Marseille is the second-largest city of France. The main city of the historical province of Provence, it nowadays is the prefecture of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. It is located on France's south coast near the mouth of the Rhône river. The city covers an area of 241 km2 (93 sq mi) and had a population of 852,516 in 2012. Its metropolitan area, which extends over 3,173 km2 (1,225 sq mi) is the third-largest in France after Paris and Lyon, with a population of 1,831,500 as of 2010.
Known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Massalia, Marseille was an important European trading centre and remains the main commercial port of the French Republic. Marseille is now France's largest city on the Mediterranean coast and the largest port for commerce, freight and cruise ships. The city was European Capital of Culture in 2013 and European Capital of Sport in 2017; it hosted matches at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2016. It is home to Aix-Marseille University.
Barcelona is a city in Spain. It is the capital and largest city of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within city limits, its urban area extends to numerous neighbouring municipalities within the Province of Barcelona and is home to around 4.8 million people, making it the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Madrid, the Ruhr area and Milan. It is one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea, located on the coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs, and bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola mountain range, the tallest peak of which is 512 metres (1,680 feet) high.
Founded as a Roman city, in the Middle Ages Barcelona became the capital of the County of Barcelona. After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, Barcelona continued to be an important city in the Crown of Aragon as an economic and administrative centre of this Crown and the capital of the Principality of Catalonia. Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is today an important cultural centre and a major tourist destination. Particularly renowned are the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean are located in Barcelona. The city is known for hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics as well as world-class conferences and expositions and also many international sport tournaments.
Barcelona is one of the world's leading tourist, economic, trade fair and cultural centres, and its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities. It is a major cultural and economic centre in southwestern Europe, 24th in the world (before Zürich, after Frankfurt) and a financial centre. In 2008 it was the fourth most economically powerful city by GDP in the European Union and 35th in the world with GDP amounting to €177 billion. In 2012 Barcelona had a GDP of $170 billion; and it was leading Spain in employment rate in that moment.
In 2009 the city was ranked Europe's third and one of the world's most successful as a city brand. In the same year the city was ranked Europe's fourth best city for business and fastest improving European city, with growth improved by 17% per year, and the city has been experiencing strong and renewed growth for the past three years. Since 2011 Barcelona has been a leading smart city in Europe. Barcelona is a transport hub, with the Port of Barcelona being one of Europe's principal seaports and busiest European passenger port, an international airport, Barcelona–El Prat Airport, which handles over 50 million passengers per year, an extensive motorway network, and a high-speed rail line with a link to France and the rest of Europe.