Geography

Catalonia is in the north-eastern corner of the Iberian peninsula. It borders France to the north, with the Pyrenees tumbling either side of the national boundary. This impressive mountain range also marks Catalonia's western limits, while the Mediterranean is to the east and the Ebro Delta to the south.

Its capital, Barcelona, is spread across a five kilometre wide plateau by the sea. Two rivers form natural boundaries to its north and south-west; the Besòs and the Llobregat respectively. To the immediate west of the city is the Collserola mountain ridge, whose peak, Tibidabo, is 512 feet high. Immediately to the city's north are the municipalities of Santa Coloma de Gramanet and Sant Adrià de Besòs, while to the south are L’Hospitalet de Llobregat and Esplugues de Llobregat. In the north-west lie Montcada i Reixac and Sant Cugat del Vallès.

Overall, the city of Barcelona has ten administrative districts; Ciutat Vella, L’Eixample, Les Corts, Sants-Montjuic, Horta-Guinardò, Sarrià-San Gervasi, Gràcia, Sant Martí, Nou Barris and Sant Andreu. Ciutat Vella, the city’s historical centre, envelopes Barri Gòtic, La Ribera, El Raval, Les Rambles, Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla de Catalunya. Its nucleus is the well-connected transport hub of Plaça Catalunya. The upper reaches of Avinguida Diagonal are where the main commercial part of the city can be found.

Barcelona’s skyline today is as much about skyscrapers as the spires of medieval basilicas or art deco ballustrades. The glass-panneled Torre Mapfre and Hotel Arts buildings (both 154 metres) rate as the city’s tallest, standing side by side on the Villa Olìmpica seafront.

Dense urban jungle though it is, Barcelona has 68 parks. Lining the streets and squares are over 150,000 trees, from 140 different species. The most common of these is the Spanish plane tree, which you’ll see giving shade to passers-by on the Ramblas. At the western limits of the city, along the Collserola ridge, there is a green belt with pine forests, walking and biking trails and spectacular views. Several smaller hills, such as Putxet (181m), Carmel (267m) and Rovira (261), are found within the city itself. To the south-east, lying between the old city and the Llobregat delta is another major natural feature; Montjuic (173m), which has great views of the harbour.

Barcelona also has four and a half kilometres’ worth of sand beaches. Lying between Port Vell and Port Olìmpic are arguably the two most popular; La Barceloneta and San Sebastia (both more than one kilometre long). North of Port Olìmpic are the cleaner (though only slightly less crowded) beaches of Nova Icària, Bogatell, Mar Bella and Nova Mar Bella (ranging from 400 to 640 metres long), which owe their existence to a big-clean up of the area in preparation for the 1992 Olympic Games.

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