Updated: April, 2013
I get a lot of questions about finding family hotels.
Hotelscombined.com/Paris is the best website for finding hotels in Paris. It’s truly fantastic at finding the best hotel rates.
Top 10 Things To Do With Kids in Paris
The Author: Anne from the blog Just Another American in Paris.
Most of us think of Paris as the city of romance, wine, fashion, and all things sophisticated. That’s all true — but it’s also one of the great cities to visit with kids. Naturally, the trip you take to Paris en famille will be different than the one you take with the love of your life but it can still be a trip for the memory books.
So what to do in Paris with the kids? As the French are famous for saying, that depends. What appeals to your kids will depend on their ages, the season, and their special interests. But after polling several of my expatriate friends who’ve had the time to enjoy Paris at a slow pace and to share their new home base with many visitors, these were the top attractions and destinations.
1. Climb the Eiffel Tower
Paris is a low-rise city and the Eiffel Tower seems ever present. Eiffel Tower tickets can be purchased online as late as the day before your visit. If you can, take advantage of this system because the lines for those without reservations are truly horrendous. (There’s also a downloadable bilingual activity book for kids if you have the time and access to a printer.) You can buy the cheaper ticket and walk up as far as the second level, or splurge for the elevator that takes you all the way to the tippy top. At night, the tower twinkles on the hour but the light show doesn’t begin until it’s dark; in the summer that can be as late as 10 pm. The restaurant on the first level (58 Tour Eiffel) has a wonderful reasonably priced children’s menu (lunch and dinner) and the food is actually pretty good. The best place to snap pictures is not from the tower’s base but from across the river at the Palais de Chaillot (Metro: Trocadero.)
2. Pick just one among the three big art museums (unless your kids are wild about art)
Best bets in the Louvre: the remains of the medieval Louvre, mummies, the Galerie d’Appollon (which contains what’s left of France’s crown jewels), and the Napoleon III apartments. You may feel compelled to look at the Mona Lisa. Fair warning: the painting itself is tiny and the gallery always packed. At the d’Orsay, home of the crowd pleasing Impressionists, ask at the welcome desk for the kids’ guide which focuses on the transformation of the former train station into a museum. The Pompidou offers wonderful rooftop views plus a plaza full of street performers in addition to its collection of 20th and 21st century masterpieces.
3. Take a ride on a bateau mouche.
A boat ride along the Seine is a great way to get oriented to the city, especially for that first day of touring when you are jet lagged. Several different companies operate tour boats along the river. The Bateaux Mouches near the Pont de l’Alma is the least expensive. Batobus costs more but allows you to hop on and off on a one-day or two-day ticket.
4. Enjoy the city’s parks and gardens.
Paris is dotted with pocket parks, many with small play areas suitable for toddlers. The Jardin du Luxembourg, in particular, is humming with activity for kids and offers plenty of benches and chairs for their tired parents. They can run around for free or you can pay a little bit to sail a toy boat in the basin, ride the carousel, take in a marionette show, or have hours of fun on the huge playground. Skip Disney and instead spend the day at the Jardin d’Acclimitation in the Bois de Boulogne. With its old style carnival rides and hall of mirrors, this park may remind you of your own childhood. Plus there’s a small zoo, a marionette show, playgrounds, and a water park for hot summer days. (Metro: Les Sablons)
5. Wander and explore.
Paris is a great place to walk and you can do so for hours on end, through winding streets, down grand boulevards, along the banks of the Seine. The trick with kids is to have a few ideas for stops and treats in your back pocket. Window shop in the Marais or Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Mosey down the Champs-Élysées. Stick your head into churches you pass by; there may be an organ concert in progress. Check out the offerings at an open air market, stop for a crepe from a street vendor or a pain au chocolat from a neighborhood boulangerie. In the summer, make a pit stop for an ice cream by Berthillon on Ile St. Louis.
6. Visit the Arc de Triomphe
Don’t worry. Despite the crazy traffic around this monument, access is super safe via underground passageway. You only have to pay if you choose to take the 300 something steps to the top. Admiring the grandeur of Napoleon’s vision and paying homage to France’s unknown soldier is free of charge.
7. Experience the cheesiness that is Montmartre.
It’s super touristy but kids love it all the same. Sacre Coeur is hard to resist with its sparkling white dome, glistening like a cone from Dairy Queen. And even though there’s little great art being made in the Place de Tetre, most kids enjoy watching the painters at work. Take a detour into the side streets and you’ll find quiet byways little changed from the days when this was a village unto itself.
