Is it safe for a woman to travel alone to Paris? Absolutely. Under most circumstances, with the right preparation and precautions, visiting Paris can be as safe as staying in your hometown.
Paris is a place where I’ve been traveling alone for years! I first fell in love with Paris when I was 16 years old and on a school trip, and I’ve returned more than a dozen times since, often solo. It’s a city that I love dearly, a city where I frequently play tour guide for my friends and family.
However, Paris is very different from people’s idea of it. It’s a beautiful city, yes, but it’s also a city where tourists are targeted. You need to look out for that. And so here’s a guide that I’ve put together to make sure you have the best trip to Paris ever — but also a trip where you stay safe.
Why Travel to Paris Alone?
I love traveling alone in Paris — it’s one of my favorite cities to explore on my own. I think it’s one of the cities best suited for solo travel. Why is that?
First, Paris is an introvert’s dream. French people and Parisians in particular tend to be pulled a bit inward in comparison to Americans, which means that you don’t have to face constant draining interactions with strangers. Beyond that, Paris is chock full of activities that are wonderful to do on your own: like museums, long walks, photography, shopping, and sitting in cafes.
Second, it’s easy to eat alone in Paris. While servers in other cities may give you a cocked head and an, “Only one?” (God, I hate that), it’s very common for women to eat alone in Paris. Being alone at a restaurant won’t raise any eyebrows. Paris is also covered with cafes, where you can eat at any time of day without raising any eyebrows.
Third, Paris is a dreamy destination. You’ve probably been dreaming about visiting Paris since you were a child. While it won’t be quite the idealized destination you have in your mind (see below for more on that), Paris still has a lot of magic. There’s something about sitting at a street cafe and drinking red wine as an accordionist plays across the street. It’s just PARIS and it will make your heart swell.
And finally, Paris is a great place to just be. Simply walking down the street in Paris can be an entertaining experience. Not a lot of cities have that. For that reason, you don’t need to fill your trip with nonstop activities — simply just hanging out can be enough. It took me so long to find the right words to describe this and I finally wrote a piece called The Art of the Chilled Out Trip to Paris.
However — Paris Is Rougher Than It Seems
Most people have an image of a perfect, beautiful Paris in their minds. Even before Instagram existed, people idealized Paris in their heads. It’s all white buildings and wrought-iron balconies and baguettes and artists with berets and poodles on leashes.
Not exactly, though. Paris is rough — rougher than a lot of European cities. There’s a significant amount of crime. There’s street harassment. There’s occasional terrorism. Tourists are targeted to a level perhaps greater than any other city. It’s dirty and polluted and dog poop is everywhere (though believe me, the poop used to be much worse). There’s a lot of homelessness.
Beyond that, Parisians often have the reputation for being rude, especially to tourists — and while I think this is a bit unfair, I understand why. French people tend to be very formal in their actions, and when they don’t receive the same level of formality in return, they often respond with coldness. Couple that with French culture, which is quieter and more pulled in, especially compared to the American South or Midwest, and it can be jarring. People don’t chat you up in Paris the way they do in America.
Don’t expect friendly service, either. America’s tip-based restaurant culture ensures that you’ll get attentive service in most restaurants — but in France and especially Paris, don’t be shocked if a waiter sighs and rolls his eyes when you ask for a beverage.
And while French people are well aware of these Parisian proclivities (there’s a joke that the French hate Parisians but nobody hates Parisians as much as they hate themselves), but this isn’t common knowledge among non-Europeans. Paris remains ever idealized in the mind of foreigners, so when they arrive, they are often shocked and disappointed.
Is Paris Good for First-Time Solo Female Travelers?
I want to say yes, but this is actually a tricky question. I think a lot of women would do well with their first-ever solo trip being to Paris. If you have traveled with others a good amount on your own, especially in Europe; if you’ve studied abroad; if you’ve lived in a big city or are used to city life; or if you speak French — those qualities make you a great candidate for traveling to Paris as a first-time solo traveler.
If you haven’t done much travel anywhere or have never been out of the country before; if you’ve grown up fairly sheltered and you haven’t been outside your region much, Paris is a much bigger leap. You can absolutely go if you want to — but you may prefer to start with an easier European destination where more English is spoken and where tourists aren’t as much of a target. Somewhere like Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, the Netherlands, or Norway.
