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BarcelonaBarcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of 101.4 km2 (39 sq mi).

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The urban area of Barcelona extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of between 4,200,000 and 4,500,000 within an area of 803 km2 (310 sq mi), being the sixth-most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Ruhr area, Madrid and Milan. About five million people live in the Barcelona metropolitan area. It is also Europe's largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea. It is the main component of an administrative area of Greater Barcelona, with a population of 3,218,071 in an area of 636 km (density 5,060 hab/km). It is located on the Mediterranean coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs and is bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola ridge (512 m/1,680 ft).

Barcelona is today one of the world's leading tourist, economic, trade fair/exhibitions and cultural-sports 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. Indeed, it is a major cultural and economic center in south-western Europe (Iberian Peninsula), 26th in the world (after Moscow, before Dubai) and a growing financial centre (Diagonal Mar area and Gran Via). One of Europe's principal Mediterranean ports can be found here as well as Barcelona international airport, which handles above 34 million passengers per year. It also boasts an extensive motorway network and is a hub of high-speed rail, particularly that which will link Spain with France and the rest of Europe. Barcelona is the 16th-most-visited city in the world and the fourth most visited in Europe after Paris, London, and Rome, with several million tourists every year. Barcelona is the 14th most "livable city" in the world according to lifestyle magazine Monocle.

Similarly, according to Innovation Analysts 2thinknow, Barcelona occupies 13th place in the world on Innovation Cities Global Index. It is the fourth richest city by GDP in the European Union and 35th in the world with an output amounting to €177 billion, a figure nonetheless smaller than alternative estimates. Consequently, its GDP per capita output stands at €39,859 – some 44% higher than the European Union average and GDP per head is €80,894 according to Eurostat. Similarly, the city of Barcelona stands in 29th place in a list of net personal earnings headed by Zurich. The city is Europe's third and one of the world's most successful as a city brand, both in terms of reputation and assets. Barcelona is the seventh most important fashion capital in the world. Also, the city is Europe's fourth best business city and fastest improving European city, with growth improved by 17% per year. Barcelona, among world centers of commerce takes second place in economic stability.

Founded as a Roman city, Barcelona became the capital of the County of Barcelona. After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, Barcelona became one of the most important cities of the Crown of Aragon. Besieged several times during its history, 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, including the 1888 Exposición Universal de Barcelona, the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition (Expo 1929), the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures, and the 2004 World Urban Forum.

As the capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia, Barcelona is the seat of the Catalan government, known as the Generalitat de Catalunya; of particular note are the executive branch, the parliament, and the Supreme Court of Catalonia. The city is also the capital of the Province of Barcelona and the Barcelonès comarca (district).

The name Barcelona comes from the ancient Iberian Phoenician Barkeno, attested in an ancient coin inscription in Iberian script as , in Ancient Greek sources as Barkinn; and in Latin as Barcino, Barcilonum and Barceno.

During the Middle Ages, the city was variously known as Barchinona, Barçalona, Barchelona, and Barchenona.

Some sources say that the city could have been named after the Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca, who was supposed to have founded the city in the 3rd century BC.

The Barri Gòtic ("Gothic Quarter" in Catalan) is the centre of the old city of Barcelona. Many of the buildings date from medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. Catalan modernista architecture (related to the movement known as Art Nouveau in the rest of Europe), developed between 1885 and 1950 and left an important legacy in Barcelona. Several of these buildings are World Heritage Sites.

Especially remarkable is the work of architect Antoni Gaudí, which can be seen throughout the city. His best-known work is the immense but still unfinished church of the Sagrada Família, which has been under construction since 1882, and is still financed by private donations. As of 2007, completion is planned for 2026.

Barcelona was also home to Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion. Designed in 1929 for the International Exposition for Germany, it is an iconic building that came to symbolize modern architecture as the embodiment of van der Rohe's aphorisms "less is more" and "God is in the details." The Barcelona pavilion was intended as a temporary structure, and was torn down in 1930 less than a year after it was constructed. A modern re-creation by Spanish architects now stands in Barcelona, however, constructed in 1986.

Barcelona won the 1999 RIBA Royal Gold Medal for its architecture, the first (and as of 2009, only) time that the winner has been a city, and not an individual architect.

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