The capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia
(Spain). Located in the northeastern part of the country, 150 km south
of the French frontier, it is Spain's major Mediterranean port and commercial
centre and is famed for its great individuality, cultural interest, and
Barcelona is built on a gentle slope facing southeast
to the Mediterranean Sea, in a fertile plain between the Besós and
Llobregat rivers. The mountain-ringed city has a mild and agreeable climate.
The city layout
The main axis of the old town is formed by the Ramblas,
a series of spacious, tree-lined avenues, leading north to the commercial
centre, Plaza de Cataluña, and south to the Paseo Marítimo
and the seafront. To the north is the new town, the Ensanche (Extension).
Industrial plants extend beyond the residential and commercial areas.
City transportation is facilitated by an urban belt
of rapid transit, including subways, tunnels, buses, cable cars, and freeways.
Railways connect the city with the suburbs as well as with the rest of
Spain and with France, while the airport at Prat del Llobregat serves international
City area: 91 square km; metropolitan area: 477 square
Population of the city: 1,699,231 (1986 est.); population
of the metropolitan area: 3,096,748 (1981 prelim.).
The oldest part of the city is built on a small hill,
Mount Taber, and some of its Roman walls are still visible. Fine Gothic
buildings remain, including the cathedral (built between 1289 and the late
15th century) and a nearby 6th-century basilica, as well as the Church
of Santa Maria del Mar. Royal and episcopal palaces house the archives
of the city and of the crown of Aragon. Monuments include a 60-metre column
built as a tribute to Christopher Columbus and the Church of the Holy Family,
which was begun in 1882. Though unfinished, this huge and elaborate church
features openwork spires that dominate the skyline and is the best-known
work of the Catalonian architect Antonio Gaudí.
Barcelona is center of Catalan culture. The University
of Barcelona (founded in 1450) and the Autonomous University of Barcelona
(1968) are among the city's educational and research institutions. Libraries
include the Library of Catalonia and the University Library. Outstanding
museums include the Museum of Catalonian Art, the Museum of Modern Art,
the Maritime Museum, and the Picasso Museum.
Economic life centres on manufacturing, shipping, and
tourism. Dominant industries produce automobiles, heavy machinery, chemicals,
and textiles. As the hub of Catalonian industrial activity, Barcelona contributes
greatly to Spain's economic output. The city has an active stock exchange
and is an international banking and finance centre. More than 100 regular
shipping lines link the city with other world ports.
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