In case you didn’t know already, Spain is the noisiest country on the planet together with Japan. The two countries have been switching top spot over the past decade, fighting over who can be the most earsplitting for its residents.
Funnily enough the other podium position Spain and Japan share is for being the nations where people live to be oldest (Spain is currently set to be top), but that wellbeing bonus has little to do with the damage the World Health Organisation has warned being exposed to too much noise can do.
Around nine million people in Spain are exposed to noise levels above 65 decibels, the recommended threshold by the WHO.
Traffic is reportedly responsible for 80 percent of noise pollution in Spain.
Whether the remaining 20 percent is attributable to people in bar terraces shouting until the early hours, or eldery neighbours watching their TV soap at top volume, we simply don’t know.
But noise does “cause stress, sleep problems, interference with cognitive processes and can even lead to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases,” as Spanish NGO Ecologistas en Acción points out.
So which city in Spain is the loudest? Madrid, right?
Nope, the Spanish capital is the 37th noisiest city in Spain, according to WHO data ranking how much of its population is exposed to harmful noise levels.
The most deafening city in Spain is in fact Vigo in the northwest of the country, where up to 71 percent of the 290,000 residents of this Galician city are exposed to too much noise, especially at night.
Gironés, the region that’s home to the beautiful medieval city of Girona, came in second place followed by its Catalan big brother Barcelona, with 45 and 46 percent of its people exposed to too much noise (Barcelona’s nighttime noise rates affected even more residents: 62 percent).
Another surprise entry in fourth position was Logroño, the capital of Spain’s wine-centric region La Rioja, where daytime noise levels reached 43 percent of the population but at least dropped to 27 percent at night.
Castellón de la Plana was the noisiest city in the Valencia region and fifth overall and Madrid dormitory city Getafe came out as the loudest area in and around Spain’s capital.
The graphs below show the full list for daytime and nighttime noise pollution to which people in cities across Spain are exposed.
Ranking of daytime noise pollution in Spanish cities
Ranking of nighttime noise pollution in Spanish cities
Why Madrid is far down the list may seem hard to understand as the Spanish capital is indeed a lively place full of restaurants, clubs and of course traffic (less so in the centre since Madrid’s recent traffic restrictions).
Perhaps the fact that its 6.5 million residents are more spread out over its 604 sq km surface area could have made a difference, in comparison other more tightly packed cities in Spain.
Another possible reason is a 2011 Madrid law that rolled out fines of between €90 and €600 for drivers and motorcyclists whose vehicle noise exceeded the permitted decibel levels.