Spain Geography - History

Spain Geography - History

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Spain is located in Southwestern Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, and Pyrenees Mountains, southwest of France . The terrain of Spain is flat to dissected plateau surrounded by rugged hills; Pyrenees in north.
Climate: Spain is temperate; clear, hot summers in interior, more moderate and cloudy along coast; cloudy, cold winters in interior, partly cloudy and cool along coast


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Galicia, comunidad autónoma (autonomous community) and historic region of Spain, encompassing the northwestern provincias (provinces) of Lugo, A Coruña, Pontevedra, and Ourense. It is roughly coextensive with the former kingdom of Galicia. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, by the autonomous communities of Asturias and Castile-León to the east, and by Portugal to the south. A 1936 plebiscite on a Galician statute of autonomy registered overwhelming support but was nullified by the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco. The autonomous community of Galicia finally was established by a second statute of autonomy on April 6, 1981. Galicia has a parliament, headed by a president, and a unicameral assembly. The capital is Santiago de Compostela, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. Area 11,419 square miles (29,574 square km). Pop. (2011) 2,772,927.


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Valencia, Valencian València, city, capital of both Valencia provincia (province) and the comunidad autónoma (autonomous community) of Valencia, and historical capital of the former kingdom of Valencia, eastern Spain. Located on the Mediterranean coast at the mouth of the Turia (Guadalaviar) River, it is surrounded by orchards in a region known as the Huerta de Valencia. The earliest mention (Valentia) is by the Roman historian Livy, who states that the consul Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus settled the soldier veterans of the Lusitanian leader Viriathus there in 138 bce . It later became a prosperous Roman colony.

Taken by the Visigoths in 413 ce and in 714 by the Moors, it became in 1021 the seat of the newly established independent Moorish kingdom of Valencia, which extended from Almería to the Ebro estuary. From 1089 until the final capitulation of the city in 1094, the kingdom was fought for by the Spanish soldier-hero El Cid, who eventually secured it from the Moorish Almoravids. It remained in the hands of El Cid, after whom it is sometimes called Valencia del Cid, until his death there in 1099. The Moors recovered the city (and kingdom) in 1102.

In 1238 James I of Aragon added Valencia to his dominions, but the kingdom continued to be administered separately, with its own laws and parliament. In 1479, with the other countries of the Aragonese crown, the kingdom was united with Castile under the monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, resulting in a long period of peace during which the city developed rapidly and the arts prospered. The first Spanish printing press is said to have been set up there in 1474, and during the next two centuries the city was the seat of the Valencian school of painting. During the Spanish Civil War it was the loyalist capital from 1936 to 1939.

Valencia has been called the city of the 100 bell towers, of which the most outstanding are the Gothic Miguelete Tower (1381–1424), adjoining the cathedral, and the hexagonal Tower of Santa Catalina (1688–1705), a fine example of Valencian Baroque style. The most important church is the cathedral, La Seo, situated in the ancient city centre. Begun in the 13th century (completed 1482), it represents several styles—its three doorways are respectively Romanesque, Baroque, and Gothic—and it possesses many works of art, including two large religious paintings by Goya. On Thursdays at noon the doorway opening onto the Plaza de la Constitución is the site of the Tribunal de las Aguas (Water Court), which has been in existence at least since the 10th century. It is composed of farmers who hear disputes over irrigation waters and dispense justice on the spot, conducting all proceedings orally in the Valencian dialect of Catalan.

Notable civic buildings include the splendid late Gothic (15th century) Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange) the Palacio de la Diputación, which housed the parliament of the kingdom of Valencia, with a 15th-century courtyard and beautifully paneled rooms the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall), a modern building with important archives and the city historical museum and the 18th-century Neoclassical Palacio de Justicia. Valencia was a walled town, but the walls were removed in the 19th century, and only two of its gates survive. Remains of Moorish buildings include the Almudín (the public granary), which houses the Museum of Paleontology, and the Baños (Baths) del Almirante (13th century).

Valencia has many botanical gardens and museums of art and ceramics. The City of Arts and Sciences is a large complex that features a planetarium, science museum, and arboretum. Noted for its unique architecture, the complex includes L’Hemisfèric (The Eye of Wisdom), an eye-shaped building designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, and L’Oceanogràfic (Underwater City), Europe’s largest marine centre. The city’s educational institutions include the University of Valencia (1499).

Valencia’s renowned annual Fallas Festival commemorates St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, and draws thousands of spectators to the city each March. The fallas are towering monuments, effigies made of papier-mâché and wax (and sometimes cork and wood) that together create a scene. (Each individual figure is known as a ninot.) The monuments can take up to a year to create and are usually satirical or humorous in nature. On the eve of St. Joseph’s feast day, all the fallas are burned in the streets, except for those ninots that are voted the best, which are preserved in the city’s Museum of Las Fallas. The city also has a traditional bullfighting arena, and bullfights become a main attraction during the Fallas Festival.

