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ANDORRA : The capital  - Andorra La Vella

Andorra la Vella  is the capital of the Principality of Andorra, and is located high in the east Pyrenees between France and Spain,  in the Gran Valira valley, on the eastern slopes of the Pic d'Enclar. Rugged mountains encircle the city. With an altitude of approximately 1,079 m (3,540 ft) Andorra la Vella is the highest capital city in Europe, and the only sizable community in the tiny country of Andorra.  

The site of Andorra la Vella (literally, "Andorra the Old") was already inhabitated before the Christian era. It has been as the principal city of Andorra since 1278 when the French and the Episcopal co-princes agreed to joint suzerainty. In 1993, the country's first constitution established a parliamentary democracy with executive, legislative, and judicial branches located in Andorra la Vella.

It is a busy shopping centre, selling duty-free luxury goods imported from Europe and Asia to French and Spanish shoppers and to tourists. It is also developing offshore financial services. The legislative General Council of the Valleys meets in a 16th-century house called the Casa de la Vall (1580). The suburb of Escalades-Engordany has the 11th-century Romanesque church of Sant Miquel d'Engolasters, and the thermal baths of Caldea (opened in 1994). 

Most of the inhabitants are Roman Catholics. The population is very diverse: Spanish 43%, Andorran 33%, Portuguese 11%, French 7%, other 6% (1998). Catalan is the official language, although Castilian and French are also spoken.  

Today, Andorra la Vella receives approximately 6 million visitors a year. They are drawn by the principality’s duty-free shopping and the area’s excellent winter sports facilities, which offer access to some of the best skiing and snowboarding terrain in the Pyrenees. The city’s growth as a tourism center has brought Andorra considerable prosperity, but also unsightly development and heavy automobile traffic that have diminished the city’s historic character.

 


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