Following a devastating terrorist attack in Paris in November 2015 and a far less serious incident outside the premises of the Louvre Museum's shopping mall in early February 2017, many prospective visitors to the French capital are wondering whether it's truly safe to visit at this time.
These attacks don't just concern Paris, either: In the wake of the city's November 2015 tragedy, another in Brussels in March 2016 that claimed 32 victims, and two additional attacks in Nice, France and Berlin, Germany, tourists traveling around Europe are understandably feeling shaken and more than a little concerned about safety.
But as I explain in detail further on (and here), there's still little reason to cancel your trip or to feel excessive anxiety about traveling to Paris.
Nevertheless, staying well-informed is always the right thing to do. Here's what visitors to the city need to know in the aftermath of the attacks, including information on current safety advisories and details on transportation, services, and closures in the city.
Scroll down to find the information you need, and check back here for updates as the situation evolves.
Official Security Advisories: Embassies Ask Citizens to "Exercise Vigilance"
Many English-speaking countries issued travel advisories asking their citizens to exercise extreme caution and vigilance in Europe following attacks in Brussels, Paris, Nice, and most recently in Berlin. Please note that they are not, however, advising against travel to France.
The American Embassy most recently issued a worldwide travel alert in September 2016. While the warning cautioned of the possibility of additional attacks from ISIS/ISIL in Europe, the alert, which has no specific expiration date, nevertheless does not advise American citizens against traveling to France or the rest of Europe.
It instead states the following:
Credible information indicates terrorist groups such as ISIL/Da’esh, and al-Qa’ida and affiliates continue to plot attacks in Europe as foreign fighters return home from Syria and Iraq, while other individuals may be radicalized or inspired by ISIL propaganda. In the past year extremists have carried out attacks in France, Belgium, Germany and Turkey. European authorities continue to warn of additional attacks on major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers, places of worship, and the transportation sector. All European countries remain vulnerable to attacks from transnational terrorist organizations and U.S. citizens are urged to exercise vigilance while in public places.
- For advice and updated information from the American Embassy in Paris, including on how to register with the Embassy during your stay (recommended), visit their official website.
- The Canadian Embassy issued an advisory following the attacks in Paris calling for their citizens to "exercise a high degree of caution due to the current elevated threat of terrorism". See this page for more information and advice.
- The Australian Embassy has issued similar warnings, as has the UK Embassy.
To find your own embassy or consulate and any safety advisories published there, see this page.
Is It Safe to Visit Paris Now? Should I Cancel My Trip?
Personal safety is a highly, well, personal issue, and I can't offer any hard-and-fast advice on what nervous or anxious travelers should do. It's entirely normal to feel some apprehension after these events-- we've all been shaken by them. No one is promising that further attacks are not possible. I do urge you to consider these points before canceling your trip to Paris, however:
Security is probably at its highest ever at the moment, and guards are vigilantly protecting sensitive zones.
Despite what you might be reading or seeing on *certain* cable news outlets prone to scaremongering, France does take security very seriously, and officials have successfully intercepted and foiled many attacks in the past.
Most recently, on February 3rd of this year, an attacker armed with a machete attempted to enter the Carrousel du Louvre shopping center (next to the famed museum); when armed soldiers guarding the entrance refused to let him through, he stabbed one of the guards, who in turn shot the assailant.
The soldier suffered only minor head injuries, and the attacker was left in critical critical . No tourists were injured or killed in this attack. Although the newswires were quickly flooded with alarming headlines about a terrorist attack in Paris, it's probably more accurate to call it an "attempted" one, since military guards did their job in protecting the premises and local visitors from harm. France, who is calling it an "attempted act of terrorism", is once again on high alert, and the attack was a reminder that the risk of further attempts in the capital is real.
But it's important to put it in perspective.
Moreover, Paris is currently patrolled by unprecedented numbers of police and military personnel, especially in crowded areas, public transport, and places frequented by tourists, including monuments, museums, markets and large shopping centers. Thousands more troops and police officers have been deployed to protect and monitor these areas.
Your risks are probably far lower than usual due to these heightened precautions. While government officials acknowledge that more attacks are possible, they are showing extreme vigilance and working their very best to protect the city, its residents, and its visitors.