From Valencia’s port, El Grao, are exported agricultural produce (rice, oranges, lemons, onions, wine) from the region and manufactured items, including furniture, glazed tiles and ceramics, automobiles, textiles, and iron products. Among the city’s other industries are shipbuilding and food processing. Services, including tourism, are also important to the economy. Pop. (2016 est.) mun., 790,201.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Michael Ray, Editor.

Spain facts: discover the land of flamenco and fiesta!

Sunny beaches, fascinating culture and beautiful cities – find out about one of the world’s coolest countries with our facts about Spain!

Facts about Spain

OFFICIAL NAME: Kingdom of Spain
FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Parliamentary monarchy
POPULATION: 47, 909, 753
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Basque
AREA: 505,988 square kilometres
MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES: Pyrenees, Sierra de Guadarrama, Sierra de Gredos, Sierra Nevada

Spanish flag

Map of Spain

Spain: geography and landscape

Spain occupies most of Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, stretching south from the Pyrenees Mountains to the Strait of Gibraltar, which separates Spain from Africa. To the east lies the Mediterranean Sea and Spain”s Balearic Islands. Spain also rules two cities in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

The interior of Spain is a high, dry plateau surrounded and crisscrossed by mountain ranges. Rivers run to the coasts, creating rich soils that are good for farming. Still, the interior of the country gets very cold in winter, and very hot and dry in summer.

The north coast of this amazing country is called “Green Spain”. This is because the mild, wet climate of the region allows lush plants and trees, such as beech and oak, to flourish.

The southern and eastern coasts of Spain, from the fertile Andalusian plain up to the Pyrenees, are often swept by warm winds called “sirocco” winds. These winds originate in northern Africa and keep temperatures along the Mediterranean coast warmer than the interior.

Spain’s wildlife and nature

A link between Europe and Africa, Spain is an important resting spot for migratory birds. It is also home to magnificent mammals including wolves, lynxes, wildcats, foxes and deer – and fab fish such as barbel, tench and trout can be found in the country’s streams and lakes.

Sadly, many species of wildlife are under threat from habitat loss and pollution. Due to centuries of tree cutting, large forests are now only found in the north Pyrenees and the Asturias-Galicia area. River pollution is also a problem in parts of Spain, putting Spain’s aquatic species at risk.

To help protect wildlife, Spain has created national parks and refuges. One protected area is Doñana National Park, a region of marshes, streams and sand dunes where the Guadalquivir River flows into the Atlantic. The park”s diversity of life is unique in Europe and includes the European badger, Egyptian mongoose and endangered species such as the Spanish imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx.

History of Spain

Settlers have migrated to Spain from Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean since the dawn of history. The Phoenicians, who came in the 8th century B.C., called the peninsula “Span,” or “hidden land”. By the first century B.C. the Romans had conquered Spain.

Spain became mostly Christian under the Romans, who were followed by Germanic tribes from Europe called the Vandals and the Visigoths. The Visigoth rulers fought among themselves, and in A.D. 711 Muslims from Africa invaded Spain.

Islamic culture spread across Spain, as Muslim rulers introduced new crops and irrigation systems, and increased trading. Mathematics, medicine and philosophy became more advanced, peaking in the tenth century – the golden age of Islamic rule in Spain.

In 1492 Christian kingdoms in northern Spain conquered the Muslims and spread the Catholic religion. Enriched by silver from the Americas, Spain grew more powerful and influential. It later lost land and power, however, in the Napoleonic Wars, which ended in 1815.

More than 500,000 people died in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. The victorious General Francisco Franco ruled as a brutal dictator until his death in 1975. Soon after, Spain began to transform itself into a modern, industrial and democratic European nation.

Spanish people and culture

Many Spaniards share a common ethnic background – a mixture of the early inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula, the Celts, and later conquerors from Europe and Africa. Recent immigrants from North Africa and Latin America have added to the mix of people and culture, too.

Spaniards are known for their love of life and for eating and drinking with family and friends. Traditional appetizers like tapas or pintxos (the Basque Country equivalent) are popular. Regional music and dances, such as fandango and flamenco, are an important part of Spanish culture, as well as religious festivals and, of course, football – the country’s national sport!

Government and economy

Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with the king and the elected president sharing the power. Spain is one of the most “decentralised” democracies in Europe – although there is a national parliament that governs the country, each of Spain’s 17 regions manages its own schools, hospitals and other public services.

