How safe is this Parisian neighborhood?
July 22, 2012 7:36 PM   Subscribe

If I show you a neighborhood in Paris, can you tell me how safe it is for a family with kids?

We are staying just south of this metro station on rue Marcadet. We've already booked the place, but now we're finding information from some sources (not all) that suggests that this may not be a good neighborhood. We're idiots for not realizing this earlier - but it is what it is. We probably could change things at this point if we really decided we wanted to.

We are a family with three kids (youngest is 11). We look and talk like Americans. We want to fear for our safety exactly zero times while we're there.

Is anyone familiar enough with the city and with this neighborhood to advise?

posted by crapples to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Paris has a murder rate of 2 per 100,000, as compared with 7 for Omaha, Nebraska, and 15 for Chicago, Illinois. Almost no major U.S. city is as safe as Paris, so you'd have to look to something like Honolulu, Hawaii to find something comparably safe. It's true there are some areas within the Paris area that are police "no go" zones (at least there were a few years ago), but those are basically housing projects. Anything inside the Boulevard Périphérique is safe, even the red-light districts. Paris has very few homeless compared with major U.S. cities, if that's something that makes you feel unsafe.

Looking around on street view, I don't see anything that would make me hesitant to bring my four year old there. I don't know that particular neighborhood, but we've been around Gare du Nord and while there are people loitering, that's about it. My only concern would be that you're kind of far out from the Parisian sights, though being on Ligne 4 is one of the best, especially since you can get across the river without changing trains.
posted by wnissen at 9:08 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Murder rates and mugging rates are very different. If you're obviously tourists, you're potential targets. But this neighbor looks pretty nice. Check out the photos in this blog. Square Carpeaux looks like a good place for kids.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:16 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Personally I feel more comfortable in the outer reaches of Paris, (such as your hotel) than around the main sights, where there's a scammer on every corner.

We want to fear for our safety exactly zero times while we're there.
That is naive at best and dangerous at worst. If you don't fear for your safety at least a little bit when a random stranger walks up to you, you are much more likely to be pickpocketed. (Hint: Are there any legitimate reasons for a native Parisian to approach a normal family of American tourists on the street, without context? No.) Your kids should be familiar with the deaf/mute scam, the gold ring scam, and whatever else is in style this year.
posted by acidic at 9:54 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

A few weeks ago I stayed in an AirBnB apartment just south of you on Rue de Suez. Our metro stop was Chateau Rouge. This is a very Franco-African neighbourhood so might be perceived by sensitive types as more dangerous (and crime rates are admittedly higher in this neighbourhood). We had no trouble, however. In fact, you'll be on an ideal subway line for getting right to the centre of town without a transfer. To stay out of trouble you might want to play down your touristy look by wearing black or other muted colours (like Parisians tend to do), walking confidently, and trying to look like you know where you -- and your family -- are going.

Recommendation-wise, you might want to head over to Rue des Abbesses for some great baguettes and pain au chocolat for breakfasts at the award winning Le Grenier a Pain. And if you're a fan of espresso drinks made by Australians and Kiwis head down Rue des Martyrs to Kooka Boora for a "flat white" and some lovely English speaking baristas.

You'll have a great time (and be sure to greet everyone with a healthy "Bonjour!").
posted by rumbles at 10:37 PM on July 22, 2012

I was in Paris in April 2012 and stayed near the metro Blanche (on the cross street of Rue Lepic & Rue Veron) which is south-west from your area (but still in Montmarte). I felt that it was safe. I saw military personnel with guns patrolling around the Basilique du Sacre Coeur. And a Korean contingent of tourists was making a film inside the restaurant featured in Amelie Poulain de Montmarte. No one hassled me except for lady pimps on the street near Pigalle (the red light area) asking me if I wanted "girls". I replied "non merci" and they left me alone. Otherwise Montmarte is a charming suburb. Enjoy your vacation.
posted by lahersedor at 12:36 AM on July 23, 2012

you must check out the Gare Du Nord train station just south of the hotel (if you're not already passing through it...IIRC thats where the eurostar from london stops)...beautiful beaux arts glass architecture...that whole area is really least a few blocks south by the big cities in general, the area right around major train stations tends to be nicer/more upscale/higher rents etc...
posted by sexyrobot at 12:41 AM on July 23, 2012

A (single, female, mid-30s) French friend of mine lives a couple of streets over from where you're staying and has done for years; likes it a lot. An American friend (female, mid-20s) just spent a year a few streets to the northwest, quite happily, though as a New Yorker she'd be at ease in a big city anyway. Some other American friends, from Oklahoma, lived a short distance to the west with children who were aged 5 and 7 when they arrived, and loved it: their initial plan was to stay for one year, but they had such a good time that they stayed for two. So, as everyone says, while it's a big city and you should take due care--don't want to get hit by a scooter, after all--there's no need to freak out.

