The archaeological ensemble that forms the Roman ruins of Tarraco was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 2000.
The Tarraco Romana Route includes:
In the 2nd Century BC, Tarraco, name with which the romans baptize the city, was provided with a large wall that demarcated the urban perimeter. Its length was of around 11,482ft; 3,608 of which are currently preserved and surround the Casco Antiguo (old part of the town). The most interesting part can be visited in the Paseo Arquelógico (Archaeological Promenade), where you can see a variety of perfectly preserved canvas that show the peculiar baseboard of megalithic blocks, as well as two of the six posterns and one entrance gate to vehicular traffic. Of the three towers stand out the Arzobispo one, with noticeable medieval refurbishing, and the Minerva one, that has the oldest Romans sculpture and inscription of the Iberian Peninsula.
In the second half of the 1st Century BC, the city’s Acropolis was monumentalized with the construction of the Provincial Forum and the Circus, with an area of 17,2 acres, which makes it the biggest complex of this kind of the entire Roman world. The Provincial Forum was organized in two squares of different heights. The top square (worship area) was surrounded by a portico, fragments of which still remain in the cloister of the Cathedral. A room was built in axial position and has been identified as the cell of the great temple of worship for the emperor.
The lower square of the provincial forum was a huge rectangular area of 1043 feet by 574 feet, surrounded by three of its sides of a complex structure of porticos. The inside was probably embellished with gardens and numerous statues, from which still remain some pedestals with inscriptions, for example, in the Mercería street. Now, you can see the remains of those porticos in the buildings of the Antigua Audiencia (southwest tower with gates and stairways), in the Pallol square (gate, vault and pilasters of the Antiguo Beaterio), Fòrum square (angular wall) and the so-called Pretorio (southeast tower with gates, vaults and pilasters). This last one was transformed in the Middle Ages in the king’s castle.
National Archaeological Museum
It was born in the 19th century as a result of the union of two museums: the Comisión de Monumentos (Monuments Commission) and the Sociedad Arqueológica Tarraconense (Archaeological Society of Tarragona). Located in the central square of Rei, it has a valuable collection of Roman remains among which stand out architectural fragments, sculptures, inscriptions, mosaics, ceramics, etc., originated from Tarragona. In the underground it can also be seen a canvas of Roman wall.
The amphitheater was a building for shows of wild animals and gladiators fights and public executions. The Tarraco one was built at the beginning of the 2nd century BC, and was repaired in the year 221 as the 459 feet inscription indicates the longest one in the entire Empire that crowned the podium. Nowadays, it is preserved part of the sculpted steps in the much eroded stone and a part of the southern steps supported over concrete vaults. It was here where Saint Fructuosus and his decons suffered martyrdom in the year 259. A visigothic basílica was built at the beginning of the 5th century to commemorate him, on which the medieval church of Santa María del Milagro was established.
In the circus took place the chariot races, generally of two horses (bigas) or of four horses (quadrigas). The Tarragona circus is among the better-preserved ones of the west, even though the largest part of its structure is still hidden under old buildings of the 19th century. Currently, you can visit the eastern extreme, where, in addition to the monumental facade and the steps, the Saint Hermenegild and the Enrajolar vaults can be seen. Another area that has been exposed is the Sedassos square and some vaults that are visible in establishments of the Trinquet Vell streets and of the Font square.
The forum was the center of the public life. The main buildings of the city were raised around a big square: the curia, the basilica, the temples and many shops. The forum of Tarraco was destroyed in the expansions of the 19th century and it only remains the basilica, structured like a big building of three naves separated by columns. Another area of the ruins that can be visited shows the rear part of the Capitoline temples, streets and varied houses.