Spain officially the Kingdom of Spain is a sovereign state located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, with two large archipelagoes, the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea and the Canary Islands off the North African Atlantic coast, two cities, Ceuta and Melilla, in the North African mainland and several small islands in the Alboran Sea near the Moroccan coast. The country’s mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. It is the only European country to have a border with an African country (Morocco) and its African territory accounts for nearly 5% of its population, mostly in the Canary Islands but also in Ceuta and Melilla.
The origins of the Roman name Hispania, from which the modern name España was derived, are uncertain due to inadequate evidence, although it is documented that the Phoenicians and Carthaginians referred to the region as Spania, therefore the most widely accepted etymology is a Semitic-Phoenician one.
With an area of 505,990 km2, Spain is the largest country in Southern Europe, the second largest country in Western Europe and the European Union, and the fourth largest country in the European continent. By population, Spain is the sixth largest in Europe and the fifth in the European Union. Spain’s capital and largest city is Madrid; other major urban areas include Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Bilbao and Málaga.
Modern humans first arrived in the Iberian Peninsula around 35,000 years ago. Iberian cultures along with ancient Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian settlements developed on the peninsula until it came under Roman rule around 200 BCE, after which the region was named Hispania, based on the earlier Phoenician name Span or Spania. In the Middle Ages, the area was conquered by Germanic tribes and later by the Moors. Spain emerged as a unified country in the 15th century, following the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs and the completion of the eight centuries-long reconquest, or Reconquista from the Moors in 1492. In the early modern period, Spain became one of history’s first global colonial empires, leaving a vast cultural and linguistic legacy that includes over 500 million Spanish speakers, making Spanish the world’s second most spoken first language, after Mandarin Chinese.
Spain is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The current Spanish king is Felipe VI. It is a middle power and a major developed country with the world’s fourteenth largest economy by nominal GDP and sixteenth largest by purchasing power parity. It is a member of the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the Eurozone, the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and many other international organisations.
Barcelona is the capital city of the autonomous community of Catalonia in the Kingdom of Spain, as well as the country’s second most populous municipality, with a population of 1.6 million within city limits. Its urban area extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of around 4.7 million people, being the sixth-most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Madrid, the Ruhr area and Milan. It is the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea, located on the coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs, and bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola mountain range, the tallest peak of which is 512 metres high.
Founded as a Roman city, in the Middle Ages Barcelona became the capital of the County of Barcelona. After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, Barcelona continued to be an important city in the Crown of Aragon as an economic and administrative centre of this Crown and the capital of the Principality of Catalonia. Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is today an important cultural centre and a major tourist destination. Particularly renowned are the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean is located in Barcelona. The city is known for hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics as well as world-class conferences and expositions and also many international sport tournaments.
Barcelona is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula, facing the Mediterranean Sea, on a plain approximately 5 km (3 mi) wide limited by the mountain range of Collserola, the Llobregat river to the southwest and the Besòs river to the north. This plain covers an area of 170 km2 (66 sq mi), of which 101 km2 (39.0 sq mi) are occupied by the city itself. It is 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of the Pyrenees and the Catalan border with France.
Barcelona is one of the world’s leading tourist, economic, trade fair and cultural centres, and its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world’s major global cities. It is a major cultural and economic centre in southwestern Europe, 24th in the world (before Zürich, after Frankfurt) and a financial centre. In 2009 the city was ranked Europe’s third and one of the world’s most successful as a city brand. Since 2011 Barcelona has been a leading smart city in Europe. Barcelona is a transport hub, with the Port of Barcelona being one of Europe’s principal seaports and busiest European passenger port, an international airport, Barcelona–El Prat Airport, which handles over 40 million passengers per year,an extensive motorway network, and a high-speed rail line with a link to France and the rest of Europe.
Attractions of Barcelona
Barcelona is an unique country with an outstanding culture and “charming” sights. The Spanish characteristics and atmosphere create an amazing view in each part of the country!
La Sagrada Familia
The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Gaudí’s work on the building is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica, as distinct from a cathedral, which must be the seat of a bishop.
In 1882 construction of Sagrada Família commenced under architect Francisco Paula de Villar until 1883, when Gaudí became involved when Francisco resigned as the head architect. Taking over the project, Gaudí transformed it with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms.
Sagrada Familia’s construction progressed slowly, as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s. Construction passed the midpoint in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death.
Park Guell by Gaudi
The Park Güell is a public park system composed of gardens and architectonic elements located on Carmel Hill, in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain). Carmel Hill belongs to the mountain range of Collserola – the Parc del Carmel is located on the northern face. Park Güell is located in La Salut, a neighborhood in the Gràcia district of Barcelona.
With urbanization in mind, Eusebi Güell assigned the design of the park to Antoni Gaudí, a renowned architect and the face of Catalan modernism. The park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. In 1984, UNESCO declared the park a World Heritage Site under “Works of Antoni Gaudí”.