With vibrant, historic cities and sunny beaches, Spain attracts more tourists than any other European country, except France. In 1986 Spain joined the European Union and further modernised its economy. In addition to tourism, other important industries include machinery, shipbuilding, food, beverages, and textiles.

The People of Spain

Languages Spoken: Castilian Spanish 74%, Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, Basque 2% note - Castilian is the official language nationwide the other languages are official regionally

Nationality: Spaniard(s)

Religions: Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%

Origin of the name Spain: The word "Spain" is the English version of the Spanish word for the country "España." The word "España" comes from the Roman name for the region Hispania.

  • Miguel de Cervantes - Author who wrote Don Quixote - Explorer and conquistador
  • Penelope Cruz - Actress - Artist
  • Juan Ponce de Leon - Explorer
  • Hernando de Soto - Explorer
  • Ferdinand II - King of Aragon
  • Francisco Franco - Dictator
  • Pau Gasol - Basketball player
  • Rita Hayworth - Actress
  • Julio Iglesias - Singer
  • Andres Iniesta - Soccer player
  • Rafael Nadal - Tennis player - Painter - Explorer

** Source for population (2019 est.) is United Nations. GDP (2011 est.) is CIA World Factbook.

Spain Geography - History

  • 1800 - The Bronze Age begins in the Iberian Peninsula. The El Argar civilization begins to form.
  • 1100 - The Phoenicians begin to settle in the region. They introduce iron and the potter's wheel.
  • 900 - The Celtics arrive and settle northern Spain.
  • 218 - The Second Punic War between Carthage and Rome is fought. Part of Spain becomes a Roman province called Hispania.
  • 19 - All of Spain comes under the rule of the Roman Empire.

Brief Overview of the History of Spain

Spain is located in Southwest Europe on the eastern Iberian Peninsula which it shares with Portugal.

The Iberian Peninsula has been occupied by many empires over the centuries. The Phoenicians arrived in the 9th century BC, followed by the Greeks, Carthaginians, and the Romans. The Roman Empire would have a lasting impact on Spain's culture. Later, the Visigoths arrived and drove out the Romans. In 711 the Moors came across the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa and conquered most of Spain. They would remain there for hundreds of years until the Europeans would retake Spain as part of the Reconquista.

In the 1500s, during the Age of Exploration, Spain became the most powerful country in Europe and likely the world. This was due to their colonies in the Americas and the gold and great wealth they acquired from them. Spanish conquistadors such as Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizarro conquered much of the Americas and claimed them for Spain. However, in 1588 in a battle of the world's great navies, the British defeated the Spanish Armada. This started the decline of the Spanish Empire.

In the 1800s many of Spain's colonies started revolutions to separate from Spain. Spain was fighting too many wars and losing most of them. When Spain lost the Spanish-American war against the United States in 1898, they lost many of their primary colonies.

In 1936, Spain had a civil war. The nationalist forces won and General Francisco Franco became leader and ruled until 1975. Spain managed to remain neutral during World War II, but somewhat sided with Germany, making things difficult after the war. Since the death of the dictator Franco, Spain has moved toward reforms and improving its economy. Spain became a member of the European Union in 1986.

Ancient Spain Timeline

Ancient Spain

900 BC: The Phoenicians trade with Spain
227 BC: The Carthaginians from North Africa found Cartagena
218 BC: The Romans send an army to Spain and they gradually drive out the Carthaginians
197 BC: The Romans divide the Iberian Peninsula into 2 areas, Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior
171-73 AD: People from North Africa raid Spain
409 AD: Alans, Sueves, and Vandals invade Spain
456: The Visigoths conquer Spain

Middle Age Spain

587: King Reccared becomes a Catholic
560-636: The great scholar Isidore of Seville lives
654: King Recceswinth makes a code of laws
711: The Moors invade Spain
10th-11th centuries: The kingdoms of Aragon, Castile, and Navarre emerge
1085: The Castilians capture Toledo
1212: The combined armies of Aragon, Castile, and Navarre win a victory at Las Navas de Tolosa
1250: Only Granada is still in Muslim hands
1340: The Christians win the Battle of Salado
1343: The Aragonese capture the Balearic Islands
1348: The Black Death reaches Spain
1469: Ferdinand heir of Aragon marries Isabel heir of Castile
1492: Ferdinand and Isabel capture Granada. All Jews are ordered to convert to Christianity or leave.

