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About Barcelona

Beach Art at the Barceloneta

Barcelona is the capital and largest city of Catalonia, one of Spain's 17 Autonomous Regions. Home to about 1.6 million people, it is the second largest city on the Iberian Peninsula and one of Spain's most important financial hubs. Barcelona became quite well-known internationally after the 1992 Olympic Games were held there. Catalonia is one of Spain's most economically dynamic regions and offers a unique and rich culture and history all its own. The local language in Catalonia is not Spanish but rather Catalan, a language with about 8 million native speakers spoken in various Autonomous Regions in Spain's Northeast as well as in parts of France and Italy and in Andorra, where it is the official language. Catalans are bilingual in Catalan and Spanish and many also speak a third language.

Barcelona Cityscape

Barcelona is a truly ancient city. The area has been populated by humans since about the end of the Neolithic. The Carthaginians invaded the settlement during the Second Punic War and it was refounded by Hamilcar Barca, the father of Hannibal, who named it after his family. When the Romans conquered the town in 218 BC it was renamed Colonia Julia Augusta Paterna Faventia Barcino, and was thenceforth known commonly as "Barcino". At the time it was known as a small town near a much larger and wealthier neighbour, Tarraco (modern day Tarragona), which it would ultimately grow to eclipse. The city has since changed hands various times throughout its history, from the Romans to the Visigoths in the 5th century, then to the Moors in the 8th century. Upon being conquered by the Carolingians it was made into a county, ruled by the Count of Barcelona, and to this day retains the nickname "ciutat comtal" in Catalan (County City in English or ciudad condal in Spanish). Roman city planning is still plainly visible in modern Barcelona in the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) and stands in stark contrast to the grid-like Eixample district started in the late 19th century. Eixample is the Catalan for ensanche in Spanish, literally "widening" or "enlargement". Barcelona's Eixample is about the most densely populated area in Spain.

A centre of anarchist thought in the early 20th century, Barcelona fiercely resisted both fascist military occupation and encroaching Soviet influence during the Spanish Civil War. The city's intense industrialisation throughout the 20th century brought prosperity and made it into a magnet for economic migrants hailing from other parts of Spain. In particular, many thousands of Andalusians went to Barcelona throughout the late 20th century looking for work to support their families. The children of these migrants have become part of the social and cultural fabric of modern Barcelona.

The city is also known for the legacy of the Catalan arquitectural genius Antoni Gaudí, whose eclectic modernist architectural style is reflected in many of its most reknowned buildings. The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia, known commonly as the Sagrada Familia, is just about Barcelona's most famous landmark and is considered Gaudí's masterwork. Started in 1883, its complexity is such that it is as yet uncompleted and construction has continued uninterrupted since the end of the Spanish Civil War. It is estimated that it will not be completed until about 2050.

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