It's also a good location: Montmartre is a few minutes' walk away, and between them the 4 and 12 lines put most of central Paris in quick and easy reach.

If you mean "will we see brown people" then the answer is yes. The all-white Paris that you see in American films from Ratatouille to The Devil Wears Prada is a figment of the white American imagination.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 2:00 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

That is the "Goutte d'Or" neighbourhood, which is the most "ethnic" area within the Périphérique (mostly Arab and African immigration). Think of it as Paris' Harlem: a bit intimidating at first to the (white) tourist, but in fact quite safe and rather more interesting than most of the posh areas. The whole area is being slowly gentrified.
As others have pointed out, you are more at risk from pickpockets and scam artists in the tourist areas round Notre Dame and the Eiffel tower than there.
Paris proper is very safe throughout. The nasty places are suburban, well beyond the Périphérique.
posted by Skeptic at 6:08 AM on July 23, 2012

Response by poster: This is great information, everyone. Thank you.

"That is naive at best and dangerous at worst."
I appreciate this comment. I was just, inelegantly, saying that we want to get mugged zero times. I grew up in a dangerous city in California and definitely understand that you have to keep your eyes open.

The reason I brought this up at all is that just yesterday we found a paragraph in a guide book published by Lonely Planet that said that the Château Rouge metro stop should be avoided at night. 10 minutes later I read a blog entry by some random person on the internet that said that she was very uncomfortable in this neighborhood and was glad to leave. Maybe she was really just saying that she "saw brown people", as sapsangsouchong suggested. Anyway, these two comments made me nervous, having never been there.

I feel much better now. Thanks for the feedback.

Also - thanks for the further feedback about the street scams at the tourist sites. We've been reading about the popular ones and teaching our kids how to recognize them and respond.
posted by crapples at 6:24 AM on July 23, 2012

I read a blog entry by some random person on the internet that said that she was very uncomfortable in this neighborhood and was glad to leave.

Although far fewer than in the past, there are drug dealers in the neighbourhood (at least right behind the Gare du Nord), and it certainly isn't the cleanest, most wholesome corner of Paris. Again, although it is adjacent to picture-card Montmartre, the Goutte d'Or isn't quite the same. So it may have been more than just a case of "seeing brown people".

But muggings? Not likely at all. Not within Paris.
posted by Skeptic at 7:33 AM on July 23, 2012

That neighborhood is actually quite lovely. My aunt had an apartment there when she was younger. My 17 year old cousin and I wandered around there last summer (I'm 29), and we had a great time. You'll be just behind Montmartre, and on some of the side streets you'll see some really awesome garage-sale style markets. I got my brother an antique camera there, which turned out to be the most awesome souvenir of my trip.

I was just visiting Paris last week with friends from Germany, and they were adamant that we couldn't visit Sacre-Coeur because it was "too dangerous." I sort of scoffed at them for their concerns and told them that the multiple times I've visited Montmartre, I've never felt unsafe. But admittedly, I have a high tolerance for sketch. I grew up in a city that had plenty of rough patches, and I went to law school in Camden, NJ when it was named America's Most Dangerous City - and I never felt uncomfortable in those places either. Anyway, we convinced them to go to Sacre-Coeur, and as we were walking up the steps to the church, throngs GRAVITATED toward our friend. Like moths to a flame. It was like he had sprayed himself in something and they could smell it. They were putting watches on him, they were trying to sell him stuff, they were walking and talking with him.

I have never - even when I'm wandering the streets of Paris alone at night - been approached like that.

Montmartre isn't more or less dangerous than any of Paris' tourist spots. But if you or your family members are prone to attracting that sort of thing, then you might want to educate or get educated on how to break it off immediately.
posted by jph at 8:02 AM on July 23, 2012

Lonely Planet has said that about Château Rouge since at least ten years ago so that is old information. But unless there have been quite drastic changes in that time, yes, there are muggings in Paris. Yes, there are areas that I would say are not safe at night. In general it'd probably be easier the whole time if you didn't look obviously like American tourists (shorts, white running shoes) and don't walk around carrying expensive electronics in your hands (cameras, cellphones) and have a crossbody type bag with a secure closure - I'm not saying this for security where you are staying, but for security in very busy places like crowded métro stations, Montmartre, etc. where pickpockets are. And walk purposefully and look like you know where you're going. If you need to check your phone or map don't stop in the middle of a crowded busy sidewalk, don't wander around slowly looking lost or confused. For street scams the best way to respond is to not respond - ignore and keep walking away - responding any other way is to engage with the person and invite them to keep talking to you.
posted by citron at 7:24 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

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