- Barcelona is an economic powerhouse of the Catalan region, responsible for over 50% of the workforce and GDP.
- The City’s programming is aimed at uniting people and reducing inequality – giving all its citizens a voice in its democracy and access to all the culture that Barcelona has to offer.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 101.3 sq. km
- Total population: 1,620,343
- GDP (PPP) million: $125,477
Situated between the Mediterranean and the Collserola mountain range, Barcelona has a long history extending back at least 2,000 years and a multi-layered identity as both Spain’s second largest city, and the capital of Catalonia. The city has made an outsized contribution to world culture, being home to eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, seven of which are spectacular constructions by Gaudí, who is among a number of globally famous contemporary artists from Barcelona, including Miró, Dalí and Tàpies.
With a population of 1.6 million, it is one of the most densely populated urban areas in Western Europe. It has a multicultural citizenship with 20.2% of residents from abroad, particularly from Italy, China and Pakistan. Over 200 languages are spoken, but the city itself has two official languages, Catalan and Spanish. The city also houses Catalonia’s most important self-governing institutions including the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Catalan Parliament.
Once defined by manufacturing, in recent decades Barcelona has moved away from its industrial past, embracing new sectors including media, biotechnology, energy and design. It is also responsible for almost half of all creative industries jobs in Spain. In 2018, 135,000 Barcelonans, or 12.2% of the city’s workforce, were employed in the sector. The city remains the economic powerhouse of the Catalan region, responsible for over 50% of the workforce and GDP.
Barcelona City Council is the main cultural agent in the city, although other regional and national bodies contribute through funding. The City sees culture as both a fundamental right and a core part of social development, as illustrated in major programmes like the Barcelona Cultural District, which brings free cultural activities into neighbourhoods across the city. This work simultaneously values the international and the local; bringing programming to people’s doorsteps, while encouraging the presence of international artists, whether for a long-term residency, or a handful of performances. It also favours cross-disciplinary programmes, supported by the fact that since mid 2019, culture, science and education all fall under the Deputy Mayor for Culture.
The city is a hub for tourism, which is welcomed for its income, but which requires planning to ensure that the city remains a sustainable home for its local population. Programmes such as the Art Factories are in place to ensure that artists are still able to live, work and thrive in the city.
Barcelona is also a UNESCO City of Literature, reflecting its long association with publishing for the international market, and its 41 libraries, which are the central cultural hubs of the city, attracting 6.4 million visitors each year. It also has 59 theatres and 57 museums spread across the city. The city’s Design Hub (known as DHUB) built in 2012, is a flagship site for the creative industries. Multi-functional and multi-disciplinary, it aims to turn the city’s emerging design sector into a leader in Europe. It is part of District 22@, a project which turned nearly 500 acres of derelict industrial land in the Poblenou neighbourhood into a new, high-tech innovation district. This is typical of an approach that aims to preserve and re-use buildings from the industrial period for new uses.
Culturally, the City’s programming is aimed at uniting people and reducing inequality – giving all its citizens a voice in its democracy and access to all the culture that Barcelona has to offer.