Known for its rich history and cultural heritage, Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city. Home to a major European port, it is an important economic center.

Barcelona is a city of arts and architecture. Modern art is especially well represented here; the painters Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso have entire museums dedicated to their works. Great architecture in Barcelona includes the innovative designs of Antoni Gaudí, as exemplified by the Sagrada Família church and La Pedrera. The sculptures and paintings of another great Barcelona artist, Joan Miró, are peppered throughout Barcelona’s open spaces, public institutions and private residences.

Barcelona has many historic buildings, some dating back to the Middle Ages, and even the early Roman settlement period. Many elegant old buildings are found in Barri Gòtic, the remarkably intact medieval quarter. Barcelona’s many parks cover about 10% of the city’s area.

Every year, the city hosts a three-day music festival called Sónar, celebrating contemporary music and multimedia arts. Performing arts and music venues include the Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house and L’Auditori, the auditorium home of the Barcelona and Catalonia National Symphonic Orchestra.

Barcelona enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate. It is bounded by the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs, and the Serra de Collserola ridge as well as the Mediterranean. There are large forest areas near the city, and several beaches along the coast.

Barcelona is safe, and violent crime is rarely a concern. Theft, however, can be a problem, especially for foreign visitors. Particularly when venturing into the urban beach areas or parts of the old town, visitors are advised to keep on their guard.

The cost of living in Barcelona is among the highest in Spain. But the city does offer a high standard of living. It ranked 42nd (just before Madrid) out of the top 50 countries in the Mercer 2008 Quality of Living Survey.