Areas to avoid in Paris?

Old Feb 13th, 1999, 03:56 PM
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Areas to avoid in Paris?

My wife and I are trying to determine what area in Paris to stay in when we go there this coming summer. Are there any unsafe neighborhoods or areas to be avoided? Also, how safe is it to walk the streets at night? Has anyone had any problems?
Old Feb 13th, 1999, 04:13 PM
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A great friend and I visited Paris last spring, and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Indeed, the only faintly nervy time we had was in the early evening, shopping in Les Halles. It consists of a series of shops aswell as a metro station under ground. As the shops stay open quite late, we were in one of the shops right up until it closed, and when we left the shop, back into the general Les Halles area, it was full of rather strange gangs of people. We only found out later, that no-one goes down to Les Halles after dark, as it is a well-known drugs place. So, be warned. It was not an experience I would like to repeat. Otherwise, I think it is like any other big European city. Just be careful. We walked down the Champs d'Elysees at 1 am, and it felt perfectly safe, in fact it felt more like 3 in the afternoon. Bon voyage!!
Old Feb 13th, 1999, 07:57 PM
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Tim, I think Dawdle gave you some good advice. My wife and I travel through Paris regularly. Each of us travels alone as we travel on business and what takes me to France doesn't take her and vice versa. We both feel no concern when in Paris. We say that taking into account that we remain in the most visited arrondissements of the city. You can feel quite comfortable taking your lodgings in the 1st, 4th, 6th, 7th, or 8th Arr. (which isn't to say that there are no other safe areas, but rather that these are the districts of most appeal to visitors)
My personal recommendation is the 6th, commonly called the Latin Quarter. A good place to search for a hotel is There's a good selection of very nice hotels.
A useful thing about choosing a hotel is to choose one near a Metro station. The Metro is the key to preventing sore feet and moving about the city very, very quickly.
Have a great trip. Feel free to email me if I can elaborate on anything.
Old Feb 13th, 1999, 08:08 PM
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Agree completely with the advice about Les Halles. We were very uncomfortable in the Montmartre area as well. Our favorite neighborhood for sleeping is the 7th, a quiet upscale residential area. We felt very, very safe here even strolling (which is wonderful in Paris late at night)around practically deserted streets. Also agree with the advice to stay as close to a metro stop as possible. After a long day of exploring (even if you ride whenever possible), you'll have done more walking than you can possibly imagine (and, the metro is full of hallways and stairways). So, an extra block or two from the metro to your hotel can seem like miles. The area around Ecole Militaire metro stop is full of wonderful hotels in every price range and wonderful, moderately priced (for Paris) restaurants. There are also half a dozen or more bus routes which go by there. We switched to the buses after a few days. No hallways and stairways, the stops are much more conveniently located, and you can enjoy that beautiful scenery along the way. Strolling along the Seine at night, with the bridges, buildings and Tour Eiffel all beautifully lit, is absolutely magical.
Old Feb 13th, 1999, 11:16 PM
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Don't forget about the 5th as an area to stay in. We stayed there last Sept. and like it so well we are going back with the kids (17 and 19) next month.

We highly recommend our hotel. Hotel D'Albe address is 1, Rue de la Harpe. Don't have the phone # handy but the address was easy to remember.

It's on one of the oldest streets in Paris and is probably less than 20 yards from the St. Michel Metro stop. Excellent, central location. We paid about $110 per night for two. Not huge rooms but not bread boxes either. Very clean and neat with air conditioning and very nice bathrooms en suite.

Also, ditto about the Les Halles area. On our first day there we went over there to look around a little and began leaving at about 4 p.m. Even at this time strange people were beginning to gather. We would not have wanted to be there after dark.

Have a great trip!
Old Feb 14th, 1999, 03:16 PM
Bob Brown
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Would one of you pinpoint the location Les Halles for me so I don't stumble over it by mistake? My big map of Paris is not here yet and I cannot locate it on the guide book map I have.

And is it the people on the street that make Montmartre a place to avoid? I have heard since I was a boy that prudent people did not go there.
But I never knew the reason. I always assumed it was a red light district full of dives and strip shows. Is it worse than the sleazey side of New Orleans??
If it is, it must be a tough place to go.
Old Feb 14th, 1999, 05:59 PM
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The easiest way to avoid Les Halles is to avoid the following metro stops: Chatelet/Les Halles, Les Halles, Chatelet (three of them) metro and environs. Together, they are the largest (by far) metro connection in Paris (miles of tunnels and staircases). To the east is rue St. Denis, described in the Access Guide as a "lurid panoply of Parisian sleaze: peep shows, prostitutes...". To the west is Forum des Halles (an ugly modern "shopping mall"). Actually, there are some wonderful sights in the area - Fontaine des Innocents, for one. I've read that adolescents from the burbs favor this area for practicing their pickpocketing skills. We saw some in action. Chatelet/Les Halles is along the metro route between Bastille and Charles de Gaulle, so unless you use the buses, you are almost certain to have occasion to ride this line. When the doors open at this stop, a loud warning comes over a speaker (in several languages), "There are pickpockets in this station. Please protect your personal property." Note that the pickpockets (often two or more teenagers pretending to be lost or looking for friends) ride back and forth between several stops, know exactly the distance between stops and when the train will abruptly slow down. So, be careful. Montmartre has a similar neighborhood (not all of Montmartre is sleezy). But, don't worry, there are very few neighborhoods to avoid. You'll know the minute you've wandered astray. Just turn around. We went to Sacre Coeur because we wanted an up close look and the see the view of the city from there. Next time, I would dress way down, take only a small amount of cash and a credit card in my security pouch, and take a metro route that avoids the Strasbourg/St. Denis stop.
Old Feb 14th, 1999, 06:59 PM
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Bob -

Look at your map and find the Georges Pompidou Center. Look a little to the West (left) and you should see the Forum des Halles (the modern, and rather silly, shopping complex). This is the general area to avoid at night. Also, the metro stops indicated by Donna are best avoided at night.