Another option: you can get your feet wet in an easier city, like London or Edinburgh, and then go to Paris after. On your first solo trip, you’re going to make the most mistakes in your first days! Spend a few days getting your solo travel bearings, then finish your trip in Paris.
Is Paris Good for Experienced Solo Female Travelers?
Of course! If you’ve already traveled quite a bit, you’ll enjoy Paris. There’s nowhere else like it, as much as other cities like to claim that they’re “the Paris of the East” or “the Paris of the South” or “the Paris of Asia.”
Traveling to Paris is going to be different for you, though. You’re not going to be as easily hypnotized by the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame; you’re probably going to be a lot more annoyed by the crowds. For this reason, I encourage you to get off the beaten path in Paris. I mention many offbeat sites in this article. Definitely see Paris’s major sites, sure, but make an effort to seek out less-visited spots too.
And if you’ve never visited Paris before, chances are high that you’ve never visited France before. In that case, I’d recommend pairing Paris with another French destination. See below for where to go after Paris.
Is Paris Safe?
Yes and no. Paris can be very safe, but there are precautions that you need to take that you wouldn’t think about ordinarily. On some levels, Paris is as safe as your hometown. On other levels, Paris can be quite rough.
Like all big cities, Paris has its share of crime, mostly petty crime. But as the most visited city in the world, Paris attracts many inexperienced travelers. For this reason, a lot of thieves and scam artists set up shop in Paris, looking to make money off these inexperienced travelers.
Pickpocketing is common in Paris. In fact, I’d name Paris and Barcelona the two worst cities for pickpocketing in Europe, if not the world. Bag snatching is commonplace as well. And it doesn’t just happen on public transportation or in outdoor crowds — some thieves even pickpocket tourists at the Louvre.
See below for detailed advice on how to avoid pickpocketing and bag snatching.
Street harassment is another major concern. While it happens almost everywhere in the world, it happens with great frequency in Paris, especially when you travel solo, and especially at night. The best thing you can do is ignore it, and duck into a shop or restaurant if it escalates.
My advice is to blend in as well as you can. This doesn’t mean you try to pass for French. It means you try to look like a longtime resident. Dress similarly to French women, don’t bring obvious travel gear when you’re out and about, keep a hand on your purse at all times, walk quickly and with purpose, and keep yourself emotionally subdued rather than gaping wide-eyed at everything around you.
Travel and Safety Tips for Solo Travelers in Paris
Say, “Bonjour, madame!” or “Bonjour, monsieur!” when walking into a store or business. French people consider this basic manners and if you don’t do this, they think YOU are the rude one. One reason why foreigners think French people are rude is because they are treated rudely after not greeting a shopkeeper. This is something that will make a big difference in your travels and will lead to French people looking out for you.
Bring a guidebook PDF and keep it on your phone. Even in this day and age, I always buy guidebook PDFs because they are good for planning and have information on hospitals and what to do in case of emergency. I recommend Lonely Planet Paris or Lonely Planet France, where you can buy the whole book or just the individual chapter for Paris for much less.
Consider getting a SIM card. Having a SIM card helps you navigate your way around the city, as well as summon an Uber when you need one. Get a card at a Vodafone shop at the airport or one of the many Vodafone shops around the city.
Keep your valuables locked up in your accommodation and only take with you what you need that day. I do this with my Pacsafe Travelsafe and I consider it the most important thing I pack. Keep an extra debit card and at least $100 hidden in obscure parts of your luggage.
Pickpocketing is insidious in Paris. Be extremely aware of your belongings. Pickpockets are especially prevalent in touristy areas, like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, and during the most touristy times of year, like August.
If you carry a purse, hold it close to you. I recommend a crossbody purse, made out of a tough material like leather or fake leather, that zips shut. I recommend many purses in this post. Never let it hang behind you — always keep it in a place where you can see it, and keep your hand on it if you’re in a crowd.
If you carry a wallet without a purse, don’t keep it in your back pocket. This is obvious to thieves and they will grab it and run.
If you use a small backpack, lock it. I use a Pacsafe backpack where you can lock the compartments shut.
