the first siege of Tarragona from 5 May to 29 June 1811, Louis Gabriel Suchet's French Army of Aragon laid siege to a Spanish garrison led by Lieutenant General Juan Senen de Contreras. A British naval squadron commanded by Admiral Edward Codrington harassed the French besiegers with cannon fire and transported large numbers of reinforcements into the city by sea. Nevertheless, Suchet's troops stormed into the defenses and killed or captured almost all the defenders. It was become subprefecture center in Bouches-de-l'Èbre department of French empire.

In the second siege of Tarragona (June 3–11, 1813), an overwhelming Anglo-Spanish force under the command of Lieutenant General John Murray, 8th Baronet failed to wrest Tarragona from a small Franco-Italian garrison led by General of Brigade Antoine Marc Augustin Bertoletti. Murray was subsequently removed from command for his indecisive and contradictory leadership. The Anglo-Spanish forces finally captured Tarragona on 19 August.

Spanish Civil War[edit]

During Spanish Civil War, Tarragona was in the hands of Republicians until captured by Nationalist troops on 15 January 1939 during the Catalonia Offensive.

Main sights[edit]

Ancient remains[edit]

Amphithéâtre of Tarragona and the Mediterranean Sea

The Roman ruins of Tarraco have been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Part of the bases of large Cyclopean walls near the Cuartel de Pilatos are thought to pre-date the Romans. The building just mentioned, a prison in the 19th century, is said to have been the palace of Augustus. The 2nd century amphitheatre, near the sea-shore, was extensively used as a quarry after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and but few vestiges of it now remain. A circus, c. 450 m long, was built over in the area now called Plaça de la Font, though portions of it are still to be traced. Throughout the town Latin, and even apparently Phoenician, inscriptions on the stones of the houses mark the material used for buildings in the town.

Two ancient monuments, at some little distance from the town, have, however, fared rather better. The first of these is the Aqüeducte de les Ferreres, which spans a valley about 4 kilometres (2 miles) north of the city. It is 217 m (712 ft) in length, and the loftiest arches, of which there are two tiers, are 26 m (85 ft) high. There is a monument about 6 km (4 mi) along the coast road east of the city, commonly called the "Tower of the Scipios"; but there is no authority for assuming that they were buried here.[17]

Other Roman buildings include:

  • The Roman walls
  • The capitol, or citadel
  • The Amphitheatre
  • The Roman circus
  • The Pretorium - Tower
  • The Forum
  • The Necropolis
  • The palace of Augustus, called the house of Pilate
  • The so-called tower, or sepulchre, of the Scipios
  • Arch of Sura, or of Bara
  • The Aurelian Way.

The city is also home to the National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona.

Religious buildings[edit]

  • The Cathedral, dating to the 12th-13th centuries, combining Romanesque and Gothic architectural elements.
  • The convent of the Poor Clares, near the walls
  • The convent of Santa Teresa
  • The church of the Capuchins, the parish church of the port
  • The former convent of Sant Francesc
  • The Jesuit college was turned into barracks, their church, however, has been restored to them
  • The convent of the Dominicans, now the town hall
  • The archiepiscopal palace, situated on the site of the ancient capitol, one tower of which still remains. It was rebuilt in the 19th century.
  • Near the sea, in the Roman amphitheatre, are the remains of a church called Santa Maria del Miracle (Holy Mary of the Miracle), which belonged to the Knights Templar. It was afterwards used by the Trinitarian Fathers, and was later converted into a penitentiary. It was demolished around 1915.[18]
Tarragona Cathedral.

The seminary of Sant Pau and Santa Tecla was founded in 1570 by the cardinal archbishop, Gaspar Cervantes de Gaeta, and was the first to comply with the decrees of the Council of Trent. In 1858 Archbishop José Domingo Costa y Borrás built a fourth wing. Benito Villamitjana built a new seminary behind the cathedral in 1886, in the courtyard of which stands the old chapel of Sant Pau. Pope Leo XIII raised this to the rank of a pontifical university.

50 km (31.07 mi) north of the city is the monastery of Poblet, founded in 1151 by Ramon Berenguer IV, which was used for sepultures of the kings.

Modern Tarragona[edit]

Plaça del Fòrum.

Tarragona is home to a large port and the Universitat Rovira i Virgili. Much of its economic activity comes from a large number of chemical industries located south of the city.

The main living heritage is the Popular Retinue, a great parade of dances, bestiary and spoken dances- and the human towers. They specially participate in Santa Tecla Festival. They are so popular in Tarragona and also in all Catalonia that they have got their own home. It is called "Casa de la Festa", Festivities House, where you can visit them all the year. [1]

A number of beaches, some awarded a Blue Flag designation, line the Mediterranean coast near the city.

