Beloved by locals and tourists alike for its cutting-edge modernity, fine city beaches, outdoor cafes and colorful Catalan culture, Barcelona is the capital of the region of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain (pop. 3 million). Situtated on the northeast coast of Spain not far from the French border, Barcelona has been inhabited since Roman times, when it was known as Barcino. Its 13th-century cathedral stands on a site previously occupied by a Roman temple and later a mosque.
Today's Barcelona is home to a magnificent array of churches, ranging from the 10th-century Romanesque Sant Pau del Camp to the cutting-edge Art Nouveau La Sagrada Familia designed by Antoni Gaudi. In between, chronologically speaking, are several medieval churches built in the Catalan Gothic style, which is characterized by huge bare walls, heavy columns, large rose windows, and austere ornamentation; Santa Maria del Mar is considered Barcelona's most splendid example.