Tarragona is located on the coast of the Balearic Sea in the north-eastern part of Spain, in the south of Catalonia. The city is associated with the era when Tarraco (the ancient name of Tarragona) was one of the most important cities on the Iberian peninsula. Tarragona shows the real history of mankind, connecting several thousand years of development. The mayor of Tarragona Pau Ricomà told us about the main attractions of the city, its cultural and gastronomic traditions, as well as its investment and tourism development plans.
Interview: Irina Rybalchenko
Tarragona is one of the most important historical centers of Spain. What are the main attractions of the city?
In addition to the Roman heritage, which makes us the only UNESCO-listed city in Catalonia, we have a medieval and modernist paleo-Christian heritage. This is the most important heritage in the entire Iberian Peninsula.
Tarragona has 15 kilometers of Costa Daurada coastline with 10 beaches in the municipality alone and green paths for walking or cycling.
Tarragona also has very strong and authentic cultural and gastronomic traditions, such as Castells (human towers), Santa Tecla holidays, Mediterranean cuisine holidays …
The very mild climate makes Tarragona an ideal holiday destination all year round. The Romans said about us that we are the City of Eternal Spring.
Of the many attractions in Tarragona, you must visit the Amphitheater, the Roman aqueduct, the cathedral, the maritime quarter, and the fishing port called Serrallo. You must also “tocar ferro” (“touch the iron”) of the Balcony of the Mediterranean. Apparently, doing this brings good luck).
Tell us about the main city holidays and Catalan gastronomic traditions.
Our highlight is romesco sauce, prepared by fishermen in all possible ways from local products. It goes well with all dishes, but especially with fish. In addition, our blue fish and shrimp are local products of high quality and a must-try.
Tarragona is also the capital of the Spanish province with the most wine appellations (five in total). Furthermore, the DO (Denominación de Origen or Designation of Origin) of Tarragona offers an extraordinary moment.
We work to ensure that our cultural and historical heritage, food and wine give visitors an unforgettable experience.
Who are your main tourists?
This year, tourism has recovered and international tourism has experienced a revival. We have reached a historical record for the number of overnight stays. French, Dutch and English are often heard again on our streets. Recently we have been seeing a rise in tourism in North America. We hope that the appearance of Tarragona in the New York Times list as one of the best destinations in the world to visit in 2023 will eventually reinforce this fact.
In 2022, international tourism accounted for 43%. Accordingly, 57% was local tourism (Catalonia and other regions in Spain).
Any time of the year is perfect for visiting Tarragona. Carnival, Holy Week, Rome’s Tàrraco Viva or Santa Tecla festival, jazz festival, early music festival, and first-class theater program highlight our cultural agenda. The city also offers endless gastronomic offerings and the chance to try rice with seafood and the romesco sauce mentioned earlier.
There are two major sporting events planned for this year, which we will announce shortly. They will take place in the Palau d’Esports after many years of inactivity. Regarding sports life, the city hosts top-level competitions, such as last year’s final of the Catalan League (Lliga Catalana).
The city also boasts new cycling routes that we will present this year that will put Tarragona on the Spain cycling map.
What are the main investment projects of the city?
We have planned many projects related to the city’s socioeconomic development, landscaping, mobility, tourism and small and medium-sized business development.
We have received more than 15.5 million EUR from Next Generation funds, allowing us to implement various projects. These projects are the ecotourism sustainable development project “Tarragona Between Blue and Green” (3.5 million EUR), the Tarragona environmental restoration project “Tarragona – GreenBelt ’26” (3.3 million EUR) and Tarragona Open Shopping Center project (1.2 million EUR), Forum of the Tàrraco Colony (3 million EUR). The money will also be used to implement low-emission zones, a digital and sustainable transformation of transport project (3 million EUR), and a project for the separate collection of household waste (500,000 EUR), among others. We await approval for implementing other projects, which total more than 6 million EUR.
Many projects we are working on for future generations are related to infrastructure. They are financed from the municipal budget and the budget of the Generalitat of Catalonia and amount to about 400 million EUR, which come from public and private investments.
The budget of the Generalitat of Catalonia supports investments in the expansion of the Hospital Joan XXIII de Tarragona (177 million EUR), the Forum of Justice (75.8 million EUR) and the construction of an energy valorization plant in Tarragona (32.6 million EUR). It also provides for investments in the Youth Recreation and Vacation Hostel (13.4 million EUR), the expansion of the fire station of Tarragona (7.7 million EUR), the decarburization of the chemical industry and the promotion of the Hydrogen Valley (5 million EUR).
There is also building land in Tarragona, which will be developed in a planned and stable way.
The port of Tarragona is one of the most important on the Mediterranean coast and the critical center of Tarragona’s chemical industry, the most powerful in southern Europe. At the same time, it is an “ambassador of the city.”
Does the city have joint programs in culture, education or other areas with neighboring Andorra and France?
Tarragona has been twinned with Avignon since May 2, 1968, and Orléans since September 23, 1978. And we traditionally hold joint celebrations to celebrate twinning.
On the other hand, Tarragona and the French city of Voiron carry out student exchanges between the Voiron Conservatory and the Tarragona municipal music school. This project started in 2022.
Tarragona also has a prestigious university – the University of Rovira i Virgili.
As mayor of Tarragona, which project would you most like to implement?
Tarragona needed change. It was necessary to wake up in the city.
We work to ensure social justice and equal opportunity anywhere in Tarragona. During this mandate, we have implemented projects lying in a drawer for decades, such as the Youth Recreation and Vacation Hostel, the Forum of Justice and the new Hospital Joan XXIII. That no one is left behind.