A long, sun-soaked coastline, craggy mountains, bustling cities, mouthwatering tapas, and Rioja wine are only a few of the reasons why Spain is among the most popular holiday destinations in Europe. It’s the land of siesta and happy and friendly people, but can you feel safe there? Where are the most dangerous places in Spain that all travelers should know about?
That’s what you’ll learn from this guide. We’ve listed seven destinations where you should be most vigilant. From things you should avoid in Barcelona to natural disasters that could potentially be life-threatening, you’ll learn about the facets of this country to be most wary of as you travel.
We’ve looked at the latest crime rates and common tourist scams to find the most dangerous places in Spain. While there aren’t many spots in the country that pose a serious threat to visitors, we’ve listed the ones where you should really have your wits about you to avoid trouble.
From the high, Gothic towers of La Sagrada Familia church to the quirky architecture around the gardens of Park Güell through to the bustling, tree-lined La Ramblas, there is no shortage of attractions in sunny Barcelona. It’s no surprise that this colorful Catalan city, which sprawls south of the famous Costa Brava, is one of the most popular holiday spots in the country. There are plenty of perks to that, but, sadly, it also means it’s one of the most dangerous places in Spain.
That is not to say that Barcelona isn’t safe for tourists. The Catalan capital is generally not a dangerous city, but there are certain risks you should be aware of. Like most major European cities, Barcelona struggles with moderate levels of crime, especially petty crime.
Foreign travelers rarely become victims of violent offenses, but pickpocketing and minor theft are relatively common. You should always watch your valuables, especially in the most well-known tourist hotspots, such as La Ramblas. Beaches are also popular for thieves to eye up your belongings, so it’s not worth leaving your stuff unattended when going for a swim.
Unfortunately, Barcelona has also a slightly increased risk of terrorist-related incidents. There was a vehicle attack back in 2017 targeted at pedestrians on the popular La Ramblas street. It was an isolated event and the Spanish police work extremely hard to protect the public in this respect. That said, you should be aware of the threat and stay vigilant.
Demonstrations and civil unrest are also relatively common problems in parts of Barcelona and greater Catalonia. These have sometimes become violent in the past. So, if you happen to be in an area where protests are happening, stay alert and clear.
A city along the banks of an estuary that leads to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the lush Basque Mountains, Bilbao has a lot up its sleeve. It’s the capital of the Basque Country, and home to the iconic modern art museum of the Guggenheim. Is it safe to visit, though?
Well, Bilbao is one of the most dangerous places in Spain when it comes to crime. In fact, it’s the city with the highest crime index in the country!
That said, the city is generally safe for tourists, but there are certain neighborhoods that struggle with high levels of law violations. San Francisco district, especially around Cortes Street is best avoided, especially at night. The general rule is that the closer you get to the center, the safer it is. You don’t need to worry too much about crime in the most touristy areas of the town.
Foreign visitors to Bilbao are more likely to become targets of pickpockets, though. The items that are most likely to be missing include money and passports, so be sure to keep them safe. That’s especially when you’re sightseeing around crowded areas such as Casco Viejo (the lovely Bilbao old town).
Madrid is the Spanish capital and the largest city in the country. There are oodles of things to see and do there, from the grand Royal Palace to El Prado Museum. It’s home to a buzzing nightlife and bustling streets dotted with cafes and restaurants, so it’s no surprise that over six million people head in every year! Most visits end without problems, but sadly that’s not always the case.
As usually is the case with bigger metropolises, you could encounter some problems if you’re not careful in Madrid. Just like in Barcelona, petty crimes are often targeted at tourists. Metro and other busy areas, such as El Rastro market and Puerta del Sol, are where you should watch your valuables most carefully.
There is also a small risk of being scammed in the Spanish capital. Common cons include the lucky rosemary, when women hand you a rosemary plant and start telling your fortune, only to steal whatever you might have in your pockets. You should also watch out for taxis trying to overcharge and restaurant menus without prices. Luckily, these are usually easy to avoid if you know what’s what.
Ceuta is a part of Spanish territory in northern Africa to the east of the Moroccan city of Tangier. It’s separated from the mainland by the Strait of Gibraltar and only accessible from Europe by boat or air. It’s not a popular stop on a Spanish itinerary but you should know that it’s among the most dangerous places in the country.
Due to its geographical location, Ceuta is entirely ringed by Moroccan territory. It’s an autonomous city in Spain that struggles with higher levels of poverty and crime than the rest of the country over the Med to the north. That said, it’s still generally safe for tourists, so there is no reason why you should get in any trouble there. Just stay alert and avoid walking alone at night, especially around dark, isolated alleys.
Caminito del Rey
Caminito del Rey is a popular hiking trail in the Malaga Mountains. It’s a jaw-dropping walkway 100 meters up on a sheer cliff face with panoramic vistas of the canyons and the valleys below. It was once not only considered to be one of the most dangerous places in Spain but also one of the most unsafe hikes in the whole world. Luckily, that’s no longer the case. The pathway has been completely restored back in 2015 with a new wooden, and well-protected platform in place.
Although you can’t put the Caminito del Rey trail among the riskiest trails anymore, you should still be careful when walking there. That especially goes for people that struggle with a bad case of vertigo. You will need to keep a helmet on at all times because there is a high risk of rockfall along the way.
Seville is the largest city in southern Spain and the capital of the Andalusia region. From flamenco dancing performances to intriguing architecture and interesting museums, Seville has lots to offer. But what about the safety aspect? Most parts of the city are perfectly fine, but you should stay alert more than you would if you were visiting rural regions.
Like many other major cities in Spain, Seville is not immune to petty crime. Pickpocketing and other forms of theft are sadly not unheard of and often involve foreign visitors. It’s not as bad as Barcelona, but you should watch your valuables closely, especially in crowded areas like the old town and around the nearby beaches.
Luckily, bag snatching or stolen phones or cash are usually the worst travelers should fear in Seville. Also, watch out for popular tourist scams like taxis charging too much or a picture scam where a person asks you to take a picture only to drop the camera once you return it and demand money for your trouble.
La Palma is a small island that belongs to the Canary group, a chain of Spanish islands off the coast of Morocco. It’s known for its spectacular, mountainous landscapes and mild climate throughout the year. It’s not as popular as the nearby Tenerife, Gran Canaria, or Lanzarote, but thousands of people head there every year to enjoy hiking trails and adventure sports.
Although the risk of falling a victim to crime, even petty, is very low anywhere on the island, La Palma is home to one of the most active volcanoes in Spain, Cumbre Vieja. The most recent eruption in 2021 ruined lots of homes and caused the evacuation of hundreds of tourists. There is also some evidence suggesting that there could be a potentially hazardous tsunami risk from eruptions in the future.
Luckily, volcano eruptions in La Palma are rare, so there is no need to worry about visiting this small Canary Island. You should just be sure to check the weather forecasts if you’re planning to hike there. Intense rains increase the risk of dangerous flash floods, especially in the autumn and the winter.
Most dangerous places in Spain – our verdict.
What are the most dangerous places in Spain? There actually aren’t many spots in this sun-soaked European country where you are at risk of serious trouble. Spain is generally very safe for tourists, with low levels of crime throughout the country. One thing that you should watch out for is pickpocketing and other forms of theft. Barcelona is probably the worst place in the country for that, so keep a close eye on your belongings when exploring the Gothic Quarter and whatnot. None of the seven destinations that we’ve listed here should be considered highly dangerous a la towns in Mexico, though, so there are no reasons why you should avoid them entirely on your travels.