While I'll agree that there are plenty of places to go and things to do here in the US, the truth is I feel safer in a large European city than in just about any large American city. I believe the "risks" for Americans traveling anywhere outside the US are overstated.
100% True. I've traveled the world quite extensively and I've felt safer in Rome, Athens, Berlin, Istanbul and in Asian cities like Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur than Chicago, Miami and St Louis, for example.
On violent crime most European cities are much safer than most American cities, even now. However it appears much of the violent crime in American city is gang-on-gang, poor-on-poor. A tourist would have no reason to wander into the Projects.
In any bad neighbourhood your clothes and body language will stand out to the locals like a sore thumb.
There are exceptions: I could show you neighbourhoods of Glasgow you really should not go to. I think Russia is bad, also Ukraine and some other former Soviet bloc capitals? Athens is deteriorating frighteningly quickly-- that's what happens when a nation goes to the wall.
Now let's talk petty crime:
- your risk of being pickpocketed is high in many European cities-- London, Rome, Florence, Venice, Prague, Paris, Barcelona, Malaga, Seville-- to name a few.
London for example any coffee shop or Oxford and Regent Street (incredibly crowded) especially around Xmas is a real danger zone. Keep a careful eye on wallets and bags, anything that can be slipped open, never put them out of site or in a separate pocket say in a coat over your chair. The classic one is they lift only the cards, put the wallet back, hours before you realize you've been done. (this is all personal experience, including having the wallet lifted in front of my eyes from the person I was sharing a coffee with (and not noticing)). Another is to take your wallet off the table in the train, whilst you are fishing out your train ticket.
These people are really good-- they do it in front of your eyes, and you don't see it. Like magicians.
We also have a problem (Holborn and Bloomsbury, Islington ie very central) with bicyclists grabbing your mobile phone. Police advise you NOT to pull out your (smart) phone coming out of the Tube.
Crowd gatherings eg in Covent Garden around street performers, or around 'auction shops' on Oxford Street (they are usually running a scam, UK law allows someone to break into a closed shop, open up, and it can take weeks to evict them) where a crowd gathers.
I probably should let you google 'Clip Joint Soho' than explain-- but basically if the nice lady orders champagne for your table, then it will cost you £300, and they are quite capable of strong arming you to the nearest ATM.
Never pick up a cab on the street that is NOT a licensed black cab (if for hire, light on top is on)-- most are the traditional 'London Cab' make (there are also some 7 seater Mercedes). Being ripped off could be the least of your problems. Minicabs can be called from a hotel or restaurant, but cannot pick up on the street (Addison Lee
's drivers are frightening at times the way they drive, but generally the cabs are clean and the service good). Black cabs are expensive but very professional.
Paris theft from hotel rooms (and an insouicant attitude by hotel staff) seems very common.Use the safe. In hotel rooms, use the safe.
Rome I have been shortchanged, also additional items added to restaurant menu (Venice something similar-- it's much better when you are not in San Marco sestiere).
Barcelona did have a real problem with bag snatching off motorbikes.
Prague has had real problems with pick pockets and ripping tourists off in various ways.
Amsterdam is tricky. Generally I have not had a problem in Germany or Scandinavia.
Lisbon we were warned about snatches in the old town.
Basically any place that attracts tourists attracts pan-European troublemakers. Often in Southern Europe, they are not locals.
- car theft - again breaking into cars is a recurrent problem (stealing cars has declined sharply with the prevalence of new security systems ie immobilizers).