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Spain - Overview

Capital: Madrid
Population: 40,280,000
Language: Spanish - 'Castilian' Spanish is the official language nationally, while Catalan, Galician and Basque are official within their respective regions.
Currency: Euro
Time Zone: UTC/GMT + 1 hour

Spain is one of the countries of the European Union and lies on the Iberian Peninsula alongside Portugal. The north coast of the country comes into contact with the Atlantic while the south and west coasts are on the Mediterranean. In the north-east corner of the country there are borders with France and Andorra. Spain also has a number of islands as part of its territories. These include the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands. In the past the country has been ruled by the Romans, the Moors and the Catholics and the influence of all of these can be seen today.

The language is Spanish and this is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, thanks to the empire-building of its rulers over the centuries. In addition to this there are several regional languages which are recognised including Basque and Catalan. The capital city is Madrid and this is also the largest city in the country. The currency used is the Euro and the country sits in the GMT +1 time zone.

Spain covers more than half a million square kilometres of land, making it the 51st largest country in the world. The Pyrenees mountain range in the north east corner of the country forms a natural border between Spain and France. There are other mountain ranges in Spain including the Sierra Nevada, the Sierra Morena and the Montes de Toledo. The country also has several areas of plains, with the Meseta Central in the heart of the country and the Alluvial plains along the coast, particularly in Andalusia.

There are 17 regions of Spain. In the south there is the region of Andalusia, which includes the Costa del Sol. The eastern coastline of Mediterranean Spain includes the regions of Murcia, Cataluna and Comunidad Valenciana. Further inland the regions include Extremadura, Madrid, Aragon, Castilla La Mancha, La Rioja, Navarra and Castilla Y Leon. On the Atlantic Coast there is Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and Pais Vasco. The final two regions are groups of islands – the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.

Spain is famous for its Costas. Costa is Spanish for coast and the names are applied to specific areas of the coastline. Some are better known than others as they attract more visitors each year. The Costa de Almeria is located in the south-east corner of the country and there are still large areas of this region that have not been developed. The Costa del Azahar is famous for fruit growing and is located on the Mediterranean coast between the River Ebro until Valencia. The Costa Blanca is known for the variety of traditional resorts and is further south than the Costa del Azahar. The Costa Brava is located on the east coast, next to the French border and is known for small traditional villages and quiet beaches.

The Costa Calida is located in the Murcia region and is known as the warm coast. The Costa Dorada is on the east coast just north of the Costa del Azahar and is famed for its beaches. The Costa de la Luz can be found on the Atlantic side of the Andalucia coast. Probably the most famous costa is the Costa del Sol, which attracts the wealthy. The Costa Tropical is located on the Granada coast next to the Costa del Sol. In northern Spain the Costa Verde translates as the green coast and is much quieter than many of the others.

By 2008 the population of Spain was measured at 46 million people. This number is double the population figures at the beginning of the 20th century. There is a low population density when compared with other European countries. The areas with the most residents are the capital, in the centre of the country, and coastal areas. Around 88% of the population are native to the country. The remaining 12% are immigrants from other parts of the world, this is the equivalent of around 4.5 million people. Almost 40% of the immigrants in the country come from Latin America, then there others from Africa and Eastern Europe. Many immigrants choose to take citizenship statues, with almost 85,000 people obtaining this status in 2008.

The capital is home to more than 6 million people. The largest urban area after Madrid is Barcelona, with a population of almost 5 million people. Urban areas then become considerably smaller, with Valencia having a population of around 1.5 million people and Seville with a population of just under 1.3 million people. The city of Bilbao has a population of approximately 1 million people and Malaga is not far behind with 900,000.

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