Global environmental change and increasing human population emphasize the urgent need for higher yielding and better adapted crop plants. One strategy to achieve this aim is to exploit the wealth of so called landraces of crop species, representing diverse traditional domesticated populations of locally adapted genotypes. In this study, we investigated a comprehensive set of 1485 spring barley landraces (Lrc1485) adapted to a wide range of climates, which were selected from one of the largest genebanks worldwide. The landraces originated from 5° to 62.5° N and 16° to 71° E. The whole collection was genotyped using 42 SSR markers to assess the genetic diversity and population structure. With an average allelic richness of 5.74 and 372 alleles, Lrc1485 harbours considerably more genetic diversity than the most polymorphic current GWAS panel for barley. Ten major clusters defined most of the population structure based on geographical origin, row type of the ear and caryopsis type - and were assigned to specific climate zones. The legacy core reference set Lrc648 established in this study will provide a long-lasting resource and a very valuable tool for the scientific community. Lrc648 is best suited for multi-environmental field testing to identify candidate genes underlying quantitative traits but also for allele mining approaches.