8. Pick one smaller museum that feeds your kids’ passions.
Fun options include armor and weapons at Musée de l’Armée, miles of skulls and bones in the Catacombs, and following the history of music with fabulous audioguides at Cité de la Musique. Admission to the sculpture garden at the Musée Rodin is just one euro and there’s plenty of room to run.
9. Take in the grandeur that is Notre Dame.
Most kids aren’t wild about churches but this one, with its incredible Rose window, gargoyles, and soaring ceilings, is sure to impress. Entrance is free but remember that this is a functioning church; a mass may be in progress during your visit. Entrance to the towers requires an admission fee and usually a wait in line.
10. If you’re planning to be in Paris for more than three days, take one day to go a bit further afield.
Versailles is just 35 minutes from the center of town by commuter train and makes a great day trip. If the weather’s nice, take a picnic and make a day of it with a tour of the chateau with its famous Hall of Mirrors, Marie Antoinette’s farm, and acres of gardens. On weekend evenings in the summer, the fountains come alive with light and music shows. Another option is Claude Monet’s house and garden in Giverny which can be reached in 45 minutes from Gare St. Lazare. The water lilies and the Japanese bridge look just like you imagined.
About the Author: Anne spent four years living in Paris with her husband and two children. She blogs at Just Another American in Paris.
Our Family Trip To Paris
This is David. We used Anne’s suggestions above to plan our trip to Paris. Here are a few photos, thoughts, and suggestions from our trip.
We took the Eurostar train from London to Paris.
- The Best Hotels in Paris for Families (with a list of hotels with swimming pools)
- My Guide to the Best Hotels in Paris for Families
- Paris with kids (fun tips from a 10 year old and an 8 year old)
- A Guide to Paris (not specifically about kids but great nonetheless)
- The Best Picnic Spots in Paris
- Paris: The City of Light With Kids (The New York Times)
- Free Things To Do in Paris (National Geographic Traveler)
- 55 Ways To Save Money In Paris
- Ten Great Things To Do With Kids in Paris (David Lebovitz)
- Calendar of Events for Paris
- Getting Around Paris – Transit Options
- Paris by Train — Great site. Schedules, Maps & Passes on Paris Trains, RER, & Metro
- Paris Metro Fares and Tickets
- The Louvre Tour with Kids – how it works
- A Map of Paris Restaurants
- Where to Find the Best Hamburgers in Paris
- How and Where To Shop For Local Produce in Paris
- Paris with Kids – a photo essay
- The Luxembourg Gardens with Kids
- The Best Ice Cream and Gelato in Paris
- The Best Hikes Near Paris
- The Best Swimming Pool and Waterpark in Paris
- Visiting Versailles with Kids
- The 10 Best Pastry Shops In Paris
- So You Want to Learn to Cook in France? (A Q&A with David Lebovitz)
Books about Paris for Kids
- Madeline and my favorite Madeline’s Rescue by Ludwig Bemelmans. Classics!
- Eloise in Paris (Eloise Series) by Kay Thompson
- This is Paris by Miroslav Sasek
- Everybody Bonjours! by Leslie Kimmelman
- Ratatouille (DVD) — Perhaps my favorite kids movie of all time and set in Paris.
- Putumayo FRENCH PLAYGROUND — a kids’ CD even parents will love.
Books about Paris for Adults
- The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier by Thad Carhart.
- Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik — Recounts the author’s years living in Paris with his wife and kids.
- My Life in France by Julia Child — Stunning! An enchanting look at life in France (mainly Paris).
- The Flaneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris by Edmund White — Paris is for walking. This book is for walkers.
- Rimbaud: A Biography by Graham Robb — A fantastic biography of the great French poet.
- Before Sunset (DVD) — An afternoon spent wandering the streets of Paris. About as heartfelt and moving as movies come. And great scenes of Paris too.
- Voice of the Sparrow: The Very Best of Edith Piaf — Fun French music.
- Open Road’s Paris with Kids — Probably the best guide on visiting Paris with Kids
- Lonely Planet Paris (City Guide) — Like all Lonely Planet guidebooks: great info, great layout, and great maps.
- Markets of Paris: Food, Antiques, Artisanal Crafts, Books & More, with Restaurant Recommendations — Clearly this isn’t a guide for kid-friendly attractions. But if you’re in Paris and want to visit some of these markets it’s best to pick them right, and not waste your “adult time” visiting sites that aren’t what you’re looking for.