By David Robert Hogg – Updated January, 2015
The 15 Best Things To Do with Kids in Paris
- Tip: Buy tickets in advance for Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Versailles, and Musée d’Orsay.
Reviews • How to get up the Eiffel Tower (photos & info) • Opening Times
Kids love the Eiffel Tower. Your biggest decision will be whether to take the stairs or the elevator. I prefer the stairs as the lines are shorter, the price is cheaper, and you get a better sense of the structure of the tower. The stairs are wide which allows faster visitors to pass resting families easily. The stairs will only take you to the 2nd level however. To get to the 3rd level (the top) you can take the elevator all the way up or stairs to the 2nd level and from there an elevator to the top. The queue for the elevator on the 2nd level is shorter than on the ground floor but can still take up to 45 minutes. You can only buy tickets in advance for the elevator (not the stairs) and you can purchase them up to 3 months in advance. The website will often show tickets are sold out but if you keep trying back you might get lucky as additional tickets are often released right up to the day before. There aren’t many shops near to the Eiffel Tower so if you want to picnic on the grass around the tower then buy supplies before arriving. There’s a small playground and carousel at the south end of the Champ-de-Mars.
Reviews • Open daily, 7am to 1 hour before sunset.
A beautiful park with a great playground (fee required), a fountain pond for sailing small boats, a marionette theater (puppet shows at 2:30, 3:30, and 4:30 in summer), an old fashioned carousel, and many statue-lined paths to explore. If you find yourself on the right bank instead then a visit to the Tuileries Garden is equally enchanting.
Reviews • Open 10am to 6pm daily, closed Tuesday
The Grande Galerie de l’Evolution depicts a wide range of animals and highlights the diversity and evolution of life. The museum has a lot to see (my kids loved the butterfly display) and can easily fill 3 or 4 hours. The small zoo in the Jardin des Plantes complex requires a separate ticket and is not worth the expense.
Reviews • Open daily 10am to 5pm, closed Monday. Last entrance 4pm.
This is a great attraction for understanding the history of Paris. In the late 18th century the cemeteries were a breeding ground for disease and illness. The graves were emptied and the bodies stored underneath the city in the Catacombs. There are 6 million skulls and skeletons – victims of the plague, the French Revolution and the guillotine. It isn’t as ghoulish as it sounds and most kids are not scared by the sight. My big warning here is the wait which can be anywhere from 1 hour to 4 so get here early and have some snacks (there is a McDonalds and a grocery store nearby if the kids are hungry – one parent can stay in line).
Reviews • Open 8am to 6:45pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 7:15 Saturday and Sunday
A marvelously impressive building. It’s easy to spend a few hours walking in and around the church looking at the gargoyles, art work, gothic architecture, and intricate facade featuring biblical characters.
Reviews • Open daily 11am to 10pm, closed Tuesday
A good mix of indoor and outdoor activities when you’re uncertain of the weather. An indoor kids playground, a modern art gallery (that often has kid-friendly exhibits), a cinema, long glassed in escalators that hug the outside of the building, and a viewing area on the roof. There’s always lots going on here. And be sure to check out the fun and colorful Stravinsky Fountain outside the Pompidou and surrounded by street performers and cafes.
7. Sacre Coeur
Reviews • Open daily 6am to 10:30pm
Perched on the top of Montmartre hill with incredible views of Paris from both the 423 foot high dome and the steps in front of the basilica. The surrounding neighborhood features a collection of charming streets, shops, and restaurants. It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon exploring the area. There’s a funicular tram to take you up to the Sacre Coeur if the steps are too much.
8. Army Museum
Reviews • Open daily 10am to 6pm from April 1 to October 31. 10am to 5pm from November 1 to March 31.
Housed in the main building of the Hôtel des Invalides (built by Louis XIV to house injured soldiers) the Musee de l’Armee has an incredible collection of military weapons. Napolean’s tomb sits in Eglise du Dôme at the center of the huge complex. This is one of the best military museums in the world.
Reviews • Open daily 10am to 11pm from April 1 to September 30. 10am to 10:30pm from October 1 to March 31.
