In this paper a general methodology for the analysis of large concrete dams subjected to seismic excitation is outlined. It is valid both for gravity dams (2D representation) and arch dams (3D representation). The method allows for non‐linear material behaviour of the dam, ‘transparent fictitious boundaries’ for dealing properly with in‐coming and out‐going seismic waves, and an efficient procedure to deal with dam‐soil‐fluid interaction. The mechanical behaviour of concrete is modelled using an isotropic damage model which allows for tension and compression damage, and exhibits stiffness recovery upon load reversals. Emphasis is placed in the treatment of fluid‐structure interaction, regarding both formulation and efficiency aspects. A gravity dam and an arch dam are analysed subjected to artificially generated earthquakes of different intensities, and the results are used to study the degree of (un)safety of the dams.