Salou was a surprise for me! I had very low expectations of Salou because of its reputation as a popular destination with young people who are off on their first boozy holiday, and for being the home of the massive theme park, Port Aventura. We entered from the south, which meant that we saw the beautiful Penya Tallada in Cape Salou, with its spectacular views, which changed my perspective of Salou to begin. Of course it does have everything to suit family holidays for those who want loads of English orientated facilities, but it also has fine streets and so much greenery.
Craft Fair During The Summer
I also loved the Masia Catalana, which was originally meant to be modelled on a crib, but over the years has evolved into a place where you can feel Catalan rural lifestyle on one hand, but also enjoy craft stalls during the summer months. There are play areas there as well.
From The Font Lluminosa to the Torre Vella
From the symbolic Salou fountain that is beautifully lit up, to the Torre Vella (old tower) and in between, you may also find some surprises in Salou. Of course if it’s a quiet holiday destination you’re looking for, you’ll definitely want to avoid Salou in the main season. When I was last there it was March, and it was inviting and civilised. The city has some fine, tree lined streets, some lovely beaches, but it also has strips of pure tourism, with fast food joints and bars that are geared up for a lively holiday. All of this, of course, is very convenient for a certain type of holiday, but there are also quite a few iconic sites, as you’ll discover in this Salou Travel Guide.
See Past The Beaches of Salou
On your next visit to one of the main tourist resorts, take time out to see what is behind the beaches, restaurants and bars. A stroll around Salou can become quite a cultural itinerary if you know what to look for. Of all the places of interest and emblematic monuments in the town, there are 13 that really stand out from all the rest. This could be due to their importance in the history of Salou, or due to the fact they are so visually attractive that they have become must sees. But before describing the mostly man-made iconic sites of Salou, I want to tell you firstly about a couple of places of great natural beauty.
If you’re romantically involved, you need to go with your partner to Penya Tallada and take in the views, and have a bit of a kiss and a cuddle! This special place is located in between Punta de Replanells and Punta del Caval and it’s is one of the most stunning spots on Cap Salou. It’s outstanding natural beauty comes from its unique rock formation which juts right out into the sea. The forces of nature, over time, have caused erosion of the weakest strata, which has resulted in a type of wall forming which is 100m long and encloses the small cove of the same name.
Punta del Cavell
Punta del Cavall is the name given to the most pronounced of the promontories which exist the western part of Cap Salou. Stand here at sunset and you are rewarded with the most fantastic panoramic view of the Salou coastline. Under the shelter of this is Cala de la Font, a lovely cove that was used in the past as an anchorage point and was also a popular place for pirates to land before undertaking their usual pillaging and captive taking shenanigans.
Salou Becomes Even More Pro-Active
Salou has become more pro-active than before, having piloted a scheme in 2013 called Tax Free Salou, which refunded VAT to non EU visitors, who requested it. Now for 2014, Salou has increased its promotional activity by 77.5 % increase, compared to what they carried out in 2013. Amongst its plans, Salou has presented a number of new features such as an increased presence of Salou tourist fairs and international markets.
The good news for non-EU visitors, is that we have confirmed today with the Salou Tourist Board that they are still offering the VAT refund.
Things To Do
Capitania Salou – The Harbourmaster’s Building
The Salou harbour building was constructed around 1820 and formed part of the infrastructure of the town’s port. For centuries it had been a natural port with strong commercial links, that were essential for the town’s economic growth. This activity also generated a series of taxes and customs procedures, and the harbour master who collected the taxes from the merchant ships that came into port operated out of this building. When the port at Tarragona was given an overhaul and greatly enhanced, ships abandoned Salou in favour of Taragona. So then the building belonging to the harbour master was taken over by the authorities at the beginning of the 20th century and turned into a private residence. The building still retains much of the original features, thanks to several conservation projects over the years. Take a minute to look at the drinking fountain and horse trough, before heading to the first floor for an extraordinary view out over Miramar Promenade.
El Moll – The Wharf
The small dock at Salou dates back to the beginning of the 19th century. It was built as part of the project which created a ship canal between Reus and Salou. This was an ambitious project that did not go to plan, and due to the logistical problems it was filled with sand and deemed unusable. Until the middle of the 2oth century it was useful only to Salou fishermen who used it as a form of shelter for their boats. The continual movement of them coming on and off the beach however changed the look of the area completely. There is a monument on the wharf which pays homage to the fishermen of Salou. This is the work of Ramon Ferran and the money to create it was raised through public subscription. Erected in 1990, it is a symbolic reminder of the town’s seafaring history.
Font Illuminosa Salou – The Illuminated Fountain
Font Illuminosa has become Salou’s symbol and is the first bit of Spanish many visitors to the town pick up. It was designed and created in the early 1970’s by the engineer Charles Bulgas, the man also responsible for Barcelona’s Fountain of Montjuic.
