Spain is a country member of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Its mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea; to the north and north east by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the northwest and west by the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal.
The Spanish territory also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast, and two autonomous cities in North Africa: Ceuta and Melilla. With an area of 505,992 km2, it is the fourth largest country in Europe.
Because of its location, the territory of Spain was subject to many external influences since prehistoric times and through to its dawn as a country. Spain emerged as a unified country in the 15th century, following the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs and the completion of the reconquest, or Reconquista, of the Iberian Peninsula in 1492. Conversely, it has been an important source of influence to other regions, chiefly during the modern era, when it became a global empire that has left a legacy of over 500 million Spanish speakers today, making it the world's second most spoken first language.
It is well-known by the art, bull fights, “flamenco”, beaches, and the fact that there are so many hours of sun throughout the year. However, Spain is much more than this, including its importance as being one of the cultural centres of Europe with cities that have a huge historic value and so many places which have created a country that is visited by millions of tourists every year.
There are five large mountain ranges which cross the country and about 50% of the land lies considerably higher than sea level. The sceneries vary from almost desert-like to a fertile and green land and of course there are the long coastal strips, in the east along the Mediterranean (from the Pyrenees to Gibraltar), next in the south and west to Portugal along the Atlantic Ocean.
Spain is a member of the United Nation, NATO, OECD, and WTO. It is a democracy organized at the front of a parliamentary government under a constitutional monarchy. The country has a population of approximately 46 500 000 people, which also includes numerous distinct ethnic and cultural minorities.