The Things No One Will Tell You About Paris

There’s no doubt that Paris is one of the most beautiful, romantic places in the world. There are thousands of articles where you can read about the stunning architecture, the beautiful vistas, and the world-class food. This is not one of them. I’m here to tell you what you won’t read in all the other blogs about some of the less than pleasant things about the City of Light.

It has plenty of unsavory neighborhoods

Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge in Paris

I’ve been to my share of major cities in Europe and none have made me feel as unsafe as some parts of Paris. I’m not sure what it is about the seedy characters there that look more menacing than other Europeans or maybe because they’re actually menacing as opposed to just looking it. The area around Montmartre, which is beautiful and picturesque and everything you expect from a quaint French neighborhood, is surrounded by an area I wouldn’t want to be caught dead in after dark. If you’re visiting the famed Moulin Rouge, you’ll also see the unpleasant side of Paris. The Boulevard de Clichy is full of sex shops and leery dudes. Before you go calling me a prude, know that I went to Amsterdam’s Red Light District in the same week, and Paris made that look like Disneyland. Our hotel was also not in a great location. Despite reading that the 11th arrondissement was a great, lively place to stay, the area was anything but. Everything around it was unpleasant and dingy.

The Metro is gross

Even though the metro in Paris is one of the most efficient in the world, it’s certainly not one of the most pleasant to ride. I’m not gonna make any generalizations about the French and their use of deodorant, but I will say that the trains get very full and at least one person there will be wearing a tank top and will stink to high heaven. I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that it’s one of the only instances where you’re forced to spend time with a lot of people in an enclosed space. Everyone is sweaty and so are all the things they lean on or grab.

Sometimes the people are not so nice

Though I didn’t have some of the horrible experiences I sometimes hear about the people of Paris, I definitely didn’t experience the warm welcome that I usually do in other cities in Europe. No one was downright rude, but it was evident that the people are just not that interested in being friendly. If they don’t understand you, they make no attempt to try; they’ll just pass you off to someone else.

It’s overrun with gypsies and thieves

The view from atop the Sacre Coeur is beautiful, but almost not worth the harassment.
The view from atop the Sacre Coeur is beautiful, but almost not worth the harassment.

This is my biggest gripe with Paris because it ruins the whole experience. Imagine leaving the Notre Dame Cathedral, buying an ice cream cone, and then walking over the bridge on the Seine while you listen to a street performer play his accordion. Sounds like a dream afternoon right? Now imagine, while you’re on that bridge, a child no older than 14 comes up to you and aggressively starts grabbing at your ice cream cone and yelling when you won’t hand it over. The situation is only worse in other parts of Paris that are more touristy. You can’t enjoy the view of the majestic Eiffel Tower without a dozen people coming up to you aggressively selling their goods or pretending to give you a flower (for which they’ll demand money if you accept). But the worst experience, by far, was at the Sacre Coeur. It’s a shame because it’s a beautiful spot to hang out and check out the view of Paris, but it’s full of pickpockets and thieves. My friend and I made the mistake of going down the side steps, which are partially obscured by bushes. In the bushes were at least 5 teenagers, holding clip boards and (as far as I could tell) pretending to be deaf. They approached us. One of them tried to kiss me, at which point I was so over the whole thing that I just yelled “NO!” and quickly walked downstairs. I have never felt more uncomfortable or wanted to punch a child more in my life. It’s an experience I don’t wish on anyone and that tainted my view of the city.

I’m pretty ballsy, even when I’m alone. I’ve strolled through East London, the souks of Morocco, and through more than a handful of Caribbean ports, and I’ve never felt more unsafe than I did in Paris. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s all glamour and class; Paris is shady and ghetto, too.