Wonderful views both day and evening of the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees and the rest of the boulevards that radiate out from the arch. I like visiting near the end of the trip when kids can pick out all the places they’ve visited. Lots of steps up a winding staircase to get to the terrace on top. No elevator.
10. Cite des Enfants and Cite des Sciences
Cite des Enfants reviews • Cite des Sciences reviews • Great hands-on fun at Cite des Enfants. There are 2 sections: one for 2 to 7 year olds and one for 5 to 12 year olds. Your ticket is good for 90 minutes and you can do both separately. It’s highly recommended to buy tickets online in advance. The Cite des Sciences is for older kids and adults, is largely in french with english audio guide available, and also has a planetarium. Open 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 7pm Sunday, closed Tuesday.
Reviews • Facebook page • Open 10am to 11pm, Monday to Friday, 11am to 11pm Saturday and Sunday.
My favorite bookstore in Paris. It’s an amazing and enchanting shop that is larger than it looks from the outside and just across from the Notre Dame. There are childrens’ readings mixed among the regular stream of literary events.
Reviews • Facebook page • Open 12pm to 6pm Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm Sunday, closed Monday.
A wonderful museum that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. You really do need to be a music lover who plays an instrument to fully appreciate it but if so you’ll love it. Great exhibits on instruments, composition, and the history of music. The audio guide is great and comes in english.
13. Louvre Museum
Reviews • Open from 9am to 6pm on Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. 9am to 9:45pm on Wednesday and Friday. Closed on Tuesdays.
The biggest challenge here is limiting yourself and having a plan. It would take weeks to see everything. Pick out 1 or a few paintings in advance, learn their history, discuss them with your kids, and then seek them out when you’re there. (The Raft of the Medusa is my favorite in the Louvre and is based on an incredible tale about a shipwreck that will leave any kid enthralled.) Buying post cards of intriguing art works beforehand and then searching for them is also a fun game. Kids love that the audio guides are on a Nintendo 3DS (which you can buy in advance and use to plan your visit). There are Visitor Trails based on particular themes that you can print in advance and will guide you about the museum searching for different art works. The building itself is incredible and worth time to explore and learn its history (Six things you may not know about the Louvre.)
Reviews • Open 9am to 6:30pm from April 1 to October 31. 9am to 5:30 from November 1 to March 31. Closed Monday and public holidays.
An awesome combination of superb palace and stunning gardens. Makes a great day trip from Paris which is 30 minutes away by train (and then a 10 minute walk from Versailles Rive Gauche train station to the palace). Tuesday and Sunday are the busiest days – and the website has a updated chart on what days will be busy and quiet. Gardens are stroller friendly but strollers can’t go into the palace rooms. Be prepared for lots of walking. Bike rentals available from both near the train station and inside the palace complex. Row boat rental at the garden’s Grand Canal.
15. Street Performers
Performers are found everywhere around Paris. On the Champs-Élysées, near the Notre Dame, in the subway. Don’t be shy about hanging out and watching.
How To Get Around Paris with Kids
The bus, the Metro, and the RER (suburban rail) are how tourists get themselves around Paris.
Map of the Paris bus and Metro.
The bus is the most scenic and easiest to board. The Metro and RER can require a surprising amount of walking (both getting to and getting through the station) and a large number of steps.
The same tickets are used for buses (in zone 1 and 2), the Metro, and the RER (in zone 1) – these zones include most of the major tourist attractions but not Disneyland. Tickets are good for 90 minutes with no limit on the number of transfers. But a single ticket can not be used for both bus and train. Buses are boarded at the front and tickets are validated by inserting them in a small machine. To enter a Metro or RER station tickets are scanned as you path through the turnstile. Entering with children under 4 can sometimes be tricky as there is no special entrance for families. You’ll sometimes have to catch the eye of the person working the ticket booth and get them to buzz you through.
Tickets for destinations outside of Paris are purchased as individual RER trips (e.g. Versailles).
Kids 3 and under do not require a ticket; ages 4 to 9 require a child ticket; and 10 and over require an adult ticket. Tickets can be bought as a pack of 10 (a carnet).
Best Places for Desserts & Treats in Paris
- Amorino (gelato)
- Berthillon (gelato)
- Angelina (hot chocolate)
- Laudrée (macarons)
- Pierre Hermé (macarons)