Europe might be the second smallest continent on the planet, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in diversity. From its Mediterranean beaches to its high-altitude ski resorts, volcanic islands to buzzy metropolitan cities, there’s a destination for everyone. But, of course, there’s a dark side to it all, just as this guide to the most dangerous places in Europe will reveal!
The good news is that Europe is hardly known as a dangerous place. In fact, the stats show that Europe is supposedly the safest continent in the world overall. It’s also generally considered to be a perfect place for solo travelers and female travelers. Still, with 44 countries in the mix, you can’t say the same for every destination…
Yep, there’s bound to be some bad apples. Cue our selection of nine spots that reign among the most dangerous places in Europe. We think you’ll be surprised at what’s there, from the home of pizza to small towns and cities nestled in the English countryside to historic French port towns that date back some 3,000 years. Intrigued? Let’s go…
1. Naples, Italy
The regional capital of Campania and the modern birthplace of pizza, Naples is Italy’s third-largest city and one that needs little introduction. It’s best known for its gritty metropolitan appeal but Naples also offers some spectacular natural beauty, being set to the backdrop of Mount Vesuvius.
But it isn’t the imposing volcano that has earned this city a dangerous reputation. Naples has one of the highest crime rates of any Italian town, scoring a whopping 62.52 – that’s some 30% higher than the national average! So what is it about Naples that makes it so unsafe?
Naples ranks high when it comes to the probability of muggings, carjackings, drug dealing, property crime, and even assault and armed robbery, but the truth is, these crimes don’t affect tourists most of the time. Pickpocketing and petty crime are rife in busy areas, but that’s the same as in Rome and Florence.
What really sets old Napoli apart is the presence of the Camorra, a network of criminal gangs who have caused problems for locals, police, and the government for decades. The Neapolitan Mafia have actually operated for around 400 years, but grew really powerful in the 19th century. They’ve been an integral part of life here ever since.
Mafia crime has tainted Naples with high levels of corruption in particular. As a traveler, that could be of particular concern if you get in trouble while in the city or need to deal with the authorities. It’s also something to think about if you’re considering moving to southern Italy or setting up a business here – the mafia have been known to take their own taxes and whatnot!
2. Birmingham, United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is home to more than its fair share of dangerous cities and Birmingham is one that demonstrates even higher crime rates than Mafia-led Naples on Italy’s south coast. With an index of 63.01, Birmingham is one of the most dangerous places in Europe. Period. In fact, there’s a moderate to high risk of most crimes in the city, from vandalism and property theft to racial attacks and sexual assault.
We should caveat this by saying there’s a low chance that visitors will run into risks when walking around Birmingham by day. The city is bristling with cultural draws, from the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery with its pre-Raphaelite masterpieces to happening Sherborne Wharf with its cafes and bars. Most of those are generally safe for tourists and see thousands of people come their way each year.
It’s just that the safety index after dark is a mere 26.49, which is very low, even for a busy city. The likes of Liverpool and Leicester often get a bad rep for crime, but Birmingham ranks higher, with 137 crimes per 1,000 people. It’s important to remember, however, that Birmingham is the second-most populous city in the UK, after London, and is the most densely populated in the Midlands, which has a big impact on the likelihood of crime.
Birmingham also demonstrates high levels of poverty with more residents living in deprived areas than any other city in the UK. That, naturally, has an impact on crime rates, but it can also mean that the most frequent crimes aren’t of a violent nature and therefore shouldn’t be of huge concern to drop-in visitors, with shoplifting, pickpocketing, and home burglaries coming out on top.
The truth is, Birmingham is safe to visit and also a good place to work and live but there are precautions you should take in the city center and in certain suburbs. It isn’t advised to flash your wealth, walk around after dark, or get too carried away if you’re out drinking in town.
3. Coventry, United Kingdom
Another entry from the UK, Coventry demonstrates the second-highest crime rates of any English city and currently ranks as the second-most dangerous place in Europe. It’s not got quite the same issues as, say, Naples. Corruption and bribery aren’t really big in these parts. It’s more about direct crimes, such as physical assault, armed robbery, home break-ins, and muggings.
Coventry records fewer crimes per 1,000 people than the densely populated city of Birmingham, at just over 110 in 2022. However, violent crime makes up more than a third of this figure, and there are some postcodes in the city that are known for their rough reputation, like Willenhall, Foleshill, Hillfields, and Wood end – all hotspots for criminal activity and best avoided if you’re just visiting
Perhaps most notably, there was a rate of 48 violent and sexual offenses per 1,000 head of population here in 2022. That’s quite a considerable figure – sitting at nearly double what it is in London!
