A group of ‘greeters’ has been set up in Seine-Saint-Denis, made up of locals who are willing to show tourists around their areas.
Seine-Saint-Denis sits to the north of Paris and is home to 1.5 million people. It has one of the greatest concentrations of immigrants in France.
It is also well known as the place where the death of two youths in the autumn of 2005 sparked nationwide riots that lasted several weeks.
However, locals are keen to shake off this image and point out many of the area’s attractions, including the home of the 1998 World Cup final, the Stade de France, and the 12th century Cathedral Basilica of Saint Denis.
“There shouldn’t be this barrier between a Paris that is magnificent and the suburbs which are not,” said Michel Moisan, a 59-year old former pharmaceutical worker who has been giving tours for a year.
Newspaper 20 Minutes spoke to two American tourists, Jane and Michaël Gessner from Arizona.
“When we told the concierge at our hotel where we were going, he said ‘don’t go to the suburbs, they’re dangerous’!” said Jane. “But look, it’s great.”
“It’s completely different to what we’ve seen in Paris,” said Michael, who said he was impressed by the “diversity of the people.”
Hélène Sallet-Lavorel works for Tourisme 93 which promotes the area and said the area has already received around 50 visits, mostly from foreign tourists.
“The greeters show the area as it really is. It’s not just an area of high unemployment or the place where the riots happened. The people who live here are much more positive and are proud of their town and their area,” she said.
The organization Parisien d’un Jour, which has 240 greeters in total, hopes to extend its tours to other suburbs of the city.