Never leave your bags anywhere unattended. Even if you’re used to asking someone to watch your things while you use the bathroom in a coffeeshop at home, don’t do that in Paris. Take your belongings with you. If you’re keeping your bag under the table or otherwise out of sight, keep it between your feet or hook the strap around one of the chair legs.
Don’t carry tons of cash around with you. You can use credit cards at most places in Paris, and carrying lots of cash leaves you vulnerable to theft. You occasionally hear the story of a traveler to Paris losing her wallet and the 500 euros in it. Don’t let that be you.
Be aware of the men trying to trick you into buying something. This is especially common in Montmartre. Men will come up to you and start drawing you, or weaving a bracelet for you, or cutting out your silhouette into paper — then they’ll tell you that you owe them money. Turn away and leave them, or say NO forcefully and turn and leave. Do this immediately — this is not a time to be “nice.” If the person demands money, turn and leave. (If you want to be drawn in Montmartre, head to Place Tertre and pay one of the sitting artists, not one of the roving artists, to draw you. It costs more money, but they’re much better artists and they won’t cheat you.)
Be aware of other Paris travel scams. If someone offers you a ring or piece of jewelry and says they found it on the ground, ignore them and leave the area — it’s a fake and if you take it, someone will come after you demanding money. If you see the game of someone hiding a ball under one of three cups, DO NOT put money down for it, even if it looks easy enough to win. Don’t buy tickets to museums from random people on the street.
If someone asks to take your photo and they’re not an obvious tourist — and I mean an obvious tourist, like a baby-wearing mom with a Louisiana accent — say no thank you. Some people use this as a reason to steal phones or cameras.
Don’t give to beggars. While some of these people are genuinely hurting and in need of money, so many of them are scamming the public. This is especially so for beggars holding a sleeping baby or next to a sleeping dog — the babies and animals are often sedated with narcotics. If you want to give, donate online to a legitimate charity helping in the homeless in Paris like Depaul France.
Use the metro to get around Paris. It’s easy, cheap, and the network is extensive. If you take a taxi, verify that the driver is using the meter and keep an eye on it. There is no reason to drive in Paris; at best, it will be a complicated and miserable experience for you.
Be careful about your drinking. Drink less than you ordinarily would at home — two drinks is a good limit. Only take drinks from bartenders, never take a drink from a stranger, and always keep it with you and keep an eye on it.
Most importantly, you have no obligation to be nice to anyone. Women often feel the need to be nice and please people at all costs. You don’t have to anywhere — especially so in Paris. If anyone is making you feel uncomfortable, just leave. Trust me — you won’t be the rudest person they meet that day. And so what if you were? You’re never going to see them again.
The Best Things to Do in Paris
Paris has something for every kind of traveler. Here are some of my favorite things for solo female travelers to do in Paris:
Have the best Bretagne-style crepes at Breizh Cafe. Start with a savory buckwheat galette (I love the egg, ham and artichoke) and have a sweet crepe with salted caramel for dessert. This place is very popular; get a reservation or go here early (before noon).
Lose yourself in the best museums in the world. Of course, you’ve got the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, but there are so many more — the Musée Rodin with its outdoor sculpture park, the Centre Pompidou for modern art, and don’t forget excellent but less famous ones like the Musée Picasso and the Orangerie. If you’re planning to visit several, check out the Paris Pass — it may save you a lot of money. There’s also the Paris Museum Pass.
Enjoy the almost country vibe of Ile Saint-Louis. Just down the road from Notre-Dame and its hundreds of tourists, Ile Saint-Louis feels like a world away in the heart of the city. Be sure to stop at Berthillon for some ice cream. Get a flavor you’ve never tried before!
See a show at the Moulin Rouge. I was a bit skeptical when I went, thinking it would be a bit cheesy — but this show is outstanding. It’s not just dancing girls (and boys) — they have some insane variety acts in between the dancing. I got to see the world’s fastest juggler, among others.
Head to Du Pain et Des Idées for some breads or pastries. With boulangeries on every corner, you don’t have to go far for something fresh and delicious — but this bakery is special. While most places excel at either savory or sweet dishes, Du Pain et Des Idées does both wonderfully, and it’s a nice, offbeat neighborhood to explore.
