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Welcome to our page dedicated to places in Spain! Use the contents to navigate to any section that interests you! 

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España

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Fact File

Capital: Madrid

Major cities: Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Valencia, Bilbao

Currency: Euro €

Population: 48.5 million (2023 estimate)

Official language(s): Spanish (castellano), Catalan (catalán), Basque (vasco/euskera), Galician (gallego)

Demonym in Spanish: español

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Andalucía

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Quick Fact File

Capital: Sevilla

Major cities: Sevilla, Málaga, Cádiz, Huelva, Córdoba, Granada, Almería, Jaén

Population: 8.5 million (2023 estimate) - #1 in Spain

Andalusia (Andalucía in Spanish), Spain's most populous region, situated at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, has played a pivotal role in shaping Spain's rich history and culture. 

The region, a crossroads of cultures due to its strategic location and historic Islamic rule, showcases a remarkable blend of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian influences, reflected prominently in its architecture. Notably, landmarks such as the Alhambra Palace in Granada, the Mezquita in Córdoba, and the Alcázar in Seville stand as testaments to this cultural fusion.

However, the intermingling of religious cultures in Andalusia was not always as harmonious as a modern-day onlooker might hypothesise. During the reign of the Catholic Monarchs (los Reyes Católicos - Isabel I de Castilla y Fernando II de Aragón), the push for the "Reconquest" (Reconquista) of the Iberian Peninsula intensified. While the Spanish Inquisition had begun centuries earlier, the Catholic Monarchs utilised it as a tool to solidify religious unity across the Peninsula. Cities like Seville and Córdoba became centres of vigorous Inquisition efforts, aimed at "Christianising" the non-Catholic population. The decisive moment arrived in 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs captured Granada, marking the culmination of the "Reconquest" and the end of Islamic rule in Iberia. This victory also heralded the implementation of the Alhambra Decree, which mandated Jews to convert to Catholicism or face expulsion from the Kingdom within four months.

Beyond its historic cities and their Islamic heritage, Andalusia is renowned for its picturesque "White Villages" (Pueblos Blancos), the Costa del Sol (and its mass tourism in cities like Benidorm and Torremolinos), and for being the birthplace of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso. Finally, no mention of Andalusia's culture would be complete without highlighting that Flamenco, one of the most symbolic images of Spain (and one of the world's most famous dances) originated in the region. 

Sevilla

Sevilla

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Seville

Seville (Sevilla in Spanish), the capital of Andalusia, is steeped in rich history and is one of the most important cities in Spain. 

As mentioned above in the Andalusia section, Seville's history is deeply connected to the Islamic rule before the Catholic Monarchs' reign. Many of its most iconic buildings, such as the Alcázar and the Torre de Oro, are remnants from this period, while the Giralda, now in the city's cathedral, is a repurposed minaret. 

In addition to its strong Islamic architecture, Seville played a fundamental role in Spain's conquest of the Americas. Due to its location and size, it was chosen as the headquarters for the Casa de Contratación, which essentially collected all necessary taxes from voyages to the Americas, and gave permission to undergo voyages of exploration. The city's connection to the "New World" is still very much palpable today with Christopher Columbus' grave located in its cathedral, Santa María de la Sede

In the more modern period, Seville constructed one of Spain's most famous landmarks, Plaza de España, during the Exposición Ibero-americana 1929-1930. The monument showcases various architectural styles from different periods of Spain's history, as well as giving spotlights to the regions of Spain.

 

Finally, while we have mentioned Seville's deep connection to its Islamic heritage, it would be amiss not to mention that the city is home to one of Spain's most significant Christian festivals, with Samana Santa de Sevilla (Holy Week in Seville) being one of the most mesmerising religious festivals in Europe. The festival sees around 70 churches engage in processions throughout the city's streets that showcase the Passion of Christ. 

Cataluña/Catalunya

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Capital: Barcelona

Major cities: Barcelona, Girona, Tarragona, Lleida

Population: 8 (2023 estimate) - #2 in Spain

Catalonia (Cataluña in Spanish and Catalunya in Catalan), the second most populous region in Spain, holds significant global recognition. With a distinct history, culture, and its own language, Catalonia arguably epitomises Spain's diverse cultural heritage more than any other region.

Catalonia's complex relationship with the rest of Spain can be traced back to 1469 when the Kingdom of Aragon was united with the Kingdom of Castille in 1469 when the Catholic Monarchs (los Reyes Católicos - Isabel I de Castilla y Fernando II de Aragónmarried. Despite this union, Spain did not solidify its status as a nation state until the 1700s . As part of its assimilation into the Kingdom of Spain, there have been many attempts to quash the use of the Catalan language and sense of Catalan identity. The most memorable, perhaps, was during Franco's regime, following the Spanish Civil War, when the use of the Catalan language was banned at public events. Since the transition to democracy (la Transición), the region has been freer to express its culture and identity, which has fuelled a growing movement for independence.

Despite the region's interesting politics and language, Catalonia's cultural influence extends beyond Spain's borders. The region, synonymous with its capital, Barcelona, is a beacon of architectural brilliance. Barcelona's streets are adorned with works from its prominent artists, most notably, Guadí, Dalí and Miró, whose works capture the imagination and helped create a sense of regional and national pride. Perhaps the most notable contribution is Gaudí's Sagrada Familia, which has become an increasingly important symbol of Spain.

In addition to its artistic prowess, Catalonia boasts unique cultural traditions such as its Castells (human towers), which have earned protected UNESCO Heritage status, and correfocs (groups of people who dress up as devils and light fireworks), which are central to Catalan festivals. Another significant tradition in the region is the celebration of Saint George's Day (Diada de Sant Jordi), where Catalans exchange roses and books, symbolising love and culture, in homage to the region's patron saint.

