If you’re planning to study abroad in Spain, you’ll want to know which of its cities are the most dangerous. Armed with information about which have the best and worst records for crime, you’ll give yourself the best chance of enjoying a trouble free stay.
The Spanish capital is the largest city in the country. As such, you’d expect it to be associated with a greater risk when it comes to crime. That said, its murder rate is approximately thirty times less than that of Chicago. If you’re unlucky enough to be the victim of crime in Madrid, it’s much more likely that you’ll be relieved of your possessions than experience a violent assault on your person. Areas that attract large, easily distracted crowds are pickpocket central. Such areas include the Plaza Mayor and the neighburhoods immediately to the south of it, La Latina and Lavapies, where you’ll find the Rastro flea market and the city’s red light district.
There is also, as with many of Europe’s large cities, a significant threat of a terrorist attack. In March 2004, what is still Spain’s worst terrorist atrocity took place at its busy Atocha train station. Ten bombs exploded on commuter trains killing 191 people and injuring an estimated 1800 more. Islamic militants inspired by al-Qaeda were later found to be responsible.
Hot on Madrid’s heels is one of Spain’s most vibrant and engaging cities. The Catalan capital is Spain’s second largest city and has a well-documented reputation for crime, particularly opportunist theft. Pickpockets work the metro and well-trodden tourist routes such as the Ramblas, the waterfront and the Barri Gotic with such skill, many foreigners don’t realize they’ve been targeted until the thieves are long gone.
Like Madrid, Barcelona has also experienced a significant terrorist attack, this time in 2017 on the pedestrianised Ramblas. 13 people lost their lives in the horrific incident, which has been attributed to the Islamic extremists ISIS. Both Madrid and Barcelona remain on high alert for further such attacks, though the Spanish authorities have received no specific threats.
Violent crime is low in Valencia but this Mediterranean city does still have its fair share of petty crime, making it one of Spain’s most dangerous cities. Areas to be particularly on your guard against theft include Carmen and the city’s beaches, such as those in the Malvarossa neighbourhood. The area north of Cabanyal train station can feel unsafe, particularly at night, and it’s also not recommended to walk through the Turia gardens after dark. The city is notorious for bicycle theft and you should never leave a bike unattended if you don’t want it to be stolen.
Seville’s inclusion on the list is down in no small part to one neighbourhood in the south of the city: Las 3000 Viviendas. Buses don’t run there, taxi drivers won’t drop off and public service providers insist on an armed escort. The drug-related crime that plagues this part of the city, largely home to the relocated gypsy community, keeps other residents out. Away from Las 3000 Viviendas, however, the city is largely safe when it comes to crime, though it’s wise to be cautious regarding your possessions as petty theft such as bag snatching can be an issue in crowded parts of the centre.
Marbs has struggled to shake off its association with organised criminal gangs, earning it a place on the list of Spain’s most dangerous cities despite its popularity with celebrities as a holiday destination. The Spanish police have identified at least twenty separate gangs, many of them with links abroad, giving this stretch of the Costa del Sol the nickname the “Costa del Crime”. Both the Russian and the Irish mafia have a strong grip on the region. Drug trafficking and infighting are rife.
This Spanish enclave across the Mediterranean Sea from the mainland has a fearsome reputation. In a 2014 report by the respected Spanish newspaper El Pais, its Príncipe Alfonso district was described as “a third-world slum dominated by rival drug gangs”. In this almost lawless place, even the police daren’t patrol; ambulances and fire engines enter only with the protection of the Guardia Civil. The city’s location in North Africa makes it a magnet for illegal immigrants seeking to enter the EU and the trade in hashish is one of the few ways people can make a living.
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