Safe and Dangerous Places in Paris

by Rachel Dale, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Oct 11th 2010 05:23 PM

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Areas to Avoid Paris

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While France boasts an extremely low violent crime rate, with less than 3 murders per 100,000 inhabitants per year (less than half that of the United States), several areas still present a threat, especially to tourists. Before planning a trip, visitors should be aware of areas to avoid in Paris, those locations with higher incidences of crime, especially muggings. With the recent economic downturn, this illegal activity has been on the upswing; be vigilant at all times, even in the safe areas of Paris.


Dangerous Places in Paris


1. The Suburbs

Parisian "banlieues," or suburbs, have recently experienced waves of crime, brought to international attention through the riots that occurred there around the year 2000. However, it is a difficult subject to broach, as it carries connotations of racism for many French people. Most tourists will not end up in these areas, as the main Parisian tourist attractions are located in the center of the city. It's also important to note that certain suburbs, such as Neuilly-sur-Seine, are extremely wealthy and experience little crime.

2. RER and Metro Line 1

Combined, the RER commuter trains and the Metro Line 1 account for a huge part of crimes against tourists in Paris. The dangers here are the pickpockets, who are stealthy and may travel in packs. One will try to distract you by asking for directions or other information while the other discreetly slips his hand in your pocket. Another common trap occurs when one man takes your phone from your hands (or your wallet or your suitcase) just as the doors slam shut. By the time you arrive at the next Metro station to report him, he is long gone. Stay vigilant in the Metro and commuter trains, especially at night, and do not display any electronic devices or wallets.

3. Sacré Coeur

The Sacré Coeur cathedral provides a stunning panorama of Paris, as well as interesting architecture in its own right. However, while the crowds and street performers outside may seem charming and entertaining (and the vast majority are harmless), many crimes against tourists take place here. One common tactic begins with one person tying a string around your finger. As you look on in surprise or struggle to get away, his or her accomplice takes your wallet or purse. Do not linger in this area, and keep your hands to yourself at all times. If anyone tries to take your hand, push them away, using force if necessary.

Sacré Coeur, 35, Rue du Chevalier-de-la-Barre, 75018 Paris, France; 33 1 53 41 89 00; 6AM-10:30PM daily; Free

4. Tourist Attractions

Other tourist destinations also receive many reports of crime against their visitors. For example, the Eiffel Tower seems crowded enough to be safe; however, it is precisely this aspect that makes it appealing to pickpockets who often ride the elevators up and down taking wallets. Similarly, places like the Louvre or the Tuilerie Gardens also have many pickpockets on the lookout for unsuspecting foreigners. Not surprisingly, many of these attractions are located along the Metro Line 1. Although these are not areas to avoid in Paris, do exercise caution when visiting these famous tourist attractions.

Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, 75007 Paris, France; 33 (0)8 92 70 12 39; Jan 1-Jun 17, Aug 29-Dec 31 9:30AM-11PM, Jun 18-Aug 31 9AM-midnight; Adult 8.1 Euros, Youth (12-24) 6.4 Euros, Child (4-11) 4 Euros

The Louvre, 99, Rue de Rivoli, Paris, France; Mon, Thu, Sat-Sun 9AM-6PM, Wed, Fri 9AM-10PM, closed Tue; 9.5 Euros

Tuilerie Gardens, Rue de Rivoli, Paris, France; Dawn to dusk daily; Free

5. Marché aux Puces

This famous Parisian flea market, just to the north of the city, is full of antique stalls, junk shops, and everything in between, organized around a series of winding streets. This place is perfect for a thief. The high crime rate here is partially due to shoppers' inattention to their personal belongings as they examine goods. Keep your purse and bags close to your body at all times. Men should carry their wallets in their front pockets rather than their back pockets.


Safe Places in Paris


1. Western Residential Areas

While some of the highest crime areas in Paris are either extremely run-down or extremely touristy, the safe areas of Paris are, not surprisingly, residential. Areas like the 16th Arrondissement, where the Eiffel Tower is located, and the 17th Arrondissement (boasting the beautiful Parc Monceau) are much calmer, more relaxed, and free of thieves. Apartments in these areas do occasionally get broken into; however, tighter security in the apartment buildings is making this less and less common.

2. Montparnasse

In the south of Paris, Montparnasse is central enough to be convenient and yet still safe. Many famous artists and writers lived here, and there's no dearth of interesting sites you might wish to check out – including the landmark Tour Montparnasse. However, unlike quarters right in the center of Paris, Montparnasse has far less crime, especially against tourists, making it an excellent (and less expensive) place to stay.

3. Smaller Museums

Pickpockets are on the lookout for tourists at the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay. On the other hand, smaller museums (which usually have a better proportion of security guards to overall square footage) have an excellent reputation for protecting not only their art but also their visitors. For some of the safe places in Paris, try the Musée Rodin to view the lovely sculpture garden, or the Musée Carnavalet in the Marais, which has exhibitions about the history of Paris and is free to the public.

Musée Rodin, 79 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris, France; 33 01 44 18 61 10; Tue-Sun 10AM-5:45PM, closed Mon; 6 Euros

4. Rue Mouffetarde (5th arrondissement)

This street, though increasingly touristy in the past few years, is located in the heart of the Fifth Arrondissement – central enough to make it convenient for you but far away from the crime centers along the first Metro line. The shops, boutiques, and restaurants along this pedestrian street provide a real taste of Paris and haven't been overly affected by the influx of foreign visitors.

5. La Défense

One of the safest places in Paris, La Défense is also, unfortunately, one of the least likely to be visited by tourists, as it is the business and corporate center of France. Just to the west of Paris, this area is full of skyscrapers and high-rises, which the government has forbidden in Paris proper. You may be traveling to Paris on business and have work to do in this area. If so, enjoy it, as La Défense is extremely safe even for foreign visitors.
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