Overview of Barcelona

Geography of Barcelona

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When thinking of Spain, you may imagine bull fights, flamenco, and tapas. Barcelona is different as it is part of Spain, and yet unique. Home to a native Catalan population, Barcelona is the capital of this autonomous region that dreams of complete independence. Catalan has its own official language making stepping into Barcelona like stepping into another world with the signs that point the way and the people on the streets speaking a different language.

The large number of expats and foreigners in Barcelona also flavor the city with a mix of languages and cultures. Visitors are enchanted by the architecture of Gaudi, location on the Mediterranean coast, and status as a fashion and culture capital. Barcelona is the 16th-most-visited city in the world and 4th most visited in Europe. Spain's second largest city was reinvigorated by hosting the 1992 Olympic Games and has continued to grow as a destination. Both incredibly modern, yet filled with rich history, the city boasts some of the favorites of Europe from outdoor markets, exquisite restaurants, trendiest of shops, nightlife that goes til dawn, and world-class cultural sights. It is natural that many of these visitors end up staying as expats.


Officially the Kingdom of Spain, (Reino de España), the country is located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea and British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar; to the north by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the northwest and west by the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal. Spain also includes several islands: Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and Plazas de Soberanía on the Mediterranean side of the Strait of Gibraltar. Spain lies between latitudes 26 degrees and 44 degrees N, and longitudes 19 degrees W and 5 degrees E.

Made up of 504,782 km2 (194,897 sq miles), Spain is the world's 51st-largest country. The mainland of Spain is mountainous country, with the Pyrenees, Cordillera Cantábrica, Sistema Ibérico, Sistema Central, Montes de Toledo, Sierra Morena and the Sistema Penibético. Tenerife, of the Canary Islands, holds the country's highest peak at Teide, which is also the third largest volcano in the world. The Meseta Central is a major plateau with the Alluvial plains along the coast. The country is also marked with several major rivers including the Tagus, the Ebro, the Duero, the Guadiana and the Guadalquivir.

Spain has second-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the largest number of World Heritage Cities. This is part of the draw for the roughly 46 million people who live here. A mix of ethnicities and cultures, there is a lower density (91/km or 235/sq miles), than most of Western European. Native Spaniards make up 88 percent of the total population of Spain, but a drop in birth rate in the 1980s has allowed for immigrants from other nations to repopulate the country.

Time Zone

Spain is in the Central European Time Zone (CET). This is 1 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+1).

Summer (Daylight-Saving) Time is observed in Spain, where the time is shifted forward by 1 hour; 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2). After the Summer months the time in Spain is shifted back by 1 hour to Central European Time (CET) or (GMT+1).


Barcelona is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The land area of Barcelona is 101.4 km2 (39 sq mi) with borders of Santa Coloma de Gramenet and Sant Adrià de Besòs to the north; the Mediterranean Sea to the east; El Prat de Llobregat and L'Hospitalet de Llobregat to the south; and Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Sant Just Desvern, Esplugues de Llobregat, Sant Cugat del Vallès, and Montcada i Reixac to the west. The city faces the Mediterranean Sea, set on a plateau 5 km (3 miles) wide. The mountain range of Collserola borders the city with the Llobregat river to the southwest and the Besòs river to the north. Small hills dot the city with neighborhoods like Carmel, Putxet, and Rovira. The larger Tibidabo stands over the city with the Torre de Collserola, a telecommunications tower, perched atop it. Montjuic, topped by Montjuic castle, is to the southeast overlooking the harbor.

There is a population of 1,621,537 within the urban area, with greater Barcelona composed of around 4.5 million. This makes it the sixth-most populous urban area in the European Union and Europe's largest metropolis on the Mediterranean coast.


