With the Yellow Jacket protests making news around the world, many are wondering if it's still safe to visit Paris. If you’re a bit nervous about coming to the capital, here’s some local insight and practical information to let you know what everyday life is really like in the city when Parisians go on strike.
The French have never lost their revolutionary spirit. Whether to protest political policies or to support social reforms, les Français love making their voices heard. Marches and manifestations are common in Paris, and while locals are quite accustomed to it, for tourists, it can initially be a little intimidating.
When I first moved to France, the idea of thousands of Parisians marching in the streets made me nervous, but over the years, I’ve found that these protests are generally peaceful. There’s often a convivial atmosphere among participants and sometimes a deep sense of solidarity.
In recent months, however, the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Jackets) have made international headlines, partly for the size and persistence of the movement, but also for the unfortunate violence and vandalism that has occurred alongside the demonstrations.
To help you enjoy your trip to Paris regardless of whether people are taking to the streets, here’s a bit of expat insight along with some local tips so you can relax and simply enjoy seeing the sights.
Although it isn’t usually protestors’ favorite spot, the Gilets Jaunes have focused on the famous roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe. Every Saturday since October 2018, the Yellow Jackets have set up camp on Paris’s most luxurious avenue, and, for now, the best thing to do is simply avoid the area this one day a week.
Luckily, there are plenty of other things to do and see in Paris! These exceptional events impact only a few specific areas and in the rest of the city, it’s life as usual.
Most of the more typical demonstrations (there can be quite a lot of them throughout the year) go between Bastille, Place de la Nation, and Place de la République. The Marches for the Environment, labor union strikes, and all other sorts of events pass through here, so be aware that crowds will flock to these spots on protest days and metro stations (in particular, those around Bastille and République) might be closed.
These strikes may cause the biggest headaches for tourists as they often affect the RER lines between the Paris and its two airports. Whenever this happens, replacement buses are generally provided, but speaking from experience, it can add an extra hour or more to your trip. A taxi or Uber might be your best bet for getting into town without too much trouble in these instances.
Strikes are usually announced ahead of time, so be sure to check before arriving or leaving. Information concerning public transportation can be found on the RATP’s Official Website and more general information on the Paris Visitors Bureau Website. You might also want to read our article on Getting to Paris from CDG to explore your options if flying out of Charles de Gaulle.
This weekend is a particularly good time to be in Paris. Saturday and Sunday, September 21 - 22, 2019, mark the 36th edition of the Journées du patrimoine, also called the European Heritage Days.
If you’ll be in Paris this Friday, September 13th, large strikes will be affecting most public transportation. Transport unions have called for a grève in protest against pension reforms and the RATP (the Parisian transport operator) foresees 'heavily disrupted' traffic conditions.