Paris, Dog Friendly? It Depends.
France is considered one of the most pet-centric countries in the world. And Paris is often cited as the capital of dog-friendliness. American visitors marvel at how dogs seem to be everywhere in Paris: cafes, shops, grocery stores, public transport, just to name a few.
But is Paris really that dog-friendly? It depends on who you ask. My dog-owning Parisian friends lament the fact that dogs are not allowed in more places. However, dog-detesting Parisians think 'chiens' have far too much freedom in a city that is already jam packed with people. My own experience is a mixture of both. There have been moments when I found Paris to be incredibly dog unfriendly. And other times, I can't believe some of the places I can take my dog, Danny.
As with most things in France, application of dog rules is very loosey-goosey. In my neighborhood, I walk Danny into my favorite boulangerie nearly every morning for our daily croissant fix. I don't know if it's allowed and I've never bothered to ask. No one has ever asked us to leave. So as far as I'm concerned it's fine to bring him in, until it isn't. However, the boulangerie at the opposite end of our street has a very large sign in the window that reads "While we love our dog friends we would appreciate you leaving them outside" - English translation. The sign says nothing about cats and a true Parisian always assumes the right to do something unless explicitly told not to. This explains why I've seen a few cats at this bakery.
After four months of living in Paris, I've compiled a list of where one can and cannot take a dog, based on my own experiences and observations. Of course, there are always exceptions to everything in Paris so this list should be considered a general guideline only.
Restaurants - It Depends
Most restaurants (cafes, bistros, brasseries, fast food) will let you bring your dog but it's considered polite to ask first. If you have a clean looking, good natured dog, regardless of breed or size, most restaurants will do their best to accommodate you and your pet. The restaurant industry in Paris is very competitive. Owners know if they turn someone away because they have a dog, the establishment next door will say "come on in". Some servers will even bring a tasty morsel from the kitchen or ask if your dog would like some water.
Public Transportation - Mais Oui, Dogs allowed
All public transportation in Paris is pet-friendly. Dogs, large or small can be taken on the city buses, Metro, RER (trains running between Paris and suburbs) and SNCF (trains running from Paris to the rest of the country) . Small dogs are allowed on the Metro/RER and buses free of charge but they must ride in a carrier. I ride the Metro and RER daily with Danny on my lap or in my arms and have never had an issue due to not having him in a carrier. Large dogs must have a ticket (you need to purchase a child's half-price ticket for them) and must be leashed and muzzled. Dogs of any size may ride SNCF for 7 Euros each way to/from any point served by the railway. While dogs do not have to be in a carrier, they must stay on the floor for the duration of the trip (but everyone breaks the rules in France, and we do too, until the conductor comes along). Dogs are not required to be muzzled but they must be on a leash at all times. Because dogs cannot be left unattended and people have to eat, dogs are allowed in the Dining car.
Food Shops & Grocery Stores - It Depends
Legally, dogs are not allowed at any business that sells food (with the exception of restaurants). This includes grocery stores, boutique food shops and open-air markets. But individually owned establishments may decide whether to allow pets or not, thus skirting the law. If you are not sure, check the door for 'No Dogs' signs. In general, store employees would rather not confront a dog-toting customer so most stores will place signs in the window or door to indicate their dog policy. Or just ask (see Some Useful Phrases below).
Shopping Centers & Shops - It Depends
Most boutiques will allow dogs for the same reason restaurants will. There is simply too much competition and store owners know they can easily lose your business if they snub your dog. But shopping centers are different and most have very clear "No Dogs Allowed" policies. But of course, Parisians are notorious rule breakers. I have often seen well-heeled women walking through Le Printemps with small dogs. Some department stores like FNAC, Monoprix and Darty will allow small dogs to be hand-carried in. If you want to be typically Parisian, you confidently walk into any store with your dog and dare them to ask you to leave. In most cases, you will not be shown the exit unless you cross paths with a particularly difficult employee who is having a bad day.
City Parks - Mais, Non! Dogs Not Allowed
With few exceptions, dogs are not allowed in Paris city parks. This one really surprised me. Of all the places dogs would be allowed, parks should be at the top of the list! There are hundreds of parks throughout Paris providing much needed relief from the daily grind. How unfortunate that man's best friend is prohibited. Only five parks officially allow dogs and the two best, in my opinion, are outside of Paris city limits. However, there are those parks where people in the know take their dogs and the officials look the other way. I learned of one such unofficial dog park from my local dog boutique, Chez Le Chien. In Paris' most affluent neighborhood, a lovely tree lined park runs length of Avenue Foch from the Arc du Triomphe to Bois de Boulogne (another fab dog-friendly park). Prominent signs stating 'No Dogs Even on Leash' are posted every 50 feet or so as people and their dogs frolic under the trees, in the grass just behind them. It has become Danny's favorite spot.
Museums - Mais, Non! Dogs Not Allowed
Dogs are not welcome in any museum in Paris unless leading a visually impaired person. Emotional support animals are not recognized in France so you may have some convincing to do if you wish to bring your ESA with you into a museum. That being said, it may not be completely impossible to get your dog in if he is well hidden in a purse-like dog carrier (which I have seen at smaller museums with no security). Just be mindful that most museums in Paris now have airport-like screening (handbag search, metal detectors, x-ray machines) prior to entry, so your carefully concealed dog will be discovered at some point and you will be asked to leave.
Some Useful Phrases to Get Around Paris With a Dog
Politeness in Paris (or anywhere in France) goes a long way. If you don't speak French, no worries. Any attempt at the language will be appreciated by most Parisians. Below are a few phrases that have helped me. Always start off every encounter with "Bonjour" and end it with "merci beaucoup".
- Are dogs allowed here? - Les chiens sont-ils permis ici?
- May I bring my dog in? - Puis-je amener mon chien?
- May I have water for my dog? - Puis-je avoir de l'eau pour mon chien?
- Where is the nearest dog boutique? - Où puis-je trouver la boutique de chien?
- Where is the dog food section? - Où se trouve la rayon des aliments pour chiens?
- Where do I validate by dog's ticket? - Où puis-je composter le billet de mon chien? (all dog SNCF tickets must be validated before boarding)