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Is Paris a safe city to visit?

From the terror threat to crime and the risk of riots and strikes, we have a look at how safe the French capital is for visitors.

Is Paris a safe city to visit?
Few people deny that Paris is beautiful, but is it safe for visitors? Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP

Paris is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful cities – but it’s also a large, modern capital with litter, graffiti, homelessness and crime, just as you would expect in any big city. 

It’s home to 2.1 million residents and hosts around 10 million tourists a year, so here’s what you need to know if you are planning a visit.

Terror threat

On the evening of Saturday, December 2nd a German tourist was killed and two others were injured in a an attack near the Eiffel Tower. This is a developing situation – find the latest here – but at this stage there is nothing to indicate that the attacker, a suspected radical Islamist, specifically targeted tourists.

France has been on the highest level of terror alert since October when teacher Dominique Bernard was stabbed to death in Arras, northern France, by a former pupil who was also on a terror watchlist because of his radical Islamist views.

The country has suffered several attacks by Islamist extremists, including the November 2015 suicide and gun attacks in Paris claimed by the Islamic State group in which 130 people were killed.

There had been a relative lull in recent years, even as officials have warned that the threat remains.

More recent attacks have tended to be unsophisticated – a single attacker armed with a knife, often carried out by troubled young men who have been radicalised online.

At present, no countries have warned their nationals against visiting France because of the terror threat.

Hotels, tickets and scams: What to know if you’re visiting Paris for the 2024 Olympics

Crime rates

When it comes to crime, Paris is a relatively safe city and there are no specific risks to tourists. That being said, it is France’s largest city so as you would expect it has among the highest crime rates in the country.

Overall, France has a murder rate of 1.20 per 100,000 people, a steep fall from when the rate peaked in the 1990s and much lower than the USA (5.01 per 100,000 people) but slightly higher than the UK (1.12 per 100k).

FACTCHECK: How bad are crime rates in France?

However, physical attacks on tourists are very rare and in fact the biggest risk to visitors are financial – becoming the victim of pickpockets or scammers, both of whom frequently do target lost-looking tourists.


Pickpocketing is a particular problem around tourist sites and on certain parts of the public transport network, with Gare du Nord station a notorious trouble spot.

As with all cities, the best advice is to keep your valuables like a wallet and phone in a zipped pocket or bag that you can keep your eye on, and be aware of your surroundings. 

READ ALSO 14 ways to avoid pickpockets and petty thieves in Paris


Tourists are also frequently the targets of scammers, and a particular problem here is unlicensed taxis. Licensed Paris taxi drivers are forbidden to approach customers, so if someone comes up to you – especially at the airport or station – and offers a taxi ride, they will be unlicensed.

In recent months, several visitors have also reported a card payment scam in which taxi drivers quote them a price of – for example – €19 and then set the price on their card reader as €1,900 so always checked carefully the amount when making a card payment. 

You can find a guide to using Paris taxis and VTC companies like Uber, as well as what you can expect to pay, HERE.

Other popular scams that frequently target tourists can be found HERE.


Separate to scammers and pickpockets are beggars, which tourists are often surprised to find exist in such a wealthy and elegant city as Paris.

It’s not uncommon to be approached in the street or on the Metro by someone asking for “une pièce, un ticket resto” (a coin or a restaurant voucher) – these people are very rarely aggressive and whether you give to them or not is entirely a personal choice.


One thing synonymous with France in general and Paris in particular is strikes, and tourists often wonder whether they should cancel a trip if there is a strike announced.

The first thing to be clear about is the difference between une grève – a strike, where people stop working – and une manifestation (sometimes shortened to une manif) – which is where people march or demonstrate.

These two often go together but not always, sometimes strikes happen without a demo while there are regular demos on topics from climate change to women’s rights that don’t involve strike action.

READ ALSO Should I cancel my trip to France if there is a strike?

Strikes themselves can be very inconvenient if services are cancelled but are hardly ever violent.

Demonstrations can flare into violence, especially at the end of the march, but these usually only involve a small minority of demonstrators (or more usually casseurs or hooligans) in a limited area. They often vandalise property such as shop windows, street furniture or bus shelters and sometimes attack police, but violence directed at passers-by is extremely rare.

Nonetheless, it’s worth avoiding the area when a demonstration is ongoing, as the police’s favourite crowd control tactic is to spray tear gas around, which is very unpleasant if you are caught in it. 

A much rarer event is une émeute (a riot) – France was rocked by rioting in July 2023 after the death of a teenager at the hands of police, the worst such disturbances since 2005.

Riots tend to take place in contained areas – often the banlieues (suburbs) of the big cities, so it’s worth checking exactly where riots are taking place if such a thing occurs during or before a trip to France.

