Cities in SPAIN

The population of Spain is very unevenly distributed across the country. On average, approximately 97 inhabitants per km2 live in Spain. This makes Spain one of the most sparsely populated countries in the European Union, after Ireland, Sweden and Finland. Due to the enormous migration to the cities since 1950, about 80% of the population lives in cities. The most densely populated area is around the capital Madrid with about 625 inhabitants per km2. Madrid are surrounded by four regions with an average of less than 30 inhabitants per km2: Castilla Leon, Extremadura, Castilla La Mancha and Aragón.

Overall, a quarter of the population lives in the interior and three quarters of the population lives in the coastal provinces. The four most populous provinces are Madrid, Barcelona, Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa. The population is declining in forty of the fifty provinces.

The largest cities in Spain are (population 2017):

Madrid 6,497,000

Barcelona 5,494,000

Valencia 830,000

Spain has been an emigration country since the sixteenth century; millions of Spaniards have emigrated to Spanish America over the centuries. This wave of emigration lasted until around 1930. From 1960 emigration increased again. Now it were the guest workers who went to work in Europe.

As an immigration country, Spain came into the picture from 1980 and especially Portuguese, South Americans and North Africans entered Spain, whether or not illegally. The number of legal foreigners has increased sharply in recent years.

The problems with illegal foreigners are increasing, especially in the province of Andalusia and the Canary Islands, where Africans are often smuggled into the country by human smugglers on a daily basis. Many do not even make it to shore and are drowned because their rickety boats sink.

About 500,000 gypsies live in Spain. Half of them are the so-called "béticos" from Andalusia. Another large group are the "Catalanes" from Catalonia. These groups are generally best integrated into Spanish society.


Grabowski, J.F. / Spain
Lucent Books

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Last updated August 2020
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