Most of the literature on social exclusion has concentrated exclusively on socio‐economic and political factors as the causes denying people access to social services and civil and political rights. Structures have been seen as established outside and independently of the practice and experience of individual and collective social actors. In this article I intend to show how social actors implement social strategies of inclusion to counteract practices and classifications of social exclusion within different possibilities of success. This I will do taking into account various arenas and landscapes of macro‐structural constraints, which allow but also limit both autonomy and agency. In doing so, I will stress the complexities and variety of social exclusion/inclusion dynamics within contemporary urban societies that are strongly marked by demographic and ethnic changes. These issues will be explored through two different ethnographic cases: second‐generation Spanish migrants to the Basque Country and Polish immigrants to Spain.