Paris shuts up shop for weekend of protests – but is it safe to visit?

Hugh Morris
The Eiffel Tower will be closed on Saturday - This content is subject to copyright.

Paris’s key tourist attractions will close this weekend as the prospect of fresh disturbances in the French capital looms.

The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame are among dozens of closures planned for Saturday as the city braces for yellow vest (gilets jaunes) protests of “great violence” over tax rises. Some 8,000 police will be deployed across Paris as the festive shopping season approaches its peak.

The city’s tourist board has said the “social protest movement represents no danger to visitors” but that museums, monuments and “some public transport stations” will close, alongside many retailers and restaurants, especially along the Champs-Elysees, where stores have boarded up their windows on advice from the police. Shops on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore have also closed.

“According to the information we have, some radicalized and rebellious people will try to get mobilised tomorrow,” Interior minister Christophe Castaner told a press conference on Friday. “Some ultra-violent people want to take part.”

Last weekend Paris some of its worst riots in decades, with cars overturned and windows smashed.

Thousands of police will be deployed across Paris this weekend Credit: Getty

The Parisian tourist board said: “At this festive time of year, the magic of Christmas is always present in Paris and almost all of the announced events and attractions are going ahead as planned: ice rinks, illuminations, special entertainment and family shows continue to enthral grown-ups and kids and promise wonderful moments right into the arrival of the New Year.”

However, it recommended visitors keep up to date with the protests planned for Saturday and advised they “stay outside the perimeter of the processions in order to avoid any uncomfortable situations”.

The list of closures includes some of the city’s foremost cultural venues, including the Musee d’Orsay, the Louvre and the Tuileries and the Musee de L’Orangerie. The Catacombes, the Palais de Tokyo, the Pantheon, and the Sainte Chapelle as well as the Arc de Triomphe, damaged in the riots last weekend, will also be closed. See here for the full list.

Some attractions are allowing visitors with tickets for Saturday the opportunity to change the date or request a refund. Eiffel Tower ticket holders will have the cost of their ticket refunded automatically. 

A number of guided tours have been cancelled, too, including Big Bus sightseeing and OpenTour. Nicolas, one of the country’s largest wine retailers, has cancelled all wine tastings scheduled for Saturday.

The Foreign Office has warned visitors to Paris to avoid any demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities, adding that there could be “extensive disruption” in the city.

“Recent demonstrations have led to violence and extensive damage to property,” it said. “In preparation for Saturday’s expected demonstrations, which may again turn violent, the authorities have announced that a number of museums and tourist sites in central Paris will be closed.

“Shops on the Champs Elysées and surrounding streets, as well as some Metro (underground) stations, will also be closed. You should be aware that substantial numbers of police and gendarmerie officers will be present in central Paris to ensure security.”

There is currently no disruption to flights or Eurostar services to the city, but the Foreign Office warned motorists travelling through France to expect delays or blockages at motorway toll booths.

Demonstrations are expected in other cities, too, with tens of thousands of security officers deployed across the country.