Despite on-going tensions with Madrid, Catalonia's strong cultural identity has had a significan impact on the sense of Spanish national identity. This tension rears its head a few times every year when FC Barcelona play Real Madrid CF in what is dubbed el Clásico, which perhaps represents the complexity of modern Spanish national identity in the most tangible way.

Barcelona

Barcelona

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Barcelona

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, and Spain's second most populous city (after Madrid), is steeped in history and pulsating with artistic energy.

As mentioned above in the Catalonia section, Barcelona is renowned for its varied architecture, which paints a history ranging from the ancient Roman walls to the Barri Gòtic's medieval buildings and Gaudí's modernist masterpieces.

Gaudí's influence on Barcelona's extends beyond the awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell. His influence on the city has shaped its identity and by extension, Catalonia and Spain's identities. The city has become synonymous with Gaudí's vision, while still honouring its pretty architecture from other eras, such as the Baroque and Roman buildings. Curiously, Barcelona's skyline could have been very different as the Eiffel Tower was rumoured to have been offered to Barcelona before it was erected in the French capital.

In addition to its architectural richness, Barcelona has a deep-rooted connection with sports. While Barcelona FC enjoy global recognition as one of the most successful football clubs, it was the hosting of the 1992 Summer Olympics that brought about a transformative change for the city. This event spurred a comprehensive modernisation effort, revitalising Barcelona's urban landscape and public spaces, particularly around the coastal areas. Locals often credit the Olympics with significantly enhancing the city's quality of life and cementing its status as one of Europe's premier destinations.

Finally, as we have highlighted the significance of art and architecture in Barcelona, including the lasting legacies of artists such as Dalí, Gaudí, and Miró in Catalonia, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the city's rich artistic culture permeating through its diverse neighbourhoods. This vibrant tapestry of creativity is most palpable during each neighbourhood's Festa Major (main town celebration), where the streets come alive with vibrant processions of gigants (giant figures), alongside captivating displays of local cuisine and exhilarating castells performances.

Comunidad de Madrid

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Quick Fact File

Capital: Madrid

Major cities: Madrid, Móstoles, Alcalá de Hernares, Getafe, Leganés

Population: 6.8 million (2022 estimate) - #3 in Spain

The Community of Madrid (Comunidad de Madrid in Spanish) is the autonomous region that houses Spain's capital city, Madrid.

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As the region encompassing the nation's capital city, the Community of Madrid enjoys a rich cultural offering in the areas surrounding the city. That said, when it was given status as an autonomous region in the late 20th century, there were arguments that as a region it lacked a distinct "regional identity". Despite this claim, it would be impossible to argue that the city of Madrid has not developed its own identity, which has played a vital role in developing Spain's culture and national identity. 

Beyond the city of Madrid, the city of Alcalá de Hernares, to the north-east of the capital, has also played a vital role in Spain's history, and by extension has shaped the "regional identity". While it might not be as notable as the capital, it can boast being the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes (the author of Don Quixote - arguably Spain's most important piece of literature) and the birthplace of Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII of England. Additionally, Christopher Columbus met with the Catholic Monarchs (los Reyes Católicos) in Alcalá de Hernares before embarking on his transformative voyage west.

Madrid

Madrid

Madrid

Madrid, Spain's capital and the country's most populous city, is renowned globally for its world-class art scene, fascinating history, and vibrant culture. Once a Moorish fortress and now a world-leading city at the heart of the nation, Madrid represents a fusion of Spain's regional cultures and Hispanic traditions unlike anywhere else.

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For centuries, Madrid has been synonymous with the might of the Spanish Empire and its royal family. In the 16th Century, Madrid emerged as the epicentre of the country's burgeoning power, serving as a melting pot where the cultures of Spain's diverse regions intertwined, giving rise to a unique national identity.

As the economic and cultural hub of Spain, Madrid is home to a plethora of outstanding facilities and museums. The Prado and Reina Sofía stand as beacons of artistic excellence, showcasing masterpieces that define Spain's cultural heritage. From Picasso's iconic anti-war piece, Guernica, at the Reina Sofía to Velázquez's timeless Las Meninas at the Prado, these institutions house an unparalleled collection of Spanish art. Moreover, they celebrate the works of other influential Spanish artists such as Dalí, Miró, and Goya, further solidifying Madrid's status as a bastion of artistic creativity.

Beyond its artistic treasures, Madrid's cultural significance extends to its majestic Royal Palace (Palacio Real de Madrid), a symbol of Spain's rich history and a strong visual representation of the importance of the monarchy to the city. The palace's stunning architecture and the site's huge size offer a glimpse into the historic might of Spain's monarchy.

Madrid, with its rich artistic heritage, is also a city steeped in tradition and enthusiasm for sport. Despite its controversial nature, and the fact that some regions have banned it (Catalonia and the Canary Islands), bullfighting still holds sway in Madrid. The Spanish capital is home to the country's largest bullring, Las Ventas, which is the third largest in the world, and the second largest bullring still in active use.

 

Further on the sports side, the city is home to two of Spain's largest football clubs, Real Madrid CF and Club Atlético de Madrid, who compete in the fierce Madird Derby (El Derbi Madrileño). The rivalry has intensified over recent seasons, with Atlético becoming more prominent on the world stage compared to previous eras. In addition to the local derby, Real Madrid CF also compete in Spain's most prestigious match, el Clásico, against FC Barcelona. The game is not only significant due to both teams' strength, but also due to what each team represents culturally within the coutnry.

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