The U.S. Department of State is warning Americans about the risk of terrorism when going to Europe at Christmas.
The warning follows a year in which terrorists have launched repeated attacks in public places, including in London.
While all travelers should exercise caution no matter where they go the reality is that Europe remains perfectly safe. In fact, visiting Chicago can be just as dangerous.
Whether you're strolling the busy shopping streets of London, visiting the UNESCO-listed medieval old town of Tallinn, people-watching from a café in Paris, or exploring one of the famous German-style Christmas markets, there is no better time of the year to visit the Old World than right now.
I spent Christmas in Paris last year. Yes, there was noticeably more security at Notre-Dame Cathedral and other major attractions, but it was safe — and incredible. Best of all, Europe's big cities are quieter and more authentic than the summer, when most Americans visit.
From walking along the Champs-Élysées to last-minute Christmas shopping at luxury retailers and small ateliers to a concert in the 13th century church of Sainte-Chapelle and Christmas Eve at the American Cathedral, my Parisian Christmas was truly a special experience.
If you go
For Paris, I highly recommend the Renaissance Republique Hotel, part of Marriott's Renaissance brand.
Superbly located near its namesake Place de la République and within walking distance of most of Paris, the 4-star hotel offers what I call a boutique corporate experience — that is to say the experience of staying at an independent, upscale boutique hotel with the consistency of an international chain. The hotel even placed a real Christmas tree, complete with red lights, in my room. Rooms start at 185 euros (about $217).
Spires and Crosses is published every Sunday.