The city demonstrates moderate safety levels for walking around during the day with an index of 46.55. That’s the snippet of good news, because the medieval cathedral, galleries, museums, 14th-century St. Mary’s Guildhall are all things you simply have to see.
Sadly, Coventry isn’t the safest place at night. The town has an index of just 27.36. Places like Willenhall and Foleshill especially should be avoided once the sun has gone down, as the likelihood of being a victim of crime is double that of the center.
4. Catania, Italy
Although Naples takes most of the rap when it comes to Italy’s least safe cities, Catania, on Sicily’s east coast, is actually the most dangerous place in the country, and one of the most dangerous places in Europe.
Sitting at the foot of Mount Etna, Catania is as geographically spectacular as its Campanian sister. Still, the active volcano sets the scene perfectly for what’s a pretty volatile port town, ready to erupt at any moment in a flurry of crime.
Yep, Catania has an overall crime index of 63.79. But before we get into that, we’ll say this: Most of the city’s central neighborhoods are relatively safe for tourists to wander around. You can explore the wide Piazza del Duomo with its whimsical central fountain and decadent Catania Cathedral, and head to La Pescheria after, where a rowdy weekday fish market is anchored by incredible seafood restaurants.
At night, the safety index dips to just 28.46. Some streets can be isolated and very poorly lit, making them dangerous for visitors. There are high reports of robberies, muggings, carjackings, and incidents of drug dealing and use.
Corruption and bribery are of particular concern in Catania, at an index of 84.76. This is where Catania’s and Naples’ problems align, since the Sicilian Mafia has also historically abused its power in the city.
Librino, on the south side of town, is known as the roughest neighborhood, not only in Catania but all of Italy. It’s a place that you definitely don’t want to visit as a tourist, and pretty much a no-go area for solo travelers. Arms dealing, drug trafficking, and even homicide are all daily occurrences in those parts!
Don’t be too put off a visit here – the town is wonderful! Just be sure to take the usual pickpocketing precautions in the center, and, on top of Librino, be careful to avoid the Nesima, Villagio Sant’Agata, San Giuseppe la Rena, and St. George neighborhoods.
5. Marseille, France
The south of France might be best known for its international film festivals, glitzy seaside resorts, and olive-oil-doused cuisine, but the bustling port city and capital of Bouches-du-Rhône department, Marseille, also has a crime-riddled reputation. Blessed with Mediterranean weather, Marseille is still a popular tourist destination, especially for the rich and famous, but it is also France’s least safe city…
Marseille’s overall crime rate hovers at 64.55 and the city demonstrates high levels of crimes. The run the gamut from petty theft to armed robbery, vandalism to serious assault. Thing is, the place is relatively problem-free by day, when it has a safety index of 50.40, though tourists still need to be careful, as pickpockets and scammers operate everywhere in the city.
Sadly, Marseille’s safety at night dips to an index of 27.74. Street crime is common, especially in the northern districts, and solo travelers should avoid unlit streets and the metro after dark. The crime rates are more than five times higher in Marseille than in the rest of France, and the murder rate is especially high due to the criminal gangs that operate here. Marseille is also known for its trafficking of all kinds from – drugs, weapons, humans.
Marseille has been a hub for trade and immigration since it was founded by the Greeks over 2,000 years ago. The old port is the beating heart of the city and fishmongers sell their catch here along the boat-lined quay. The Basilique Notre-Dame-de-La-Garde also draws tourists from all around the region. That Romanesque-Byzantine church, known to locals as Bonne Mere, is also a lavish 19th-century symbol of the town and is visible from all across Marseille.
It should be mentioned that a lot of the violence is isolated to criminal gangs, with turf wars and settling scores being the reason for most murders. However, the sex trafficking trade can affect visitors and women should be especially careful when enjoying the nightlife in Marseille. Never take a drink from a stranger and never leave your drink unattended. Don’t trust anyone and think carefully before giving out any of your personal details to a stranger.
6. Bradford, United Kingdom
Undoubtedly less iconic than Marseille or Naples, but nonetheless among the most dangerous places in Europe, Bradford is a regional city in England’s West Yorkshire region. It’s tucked near the eastern foothills of the Pennines, which you can see rising on the horizon.
Bradford has a lot to offer in the way of culture. As the world’s first UNESCO City of Film, you can learn about the city’s rich media history in the National Science and Media Museum, home to its own IMAX cinema. Meanwhile, Bradford’s Industrial Museum is housed in a refurbished 19th-century mill.
