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Spain – The Country

The Kingdom of Spain (Reino de España) is located in the extreme south-western corner of Europe and occupies most (about 80%) of the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal, Spain’s neighbour to the West, covers the remaining 20%. Spain’s mainland territory is 498,800 Km2 making it the 3rd largest country in Europe, after Ukraine and France. The mainland stretches 805 km from North to South and 885 km from East to West. In the centre of the country is the “meseta central”, a vast plateau rimmed by mountain ranges along the coasts on three sides. To the North is the Cantabrian mountain range, in the South the Penibético range, with Sierra Nevada and on the East Coast a mountain range with lower peaks stretching through the regions of Catalonia and Valencia. Spain’s largest river is the Ebro, from which the Iberian Peninsula got its name. Ebro is the only river that empties into the Mediterranean. All other major rivers in Spain, e.g. Ducro, Guadalquivir, Guadiana and Tajo all empties into the Atlantic. Spain is also one of the more mountainous countries in Europe, with medium elevation of 660m above sea level. About 40% of the country’s surface area is cultivated, i.e. either used as farmland or housing.

Population of Spain

The total population in Spain was last recorded at 46.4 million people in 2014, making the country one of the largest in Europe. Though birth rates have declined in later years, there is still a marginal increase in population figures. One of the reasons for this increase is, of course, the steady stream of immigrants from Africa and other European countries such as the UK, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. At this moment in time, 50% of the population live in nine provinces with a massive 25% of the population living in the large city areas Madrid and Barcelona. Out of Spain’s 46 million inhabitants approximately 25 million live in the coastal areas and approximately 4 million live in and around the capital Madrid. 77% of Spanish residents live in cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants. The largest cities are Madrid with 3,17 million inhabitants (5,603,285 inhabitants if outskirts and surrounding areas are included), Barcelona with 1.6 million,  Valencia 0.79 million Seville 0.7 million, Zaragoza 0.67 million and Malaga with 0.57 million inhabitants.

Barcelona in itself is the fourth most densely populated city in the world per Km2. It is estimated (there are no official figures available) that approximately 1.5 million properties are owned by foreigners and is home to approximately 5 million people, i.e. 10% of the entire population in Spain.  The population density in Spain is 87 people/Km2 which one of the lower numbers in Western Europe (East European Nations not included),  compare with e.g. Sweden - 20 people/Km2, UK - 246 and Holland - 394. The Balearic Islands also form part of the Spanish territory - the archipelago, located off the Eastern Coast of Spain, comprises Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera which together cover a land area of 5,014 Km2, and the Canary Islands (Islas Canarias) located 97 km outside the African coast. The Canary Islands consist of 7 islands in total - Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. Together, the islands cover an area of 7,271 km2. Since the 1400s, Spain also count with two North African enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, previously administered by the regional authorities in Cadiz and Malaga but are autonomous regions in their own right. 


Spain borders Portugal in the West, Andorra and France in the North and has coastal borders against the Mediterranean in the South and the Atlantic Ocean in the South West and North. The most Southern tip of Spain also borders Gibraltar, once a Spanish territory but now a British Colony since the Utrecht Peace Treaty of 1713. Ever since, it has been a fervent wish of the Spanish authorities to win Gibraltar back from the English. Spain became a member of the UN in 1955 and a political member of NATO in 1982. Since 1986, Spain is also a member of the European Union and the European Economic Area Agreement, EEA.

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