Situated on a plain between the Llobregat and Besós rivers and lying between mountains and the sea, Barcelona is the second largest city of Spain, its largest port, and its chief commercial and industrial center. Barcelona has served as a crossroads of manufacturing – a vital centre of trading and shipping – since before Christopher Columbus set sail for the Americas. Its strategic location, on the Mediterranean Sea and near the border with France, has made its emergence as the principal industrial and commercial centre of Spain inevitable.
The mainstay of the Barcelona community’s economic life is based on cultural commitment to manufacturing. Barcelona’s reputation as a world centre for art, architecture and design is growing yearly with a plethora of cultural activities on offer. Besides highly developed economy and rich culture Barcelona also has high quality education. It is also the seat of two universities and many other educational institutions.
Barcelona is Spain’s foremost center of industry, both heavy (iron, steel, copper) and light (especially textiles). Spanish publishing houses are concentrated there. Traditional industries range from shipbuilding to skilled handicrafts. Textiles, machinery, automobiles, locomotives, airplanes, and electrical equipment are the chief manufactures. International banking and finance are also important. Tourism first became important in the late 1950s. Barcelona is today a very popular destination. So popular that it is getting really hard to find Barcelona hotels to stay during official vacations or international fairs. But because of such boom, a lot of hotels in Barcelona have been built and they offer comfort, quality and great value for the money, ideal for leisure and business travelers.
Barcelona as the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia accounts for more than a quarter of Spain’s GDP. The growth of the economy has been the driving force behind Barcelona’s physical expansion and the region benefits from a large local market of some four million people. The economy is particularly strong in the motor vehicle industry, electrical engineering, publishing, wine production and consumer goods.
Barcelona has a highly diversified economic structure, in contrast with other major cities that are heavily reliant on one or two sub-sectors. One of the major economic features of Barcelona is the high relative weight of its industrial base, which greatly exceeds the average of other European metropolitan areas. Barcelona built its industrial might on its centuries-old status as one of Europe’s most important ports, a status it maintains today, with container traffic hitting record levels in recent years. Madrid might be the political and financial capital of Spain, but Barcelona holds sway as its most culturally and industrially vibrant city. Barcelona has highly specialized industrial sectors that are competitive and focused on exports, including the automotive, consumer electronics, chemical and pharmaceutical, food and energy industries.
Also Barcelona aims to create a free trade area between the EU and its Mediterranean neighbors by 2010. The further development of economic relations not only Barcelona, but all Europe with the Arab world, especially in the vital area of foreign direct investment, depends on the successful restructuring of internal markets and significant improvements in the business environment, as well as the implementation of trade liberalization policies.