Modernity and antiquity, nature and heritage: living dichotomies that harmonise perfectly in a city like Tarragona. The city’s two-thousand-year-old past is evident in every stone, every rock, every tile, every building; in short, in every detail that evokes the Roman legacy of Tarraco, yet also accommodates the different historical periods that followed on from it (Medieval, Renaissance, Modernism, etc.). Strolling around Tarragona is like walking through an open-air museum, with archaeological discoveries at every turn; you might be sipping a drink on a terrace just above the Roman Circus arena where the chariots used to race, or you could be eating in a restaurant surrounded by more than 2,000 years of history, or examining relics of tremendous historical value, or admiring Medieval and Modernist architecture.
Today, in the midst of this global health crisis, the plans of many thousands of visitors to the city have changed. For this reason, this article details the main virtual resources available for visiting the monuments and sights of Tarragona without leaving home.
Tarragona’s History Museum offers virtual tours that capture almost all the historic majesty you would experience in situ at some of the monuments and locations in the archaeological complex of Tarraco, such as the Roman Circus, the Praetorium, the Amphitheatre, the Roman Walls and the Archaeological Walk. You can also visit Modernist buildings such as the Metropol Theatre and noble mansions such as Casa Castellarnau and Casa Canals.
The new virtual tours website of the Organisation of World Heritage Cities of Spain gives you an insight into the Roman, Medieval, Modernist, Early Christian and agroecological periods of Tarragona in a highly accessible way thanks to audio-guides and videos in sign language. Archaeology and history are also key features of another essential tool for immersing yourself in the past of Tarragona and preparing a future visit: the Archaeological Guide to World Heritage Cities.
The Modern Art Museum of Tarragona offers a virtual tour of all its facilities through QR codes that provide information on the spaces and the works exhibited there.
The Port of Tarragona Museum and the Blue Observatory are open to virtual visitors to give them a closer insight into the world of fishing. The Museum itself has now moved to Tinglado 2 on the Costa Wharf with a temporary exhibition that will run until work is completed on the main site.
You can now view all the details of the collections held by the National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona (MNAT) online. On the Museum’s website you will also find the Visit Museum portal with an online audio-guide on the Tarraco/MNAT exhibition on show in Tinglado 4 on the Costa Wharf. There are a couple of other resources too: the Sketchfab website , which lets you see many of the pieces held at the MNAT in 3D; and a retrospective tour of the exhibition entitled “The Footprint of Augustus at the MNAT” via Google Arts & Culture.
On the Cathedral website, visitors can explore the art and history of this magnificent space, with images and descriptions of the monument’s artistic details. You can even get a drone’s-eye-view in a spectacular video on the Cathedral’s YouTube channel.
Tarragona’s Early Christian Necropolis can be visited on Google Street View which also offers panoramic 360° shots.
The Diocesan Museum of Tarragona is the custodian of some 11,000 works of religious art, most notably paintings, sculptures and silverware from the Diocese of Tarragona. The permanent exhibition halls are now open to the public in virtual format. You can now visit them online.
On the Abertis Foundation’s YouTube channel you can visit the Mèdol Quarry from Roman times and learn about the main infrastructures of the Roman Empire.
A virtual 3D tour of the Tarraconense Centre ‘El Seminari’ is one of the best ways to get inside this historic nineteenth-century building that houses the Chapel of St Paul, built in the thirteenth century.
The TarrACro-POLIS digital map is a virtual museum of the Acropolis of Tarraco, one of the new digital resources that lets you view 3D models of features of Tarragona’s heritage around the Cathedral and the Tarragona Biblical Museum. It was created by ICAC.
The Orbis Atlas is a true-to-life Google Map of the Roman Empire. This resource lets you follow a highly detailed route around Roman Tarraco and, indeed, the whole Empire thanks to digital interactive maps. It was created by Stanford University.
Tarragona in 360º
Tarraco 360° is a very comprehensive 3D virtual tour of all the World Heritage Sites in Tarragona. It is the result of the scientific work of the SETOPANT research group of the Catalan Institute of Classic Archaeology (ICAC). It is included in a selection of National Geographic Travel magazine’s eight 360-degree virtual tours of monuments of the world.
From the Cathedral’s belltower you get one of the finest panoramic views of the city of Tarragona. This spectacular 360° panoramic view of Tarragona is available on the TINET network.
Although not actually a virtual tour, we recommend the episode on Tarragona in the RTVE television series “Spanish World Heritage Cities”, available on RTVE à la Carte.
Eutyches, charioteer of Tarraco; Caius Calpurnius Flaccus, flamen (priest) of Hispania Citerior; Caius Valerius Avitus, duumviri (a type of magistrate) of Tarraco; and Titus Valerius, master of the graves at the Amphitheatre, guide us around the Roman Circus, the Temple, the Colonial Forum and the Amphitheatre on a 360º tour that uses enhanced reality to reconstruct these four venues.
A really fantastic experience available in the ‘Roman Engineering’ section of the LAB RTVE website. RTVE à la Carte also offers the chance to revisit the first episode of the award-winning documentary series ‘Roman Engineering’, “First Century Cities“, almost entirely devoted to Tarragona.
Virtual resources for children
An ideal educational resource for children to discover the city’s Roman monuments is the Virtual Jigsaw Puzzles and online games offered by the MNAT as an entertaining way of learning the history of Tarraco that the whole family can get involved in.
One of the most comprehensive augmented reality apps is Imageen Tarragona. With this app you can travel two thousand years back in time from modern-day Tarragona to Roman Tarraco. You can visit the past and present of the Roman Circus, the Provincial Forum, the Amphitheatre and the Local Forum. An amazing experience.
The MovieTravel app shows you scenes from films that have been shot in different locations around Tarragona. Tarragona is a destination for film tourism, and thanks to the gamified route of the app you can see scenes from the films that were shot here from the exact geographical point where the visitor was standing at that moment.
You can also learn about the history and culture of Tarragona from the comfort of your own home. Which tour would you like to start with? You’ll find them all on the website of the Tarragona Tourist Board. Enjoy your tour!