One thing we have observed is that media in both the UK and the USA tend to like to dramatise strikes, demos or riots in France and make it appear that the whole country is ablaze. It’s worth checking French media (or finding the latest on The Local) to get a better idea of exactly what is happening, and where. 


As in most capital cities, drugs are available to buy in Paris despite being illegal.

It is illegal to buy and to smoke cannabis, a fact which often surprises visitors since it’s very widely available and it’s not uncommon to see people smoking in public places. There are no legal cannabis shops in France, although there are CBD shops where cannabis oils that do not contain that active ingredient of the drug can be bought legally.


While unfortunately homophobic violence exists in all countries around the world it is no worse in Paris than any other big city and there is no cultural problem with holding hands, kissing or otherwise displaying affection in public.

If you would prefer to be in a gay-friendly space, head to the Marais district which as well as having a lively gay nightlife is also one of Paris’ most beautiful and historic areas.  

Paris was accepted into the international Rainbow Cities network of gay-friendly cities in 2019.


Paris is far from being the worst European city for people of colour to visit, but nonetheless unfortunately some visitors do report problems, from being denied entry to bars and restaurants to being followed by security guards when shopping.

There is also an issue with the police. French police have the right to make random stops of pedestrians to check ID and of drivers to check driving licences and other documents. France does not collect race-related data on police stops due to its ‘colour blind’ laws, but it would be very hard to deny that ‘random’ stops disproportionately affect people of colour. 


Female visitors to Paris are not generally the target of violent attacks so there is not a major risk when walking the streets, but street harassment is a problem, especially for younger women.

There is a culture of street ‘pick-ups’ in Paris so it’s not uncommon to be approached by a man who asks for your number, to go for a drink etc. In most cases this is non-threatening and you can simply politely say that you are not interested and keep walking, but there is also a problem with street harassment such as wolf-whistling, persistent attempts or even physical groping.

This is illegal in France under anti street harassment laws brought into effect in 2019, but unfortunately the laws are not always well enforced.  

Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say 


Prices for hotels and restaurants are high in Paris so many may choose to stay outside the city in the suburbs – you can find a guide to the inner and outer suburbs of the city here.

Because prices fall the further out of Paris you get, the suburbs are home to many of the capital’s low-paid workers while some have higher than average levels of poverty and crime.

The suburbs to the north and east of the city – within the département of Seine-Saint-Denis – have gained a reputation as violent and crime-ridden places where riots frequently break out. In truth, however, this is far from being the case for all of the north-east suburbs, although there are some areas that visitors would be wise to avoid.

Within Seine-Saint-Denis the suburbs of Pantin, Bagnolet, Les Lilas and Montreuil are all pleasant places to visit and have easy Metro connections into the city centre.  

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For members


Why does Paris have so many empty homes?

It has some of the priciest real estate in the world, but approximately one in every five Paris apartments is unoccupied, according to a recent study.

Why does Paris have so many empty homes?

Paris has for decades been grappling with a housing shortage – leading to sky-high rent and property prices and an increasing numbers of locals being priced out of the city.

But a major part of the problem is the number of empty homes in the French capital – a study, published by the Atelier parisien d’urbanisme (APUR) found that 262,000 homes were not permanently lived in, making up 19 percent of Paris property.

And the number is rising, up from 14 percent in 2013. 

In the last 10 years, the city – home to about 2.14 million people – has seen its total number of inhabitants drop by at least 120,000. 

READ MORE: Why are so many people leaving Paris and is that ‘positive news’?

What is considered ‘unoccupied’ housing?

France’s national statistics body Insee considers unoccupied housing to be both “vacant” – homes that are empty either due to owners choosing not to live there or because it is in between owners or renters – and second homes.

Second homes are often defined as a place where people spend less than half of the year, but there are other factors. 

READ MORE: Explained: Is your French property a main residence or a second home (and why it matters)?

Across France, around 10 percent of all properties are second homes.

In the French capital – unoccupied homes are roughly equally split between those that are used as second homes, and those that are simply empty –  vacant homes made up 128,000 units as of 2020, (9.2 percent of the Paris real estate market) while there were 134,000 secondary residences (9.6 percent of the market). 

The number of primary residences in the city has been falling for decades – in 1954, 98.3 percent of homes in the city were people’s primary residences, compared to 81.2 percent in 2020.

Credit: INSEE and APUR. Purple denotes primary residences, yellow denotes unoccupied residences.

The study found that over the past few decades, the main driver for an increase in total unoccupied homes has been an increase in the proportion of second homes. Between 1975 and 2020, vacant properties went up by two percentage points, while the proportion of second homes rose by six percentage points. 

As for the past decade, both vacant and second homes rose sharply in comparison to previous periods, representing a total increase of 72,000 properties. 