During the day we would stop through there to change lines and just made sure we were "extra" aware of our surroundings and the people next to us. When we could, we avoided these stops just to be on the safe side but if it's daytime, and would save time, I wouldn't worry about them. Just be on guard.

As for Montmartre, this area holds quite a bit of art history in addition to the Basilica. Many artists lived in the area such as Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec. Renoir painted the famous Dancing at the Moulin de la Galette based on the famous windmill on Rue Lepic. The other part of Montmartre includes the Pigalle area ("Pig Alley" of WWII fame), the famous Moulin Rouge, and many sex/porn type establishments. It's really not that bad. Much more touristy than sleazy. Although, there are guys standing in front of the places and pictures are plastered about with people in various poses. From what I've read, the St. Denis area is the real "sleaze" of Paris. I can't say first hand because I haven't been by there yet. The Pigalle area is more a tourist thing. When we were there we walked through the area both day and night and felt quite safe. Like any city, don't wander anywhere dark and alone. There were also MANY tour buses, so there were lots of regular people walking around. That is, if you call tourists normal. Based on this site, that would be up for debate.

In any case, keep doing research and get familiar with everything and you should be fine! We're going again at the end of March. I can't wait.

Have a great trip.
Old Feb 14th, 1999, 09:23 PM
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I hope this posting works because my last 3 efforts went down a black hole!
I found no problems at all in Montmatre during the day and late afternoon. Ditto for Les Halles. Wandered around the main drag of St. Denis (but was mainly there to see the Cathedral) but it seemed like any other suburban type of shopping mall.
Old Feb 15th, 1999, 03:54 AM
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Just a handful of good old common sense might help. Actually, you'll be safer at night in a supposedly rough area (such as Les Halles,or Pigalle) than in a quiet street in the 7th or 16th, because of the heavy police presence in the areas with a lot of nightlife. Whereas if you get robbed in rue de Grenelle or avenue Mozart, it's like the motto of the Alien movies : "Nobody hears you scream". And don't count on the courage of a simple citizen to help you out in case of mugging. Actually, I recently read on the French press that some youngsters from the suburbs like to do some "raids" in upscale areas to strip their "rich" counterparts of their expensive clothes, because they say that those protected teenagers don't dare defend themselves, and the streets are deserted (which I can confirm, for the last past of the assertion at least). There is one thing that should be avoided for a tourist, is the last hour of the metro (from 23h30 on), since the Paris metro has got more hallways that New York's and didn't adopt that smart Big Apple invention of the "off hour waiting area". Last thing : the last repondent seemed to confuse "rue Saint-Denis" (peep-show area of central Paris, depressing but harmless) with the suburb of Saint-Denis, with the basilica and, now, the stadium where they held the World Cup final.
Old Feb 16th, 1999, 02:27 PM
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I definitely agree with the other respondants that the Chatelet/Les Halles area is sleazy. There is, however, a very heavy police presence there at night, so you should be generally safe on the main streets (try to avoid the quieter streets/passages as you may stumble upon some illegal activity you'd rather not witness). The Pigalle area at night is also kind of dodgy, as is the area near Republique/Blvd. Magenta. The Republique metro station is a large correspondence (many metro lines converge there)and there are often pickpocketing incidents. Remember, Paris is generally safer than most American cities. I go every spring and feel safer there than in Boston or New York. If you stick to main streets and well-lit areas at night you're generally OK. If you feel threatened, take taxis to your destinations.
Old Feb 16th, 1999, 04:40 PM
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I was in Paris last fall with my sister (30-40's age group) and we had a wonderful time. No fears or uncomfortableness anywhere. Didn't go to Les Halles since I'd read Fodors! And we didn't take the Metro after about 10:00 pm. But we did walk until at least midnight, mostly in the Latin Qaurter where there are always people out and about, and also near the Eiffel Tower and the Passy district. We did take the Metro to Montmartre to climb to Sacre Coeur at night (about 7-8 pm)and found it wonderful. The shops close up there at night and so there isn't much going up but it didn't feel unsafe. I think we bring our US paranoia with us and I don't think it is warranted in Paris (of course be sensible too). We stayed at the Hotel du Quai Voltaire across the Seine from the Louvre, close to the Latin Quarter and St. Germain (5th and 6th)/ great location!! have a great time.
Old Feb 17th, 1999, 11:05 AM
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This is a question for Sue--What did you think of the hotel Quai du Voltaire? I read somewhere that it's a bit threadbare? Did you find that to be true? And also that rooms on the Seine can be noisy. I'd love to hear about your experience because the location sounds just perfect. Oh yes, what did you pay for a double? Thanks in advance.

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