There are over 210 combinations of water, music and light, and to see the entire programme would mean sitting there for 5 hours. The shapes and colours usually change every 90 seconds, so even if you are there for a short time, you will be treated to a great display. Situated at the east end of the town on the promenade, naturally enough the best time to view it is at night. Check out what other visitors have to say about the Salou Dancing Fountain Show.
La Masia Catalana – The Catalan Farmhouse
Carrer Carles Buhigues
A collective rather than a single building, these constructions were made in 1974 using reclaimed materials from an old building. Throughout the area you will different characteristics of what life was like in rural Spain, right down to a set of tools that farmers would have used.
There is a monumental crib here that is used every year for a traditional live nativity scene (known in Catalan as “pessebre vivent”). The place looks especially gorgeous, as the pine trees are lit up with Christmas lights, and of course children can visit the animals, which even include a Catalan donkey, and bring gifts for Baby Jesus – all of which is a definitely more magical then going to a big department store to see Santa! During the summer season, there are a good number of artisan craft stalls, which are lovely to wander around on a balmy, summer evening.
Torre Vella Salou – The Old Tower
The order to build this lovely structure was given in 1530 by Pere de Cardona, the then Archbishop of Tarragona, as a defense against pirates on this section of coastline. Whilst the interior has undergone many modifications over time the exterior has retained its original appearance, complete with Pere de Cardona’s coat of arms above the doorway. The adjoining building came along during the 18th century and in the 20th century the ‘bridge’ which connects the two was built. There is a cultural centre within Torre Vella, which is mainly used for art exhibitions. The building is also the home of the Contemporary Enamel Art Museum and boasts a magnificent collection of 20th century enamels from artists across the globe. In the garden you will see the sculpture “The Dance of the Graces’ by the artist Artur Aldomà Puig. This was created to commemorate the time in 1990, when Salou was proclaimed to be the Heritage Town of the Sardana Dance.
Xalet Bonet – Chalet Bonet Salou
Xalet Bonet, Bonet House or Xalet Voramar was built in 1918 by Ciriac Bonet. It is a fine example of late-modernist, or art nouveau, architecture and was designed by Domènec Sugranyes i Gras. He was a disciple of, and worked alongside, the great Antoni Gaudí. Each room is ornately decorated with a profusion of mural paintings, which depict the departure of King Jaume I, when he sailed from the beaches of Salou, in an attempt to reconquer Mallorca and wrest it from the rule of the Moors. As well as many other decorative motifs there is a main facade which boasts a ceramic sundial with neo-gothic lettering. This is said to summarise the philosophy of life; “Take advantage of the time that passes and never returns”. There is another corbel on the rear facade which indicates the name of the house and the year in which it was built.
Estació de Carrilet – The Old Carrilet Railway Station
This beautiful and historic railway station was built in 1857 and was used right up until 1975. In its early days it operated a narrow gauge track, using locomotives imported from the UK. Carrilet station was mainly used to move inbound merchandise from the port through to the neighbouring town of Reus and then to bring back the citizens to relax on the beaches of Salou.
If you have ever wondered why the Costa Dorada is the Golden Coast one glimpse of the miles of unspoilt beaches will answer your question in an instant. The hugely popular coastal resort of Salou has a firm commitment to the maintenance and high quality of all its services and this is also extended to it beaches. These are the subject of strict quality control systems and the result of this has been the multitude of awards the 9 beaches have collected between them. Everyone of them has achieved the ISO 14.001:2004 award, 2 have the Q for Beach Quality and 2 proudly boast the prestigious Blue Flag award which every beach wants to get its hands on.
Bordering the entire length of the Miramar Promenade, the Ponent Beach is really quite spectacular. The soft golden sands which are cleaned daily gently slope down into the blue waters of the Mediterranean. This is makes it a safe and ideal place to take the children. The shallow, crystalline waters along this beach have huge appeal and it is very popular with local residents.
It is also one of those beaches that never gets crowded however, and relaxing there under one of the palm trees, which erupt from the sand with the aroma of the wonderful flowers from the promenade, can be a haven of relaxation.
The largest of Salou’s 9 beaches, the Llevant is bordered by the impressive Jaune I promenade. Right along this promenade you will find a wide range of leisure facilities and services suitable for both children and adults. This beach has the coveted blue flag and an array of services including sun loungers, showers and a team of lifeguards. This is a beautiful area as not only do you have the gorgeous soft sand and safe bathing to enjoy, the entire esplanade has been landscaped to the highest quality and boast lush gardens and the dancing fountains which are a big tourist attraction.
With the strains of classical music filling the air, these fountains dance in time to the music making a quite spectacular display that is even better once the sun goes down and the lights come on.