Read related: How to Stay Safe in Paris: Our Top Tips
We live in a world of complex risks, and we take those risks constantly.
Just as you can't guarantee that getting in your car for your morning commute to work won't result in a car crash, or that you won't be a victim of random gun violence at a supermarket, travel carries a degree of risk. The rather sobering truth is that terrorism knows few to no borders in our age: to fear Paris over any other major metropolis is to completely misunderstand how terrorists operate.
Put your risks of being targeted in a terrorist attack into rational perspective.
For readers from the US especially, it's important to put the current risks associated with traveling to France or the rest of Europe into perspective. In the US, firearms kill some 33,000 people every year-- compared to France, which on average registers fewer than 2,000 annual gun deaths. The UK, meanwhile, registers gun deaths in only the low hundreds each year.
The fact is, even when you take into consideration the horrific attacks in Paris, your risks of being violently attacked in France-- and elsewhere in Europe-- are statistically far lower than they are in the US. So while it's normal to feel uneasy about traveling to a foreign place, stepping back and framing your fears in rational terms can help.
Life in Paris must go on...and without your help, it won't.
As cities go, Paris is the number-one tourist destination in the world. The city needs, above all, to heal and rebound from this terrible tragedy, but without the help of tourists who contribute largely to its economic health and vibrancy, it's not likely to succeed. Just as New York City bounced back quickly after the tragic terrorist attacks of 9/11-- and thanks, in part, to the support of visitors--it's this writer's opinion that it's important to stand behind Paris and keep its spirit alive.
Read related: Top 10 Reasons to Visit Paris in 2017
A worse tragedy than the one we've just witnessed?
In my sense, an even worse tragedy would be to see Paris lose the very qualities it's most loved for: a sense of openness, intellectual curiosity, incredible diversity, and a culture that promotes savoring the present moment and its many riches.
A city where people of many different backgrounds spill out into the streets and on cafe terraces, commiserating in joy and mutual curiosity. It's my belief that we must not be crippled by fear and panic, lest we hand a victory to the attackers.
If you're anxious about traveling, it may well be that postponing your trip could be a good idea, should you wish to let some time pass and for the situation to settle. Again, though, I wouldn't recommend canceling your trip altogether.
If you are in Paris, follow any security warnings you may be issued by authorities to the letter, and stay aware and vigilant. Visit this page at the Paris Tourist Office for the latest updates on security recommendations.
Traveling elsewhere in France? Mary Anne Evans of About.com France Travel has an excellent article offering advice to tourists visiting the rest of the country in the wake of the attacks. Rick Steves, meanwhile, has penned a stirring Facebook opinion piece on why we should continue to travel-- and not allow ourselves to be terrorized.
Getting in and Out: Airports and Train Stations
Travel in and out of France and the capital is being carefully monitored by security, but airports and international train stations are all operating normally.
Controls at airports, train stations, and ferry launch points have been tightened since the November 2015 attacks, so you should expect some minor to major delays. Border control checks are also now in place at all entry points to France, so make sure to have your passports ready.
The Attacks of November 2015: Main Facts
On the evening of Friday, November 13th, 2015, eight male assailants armed with automatic weapons and explosive belts targeted eight different locations around Paris, killing 130 people and injuring over 400, including more than 100 critically. The victims, mostly young and of many different ethnic backgrounds, hail from some 12 different nations.
Most of the deadly attacks targeted eastern neighborhoods situated in the 10th and 11th arrondissements of Paris, including the concert hall Bataclan, where over 80 people perished under gunfire and bomb attacks, and several cafes and restaurants around the Canal St-Martin.
These attacks were carried out not far from the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices where terrorists murdered several journalists and cartoonists in January 2015. Some have suggested that these areas and places were chosen as symbols of Parisian cosmopolitanism and ethnic diversity; as areas which exemplify the kind of liberal, largely secular youth culture deemed "perverse" by the perpetrators. Known as a cultural, religious, and ethnic melting pot as well as a favorite area for nightlife, the district has historically been a place where people of diverse backgrounds peacefully co-exist.