Tarragona is located near the holiday resort of Salou and the theme park PortAventura, one of the largest in Europe.

The city is served by Tarragona railway station, and is located a few kilometers away from Reus Airport, which has many low-cost destinations and charter-flights (over a million passengers per year).

Reus is the second city of Tarragona area (101,767 inhabitants in 2006), known by its commercial activity and for being the place where the architect Gaudí was born.

Food and drink outlets[edit]

Tarragona contains a number of small bars, restaurants, and cafes serving tapas and sandwiches, and local seafood and Catalan dishes like "pa amb tomàquet" or "neules i torrons". Many such outlets are found in the historic centre, including those at the Plaça de la Font, Plaça del Rei and Plaça del Fòrum. The neighbourhood of El Serrallo, at the harbour, specialises in seafood cuisine.


Tarragona has a Mediterranean climate (Csa) with mildly cool winters and warm summers. Autumn and spring tend to be the wettest time of the year, whilst winter and summer have relatively drier days.

Climate data for Reus Airport(1981-2010) (between Reus - 3 km (1.86 mi) and Tarragona - 7 km (4.35 mi))
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 14.1
Daily mean °C (°F) 9.0
Average low °C (°F) 3.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 29
Average precipitation days (≥ 1 mm) 4 4 4 5 5 3 2 4 5 6 4 4 50
Mean monthly sunshine hours 157 162 197 222 251 274 306 265 209 182 157 145 2,527
Source: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología[19]


Carrer Major during Santa Tecla Festival.
Torre dels Escipions.

Tarragona was also a candidate to be the Spanish representative as European Capital of Culture in 2016.

International relations[edit]

Twin towns/Sister cities[edit]

Tarragona is twinned with:

Tarragona had partnerships with:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Ajuntament de Tarragona". Generalitat of Catalonia. Retrieved 2015-11-13. 
  2. ^ "El municipi en xifres: Tarragona". Statistical Institute of Catalonia. Retrieved 2015-11-23. 
  3. ^ Silvia Orvietani Busch (2001). Medieval Mediterranean Ports: The Catalan and Tuscan Coasts, 1100 to 1235. BRILL. p. 53. ISBN 90-04-12069-6. 
  4. ^ (Auson. Class. Urb. 9; cf. Mart. x. 104.)
  5. ^ (Mela, ii. 6; Plin. iii. 3. s. 4.)
  6. ^ (xxii. 22)
  7. ^ (ap. Strabo iii. p. 159)
  8. ^ (ap. Strab. l. c.; Polyb. iii. 76)
  9. ^ (Ford's Handbook of Spain, p. 222.)
  10. ^ Ptolemy, ii. 6. § 17
  11. ^ Pliny l. c.; Tacitus Ann. i. 78; Gaius Julius Solinus 23, 26; Polybius x. 34; Livy xxi. 61; Stephanus of Byzantium p. 637.
  12. ^ (Itin. Ant. pp. 391, 396, 399, 448, 452.)
  13. ^ a b (l. c.)
  14. ^ (Mart. x. 104, xiii. 118; Sil. Ital. iii. 369, xv. 177; Plin. xiv. 6. s. 8, xix. 1. s. 2.)
  15. ^ (Grut. Inscr. p. 382; Orelli, no. 3127; coins in Eckhel, i. p. 27; Florez, Med. ii. p. 579; Théodore Edme Mionnet, i. p. 51, Suppl. i. p. 104; Sestini, p. 202.)
  16. ^ British Museum Collection
  17. ^ (Cf. Ford, Handbook, p. 219, seq.; Florez, Esp. Sagr. xxix. p. 68, seq.; Miñano, Diccion. viii. p. 398.)
  18. ^ Comisión de Antigüedades de la Real Academia de la Historia: catálogo e índices, Cataluña. Page 256. Published in Spanish, 2000.
  19. ^ "Valores Climatológicos Normales. Tarragona - Reús / Aeropuerto". 
  20. ^ "Jumelages et Relations Internationales - Avignon". Avignon.fr (in French). Retrieved 2013-07-13. 
  21. ^ "Atlas français de la coopération décentralisée et des autres actions extérieures". Ministère des affaires étrangères (in French). Retrieved 2013-07-13. 
  22. ^ "45 ans de jumelage : Histoire de cités Le jumelage à Voiron" [45 years of twinning: The history of Voiron's twin towns]. Voiron Hôtel de Ville [Voiron council] (in French). Archived from the original on 2013-05-03. Retrieved 2013-09-04. 
  23. ^ "Tarragone (Espagne) : une ville amie Des liens noués autour de la Chartreuse" [Tarragona, Spain: Friendship town of Voiron]. Voiron Hôtel de Ville [Voiron council] (in French). Retrieved 2013-09-04. 

External links[edit]