We’ve all heard about the ridiculous No Go Zone s in Paris – neighborhoods in Paris under Sharia law that, well, don’t really exist. While the City of Paris prepares to sue Fox News for sending out such a message, we thought we’d send out our own little list of No Gay Zones.
What is a No Gay Zone? It’s a neighborhood to avoid displaying PDA if you are gay. Don’t get us wrong – they are totally safe to walk in and explore, and many are cultural "melting pots" described by The New York Times. But kissing, hand-holding, or even suggestive gazing should all be avoided, in our experience. Fortunately in Paris there are few reported attacks on LGBT individuals, but it has happened.
Here’s our list of places to reign in the PDA when strolling Paris:
1. Gare du Nord: A neighborhood frequented by Brits taking the Eurostar to and from London, this neighborhood has a bad reputation, but it's not all deserved. We love it for its concentration of cheap delicious Indian food, but a very mixed population of people filling the streets right around this train station is not necessarily the most gay-friendly. The sex shops and pickpockets all over don't add to the charm. Once a few blocks from the station, it becomes less seedy.
2. Château d’Eau/Strasbourg St-Denis: We pass through this area almost every single day, and we love it. Cute coffee shops and some newer boutiques mingle with afro-hair salons and barber shops. The streets are filled with Asian prostitutes, West African immigrants, and Parisian hipsters – it’s a lively community with lots of activity.
Sure, there is the occasional waft of pot smoke mingling with the chemical smells of nail salons, but you shouldn’t feel unsafe. With West Africa’s terrible track record on LGBT rights, however, we don’t want to risk holding hands while walking down these streets. Just keep moving until you reach your destination.
3. Goutte d’Or: You probably won’t find yourself in this neighborhood just east of Montmartre, unless you are heading to Café Lomi for some stellar coffee or the Brasserie de la Goutte d’Or for local beer. We bike through it occasionally, or meet for coffee at Lomi, but parts of it can seem sketchy, so we get why it was targeted as a No Go Zone.
While an up and coming part of town, it’s still a heavy mix of immigrants from all over and not a place you want to display any sort of affection for a same-sex partner. Chances are nothing would happen, but it could be risky.
4. Chatelet Les Halles: Though this neighborhood is right next to the Marais and many gay bars, you may want to avoid the PDAs for a moment. The Fountain of the Innocents, near the entrance to the giant underground suburban train station, is often filled with suburbanites of a rougher sort. It just gets a little dicey, but once you’ve gotten away from that fountain and the train station, the sketch factor drops back to normal.
5. Pigalle: While it may be home to the Moulin Rouge and lots of seedy nightlife, the Boulevard de Clichy can be a pretty scary place to walk through late at night. Local drunks, party-goers, frat boys, and the other dregs of cheap and tawdry nightlife will all be hanging out in the streets. You don't need to be gay to be harassed here, but you are definitely upping your chances with any affection that you and your partner might publicly display. During the day it's totally fine, but at night, keep your wits about you, please. And if someone hits you because you won't give them your iPod, it's nothing a bag of frozen peas can't help with (trust us, we know...).
6. Marais: And if there was any one district not to express PDA in, it’s the Marais, the hub of LGBT life in Paris. Kissing or holding hands in this neighborhood will immediately alienate you from all of the other gays, and no one will want to talk to you if they know you are partnered.
We kid, of course. It’s not quite as severe as that.
But just because you are in the Marais doesn’t mean that you are all of the sudden you can let down your guard. Bad stuff can happen in any neighborhood. In 2013, a gay Parisian student was attacked and later died in the 9th arrondissement not far from the Opera. That same year another local was bludgeoned in the presumably quiet 19th arrondissement. Even former Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, openly gay, was stabbed at City Hall in the Marais back in 2002.
It’s Paris, gay-Paree even, but there is still some tension among certain groups with regards to homosexuality and marriage for all. You don’t need to stress out, but just be aware that Paris is a cosmopolitan city with all walks of life, many open, and some less so.