Terrorists also attacked the Stade de France stadium in the nearby suburb of St-Denis during a football/soccer match between France and Germany. Three suicide bombers died there outside the stadium, but no other deaths were reported at that site. Again, the stadium has often been viewed as a symbol of French unity due to the power of national sport to bring together citizens of different backgrounds-- and therefore, some theorize, it may have been targeted for the same reasons.
The terrorist organization known variably as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks-- the deadliest in France's history-- the following morning. Seven out of eight of the suspected main assailants, including three French nationals and one Syrian, are believed to be dead. The eighth suspect, Belgian Salah Abdeslam, was arrested in Brussels in late March following an international manhunt, and remains in custody.
On the early morning of November 18th, police raided an apartment situated in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis, with police arresting several suspects in the attacks of November 13th in Paris. Seven people were reportedly brought into police custody for questioning, and a male and female suspect present in the apartment died after the former activated an explosive belt. Another suspect killed at the scene was confirmed as Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national who is believed to be the ringleader in the attacks, in tandem with ISIS in Syria.
On Friday, November 20th, European Union officials met in Brussels for emergency talks on security across Europe, seeking to significantly improve intelligence sharing and security measures at the external borders of each country. Many arrests have been made in Brussels since the attacks: police have apprehended several people thought to be involved.
The Aftermath: Shock and Mourning
After a night of terror, confusion, and panic, Parisians woke the following morning in a state of grief and incomprehension. French President Francois Hollande called for three days of national mourning from Saturday, November 14th, and the French tricolor flag was flown at half-mast from the Elysées Presidential Palace, as well as at other locations in the capital.
On November 27th, 2015, France observed a day of national mourning. A ceremony in memory of the 130 victims of the attacks was held at Les Invalides, a former military hospital in Paris. Over 1,000 people attended the ceremony, presided by President Hollande and family members of the victims.
In a statement on the day following the attacks, Hollande had called them "an act of absoute barbarism" and promised that "France will be ruthless in its response to [ISIS]."
But he also called for national unity and for "cool heads", warning against intolerance or divisiveness following the attacks.
"France is strong, and even if she is wounded, she will rise once again. Even if we are in grief, nothing will destroy her", he said. "France is strong, valiant and will defeat this barbarism. History reminds us of this and the strength we today bear to come together convinces us of this."
France has significantly bolstered security since the attacks, mobilizing more than 115,000 police and military personnel to protect Paris and the rest of the French territory.
Tributes, Memorials, and City Initiatives
Candlelight vigils, flowers, and personalized notes showing support for the families and friends of victims sprung up around the city in the weeks following the attacks, including around the bars and restaurants targeted in Eastern Paris and at the Place de la République. On this enormous square well-known for its public demonstrations and gatherings, a group of mourners offered each other free hugs over the weekend following the attacks.
In late November of that year, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated with the colors of the French flag-- red, white, and blue-- in memory of the victims. The Montparnasse Tower was also illuminated with the colors of the flag on Monday the 16th.
The city's latin motto, "Fluctuat Nec Mergitur"-- which translates to "Tossed, but not sunk" is gracing banners around the city, including at the Place de la République. It's also shown up at other memorial sites.
On Monday November 16th at noon, France observed a minute of silence in commemoration of the victims of the attacks. The minute of silence was also observed in the United Kingdom and around Europe.
Meanwhile, people and governments from countries around the world paid moving tributes to the Paris victims.
The leaders of France's Muslim community forcefully condemned the attacks. The rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, called for the country's Muslim clerics to uniformly condemn violence and all forms of terrorism in their forthcoming sermons. He called for them to observe prayers and a minute of silence on Friday November 20th in memory of the victims of the attacks.
In a statement, he expressed his "solidarity" and "grief" for the victims, and said that he entirely condemned the "unnameable acts" of terrorists which had "victimized absolutely innocent [people]".
Questions or Concerns? Call the City's Helpline for Tourists:
City officials have opened a dedicated helpline for tourists and visitors to ask questions related to safety or logistics: +33 1 45 55 80 000. English-speaking operators are available at that line.
Check Back Here for Updates:
I will be updating this page with information specifically tailored to tourists and visitors concerned about their safety.