Barcelona, formerly the capital of Catalonia, and since 1833 the capital of the province of Barcelona in eastern Spain, in 41° 23′ N. and 2° 11′ E., on the Mediterranean Sea, and at the head of railways from Madrid, Saragossa, and Perpignan in France. Pop. (1900) 533,000. Barcelona is a flourishing city and the principal seaport of Spain. It is built on the sloping edge of a small plain between the rivers Besós, on the north, and Llobrégat, on the south. Immediately to the south-west the fortified hills of Montjuich rise to an altitude of 650 ft., while the view is bounded on the west by the heights which culminate in Tibidabo (1745 ft.), and on the north-east by the Montañas Matas. The greater part of the space thus enclosed is occupied by comparatively modern suburbs and gardens of almost tropical luxuriance, strongly contrasting with the huge factories and busy port of the original city in their midst.
Barcelona was formerly surrounded by a strong line of ramparts, and defended, or more correctly, overawed by a citadel on the north-east, erected in 1715 by Philip V.; but these fortifications being felt as a painful restriction on the natural development of the city, were, in spite of the opposition of the central government, finally abolished by the local authorities in 1845. The walls of the moat were utilized for the cellars of the houses which soon occupied the site of the ramparts, and the ground, which had been covered by the citadel, was laid out in gardens. A rapid extension of the city to the north-west took place, and in 1860 an elaborate plan for the laying out of new districts received the royal sanction. Barcelona thus comprises an old town, still consisting for the most part of irregular and narrow streets, and a new town built with all the symmetry and precision of a premeditated scheme. The buildings of the old town are chiefly of brick, from four to five storeys in height, with flat roofs, and other oriental peculiarities; while in the new town hewn stone is very largely employed, and the architecture is often of a modern English style.
To the east, on the tongue of land that helps to form the port, lies the suburb of Barceloneta. It owes its origin to the marquis de la Mina, who, about 1754, did much for the city, and is regularly laid out, the houses being built of brick after a uniform pattern. The main street or axis of the old town is the Rambla, which has a fine promenade planted with plane-trees running down the middle, and contains the principal hotels and theatres of the city. The most important suburbs are Grácia, Las Corts de Sarriá, Horta, San Andrés de Palomar, San Gervasio de Cassolas, San Martin de Provensals and Sans. Exclusive of these, the city contains about 334,000 inhabitants, an increase of nearly 150,000 since 1857. Large numbers of immigrant artisans joined the population during the latter half of the 19th century, attracted by the great development of industry. Barcelona is the see of a bishop, and, like most Spanish towns, has a large number of ecclesiastical buildings, though by no means so many as it once possessed.
No fewer than eighteen convents were still standing in 1873. The cathedral, erected between 1298 and 1448 on Monte Taber, an oval hill which forms the highest point of the Rambla, is one of the finest examples of Spanish Gothic; although it is not designed on a great scale and some parts have been freely modernized. It contains the early 14th-century tomb of Santa Eulalia, the patron saint of the city, besides many other monuments of artistic or historical interest. Its stained glass windows are among the finest in Spain, and it possesses archives of great value. Santa Maria del Mar, Santa Ana, Santos Justo y Pastor, San Pedro de las Puellas, and San Pablo del Campo are all churches worthy of mention.
The educational institutions of Barcelona have from an early period been numerous and important. The university (Universidad Literaria), which was originally founded in 1430 by the magistracy of the city, and received a bull of confirmation from Pope Nicholas V. in 1450, possessed at that time four faculties and thirty-one chairs all endowed by the corporation. It was suppressed in 1714, but restored in 1841, and now occupies an extensive building in the new town. There are, besides, an academy of natural sciences, a college of medicine and surgery - confirmed by a bull of Benedict XIII. in 1400 - an academy of fine arts, a normal school, a theological seminary, an upper industrial school, an institution for the education of deaf-mutes, a school of navigation and many minor establishments. Gratuitous instruction of a very high order is afforded by the Board of Trade to upwards of 2000 pupils. The principal charitable foundations are the Casa de Caridad or house of charity, the hospital general, dating from 1401, and the foundling hospital.
The principal civic and commercial buildings are the Casa Consistorial, a fine Gothic hall (1369-1378), the Lonja or exchange (1383), and the Aduana or custom-house (1792). At the seaward end of the Rambla is a large ancient structure, the Atarazanas or Arsenals, which was finished about 1243, and partly demolished in the 19th century to give a better view to the promenade. Remains of the former royal state of Barcelona are found in the Palacio Real of the kings of Aragon and the Palacio de la Reina. At the highest part of the city, in the Calle del Paradis, are some magnificent columns, and other Roman remains, which, however, are hidden by the surrounding buildings. Means of public recreation are abundantly supplied. There are many theatres, the two most important being the Teatro Principal, and the Teatro del Liceo, a very fine building, originally erected in 1845 on the site of a convent of Trinitarian monks. The number of restaurants and similar places of evening resort is very great, and there are several public courts where the Basque game of pelota can be witnessed.