Bringing that down is a reputation for poverty and crime. And so it is that the crime index sits at 66.52, the highest in Europe as a whole! Muggings, carjackings, assault, drugs, vandalism, and even corruption are all issues in Bradford. In fact, Bradford experiences 159 crimes per 1,000 people – the worst in the UK.
By day, Bradford is a relatively safe city, with an index of 45.71. There’s plenty to draw visitors, too. There are art galleries dedicated to David Hockney, as well as bustling shopping areas and areas of natural beauty like Lister Park and its boating lake.
You should be wary of pickpockets in busy areas, but most of the crime is concentrated outside of the city in the poorer suburban neighborhoods. The Eccleshill and Ravenscliffe estate area is one of the most notorious hotspots for car crime, while Toller Lane, Bradford Moor, and Great Horton see high levels of assault. At night, Bradford has a safety index of just 23.33, which is low by any standards.
7. Nantes, France
Nantes has been a place of military and industrial importance since the medieval era. The town was central in the unification of France and Brittany throughout the 1500s, and later became the principal trading port of the country in the 1600s. Since then, it’s ridden a bit of a rollercoaster ride between high levels of deprivation and sudden bursts of rejuvenation.
Sadly, the stats still paint a pretty gritty picture for this charming town on the lovely Loire River. Numbeo reports that it has an overall crime rate of 62.11, which is enough to place it firmly within the top 10 most crime-ridden and dangerous places in Europe. The numbers also show how Nantes is worse off than even Paris when it comes to the risk of muggings and thefts, so be sure to have your wits about you as you move through the old center.
Talking of the old center, there’s oodles in and around there that might just make the risk of visiting seem wholly worth it. You’ve got the handsome Château des ducs de Bretagne, a onetime ducal castle with imposing keeps. You’ve got beautiful botanical gardens complete with vintage greenhouses. Plus, some of northern-central France’s most accomplished winelands await on the outskirts.
8. Minsk, Belarus
With a crime ranking of 56.86, Minsk just about makes it onto our list of the most dangerous places in Europe. It’s the sole spot listed here that takes us over to Eastern Europe; the very boundaries of the continent, in fact, closer to Moscow than to the Atlantic Ocean.
There’s no doubt that crimes are a regular occurrence in Minsk. Numbeo lists the risk of being attacked and insulted as very high. There are also moderate risks of muggings and assaults. However, just as in those southern Italian cities before it, the real problem here is highlighted by the soaring likelihood of witnessing corruption and bribery.
Minsk is one of the worst places in Europe for that. The folk over at Freedom House put it simply: “Belarus is an authoritarian state in which elections are openly rigged and civil liberties are severely restricted.” All that’s framed by recent political upheavals that were put down violently by governmental forces. Not a good look.
9. Nice, France
Despite the name, you might find that Nice isn’t all that nice at all. Granted the iconic English Promenade and the sun-kissed sands of the Cote d’Azur that await nearby are surely worth braving the town for, but there are crime stats here that any visitor should be aware of. Namely, Nice is currently ranked as the eighth most crime-ridden city on the continent.
It gets there with an overall crime ranking on Numbeo of 57.92. That’s gained by the fact that crime has been increasing significantly in the last three years, plus high risks for car thefts, being insulted, robberies, and – probably most notably – violent crimes.
Thankfully, the vast majority of the crime in Nice is limited to certain neighborhoods, none of which crossover with the main tourist areas you see on the postcards and in the travel brochures. Try to stick to the blocks of old Nice around the Promenade des Anglais. Dodge the areas of Les Moulins and Nice Nord, which are generally quite poverty-stricken and dangerous both day and night.
What is the most dangerous country in Europe?
Europe is generally the safest continent in the world, but the Baltic countries in northeast Europe demonstrate the highest homicide rates with Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia coming in as the most murderous. The UK is home to more dangerous cities, with consistently high crime rates than any other country in Europe. However, Turkey’s close proximity to the Middle East and the ongoing conflicts and gun crime that brings, means it’s probably the most dangerous overall.
What is the safest country in Europe?
Of the 20 safest countries in the world, Europe stakes a claim to 14 of them and Iceland steals the top spot with a crime index of just 24.96, plus low to very low levels of all types of crime besides. Walking around during daylight is extremely safe, at an index of 85.04. In fact, it’s also safer to walk around at night in Iceland than it is to walk around most European cities during the day!
Is there more violence in France or the UK?
France and the UK are both home to some of Europe’s most dangerous cities, but acts of violence against other people in the UK tend to be much higher than in France. There are around 1,500 assaults per 100,000 in Britain, and as many as 5,000 property crimes, whereas there are just 748 acts of violence per 100,000 in France and just over 3,000 incidents of property crime.