Julius Cesar could not have stayed at the Hotel Astari -- which opened it doors in 1959 -- but he lived for a time in Tarragona, the Romans' provincial capital. Modern Tarragona's wealth of Roman ruins earned it a place on the National Heritage List. The Hotel Astari sits serenely on the outskirts of Tarragona, not far from old town, offering a moderately priced and peaceful base from which to explore Mediterranean beaches.
The Hotel Astari is neither swank nor seedy, gigantic nor intimate, expensive nor cheap. Its moderation is among its attractions, together with a good location in an interesting city. The hotel's 81 spotless, airy rooms are small and without much glamor but include comfortable beds, modern bathrooms and an air-conditioning system that knows how to shut up and do its job. Many of the rooms have long balconies. If you come to the Mediterranean for fun and sun as well as culture, benefit from the Astari's exterior pool. This is the sole hotel in Tarragona with sufficient garage space to house every guest's vehicle and it also accepts domestic pets.
The Hotel Astari offers four different meeting rooms to accommodate the business traveler, ranging in size from about 115 to 720 square feet. Enjoy free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel as well as theater and banquet facilities. Access to the Astari could not be easier in this part of the world -- Tarragona is only an hour from Barcelona and the Astori a half mile from the train station.
The Hotel Astari sits on a quiet residential stretch of the Via Augusta, a central thoroughfare of modern Tarragona as well as part of the old Roman road from Rome to Cadiz. The golden sand of the Arabassada beach is only minutes away, with its typical beach cafes and restaurants. You can vary your beach pleasures daily as the city includes some nine miles of Mediterranean beachfront. Old town Tarragona is within easy walking distance; enjoy its shops, restaurants and cultural attractions without having to bother to get the car.
If you throw a stone off your Astari guestroom balcony, you might hit the Rambla Vella, the street marking the beginning of old town. The famous Roman Amphitheatre is less than a quarter mile up the street, located at the foot of Milagro Park just outside the walled city. Carved into a cliff that rises from the beach, this Roman amphitheater was the site of gladiator combats, wild animal hunts and prisoner executions. The Astari is also close to Tarragona's Archaeology Museum that houses a collection of Roman relics.
If you find the Astari full, try the Husa Imperial Tarragona. This large luxury chain hotel perches atop an oceanfront cliff, and offers guestroom views of both the sea and the Roman ruins. Despite the posh carpets and polished marble in the lobby, guest rooms are simply decorated with modern furniture. Back rooms at the Hotel Lauria also offers sea views. Close to Tarragona's Passeig de les Palmeres -- the popular seaside promenade -- this hotel offers 72 unpretentious rooms at reasonable prices.
- Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images