If you’re visiting in the winter, go ice skating. There are rinks all over the city and it’s cheap to rent a pair of skates.
READ MORE: 100 Travel Tips for Paris
Enjoy the best views of Paris — especially at sunset. Some of my favorite spots are the top of Galeries-Lafayette department store in the 9th, the top of the Arc de Triomphe, the top of the Montparnasse Tower, and the top of the Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre. Keep in mind that when you’re on top of the Eiffel Tower, you don’t actually see the Eiffel Tower — and isn’t seeing the Eiffel Tower the point?
Go to a hammam for a scrub. Paris is home to several hammams, or Turkish baths, and they’ll get you cleaner than you’ve ever been in your life. Some are O’Kari, Les Bains du Marais, and the hammam at the Grand Mosquée de Paris. For a guide on how to hammam in Paris, read this post.
Climb to the top of Notre-Dame. This cathedral is a very popular spot for tourists, but the real attraction is climbing to the top of the towers, where you can see the famous gargoyles overlooking the Paris landscape.
Go to my favorite, cheap, super Parisian restaurant. It’s called Chartier and it’s in the 9th. Few places give you a great experience for such a cheap price. Prepare to wait in line here, as it’s very popular.
Dress up and go to a designer shop to buy something special. I decided to purchase my first pair of Chanel sunglasses in Paris, and it was nice to buy something super-fancy and super-French in Paris. You’ll get better service if you dress nicely.
Go for a quiet walk in Père Lachaise Cemetery. Lots of tourists come to see Jim Morrison’s grave — the most photographed grave in the world. But lots of other famous people are buried here, from Chopin to Gertrude Stein to Oscar Wilde, and the grounds are a peaceful place for a stroll, especially if all the tourist crowds are getting to you.
Put together a French picnic. Pick up some baguettes, some cheeses, some fruits, and a bottle of wine and head to the nearest park. Any park is great, but the Champs de Mars, in front of the Eiffel Tower, is perhaps the most Instagrammable. Alternatively, grab some world-famous falafel at L’As du Falafel on Rue des Rosiers and go eat it in the Place des Vosges.
Get gorgeous Instagram photos of yourself. Hire a photographer through Flytographer to get some professional photos that will make all of your friends jealous!
The Best Day Trips from Paris
There is so much to see within a daylong journey from Paris. Here are some of my favorites:
Versailles is the classic day trip — it’s located just outside Paris. The town of Versailles is home to the Palace of Versailles in all its decadent glory. Visit independently (though I recommend buying a skip-the-line pass) or book a group tour that includes the gardens.
Versailles pairs well with Chartres, as they’re on the same train line. Chartres is home to a UNESCO World Heritage-listed gothic cathedral and the town is small and picturesque, a nice break from Paris.
Giverny is a must for Monet fans — depending on the time of year. Monet’s home and gardens will look familiar to you — because you’ve seen them in so many of his paintings! Book a tour from Paris here.
Take the train to the Champagne region for a glass of bubbly. The town of Reims is home to tasting centers like Taittinger, G.H. Mumm, and Pommery; if you have time, visit the town of Epernay, too. Tours from Paris can be pricey; I recommend traveling to Reims by train then booking a cheaper tour from Reims, or just visit places independently.
If you want to go international, you can do a day trip by train to London or Brussels. Of course, it would be ideal to visit either of these destinations for more than a day, but if all you have is a day, it’s still worth it.
How to Meet People in Paris
If you’re looking to meet people in Paris, you’re in luck! There are so many different ways to network and make new friends.
Join a meetup on Meetup.com. Whether you’re into travel, running, movies, board games, or just want to meet a group of nice people, there’s a Meetup for that. Visitors are always welcome.
Couchsurfing. The Couchsurfing community in Paris isn’t just for free accommodation, it’s also for socializing. The local Couchsurfers often put on events and meetups.
Put out feelers on social media. Often a friend of yours will have a cousin or friend who will offer to meet you for coffee, just so you know someone in the city.
Tinder. If you’re looking to date or hook up, congratulations! Paris is full of beautiful people.
What to Wear in Paris
I LOVE THIS PHOTO ABOVE because there’s such a difference between what I wore in Paris as a 21-year-old and a 32-year-old. What the hell were you wearing in 2006, Kate?! Are those pink foil-covered flip-flops and an olive green military jacket? Together? At the LOUVRE?!
