Tarragona Roman Circus - History and Facts | History Hit

Tarragona Roman Circus

Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain

Tarragona Roman Circus is an ancient chariot racetrack, probably built in the first century AD but degraded over time.

Peta Stamper

19 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Tarragona Roman Circus

Tarragona Roman Circus (Circo Romano de Tarragona) is an ancient racing arena in Spain, probably built under the Emperor Domitian in the 1st century AD and yet still containing some astonishing subterranean Roman tunnels. Tarragona Roman Circus is therefore part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Archaeological Ensemble of Tarraco.

Tarragona Roman Circus history

When Tarragona Roman Circus was constructed it would have been able to accommodate up to 30,000 spectators to the games and was just one of a series of impressive public buildings serving the Roman settlement of Tarraco. The circus was in use until the 5th century AD, when it was abandoned. Used as a palace for the Crown of Aragón in the 12th century, the Roman circus continued afterwards as a prison until falling to ruin.

Tarragona Roman Circus today

Today, although little of the original structure survives, visitors can still get an insight into the original scale and setting of this ancient chariot racetrack. Most of the circus is now buried under the more modern buildings which were built atop the ruins, largely in the 19th century, though the small exposed area is actually quite well preserved.

At one end of the Circus complex stands the Praetorium, a Roman tower (that you can climb) which once formed the corner of the large Roman forum. This forum was connected to the circus complex below via a series of passageways and tunnels, which were also used to service the games held at the circus.

Miraculously, some of these underground tunnels have actually survived and are now open to the public – making a visit to this site a genuinely impressive experience.

Getting to Tarragona Roman Circus

Reus International Airport is a 20 minute drive to Tarragona’s centre and otherwise the Estación de Tarragona Adif train station in the city centre for the regional train connections to Reus, Barcelona, Tortosa and long-distance Renfe trains to Valencia, Andalucia and Madrid.

Buses 8, 11, 12, 16, 161 and 162 all stop at Rambla Vella just outside the circus.