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Catalonia 101

  • Map of Catalonia
    Map by Dan Cole, Smithsonian


Population: 7.5 million
Area: 12,397 square miles, similar to the state of Maryland
Capital: Barcelona
Official languages: Catalan, Spanish, Occitan, and Catalan Sign Language



Life expectancy is higher than the European average and equivalent to Japan: 84 years of age.

In 2018, a little over 60 percent of Catalans were born in Catalonia, 20 percent were born in other communities in Spain, and approximately 15 percent are of foreign origin. One out of three Catalans is between 20 and 39 years of age, the largest population group.

Barcelona attracts 6 million tourists per year—just as many as Tokyo. It has the same revenue from international tourism as Canada.


Wilfred the Hairy (Guifré el Pelós) reigned over much of Catalonia in the ninth century as the Count of Barcelona. When he died in battle in 897, his son inherited the title, thus beginning a tradition of hereditary successors to power.

La diada, Catalonia’s national day, is celebrated on September 11 and commemorates the defeat of the siege of Barcelona during the war of the Spanish Succession in 1714.


Catalan is spoken not only in Catalonia but also the Valencian Community, Balearic Islands, parts of Aragón, Andorra, southern France, and Alghero, Sardinia. There are an estimated 9 million speakers worldwide and 11 million who understand it.

It is the ninth most spoken language in Europe.


Catalonia has 14 natural parks or remarkable sites. The Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, in the Pyrenees, offers a few 9,850-foot-high peaks, waterfalls, and marshes.

Montserrat mountain, the golden saw in the Catalan landscape, offers sacred sights to the devotional, spelunking and climbing to the daring, and cheese and honey to the hungry.

The Ebro Delta is home to 330 species of birds.

Art & Recreation

Catalonia was home to Antoni Gaudí, the best-known architect of the Modernist movement.

Some famous Catalan painters include Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and Antoni Tàpies.

FC Barcelona, also known as the Barça, and RCD Espanyol are the biggest soccer clubs in Catalonia.

Catalans love mushroom hunting.

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