Spain Country Facts

Capital city Madrid
Surface 504,030 km²
Population 46,468,000
Road network length 346,858 km
Length of highway network 15,871 km
First highway 1952 1969
Motorway name autopistaautovia
Traffic drives Right
License plate code E

Spain (Espana), formally the Kingdom of Spain (Reino de España), is a country in southwestern Europe, located on both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The country, together with Portugal, forms the Iberian Peninsula. With 46 million inhabitants, Spain is the fifth largest country in Europe, and with an area of ​​over 500,000 km², Spain is the largest country in Southern Europe, the land area is 12 times as large as the Netherlands. The capital is Madrid, centrally located on the Meseta. Other major cities are Barcelona, ​​Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza and Málaga. Spain is known for its extensive road network, the country has the largest network of motorways in Europe and the third largest network of motorways in the world.


Spain occupies most of the Iberian Peninsula along with Portugal. The country is surrounded by sea on almost all sides, the Mediterranean Sea to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The part of the Atlantic Ocean north of Spain is locally called the Mar Cantábrico, known in the Netherlands as the Bay of Biscay. Spain has land borders with Portugal to the west and France and Andorra to the north. In addition, there are two Spanish exclaves Ceuta and Melilla that have a border with Morocco. Spain also borders Gibraltar.

The Spanish mainland measures a maximum of 1,000 kilometers from west to east and 850 kilometers from north to south. Spain has two main archipelagos, the Islas Baleares (Balearic Islands) in the Mediterranean Sea and the Islas Canarias (Canary Islands) in the Atlantic Ocean, 1,100 kilometers southwest of Spain and located off the coast of southern Morocco.

Spain is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe, with several large mountain ranges, but also plateaus, called the Meseta. In the north are the Pyrenees (Pirineos) and the Cordillera Cantábrica. The Sistema Ibérico is the mountain range southwest of the river Ebro. The Sistema Central is located to the west of it and extends into Portugal. In the south of Spain, the Sierra Nevada dominates with peaks of more than 3,000 meters. The highest point in Spain is Mount Teide, a volcano on the island of Tenerife that is 3,718 meters high. The highest mountain on the Spanish mainland is the 3,479 meter high Mulhacén in the southern Sierra Nevada. The highest mountain in the Pyrenees is the 3,404 meter high Aneto. Although the Spanish mountain ranges are high, permanent snow cover is very limited and there are no major glaciers.

Spain has a number of major rivers. The Ebro is the longest river that lies entirely in Spain and flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The main rivers flow into the Atlantic Ocean, partly through Portugal. These are the Duero, Tajo, Guadiana and Guadalquivir. To the north no long rivers flow because the mountains here are quite close to the coast.

The Spanish landscape is very diverse, ranging from subtropical savannah and forests in the southwest to deserts in the southeast and the barren plains of the Meseta. The northwest is much greener and has fjords, locally called ría in Galicia. The north coast of Spain has a moderate climate with relatively high rainfall. The interior is drier, but agriculture is possible in many places. The driest areas are southeastern Spain and the Ebro river valley in the Aragón region. Spain’s long beaches attract many tourists.


Spain has a developed economy and is one of the more prosperous countries in the region. Prosperity varies by region, generally the northeast (Catalunya) is very prosperous, but other parts are somewhat lagging, especially the small villages on the Meseta, Extremadura and the former industrial centers of Asturias and Cantabria.

The Spanish economy is based on tourism, exports and services. Before the economic crisis from 2008, the country had a huge construction sector that attracted many migrant workers from Southeastern Europe and Latin America. It was one of the fastest growing economies in Europe from the 1990s, partly due to a strong population growth. Spain was a net recipient of EU funding for a long time, but has become a net payer due to its increased prosperity.

Spain has relatively few natural resources, except for some ore in the north. There are no significant oil and gas reserves. The country has a large car industry, especially the well-known SEAT brand. Many major car manufacturers have factories in Spain. The car industry is Spain’s largest export sector, although exports are very varied. Spain is also strong in agriculture and horticulture. The energy supply in Spain consists largely of renewable energy, in particular hydropower, wind energy and solar energy. Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world by tourists.


City Population
Madrid 3,142,000
Barcelona 1,605,000
Valencia 786,000
Seville 694,000
Zaragoza 665,000
Malaga 569,000
Murcia 440,000
Palma de Mallorca 401,000
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 380,000
Bilbao 345,000
Alicante 329.000
Cordoba 327,000
Valladolid 303,000

Spain is one of the fastest growing countries in Europe. Between 2000 and 2007 the population increased by 4.5 million. Between 2007 and 2013, the population grew by another 2 million. Due to the strong population growth, there was a very large volume of construction projects, both for housing and infrastructure. However, Spain was hit hard by the economic crisis from 2009, partly because it had a particularly large construction sector. In many parts of Spain there are never finished residential areas and industrial estates.