Paris is one destination where it’s important to dress up. Parisian women tend to have excellent, subtle style. Dressing neatly will help you blend in and it will make you less of a target to scam artists. And it will get you better, more polite service in Parisian establishments.
Clothing for Paris: In warmer weather, I’m a fan of wearing tailored dresses in Paris. In colder weather, I usually wear slim jeans with tall boots, a nice top, and a black jacket and scarf on top.
Also, I have a Rent the Runway Update subscription — I rent four designer items at a time and keep them for a whole month. This plan is ideal for travel! Even if you’re not interested in a yearlong subscription, just try it for the month of your trip. For less than $100, you can bring four designer dresses to Paris with you!
Avoid wearing shorts (even “nice” shorts), yoga pants, athletic wear, ripped jeans, and t-shirts or sweatshirts with the name of a destination or school on them. There is no need to buy any specific “travel clothing” — you don’t need zip-off pants for Paris.
Accessories for Paris: I highly recommend a Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf. These beautiful scarves are designed and sewed by my friend and have a hidden passport pocket in them that no thief will know exists. I love these scarves (I even designed my own!) and they are so good at keeping your valuables hidden. They’re also chic enough to wear in Paris!
Beyond that, I recommend simple, tasteful accessories. I’m a fan of Kate Spade earrings. It’s a New York brand that looks right at home in Paris. For handbags, I recommend a crossbody purse, made out of a tough material like leather or fake leather, that zips shut. I recommend many purses in this post.
Avoid wearing baseball caps — they will immediately brand you as a tourist.
Footwear for Paris: You want shoes that you can walk in — but that doesn’t mean you should wear ugly shoes! I have bad arches and live in comfy but cute shoes from The Walking Company. I strongly recommend black ABEO flats, which have fantastic arch support. You might also like a pair of black boots. I own and love these tasteful, comfortable black sandals.
Avoid wearing athletic sneakers or flip-flops. If you want to wear sneakers, wear something more fashionable — I own these white sneakers from Cole Haan and they are perfect for Paris.
Where to Go After Paris
Paris is one of the most conveniently located cities in Europe for onward travel. You’ve got so many options — if you can bear to tear yourself away from the city!
France has so much to offer — and there are big differences from Paris. You could hop around several different cities or focus on one region in depth. Some popular destinations are Alsace (the Alsatian city of Colmar is pictured above), the Côte d’Azur, and Provence, but there are so many wonderful places! If you’re into city-hopping, you might enjoy Bordeaux, Lyon, Strasbourg, or Nice. Bonus — almost everywhere in France is cheaper than Paris.
If you want to head somewhere internationally by train, think about Belgium or the Netherlands. Brussels is a 90-minute train journey from Paris; Amsterdam is a four-hour journey from Paris. From either capital you can fan out and explore more cities (try Bruges or Rotterdam!). Parts of Germany and Switzerland are within reach as well.
Keep in mind that trains from Paris to Spain and Italy are further than they look — Barcelona is six and a half hours away; Milan is seven hours away.
Thanks to being one of the best flight hubs on the continent, Paris has cheap flights all over. You’ve got endless options. Whether you want to go to Marrakesh or Santorini, Stockholm or Tel Aviv, Bologna or Dakar, you can get there with a nonstop flight from Paris.
Travel Insurance for Paris
One last note — it’s absolutely vital to have travel insurance before traveling to Paris. If you get appendicitis while in Paris or break your ankle while climbing up the steps to Montmartre, if you get robbed while on the metro, or even if you need to be flown home for an emergency, travel insurance will protect you from financial ruin. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Paris.
And an important note — yes, you need travel insurance even though France has a good healthcare system. When I hit my head in Germany and ended up with a concussion, I had to go to the hospital — and because I wasn’t an EU resident, I was charged 300 euros for my urgent care visit. But I had travel insurance and I was refunded that money by World Nomads.
Paris is waiting for you!
I hope you have a wonderful trip to Paris! Paris is one of my favorite destinations for solo travel, and I only hope it’s as good to you as it has been for me.
Go have the time of your life. Then come back and tell me all about it.