It might be the second-smallest of the world’s continents, but what Europe lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in diversity. From its Mediterranean beaches to its high-altitude ski resorts, volcanic islands, and every metropolitan city in between, there’s a destination for everyone but still, some that you might want to avoid.
It’s not known for being dangerous. n fact, Europe is supposedly the safest continent in the world and perfect for solo travelers. Still, with 44 countries making up the large peninsula, you can’t say the same for every destination and you’ll find higher crime rates than some South American cities hidden away in good old Blighty.
From the rolling hills and green pastures of the English countryside to the gritty south coast of Italy, these are the most dangerous places in Europe and everything you need to know about them. Let’s get into it.
The regional capital of Campania and the modern birthplace of pizza, Naples is Italy’s third-largest city and one that needs little introduction. Its 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 city at an index of 61.86—thirty percent 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 this is to be expected of any big city.
What s more unique to little old Napoli is 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 to power in the 19th century and has had a stronghold over the city ever since.
Mafia crime shouldn’t affect tourists either, but it has tainted Naples with higher levels of corruption and bribery within its government and police force than any other type of crime. This could be a concern if you get in trouble while in the city. This is why we always recommend that you steer clear of drugs and think carefully before you trust just anybody you don’t know. If you think someone is acting suspiciously, you’re probably right.
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 62.88, Birmingham is one of the most dangerous places in Europe. 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.
There’s a low chance that visitors will run into risk when walking around Birmingham by day and the trendy Sherborne Wharf with its cafes and bars, as well as the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery with its pre-Raphaelite masterpieces, are big draw factors for tourists. However, by night, Birmingham isn’t somewhere you want to be wandering around alone.
The safety index after dark is just 26.49, which is very low, even for a busy city. Cities like 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 the most deprived areas than any other city in the UK. This has an impact on crime, 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 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. It isn’t advised to flash your wealth, walk around after dark, or get too carried away if you’re out drinking in town, but there’s no reason you should be put off visiting and the city has a great culinary scene and nightlife.
Coventry, United Kingdom
Another entry from the UK, Coventry demonstrates the third-highest crime rates of any English city and has even previously been named the second-most dangerous place in Europe. You’ll find less corruption and bribery, with the police force doing everything in their power to tackle the city’s crime problem, but the risk of physical assault, armed robbery, home break-ins, and muggings are all high.
Coventry records fewer crimes per 1,000 people than the densely populated city of Birmingham at just under 110. 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.
There were 18,485 incidents of violence and sexual offenses in Coventry in 2021. With the city’s population of 439,000, this is a staggeringly high figure.
The city demonstrates moderate safety for walking around during the day with an index of 46.55. Its medieval cathedral, galleries, museums, 14th-century St. Mary’s Guildhall, and popular university are all points of interest that visitors can safely explore on foot—the city center being one of the least problemed areas.
Nonetheless, Coventry isn’t safe at night with an index of just 26.57. Places like Willenhall and Foleshill should be completely avoided as the likelihood of being a victim of crime is double that of the center.
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 with its panoramic trails leading up to the summit, Catania is as geographically spectacular as its Campanian sister. Still, the active volcano has little to do with the dangers of this port town.
Catania has an overall crime index of 63.73, although 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, the rowdy weekday fish market anchored by incredible seafood restaurants.
However, you need to keep your wits about you at night. The safety index is just 28.46 and 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 84.77. 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 the city, 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 a no-go area for solo travelers. Arms dealing, drug trafficking, and even homicide are all daily occurrences here.
You shouldn’t be scared away from visiting Catania and it is a beautiful city with tons to attractions for tourists. Take the usual pickpocketing precautions in the center that you would in any other metropolitan city, but on top of Librino, be careful to avoid the Nesima, Villagio Sant’Agata, San Giuseppe la Rena, and St. George neighborhoods.
The south of France might be better known for its international film festivals, glitzy seaside resorts, and amazing 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 64.75 and the city demonstrates high levels of crimes of most natures from petty theft to armed robbery; vandalism to serious assault. It is relatively problem-free by day with a safety index of 50.40, but tourists still need to be careful as pickpockets and scammers operate everywhere in the city.
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. This Romanesque-Byzantine church, known to locals as Bonne Mere, is also a lavish 19th-century symbol of the city and is visible from across Marseille.
However, Marseille’s safety at night dips to an index of 27.10. Street crime is common, especially in the north, 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 in especially high with the criminal gangs that operate here. Marseille is also known for its trafficking of all kinds from drugs to weapons to prostitution.
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 everyone and think carefully before giving out any of your personal details to a stranger.
Bradford, United Kingdom
Undoubtedly less iconic than Marseille or Naples, but far more crime-riddled than any city on the continent, Bradford is a small city in England’s West Yorkshire near the eastern foothills of the Pennines.
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, and Bradford’s Industrial Museum is housed in a 19th-century mill. But the city also has a reputation for poverty and crime, and the crime index sits at 68.89, the second-highest in Europe.
Muggings, carjackings, assault, drugs, vandalism, and even corruption are all issues in Bradford. In fact, Bradford experiences 146 crimes per 1,000 people and the most common are of a violent or sexual nature.
By day, Bradford is a relatively safe city with an index of 45.71. There’s plenty to draw visitors with the city’s unique UNESCO heritage, but it’s also home to art galleries, with a dedicated one 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 and you shouldn’t walk alone in the city.
Bradford is surrounded by stunning scenery that is worth visiting and the rural Pennines are among the most beautiful places in England, with very little crime. If you’re heading to the city, there’s no reason to be worried but visitors should stay away from the aforementioned neighborhoods at night.
Preston, United Kingdom
Officially the most dangerous place in all of Europe, the UK clinches the top spot with Preston, another unassuming city in northern England. Located in Lancashire, Preston has grown to be somewhat of a center for arts and design with its fine art gallery and Harris Museum. It also has plenty to offer in the way of the great outdoors with the Guild Wheel walking and cycling path that runs alongside the River Ribble through Avenham and Miller Parks.
Nevertheless, Preston demonstrates the highest crime rates of any European city with an index of 79.24, far ahead of nearby Bradford. Preston demonstrates high rates of carjackings, assaults, corruption, and armed robbery, and very high levels of burglaries, vandalism, theft, and drug dealing and use.
The overall crime rate in Lancashire is 77 per 1,000 people, but Preston’s sits at around 118. This isn’t as high as some other destinations on this list, but violent and sexual offenses account for a third of all these incidents.
Residents might be surprised that Preston is ranked as Europe’s least safe city and it’s true that there are plenty of safe areas of town to visit. Neighborhoods with access to the popular cycle/run/walk route, the Guild Wheel, tend to be most affluent and problem-free, such as Ashton, Lea, Ribbleton, Broadgate, and the city center. However, we wouldn’t advise walking around alone during the night anywhere in Preston as the safety index sits at just 12.81.
Cadley, Greyfriars, and Tulketh are areas to avoid with the highest reported incidents of violence and high levels of anti-social behavior too.
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, but with Turkey’s close proximity to the middle east and ongoing conflicts and gun crime, it’s considered one of the least safe European countries to visit.
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 25.32 and low to very low levels of all types of crime apart. Walking around during daylight is extremely safe, at an index of 84.53. 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 with an index of 71.92.
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.