The study found that if the trend from the past decade – specifically that between 2016-2019 – is to continue, then the city could lose up to 247,000 inhabitants and see 27 percent of homes unoccupied by 2040.

Why has there been an increase?

The study found that the increase in the unoccupied housing across Paris is at least partially linked to an increase in undeclared furnished tourist rentals.

READ MORE: What are the rules on renting out French property on Airbnb?

A 2018 French Senate report found that approximately 20,000 Paris flats were being diverted from the traditional rental market toward short-term platforms, like AirBnB. 

Over the years, Paris has become an increasingly popular AirBnB destination – as of February 2023, there were over 55,000 ads for rental in the capital area. This represents more than New York (42,500 ads) and Barcelona (15,500 ads), making Paris a leading international city, behind London, for AirBnB listings.

However, there are strict rules for short-term rentals, and city authorities have increased crackdowns on those who do not respect rules, like failing to register your home.

Ian Brossat, the former deputy mayor in charge of housing (until October 2023), told Franceinfo that 10 years ago, judges typically handed out fines of around €500 to property owners who broke these rules – these days the average fine is €31,000.

He said that the increase in fines has “had a discouraging effect on property owners” from breaking the rules, and that regulations on short-term rentals and Airbnb have begun to bear fruit in the country’s capital. 

Nevertheless, after the release of the study, Emmanuel Grégoire, the deputy mayor in charge of urban planning, told Le Parisien that “[the rise in unoccupied housing] is a phenomenon that needs to be curbed, because it’s helping to push people to the inner and outer suburbs, and it generates more commuting.

“There is enormous potential to be reclaimed [for the city].”

Some are calling for tax increases, like the current deputy mayor in charge of housing, Jacques Baudrier, who told Le Parisien that “the only solution is to increase taxation.” This would mean adding to the existing tax on vacant homes, as well as upping the surcharge on second homes. 

READ MORE: The list of places in France charging extra property taxes from 2024

Baudrier said that his aim would be to increase the second homes surcharge from 60 percent to 300 percent, as well as requisitioning housing that has been vacant for more than two years.

Such proposals, however, would need to be passed by parliament before coming into effect.

Where are these unoccupied homes?

Overall, the majority were in central and western Paris. The 8th, 7th, 1st, and 6th arrondissements had the highest proportion of unoccupied homes, with 36 percent, 34 percent, 32 percent and 30 percent respectively.

The arrondissements with the lowest number tended to be on the edge of the city – like the 20th, 19th, 13th, and 12th arrondissements which had 9 percent, 13 percent, 14 percent, and 15 percent (respectively) of properties unoccupied.

Credit: APUR

However, the picture is slightly different when breaking down based on second homes vs. vacant properties.

Second homes were primarily located in the centre and west, while vacant homes were slightly more evenly dispersed across the city. 

North-eastern Paris has very few second homes – in comparison, researchers found that the 7th arrondissement had nine times the number of second homes than the 20th. 

Credit: APUR

As for vacant properties, while the 10th and 8th arrondissements had the highest levels, with 16 percent and 13 percent of empty homes. After that, the central four arrondissements, the 11th and 14th all had vacancy rates between 10-12 percent, higher than the average of nine percent.

All other arrondissements, had vacancy rates between six to 10 percent.

Credit: APUR

The data showed that the proportion of unoccupied homes per arrondissement was strongly correlated to residents’ income, as well as property prices. Affluent neighbourhoods especially attracted higher numbers of second homes. 

The arrondissements with the highest price per square metre were also those with over 30 percent of homes’ unoccupied, as of 2020.

Credit: APUR

Similar trends occurred when looking at income levels – western and central arrondissements tended to be more wealthy and home to a higher number of vacant properties and second homes. In contrast, northern and eastern Paris home to higher proportions of low and medium income households, had fewer unoccupied properties.

Who owns the unoccupied properties?

When looking at second homes, the majority (42.5 percent) of owners were from the Paris region, while another 38 percent lived in other parts of France.

Only 19.5 percent were foreigners – though this number also included French people living abroad.

Of those foreigners, the majority had properties in touristic districts like the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th arrondissements. 

The leading foreign second home owners in Paris were from Italy, Switzerland, the UK and the US. Generally, most foreigners (60 percent) who owned a second home in Paris were European.

Credit: APUR

As for vacant properties – there are two types: short-term vacancies (eg a rental property that is between tenants) and long-term vacancies. 

Long-term vacancies might be due to a number of factors, like the housing being unfit for habitation or undergoing extensive works. In some cases, they are kept vacant intentionally – a family might be waiting to move a certain person into the space, or there may be an investment strategy involved.

Overall, the majority (59 percent) of vacant properties are smaller than 40 square metres in size, and most are either studios or one-bedrooms.