Abstract In Valencia, Spain, 263 residents were interviewed at five different locations in order to investigate the subjective response to environmental noise in urban areas. External noise levels were measured over five consecutive days at each site. Noise levels were high in two of the selected sites ( L eq 24h about 75 dBA) and lower in the other two ( L eq 24h about 65 dBA). The fifth location had a night noise problem because of the presence of many leisure places (pubs, restaurants, etc.). The scores of the sample with their satisfaction with their neighbourhood were notably higher in the quiet than in the noisy areas (83% and 64% respectively). Road traffic and pub noise (in the fifth site) were the most annoying environmental factors in the noisy locations, whereas air pollution and dirty streets were considered the principal environmental problems in the quiet areas. Sleep disturbance by noise was also an important problem in the noisy sites. Complaints to the local authorities about noise disturbance were infrequent except in the location with pubs, where more than 20% of the interviewed people had complained.