The population of Spain is highly urbanized, the largest cities are Madrid and Barcelona, ​​but scattered throughout the country are numerous cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. Madrid is literally the center of Spain, both in terms of location and population, but the Spanish population is also relatively spread over the country. The countryside between the cities is often sparsely populated, except in the coastal regions. The Basque Country, in particular, is relatively densely populated outside the larger cities, and this also applies to a lesser extent to Catalunya, Cantabria and Galicia. In particular, Galicia has a very scattered population, there are only a few larger cities, but the countryside has very much scattered buildings. This in contrast to the Meseta, which is very sparsely populated outside the towns. In Andaluciathere are many large cities, densely populated coastal regions and sparsely populated deserts and mountain areas. Andalusia is a good reflection of the Spanish average due to a varied mix of large cities, small towns, seaside resorts and countryside.

Spaniards make up 88% of the population. The birth rate fell sharply in the 1980s but then increased again. Immigration also increased sharply from the 1990s, especially from Latin America, North Africa and Eastern Europe. There are also many retirees from Northern Europe who live in Spain. They mainly live on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and on the islands.

Spanish is spoken in Spain, also known as Castellan (castellano). In addition, there are some major regional languages, the most famous being Catalan, which is spoken in parts of the Comunitat Valenciana and in the Balearic Islands in addition to Catalunya. Basque is spoken in and around the Basque Country, a language that, unlike Catalan, has no affinity with Spanish or other European languages. Galician is spoken in Galicia, a language related to Portuguese. Elsewhere there are only small regional languages ​​with few speakers, in most of the area of ​​Spain Spanish is spoken, with or without regional dialects. Spanish is spoken by 74% of the population, Catalan by 17%, Galician by 7% and Basque by 2% of the population. Some small minority languages ​​have special status, such as Aranese (Occitan), Asturian, Leonese and Aragonese. In tourist areas, the knowledge of English is better than in the interior. German is spoken as a tourist language on some islands.


Spain was dominated by the Roman Empire from the beginning of the era. In the 8th century, the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by Muslims from North Africa, called the Moors. In the early Middle Ages, the power of Christian kingdoms in Spain increased and the Moors were expelled again, a period known as the Reconquista. In the 15th century, the Spanish Empire developed, which was the most powerful empire in the world during the 17th and 18th centuries. During this time much of Latin America was conquered by the ‘conquistadors’. However, Spain played a minimal role in the colonization of Africa, little more than Western Sahara, parts of Morocco and Equatorial Guinea.

In 1936 the Spanish Civil War broke out. This was a kind of proxy war, where the nationalist Franco fought with the help of Nazi Germany and Italy against the Republicans, who were supported by the Soviet Union. The war cost 500,000 Spaniards their lives and towards the end Franco won to install a dictatorship in 1939. Spain remained neutral during World War II, but the country remained isolated after the war due to Franco’s dictatorship. In the 1960s, Spain’s economy grew very rapidly, leading to a mass migration from the countryside to the cities and the creation of a very large tourism industry. Franco died in 1975, after which the Spanish king took power and reestablished democracy. Spain became a member of NATO in 1982 and joined the European Union in 1986. Spain went through a period of strong economic growth in the 1990s and early 2000s, which led to an economic bubble. Although Spain had a relatively low public debt, it was faced with extreme unemployment and large budget deficits.

Administrative division

autonomous region Population (2020)
Andalucia 8,464,000
Catalonia 7,780,000
Madrid 6.780.000
Comunitat Valenciana 5,057,000
Galicia 2,702,000
Castilla y Leon 2,395,000
Basque Country 2,221,000
Castilla-La Mancha 2,045,000
Canary Islands 2,176,000
Region of Murcia 1,511,000
Aragon 1,329,000
Balearic Islands 1,172,000
Extremadura 1,064,000
Asturias 1,018,000
Navarra 661,000
Cantabria 583,000
La Rioja 320,000

Spain is one of the most decentralized countries in Europe, a large part of the day-to-day management is performed by the autonomous regions, also called an autonomous community (comunidad autónoma). Spain is not a federation but a highly decentralized unitary state. There are 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities. These are again divided into a total of 50 provinces. The Autonomous Communities were established after the transition to democracy in 1978 with a statute of autonomy (Estatuto de Autonomía). The autonomous regions differ from each other in the degree of self-government, regions with a more deviant cultural identity have a greater autonomy than most other autonomous regions, the best known of these are Catalunya, Basque Country andGalicia.

The largest regions in terms of population are Andalucía, Catalunya, Madrid and the Comunitat Valenciana. Most of the other regions have between 1 and 2 million inhabitants, followed by three smaller autonomous regions with less than 1 million inhabitants. The largest region in terms of area is Castilla y León with an area of ​​94,223 km², more than twice the area of ​​the Netherlands. By far the most populous region is Madrid. The Autonomous Community of Madrid is considerably larger than just the city of Madrid and also includes most of the suburbs, smaller places in the periphery, but also underdeveloped forest and mountain areas. Basque Countryis the second most populous region. The least populated regions are Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla y León with 26 inhabitants per km² each.

Most provinces have a relatively similar surface area, most fall into the 10,000 to 15,000 km² category. Badajoz Province is the largest, Gipuzkoa Province is the smallest. The most populous province is Madrid, which, however, does not have a provincial administration because it coincides with the autonomous region of Madrid. The next most populous province is Barcelona with 5.5 million inhabitants. The least populated province is Soria with only 93,000 inhabitants.


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