Cala Llengüadets Cove
Surrounded by the best that nature has to offer, the wonderful Cala Llengüadets Cove is a real treat. This is a very small cove but thankfully never gets as busy as other beaches in the town. Full of fine golden sand with transparent, shallow waters lapping at the shore it is well worth the trip to this cove which can only be reached on foot. You have to take the Cami de Ronda footpath which takes you along the coast as far as the lighthouse, or Far de Salou. Alternatively you can access Cala Llengüadets Cove from Torrassa Street.
It’s name gives it away really as this is the largest beach in the whole of the Cap Salou area. Fringed with pine groves there is a pedestrianised promenade running along parallel to it. The fact it is located away from the main areas for tourists makes it a lot less congested that the beaches which are right in the resort itself. This in turn makes it a have for those holidaymakers who like to relax on a beach and enjoy a bit of peace and tranquility.
Capellans Beach is so called as back in the middle ages it was part of the territory owned by the Bishops of Tarragona. Today it is one of the most popular beaches in Salou and is quite compact in size. It also boasts good facilities including life guards and a Red Cross centre. Platja Capellans is situated at the Eastern end of Salou putting it within easy walking distance of the popular hotels in the area Carrer Vendrell area. A lovely spot that is very popular with families, it can get very busy through the peak months due to its proximity to such hotels as the Salou Park. Playa Park, Oasis and Calypso, amongst others.
Cala Font Cove
Another natural cove set between the rocks on the most rugged part of this coastline, Font boasts soft, golden sand of exceptionally high quality. This is the target area for fans of snorkelling as the tranquil and transparent waters make it extremely easy to explore and examine the seabed and discover the abundance of sea life that makes its home here.
Cala Vinya Cove
One rock along from Font Cove, so to speak, is Cala Vinya, also known as Cala Pinetell. As it is in the Cap Salou area which is popular with tourists it is easy to get to via Les Dunes Street. Once again Cala Vinya boasts the typical features of the many coves that pepper this stretch of coastline with fine sand and shallow, clear waters to bathe in.
Cala Crancs Cove
The most easterly of all Salou’s beaches, Cala Crancs is the furthest away from the main tourist area of the resort. The rocks which flank it on either side are bursting with vegetation making it a very attractive setting for a day at the beach. The fine, golden sand which shimmers in the sun slopes gently down into the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea, making it perfect for swimming, paddling or any other kind of messing around in the warm waters that is part and parcel of having a great holiday in the sun.
Cala Penya Tallada Cove
The small but beautiful cove that is Penya Tallada is set in an area of outstanding natural beauty inbetween the Punta Roja and Penya Tallada cliffs which jut out right into the sea. The beach itself is only 125m long and accessible from Penya Tallada Street. As it, obviously, doesn’t have the services of the larger beaches such as lifeguards and a Red Cross station, this cove is very popular with couples who just want to relax, swim, read etc while they soak up the rays.
Esglesia Santa María del Mar – The Church Of Saint Mary of the Sea
Back in 1766 the Port at Salou was a hive if activity and this church was built with the intent it would be used by the many seafarers who were around at the time. The shield which you can see mounted above the main door way specifically refers to the origin of the church as a place of worship for those who sailed the high seas. It started off as a small chapel with just a single nave and a bell tower. In several different stages during the 20th century the church underwent many extensions and it sadly bears little resemblance today as it once did. Inside you will some quite magnificent murals made by Lluis Maria Guell between 1954-1966 while the paintings which adorn the baptistry came along in 1964 courtesy of the contemporary artist Josep Grau Garriga.
Parc de la Ciutat – Town Park
This beautiful park which is located on Charles Bulgas stands on a large part of the site that was formerly Camping Salou, one of the town’s first tourist facilities. It was lovingly transformed into a public park which covers an area of 15,750 square meters. It is a haven of peace and tranquillity, where you can escape for a while from the hustle and bustle of the main tourist area which surrounds it. Packed with a huge variety of plants and flowers, interspersed with ponds, this is really lovely place to walk through or have a picnic. The building inside the park is the locker rooms for the swimming pool at the original camp site, and they have been preserved, as they are the work of famous architect Antonio Bonet.
Oliveres Monumentals – Monumental Olive Trees
As part of the development of the town, many olive trees were transplanted in the street known as the Walk of Segregation, or Passeig de la Segregació. This mighty task was finally completed in 1989, creating a unique collection of 16 olive trees that came from the Maestrat county, and are thought to be around 1000 years old. You could have walked past these trees without even noticing them, as olive trees aren’t exactly in short supply in Spain, but ones that are 1000 years old deserve to be stopped at and admired.
Port Aventura Salou
Of course if you’re considering a trip to Salou, there’s at least a small chance you may also want to go to Port Aventura. If you want to see what is new for 2014, and more information about PortAventura, click on Port Aventura Salou.