Renaissance Spain

1516: Charles V becomes king of Spain
1580: Spain annexes Portugal
1587-1604: England fights Spain
1609: Moriscos (Muslims who had converted to Christianity) are expelled from Spain
1640: The Portuguese rebel against Spanish rule
1659: Spain is forced to cede territory to France
1704: The British capture Gibraltar
1708-11: Spain suffers poor harvests
1763-66: Spain has poor harvests again. Nevertheless, agriculture is expanding so is the population and trade and commerce.
1767: The Jesuits are expelled from Spain

19th Century Spain

1808: Napoleon forces the Spanish king to abdicate and he makes his own brother king of Spain. The Spaniards refuse to accept him so the French send an army. The Spanish begin a guerrilla war.
1813: The French are driven out of Spain
1820: The Spanish rebel
1823: The French army restores Ferdinand to absolute power
1833-39: Civil War in Spain
1834: The Spanish Inquisition is finally abolished
1848: The first railway is built in Spain
1868: A rebellion takes place against Queen Isabella
1876: Spain gets a new constitution
1880-82: Famine in southern Spain
1892: All men are given the vote
1898: Spain loses a war with the USA

20th Century Spain

1909: Riots take place in Catalonia
1917: A General Strike is held in Spain
1923: General Primo de Rivera stages a coup
1930: de Riviera resigns
1931: Spain gains a new constitution
1933: An uprising takes place in Asturias
1936: In February the left-wing wins an election
1936: In July the Spanish Civil War begins. On 1 October General Franco becomes the leader of the Nationalist army.
1937: The Nationalists capture Bilbao
1939: The Nationalists capture Barcelona and Madrid.
1953: Franco signs a treaty with the USA
1955: Spain joins the UN
1975: Franco dies
1977: Elections are held
1981: Army officers attempt a coup in Spain
1999: Spain joins the Euro

Communities of Spain Map

Spain (officially, the Kingdom of Spain) is divided into 17 autonomous communities (comunidades autonomas, sing. comunidad autonoma) and 2 autonomous cities (ciudades autonomas, sing. ciudad autonoma). The autonomous communities are: Andalusia, Catalonia (Catalan), Madrid, Comunitat Valenciana [Valencian Community], Galicia, Castilla-Leon, Euskadi (Basque) [Basque Country], Castilla-La Mancha, Canarias (Canary Islands), Murcia, Aragon, Extremadura, Illes Baleares (Balearic Islands), Asturias, Navarre (Castilian), Cantabria, and La Rioja. The 2 autonomous cities are: Ceuta and Melilla. The autonomous communities are further subdivided into provinces and smaller subdivisions.

With an area of 505,990 sq. km, Spain is the largest country in Southern Europe and the 4 th largest country in the continent of Europe. It is also the 2 nd largest country in Western Europe and EU. Spain has a population of over 47 million, making it the 6 th most populous country in Europe and the 4 th most populous country in EU. Located in the central part of the country is, Madrid – the capital, the largest and the most populous city of Spain. Madrid is also the cultural, administrative and economic center of Spain. Madrid functions as an important financial hub of Southern Europe.

Spain Facts | Spanish Language

Do you speak Spanish?

Spanish is the world's second-most spoken native language. Spanish is spoken in Spain and in the South American countries, among them Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.

Which language is spoken in Spain? Castilian Spanish is spoken in all 17 regions, but other languages and dialects are spoken in various regions of the country: 

  • Castillian Spanish is recognised as 'typical' Spanish and is spoken across the country of Spain.
  • Catalan is spoken in the region around Barcelona, and the province of Cataluña, as well as in Valencia. This language reads and sounds quite different to Castilian Spanish.
  • Basque is spoken in the Basque Country in the north of Spain
  • Galician is spoken in Galicia, in Spain's northwest.


Pyrite (Ashok Beera, Instituto Nacional de Tecnologías Educativas) Iberia, Hesperia or Hispania (the different names by which Spain has been known through history) was famous for its natural wealth, and for the abundance and variety of its mineral resources in particular. In fact, such was this fame that it attracted the attention of conquering peoples and became the battlefield on which Carthage and Rome confronted each other. Even as late as the beginning of the 20th century, Spain still boasted several of the world's most important mineral deposits, and the economic development of certain regions, such as the Basque Country and Asturias, was based on their mineral wealth. Although nowadays the situation has changed, Spain still remains one of the richest countries in Europe in terms of its mineral wealth.

Spanish mineral production (even excluding energy production) is characterised by its diversity. There is practically no mineral absent from Spanish soil, although of the approximately one hundred products exploited, the only signifi cant volumes produced are iron, various pyrites, zinc, copper and lead (among metal minerals) and refractory argil, bentonite, quartz, fl uorite, glauberite, grain magnetite, rock and sea salt, potassium salts and sepiolite (among non-metallic minerals).

Although highly varied, Spain's metal mineral production is insufficient to meet the country's needs. By contrast, non-metal minerals are produced to a surplus, exceeding domestic demand.


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