There are three main climatic zones:

  • Mediterranean Climate - Characterized by dry and warm summers, primarily on the peninsula
  • Semi-arid Climate - A longer dry season than Mediterranean, this climate can be found in the southeastern quarter of the country in the region of Murcia and in the Ebro valley.
  • Oceanic Climate - Winter and summer temperatures are influenced by the ocean, and have no seasonal drought. This climate can be found in the north quarter of the country.

Barcelona has primarily a Mediterranean climate. This is characterized by mild, humid winters and warm, dry summers. Atlantic west winds often arrive in Barcelona with low humidity, producing no rain. The proximity of the Atlantic, its latitude, and the relief, are the reasons why the summers are not as dry as in most other Mediterranean Basin locations. Its average annual temperature is 20 degrees C (68 degrees F) during the day; 11 degrees C (52 degrees F) at night.

The coldest month is in January with the warmest temperatures in August.
Summer season lasts about six months, from May to October.
April and November are usually transitional, with average temperature of 17-18 degrees C (63-64 degrees F) during the day and 8-9 degrees C (46-48 degrees F) at night.
Winter months of December, January and February are the coldest with average temperatures around 14 degrees C (57 degrees F) during the day and 5 degrees C (41 degrees F) at night.

Sub-types of climates can be found in different regions of the country, like the alpine climate in the Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada, and a typical subtropical climate in the Canary Islands.

For up-to-date weather information, consult Barcelona weather.


Since 1987, the city has been divided into 10 administrative districts (districtes Catalan, distritos Spanish). Each district has its own council led by a city councilor. The districts are based mostly on historical divisions.

  • Ciutat Vella - (Neighborhoods: La Barceloneta, El Gòtic, El Raval, Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera) Barcelona's old town, including the medieval Barri Gotic, The Rambles, Raval, and El Born (also known as La Ribera)
  • Example - (Neighborhoods: L'Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample, La Nova Esquerra de l'Eixample, Dreta de l'Eixample, Fort Pienc, Sagrada Família, Sant Antoni) Modern area with large tree-lined avenues, architecture of Antoni Gaudi and plenty of shops and restaurants.
  • Sants-Montjuic - (Neighborhoods: la Bordeta, la Font de la Guatlla, Hostafrancs, la Marina de Port, la Marina del Prat Vermell, El Poble-sec, Sants, Sants-Badal, Montjuic, Zona Franca - Port)
  • Les Corts - (Neighborhoods: les Corts, la Maternitat i Sant Ramon, Pedralbes)
  • Sarrià-Sant Gervasi (Neighborhoods: El Putget i Farró, Sarrià, Sant Gervasi - la Bonanova, Sant Gervasi - Galvany, les Tres Torres, Vallvidrera, Tibidabo i les Planes)
  • Gràcia - (Neighborhoods: Vila de Gràcia, el Camp d'en Grassot i Gràcia Nova, la Salut, el Coll, Vallcarca i els Penitents) Formerly an independent town, it joined the city in the 20th century. Narrow streets and a cosmopolitan and young atmosphere with not too many tourists
  • Horta-Guinardó (Neighborhoods: El Baix Guinardó, El Guinardó, Can Baró, El Carmel, la Font d'en Fargues, Horta, la Clota, Montbau, Sant Genís dels Agudells, la Teixonera, La Vall d'Hebron)
  • Nou Barris (Neighborhoods: Can Peguera, Canyelles, Ciutat Meridiana, La Guineueta, Porta, La Prosperitat, les Roquetes, Torre Baró, la Trinitat Nova, El Turó de la Peira, Vallbona, Verdum, Vilapicina i la Torre Llobeta)
  • Sant Andreu (Neighborhoods: Baró de Viver, Bon Pastor, El Congrés i els Indians, Navas, Sant Andreu de Palomar, La Sagrera i Trinitat Vella)
  • Sant Martí (Neighborhoods: El Besòs i el Maresme, el Clot, El Camp de l'Arpa del Clot, Diagonal Mar i el Front Marítim del Poblenou, el Parc i la Llacuna del Poblenou)

Update 17/10/2011

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