5 Areas to Avoid in Paris

I love Paris for so many reasons! The food, the culture, the beautiful architecture…there are a million things to love about this city. While Paris is the most wonderful city on Earth (à mon avis), there are also some things to be aware of. As with any big city, safety needs to be a priority. 

However, I don’t want you to be afraid! There are a few areas to avoid in Paris, but even then, it’s really about understanding your surroundings so you stay safe.

Samaritaine Paris Mall
Samaritaine Shopping Center – Safe Area in Paris

5 Areas to Avoid in Paris

The Suburbs

Paris is arranged into arrondissements or districts. The first district is in the center of the city, and then the rest follow in a spiral shape. There are a few areas to avoid in Paris on the outskirts, including the 19th and 20th arrondissements, and Saint-Denis. These areas are sketchier and have more crime and poverty than the main areas in Paris.

If you are looking for a true Parisian experience, these suburban districts won’t give you what you want. The suburban areas don’t have major sites and attractions, and there are fewer notable restaurants to try. Plus, traveling to the major sites takes longer from the outskirts.

If you choose to visit the 19th or 20th arrondissement or Saint-Denis, be aware of your surroundings and your wallet and purse. You might think that sounds dramatic, but it’s necessary to be more aware in the rougher areas of the city.

To protect your belongings, consider carrying a slash-proof purse. I use this anti-theft purse in Paris, and I love it! I feel safe with my belongings stored away when I’m on the trains or in crowded areas.

Châtelet-Les Halles

areas to avoid in Paris -map of Les Halles

Les Halles and “Châtelet-Les Halles” are not the same, so as you plan your visit, don’t be confused.

Chatelet-Les Halles is a major train station/metro station in Paris. If you take the RER B train from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, you will likely exit the RER at Chatelet – Les Halles. From there, you will transfer to the correct metro to get to your hotel.

There is more opportunity for theft in this major train station because many travelers coming from the airport transfer trains here. This makes Châtelet-Les Halles the perfect place for pickpockets to hang out and wait for someone to target.

You can still take the RER from the airport to Paris (I always take it from the airport and feel safe). However, be aware of your surroundings as you transfer from the train to the metro.

Don’t leave your luggage unattended for any reason, and don’t have your phone hanging out of your back pocket.

When to Avoid This Area

The reality is you are most likely going to take metros or trains at Châtelet-Les Halles at some point on your trip. Don’t feel that you have to avoid this station completely, but there are times when it’s wise to choose an alternative route.

I always do my best to avoid Chatelet-Les Halles between 5 pm – 7 pm because the trains are packed like sardines (no exaggeration). When the trains are overly crowded, the risk of pickpocketing and theft is higher. This station is also more crowded in the morning when Parisians are going to work.

As a general rule, if you see a packed metro, wait for the next train that comes five minutes later. 

By waiting for one or two more trains to come, you’ll often get lucky to find one that’s less crowded. But if it’s rush hour or an evening on the weekend, try to avoid this area in Paris.

Les Halles (Certain Areas)

Les Halles is in the first arrondissement of Paris. I like parts of this area because you can visit E. Dehillerin, Rue Montorgeuil, and many cool shops.

In Les Halles, there is also a good shopping mall and a beautiful church worth visiting called Saint-Eustache. Side note: You can exit Chatelet-Les Halles into the mall. During the day, Les Halles feels pretty safe.

Saint-Eustache Church in Paris

At night, however, a rougher crowd tends to hang out around the mall and church area, and it does not feel safe.

I stayed in the Les Halles area on a work trip, but I would not stay there again. There are many dimly lit streets and areas around the mall. I always felt hyper aware at night because there were several rough individuals hanging around the area.

In addition, if you walk along Rue de Rivoli in the Les Halles area, you will see several transients lying on the ground. This is not a problem on Rue de Rivoli as you walk closer to the Louvre; it’s specific to the Les Halles area.

Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est

Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est are major train stations in the 10th arrondissement, right across from each other.

If your first introduction to Paris is the area surrounding Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est, you might wonder why you even came to the city.

What to Know

Near the train stations, it’s dirty, transient loitering is common, and it feels sketchy. I stayed near Gare du Nord for one night because I needed to take a train to Switzerland early the next morning. I felt a bit nervous going to and from my hotel even when it wasn’t dark outside.

areas to avoid in Paris-map showing Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est

When I stayed near Gare du Nord, I saw a transient man walking down the street, and he was only partially dressed, to put it politely. It was not a pretty site. The area tends to attract a rougher crowd.

If you need to take a train from Gare du Nord or Gare de l’Est, that’s completely fine!

But as you think about areas to avoid in Paris, this is an area where you won’t want to spend a lot of time. In fact, I never stay near that area anymore, even if I need to take an early train. It’s better to stay a few blocks away and take a metro to get to the train station.

And, of course, since these are major train hubs, be aware of pickpockets and suspicious individuals outside of the train stations. Keep your passport, wallet, and important belongings tucked away, and you’ll have no reason to worry.

Empty Streets at Night

I wanted to include this section for those who travel alone, or who don’t have a hulky man traveling with them. This is less about one specific area than it is about general areas to avoid in Paris.

Because I’m a petite woman, I know that I will not be able to defend myself very well if I am mugged. Even if you aren’t petite, this doesn’t mean you’d know what to do if someone came up to you and tried to mug you.

CR du Commerce Saint-André street in Paris

That’s why it’s best to avoid empty and dimly lit streets in Paris at night. For your own safety, it’s best to be in areas where there are more people. So, if you want to take a shortcut down a dark street, think twice.

Stay in the light, and stay where there are more people, as shown in the photo above. This is Cour du Commerce Saint-André, a street lined with restaurants and plenty of people.

While there are a few areas to avoid in Paris, this city is generally safe and amazing to visit! Don’t let the news and the media scare you. I once went to Paris at a time when people were afraid to travel to France due to world events. Even then, I never felt unsafe.

Be smart, stay in the light, and don’t leave items in your pockets that you wouldn’t want to lose.  Being aware of your surroundings is empowering. There’s so much to enjoy and love about Paris.

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