Unfortunately Paris has been a site for several terrorist attacks lately. 2015 was especially bad year for Paris: January saw the attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine and ensuing manhunt that put the whole city on lockdown. The year ended in even bigger attack, when several terrorists opened fire on the street and later in the Bataclan concert hall. Even 2017 has seen smaller incidents: a man was shot by French soldiers patrolling at the Louvre museum after trying to attack them with a knife.
There´s no denying that Paris has seen some horrible things during past couple of years, and obviously every tourist visiting the city must be thinking about these things.
So what should you consider when thinking about your safety while you are in Paris? At least these aspects affect the security situation on the ground in Paris. Consider these things when you go, but remember that it´s highly unlikely that anything bad will happen. So enjoy your trip, even if keeping these things in your mind.
Unfortunately terrorism is not exactly a new thing for Paris. For example in the 90s the city saw several bombings (for example in the RER train) committed by Algerian group broadening Alergian civil war to France.
After latest attacks a lot has been done to improve security again.
Tourist attractions are guarded by heavily armed groups of soldiers. Level of surveillance is improved throughout the city and in and around public buildings and offices. Officially France is under national state of emergency, which is as of April 2017 extended until 15 July this year. (Further continuation depending on the security situation later on.) France has also heavily increased the number of security staff, in addition to soldiers patrolling the streets, and their presence in the city.
Even though terrorism can obviously be hard to prevent, it´s clear that the French authorities are doing their utmost to keep everyone safe. And you can really see their presence in every major French city.
How big is the risk then? Statistically speaking falling victim to a terrorist attack is still extremely low, and security measures will absolutely make it even lower. However France has aknowledged that the risk of something happening somewhere is heightened.
France and especially Paris suburbs see major civil unrest, meaning riots, quite regularly. Often it happens in the suburbs notorious for their social problems, but having people on the street in the central Paris is not entirely uncommon either.
Even though riots are probably not major threat to tourists and tourists are not targeted, it would be good idea to avoid them. Follow the news and head to another direction if you encounter them. And probably avoid the suburbs, even though you most likely will make it back if you decide to see for yourself what the life is like there.
Pickpockets and thieves still the biggest risk for tourists
After reading about terrorist attacks in Paris it might be even relieving to know that the biggest riski for tourists will still be someone stealing your wallet or smartphone. Though it´s not funny if your credit card, cash or lifeline to the world (meaning your phone) gets jacked.
So bear in mind the same advice that goes for any major tourist attraction in the whole world: Pickpockets and thieves swarm places that tourists frequent. So keep your purse, wallet, phone, cameras and every other valuable item close to you. Pay extra attention to your belongings when it gets really crowded, like when queuing somewhere, entering the subway etc… As you might know, thieves are usually extremely skilled in taking something out of a closed bag if it hangs on your back and you´re not paying attention. So keep it close and pay attention.
Luckily violent crime and straight up mugging is quite rare in central Paris. But you might still want to avoid hanging out in large parks at night with all your camera gear out and talking loud in a foreign language. That might make someone just seize the opportunity… But you probably know this if you´ve got any street smarts like you probably do. In the end it all comes down to common sense, really.
Pay attention on the way to / from the airport
Some things to keep in mind when traversing between the city and airports: If you choose the RER train, it will travel through the sometimes restless suburbs and airport trains generally attract thieves. So mind your luggage.
It´s been also reported that thieves sometimes target taxis leaving the airport. Traffic on the freeway is usually slow, often coming to a complete stop. Sometimes thieves will then walk up to a taxi, smash the window and grab whatever they can from frightened passengers. In that case it might be good idea to put your belongings in the trunk – even though some travellers especially avoid it and want to hold on to their bags by themselves. You decide, but just know that it might happen.