The Spanish neighbourhoods with the worst reputation for being dangerous

The Local (
The Local ([email protected]) • 21 Oct, 2022 Updated Fri 21 Oct 2022 12:36 CEST
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Calle Venus in La Mina, Barcelona. Photo: OmniaPESLaMina.

Spain is a very safe and welcoming country but there are certain neighbourhoods with a reputation for violence, theft and drug use. Here are the ‘barrios’ where Spaniards themselves say you have to keep your wits about you.


There are a number of studies ranking the world's safest and most peaceful countries, and pretty much without fail, Spain is always in the top bracket.

In recent rankings by Forbes magazine, Spain was ranked the sixth safest country in Europe, and according to figures from Stastica, Spain had one of the lowest murder rates on the continent in 2020.

There are of course many ways of judging how safe a country is, whether it be assessing the threat of aggression or sexual violence, or the chances of being robbed, political instability, drug trafficking and so on.

For example, when it comes to non-violent theft such as pickpocketing, car theft, robberies in shops or burglaries, Spain tends to have rates of delinquency above the EU average. Inequality is also on the up in Spain and the latest Eurostat data shows that the country has the highest levels of poverty and social exclusion in Western Europe, which tends to result in an increase in crime.

Although there are no official studies ranking the safety of different neighbourhoods in Spain, there are certain barrios which over the years have built up a reputation among Spaniards for being more prone to poverty and crime, as is the case in most European countries. They appear often in the news, feature in investigative TV reports and come up in conversation among Spaniards who warn against going there.

This does not mean that you should not visit these neighbourhoods or that all their residents are involved in illicit affairs, far from it, many of these hard-working communities are in desperate need of better municipal provisions and opportunities, and feel like only the bad side of their neighbourhoods is depicted in the media. 

We’ve put together this list as an informative piece for foreigners to be aware of the fact that there are parts of Spain where delinquency, drug use and violence are renowned for being more common, and to therefore decide for themselves if they want to visit. The videos that accompany each section include interviews with residents of these barrios, who offer their own opinion of what's happening in their neighbourhoods.


La Cañada Real (Madrid)

La Cañada Real is a 15km-long shanty town that stretches along the M-50 motorway from Cañada de Coslada all the way to the border between Madrid and Getafe. It is Europe's biggest shanty town and its 9,000 residents have not had electricity for more than two years.

It is also renowned for being where a large part of Madrid’s drug trade is concentrated, and violence and gun trafficking are also reportedly common in the neighbourhood. Though Madrid is not a particularly dangerous city, the crime rate in Cañada Real is above average.

As is so often the case, Cañada Real’s crime rate is underpinned by severe poverty. Apart from most residents living without electricity, many of their homes are haphazard constructions put together by with scrap materials.

Sector 6 is known as the most dangerous part of Cañada Real, and though known by all Madrileños, Cañada Real is not a place many have been.


Lo Campano (Murcia)

Down in Murcia, Lo Campano neighbourhood in the coastal city of Cartagena has developed a reputation over the decades.

Detached from central Cartagena with poor transport links and high levels of pollution, Lo Campano is an isolated pocket that is considered the ‘drug supermarket’ of the Levant area.

It was created in the 1950s to relocate locals displaced by floods in Cuevas del Tajo, and the buildings have slowly degraded since then. There are high levels of poverty in the area, and it is estimated that there are about 1,500 residents.


Palma-Palmilla (Málaga)

A notorious neighbourhood in Malaga, Palma-Palmilla has the highest crime rates in the city. With illegal gambling dens, rampant drug trafficking and shootouts between gangs vying for territory, Palma-Palmilla might be one to avoid if you’re visiting Malaga.

Like many of the areas in this list, Palma-Palmilla was quickly constructed in the 1960’s to house people that had been in living in the city’s shantytowns. Unfortunately it couldn’t stop the neighbourhood becoming one of the poorest and most dangerous in Spain.


Las Tres Mil Viviendas (Seville)

If you’ve been to Seville, you might’ve heard of Las Tres Mil Viviendas (the three thousand homes, in English). Or more likely, warned by locals to stay away from it. Known as ‘Tres Mil’ for short, the area to the south of Seville is effectively a slum that contains six parts of the ‘Polígono Sur’ neighbourhood.


Tres Mil was built in the 1970’s, and like most of the neighbourhoods on this list, is separated not only geographically from the city centre but also in terms of resources.

There is high-unemployment and crime rates, drug trafficking is common - particularly growing and distributing marijuana - and gang violence in the streets is not uncommon.


La Mina (Barcelona)

La Mina, or the Mine, in English, is an infamous neighbourhood between Barcelona and Sant Adrià de Besòs where one of Spain’s most infamous criminals, Juan José Moreno Cuenca, known as El Vaquilla, grew up in the 1970’s.

Another repopulation neighbourhood, La Mina’s tall tower blocks quickly attracted drugs, crime, weapons and extortion. Police regularly carry out operations in the area to try and put a dent in the Catalan capital’s drug trade.


El Raval (Barcelona)

Another Barcelona barrio, El Raval is different to other neighbourhoods on this list in that it is in the city centre. Part of Barcelona’s ‘Ciutat Vella’ (old town) El Raval sits next to two of Barcelona’s busiest - and most touristy - parts of town: the port, and the famous La Rambla.

Just mere metres away from Barcelona’s tourist hotspots, El Raval neighbourhood has been ravaged by crime, gang violence and, above all else, robberies.


Barcelona is known as the pickpocket capital of Spain, arguably Europe, so if you’re there on holiday and just keep in mind that one of Spain’s most notorious neighbourhoods is just a few streets away.

READ ALSO: How Barcelona is once again Spain’s pickpocket capital

That being said, due to its reputation, the Catalan police, known as Mossos D'Esquadra, are often in the area.


Barriada del Príncipe Alfonso (Ceuta)

El Príncipe neighbourhood is in Ceuta, one of Spain’s two North-African territories. A severely impoverished area, the neighbourhood suffers from serious public health problems, poor power supply and hygiene conditions - including piles of uncollected rubbish on the streets - and a lack of basic resources.

With very high rates of unemployment (as high as 90 percent in recent years) and school dropout statistics, this Ceuta neighbourhood has become a breeding ground for crime, in particular the drug trafficking trade as Ceuta is one of Africa’s two land borders with Europe.



El Cabanyal (Valencia)

The old fisherman’s quarter, El Cabanyal is Valencia’s only real neighbourhood that can claim to be on the beach front. It is also known for being its most dangerous. As has become a trend on this list, El Cabanyal became the home of people relocating from shantytowns, and illegal squatting is common, particularly in dilapidated buildings. Drug dealing is rife, and there is a strong police presence in the area.

Like El Raval in Barcelona, El Cabanyal is adjacent to one of Valencia’s key tourist hubs. Due to its coastal location and several photographic streets with colonial architecture, many tourists who visit La Malvarrosa beach are unaware when walking around El Cabanyal and they are advised to keep their wits about them a bit.



The Local ([email protected]) 2022/10/21 12:36

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