It has since been converted into a municipal garden. It can be reached by underground railway, by city buses, or by commercial tourist buses. Since October 2013 there is an entrance fee to visit the Monumental Zone (main entrance, terrace, and the parts containing mosaics), but the entrance to the Park remains free. Gaudí’s house, “la Torre Rosa,” – containing furniture that he designed – can be only visited for another entrance fee. There is a reduced rate for those wishing to see both Gaudí’s house and the Sagrada Família Church.
Park Güell is designed and composed to bring the peace and calm that one would expect from a park. The buildings flanking the entrance, though very original and remarkable with fantastically shaped roofs with unusual pinnacles, fit in well with the use of the park as pleasure gardens and seem relatively inconspicuous in the landscape when one considers the flamboyance of other buildings designed by Gaudí. One of these buildings houses a permanent exhibition of the Barcelona City History Museum MUHBA focused on the building itself, the park and the city.
The focal point of the park is the main terrace, surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent. The curves of the serpent bench form a number of enclaves, creating a more social atmosphere. Gaudí incorporated many motifs of Catalan nationalism, and elements from religious mysticism and ancient poetry, into the Park. Much of the design of the benches was the work not of Gaudí but of his often overlooked collaborator Josep Maria Jujol.
Tibidabo is a mountain overlooking Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. At 512 metres, it is the tallest mountain in the Serra de Collserola. Rising sharply to the north-west, it affords spectacular views over the city and the surrounding coastline.
The summit of the mountain is occupied by the Sagrat Cor church and adjacent Tibidabo Amusement Park. The Torre de Collserola telecommunications tower is a short walk away. All three are prominently visible from most of the city of Barcelona. Designed by Enric Sagnier, the church took 60 years to construct and is topped by a sculpture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Josep Miret Llopart. Tibidabo can be reached via the Tibidabo Funicular, which was the first of its kind in Spain, and by the Tramvia Blau or road.
The name derives from the Latin Vulgate Bible verses: “…et dixit illi haec tibi omnia dabo si cadens adoraveris me” – “And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9);
“…et ait ei tibi dabo potestatem hanc universam et gloriam illorum quia mihi tradita sunt et cui volo do illa” – “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it” (Luke 4:6).
This phrase, meaning I will give to you, was said to Jesus by the devil as they looked down from an exceedingly high mountain upon all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. The name of Barcelona’s hill thus refers to the popular tradition that it was in fact the exceedingly high mountain itself. The phrase Tibi dabo forms part of the inscription in the central dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, although in that case it was drawn from Jesus’ words to St. Peter in Matthew 16:19.
The Museu Picasso is located in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, houses one of the most extensive collections of artworks by the 20th-century Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. With 4,251 works exhibited by the painter, the museum has one of the most complete permanent collections of works. The museum is housed in five adjoining medieval palaces in Barcelona’s La Ribera and is located on Montcada Street in the (Bank District) of Barcelona. It opened to the public on 9 March 1963, becoming the first museum dedicated to Picasso’s work and the only one created during the artist’s life. It has since been declared a museum of national interest by the Government of Catalonia.
Highlights of the collection include two of his first major works, The First Communion (1896), and Science and Charity (1897). In particular, the Museu Picasso reveals Picasso’s relationship with the city of Barcelona, a relationship that was shaped in his youth and adolescence and continued until his death.
The original idea for the museum came from Picasso’s lifelong friend and secretary, Jaume Sabartés, whom Picasso had given many paintings, drawings, and prints since meeting in 1935. Originally, Sabartés intended to found the museum in Málaga, Picasso’s birthplace. It was Picasso himself who suggested that Barcelona would be more appropriate, given his long standing connections with the city.
Spanish Traditional Grastronomy
Total:2 hr 30 minActive: 30 min
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 tablespoon sweet or smoked paprika
2 teaspoons oregano
1 (3 pound) frying chicken, cut into 10 pieces
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Spanish chorizo sausages, thickly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Spanish onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
Bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, reserve some for garnish
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
4 cups short grain Spanish rice
6 cups water, warm
Generous pinch saffron threads
1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
2 lobster tails
1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed
Lemon wedges, for serving
Special equipment: Large paella pan or wide shallow skillet
Combine the paprika and oregano in a small bowl. Rub the spice mix all over the chicken and marinate chicken for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
Heat oil in a paella pan over medium-high heat. Saute the chorizo until browned, remove and reserve. Add chicken skin-side down and brown on all sides, turning with tongs. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove from pan and reserve.
In the same pan, make a sofrito by sauteing the onions, garlic, and parsley. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on a medium heat. Then, add tomatoes and cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld. Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains. Pour in water and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Add chicken, chorizo, and saffron. Add the clams and shrimp, tucking them into the rice. The shrimp will take about 8 minutes to cook. Give the paella a good shake and let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, for about 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, when the rice is filling the pan, add the lobster tails. When the paella is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, turn the heat up for 40 seconds until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom, then it’s perfect.Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with peas, parsley and lemon wedges.
You can also accompany your spanish paella with a glass of Sangria which a punch, the sangria traditionally consists of red wine and chopped fruit, often with other ingredients such as orange juice or brandy!!!
Spain and especially Barcelona is a fascinating city with unique characteristics and culture which will charm every traveller!!!