There’s simply no place in the world like Paris. The undisputed hometown of romance is also a shining beacon of art, food, fashion, and utmost sophistication. But beyond its filigreed architecture and exceptional quality of light, is Paris safe?
In fact, the question of whether Paris is a safe place for travelers is a complicated one to answer. One respected ranking of the world’s most violent cities recently put Paris at number 96 in the world. Experts generally agree that France’s legendary capital remains a relatively safe destination, despite recent high-profile terror attacks, stabbings, and mass shootings.
According to the United States Department of State, crimes against visitors to Paris are most often “crimes of opportunity,” though officials add that the chances of violence increase after dusk, or when a criminal’s target tries to resist. They also increase or decrease depending on which neighborhood you’re in.
As of late, U.S. citizens have not been specifically targeted in France’s terror attacks. The risk of terror in Paris is considered high compared to other cities around the world, so travelers should always remain vigilant, and not hesitate to report any suspicious packages or activities.
Tips for Staying Safe in Paris
- Know where to stay—and where not to go. Certain Paris neighborhoods are much more prone to gang activity, hate crimes, and prostitution. Make sure not to find yourself near any of these dangerous spots.
- Guard yourself against pickpockets. This is by far the most rampant crime targeting tourists in Paris, and if you don’t take the proper precautions, don’t be surprised if you get ripped off.
- Though the city’s bawdy red-light districts have been romanticized somewhat (Moulin Rouge! Edgy sex shops!), the ugly reality is that prostitution is a crime in France, and it’s often accompanied by dangerous doings like human trafficking and drug deals.
Safe Places—and Places to Avoid—in Paris
In Paris, gang-related violence is on the rise, and most tourists will want to avoid nighttime trips to the northern suburbs of Aubervilliers, Seine-Saint-Denis, and Saint-Ouen. In central Paris, avoid wandering late at night near Châtelet, Les Halles, Gare du Nord, Stalingrad, Jaures, and Barbès Rochechouart. Near Montmartre and Pigalle, La Goutte d’Or can also be dangerous after dark.
Seek accommodations in some of Paris’ safest neighborhoods. Right in the heart of the city, the 1st Arrondissement neighborhood on the Seine’s right bank is the home of the Louvre, the Jardins des Tuileries, and Place Vendome, and it’s considered very safe by most standards. So is the 3rd Arrondissement. The 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th arrondissements are generally considered safe as well. The 16th Arrondissement, though farther out, is also much less susceptible to crime.
How to Get Around Safely in Paris
There’s one type of criminal that you should always keep top of mind in Paris: pickpockets. They are rampant, especially at the most popular tourist sites, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Montmartre, and the Champs-Élysées. Pickpockets are also all over the Metro, and may not be who you expect them to be—they can be women, and are also commonly under the age of 16. They often work in pairs—one member of the “team” distracts a tourist with questions or a disturbance while an accomplice lifts the desired items.
How to defend yourself from pickpockets in Paris? Keep wallets, passports, and phones—thieves’ most coveted items—close to your body and under wraps, especially on crowded trains. Backpacks and purses should be slash-resistant and zippered shut.
As for taxis, never get into an unmarked one. Make sure it’s marked with the words “TAXI PARISIEN,” which lets you know it’s official, and that the vehicle is properly maintained. Don’t go with anyone who offers you unauthorized transportation at airports or elsewhere.
Though Paris’ recent and tragic mass shooting events have been highly publicized, your chances of getting hit by a bullet are actually drastically lower in France than they are in the United States. Still, it’s good to know what to do in case you do encounter an active shooter situation: If there’s a clear escape route, do anything you need to do to get out of the situation immediately. If there’s not a way out, hide behind a solid object, as low as possible, quietly call the police, and then silence your phone.
The chances of natural disaster are very low in Paris. However, heavy rains into the Seine River do cause severe flooding occasionally, shutting down roads and necessitating evacuations.
If you find yourself in any type of emergency situation in Paris, dial 17 to reach city police or 112 to contact Europe’s emergency response number.
The Red-Light District and Prostitution in Paris
Paris’s red-light district is the Quartier Pigalle, which sits between the 9th and 18th Arrondissements. Pigalle is infamous for being one of Europe’s thriving centers of prostitution.
However, travelers to France need to know that prostitution is illegal in Paris—you’ll be punished by law if you’re caught engaging with sex workers. Pimps in Pigalle are extremely aggressive, and the district attracts plenty of other types of crime that are associated with prostitution, including human trafficking and slavery, drug use, and general violence. For those reasons, Pigalle is not generally on the tourist track, with the notable exception of the Moulin Rouge.
Another place to avoid is the Bois de Boulogne after dark. This upscale park in the 16th Arrondissement is mostly lovely by day. At night, however, it turns into an outdoor brothel, with prostitutes occupying many of the benches, waiting for clients to show up. Unfortunately, this is the case for many other public parks in Paris after dark as well—they transform into havens for prostitutes and other criminals, such as drug dealers, who have been known to commit assault.
If you stay away from prostitution in Paris, however, keep a tight hold on your belongings, and educate yourself about which neighborhoods to avoid, your trip to France is likely to be perfectly safe.