Paris, France :
Paris, France: The Ultimate Guide with Kids
I visited Paris with my 2 year old and 4 year old in June 2013. Like most European cities, it's not the easiest city to schlep two strollers around, but most places are so used to tourists they don't really care. Once you find the perfect Paris hotel to make your base, it's worth going through the summer masses and the tourist traps to find the real gems of the city.
Check out the video of our trip:
Things to do with Kids in Paris:
Can't miss the usuals:
Eiffel Tower: If you are a first-timer to Paris, there's no getting around a visit to the Eiffel Tower. And for kids, it's a memory that will forever be etched into their brains. This gorgeous scene, a view from every Paris hotel, comes with a price. Try to book tickets early online or get there early, but if you are visiting during the summer months, be prepared for a long wait either way. If you choose to walk up the stairs, beware that there is no place to leave your stroller and the staff won't take responsibility for it. I like this kids' section on their website. And while many will marvel at the view from the Eiffel Tower, I spent many an evening enthralled by the view of the sparkling monument, without the wait!
Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris: The entrance to this beautiful cathedral is free and the line moves quite quickly, but if you are not going to pray, I would avoid going during a mass or service. If you like views and Gargoyles, climb up the top of the Towers. It's 387 steps and the website suggests "It's best to be in good shape!". Many a Paris hotel is walking distance from the Notre Dame.
The Louvre: The most famous museum in France doesn't have to be daunting with kids. Yes, expecting toddlers to sit through hours of corridors and crowds may be a bit much. My honest recommendation is to split up, if you have the luxury. Let one parent do the art while the other entertains the kid in the adjacent Jardin des Tuileries (see below)or at your Paris hotel. But if you cannot, stick to the highlights in their Masterpieces trail. Please note: the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays.
Musée d'Orsay: An old railway station transformed into a beautiful gallery, housing some of the most important works of Impressionism. The Musée d'Orsay is well equipped with elevators (they are small, and you have to squeeze your way in or risk waiting forever) and ramps, a restaurant and a gigantic clock (and resting spot) that offers one of the best views in Paris! Closed on Mondays.
Jardin des Tuileries: You cannot miss the Jardin des Tuileries because it takes you from the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde and eventually Les Champs Elysées. But you must not miss the Jardin des Tuileries because it's a kids' paradise. Enjoy free fun at the fountain or at the playground, pay for a round or two at the carousel or on the trampolines and grab a coffee and nutella cafe at one of the many (albeit touristy) cafes in the Park. Sure beats sitting around in your Paris hotel! We were staying right off Rue de Rivoli and spent at least an hour every day at the playground here. And from the last week of June to mid-August comes the Fête des Tuileries, a fun fair with rides, games, and an abundance of candy that will keep the kids entertained for hours (Beware: it's not cheap. I shelled out 3-4 Euro per ride, and they don't last very long!).
- Montmartre and the Basilica de Sacre Coeur: Montmartre is a hill in the 18th arondissement, in Paris's northern part. On the top of the hill lies the Basilica de Sacre Coeur and one of the most spectacular views of Paris. The Basilica is free to enter and less crowded than the Notre Dame on most days. The village of Montmartre just outside the Basilica is closest to what tourists imagine of Parisian streets: accordion players and beret-wearing artists. And of course, the Moulin Rouge which is located here for Montmartre has a bustling nightclub scene. Strollers are tough to push around here as the streets are narrow, crowded and cobblestoned. We enjoyed taking Le Petit Train de Montmartre, a pleasant 6 euro ride (kids are free) that lasts about 30 minutes and takes you around the area. A much welcome break for weary parents!
Other fun things to do:
Don't just sit around in your Paris hotel eating baguettes, get out there!
Cité des Enfants in the Cité des Science & de'Industrie: Luckily, this place was a direct subway line away from me else I may have been scared off by the ordeal of two kids and public transportation. I am SO glad I made the trip.
I have never seen a more well thought out and implemented kids' interactive museum. It's designed to help discover the world around them and that it does, from pretend play (construction!) to physics (balance!) to waterworks! Each group gets 1.5 hours (which is just about long enough). Tickets are 3-8 Euro, which is what I paid for a coffee in some parts of Paris. Totally worth it. The exhibits are split by age into a 2-7 years section and a 5-12 years section. Make the most of it by eating at the McDonald's just outside.
Jardin du Luxembourg : Located in the trendy Saint-Germaine-des-Prés, the Jardin du Luxembourg may not be on a tourists' radar, but it seems like it's where every french family with active kids spend their sunny days. You have to pay to enter the very elaborate playground here, but it's worth it. There is something for everyone, from the littlest to the big kids. Kids can also play soccer, tennis, get pony rides (also at a price), and sail mini boats at the Grand Bassin. If you fancy a bit of kids' shopping, check out Rue Vavin just outside the park for a whole street catering to the little ones!
- Rue du Fauboug St. Honoré :This is for the fashionista parent. Every major fashion house has a presence on this street and offers an elegant experience away from the crowds (mostly). Duck into side streets for a croque monsieur and a glass of rose while you feast your eyes on some of the best things France has to offer: Chanel, Cartier and Christian Louboutin.
I have intentionally left off Les Champs Elysées and the Latin Quarter. I find them overrated and overcrowded. I suppose you have to do them once in your life. The coolest part of Les Champs Elysées was PointWC luxe bathroom. It's probably larger than the one in your tiny Paris hotel room.
Where to Eat with Kids in Paris:
Paris is a cosmopolitan city which means you can find whatever your heart desires, food-wise. From upscale brasseries, to American fast food, to sushi bars and creperies, there is a meal for every traveler.
Crêperie Josselin: Tucked away in a tiny street lined with creperies in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Crêperie Josselin is the one with the queue out the door. Please note: This is not a "kid-friendly" place in that it's dark and crowded and there are no high chairs or kid menus. The service here defies all stereotypes of mean Parisian waiters, and the crepes hailed to be the best in Paris (which I believe they are). Go early and prepare to be blown away. Oh, and save time for dessert.
Aux 2 Vaches: We stumbled into this place on our way to Les Galeries Lafayette and I could instantly tell that this is where real Parisians ate. A cute and bright dining area with a self-serve counter for fresh baguettes, sandwiches, salads, and beverages, Aux 2 Vaches provided a much-needed change from overpriced touristy cafes offering stale bread and dry pastas. And if you are headed into a full afternoon of shopping as we were, this is the perfect place for a quick lunch.
Le Café Lenôtre: Possibly the best meal I had in Paris not in small part due to the fantastic service, the beautiful ambiance and the fact that they had an exquisite kids' meal. See below. This one is a bit expensive, but it's totally worth it. If you have older kids, at minimum stop by the Salon de Thé for a cuppa.
Place du Marché Sainte-Catherine: A quaint little square in Le Marais, the Place du Marché gave us one of the things we see in so many European cities but found missing in Paris: Open squares where the kids could run without fear of being run over. The square is small and one street is still open to cars but there is still more than enough space for burning off some energy while you sip a glass of wine or grab supper at one of the restaurants in the square.
Café le Nemours - Place Colette: We settled here on our last night because we were exhausted, the kids were driving us nuts and we just need a place to feed ourselves. We expected it to be touristy and overpriced, and I am glad to say it wasn't at all! The menu is a little all over the place, but the food was excellent and the waiter was fantastic! He joined two tables for us (who does that in Paris?) and when Karam broke a glass trying to balance his iPad on it, he shrugged and said "I have kids, I understand". Let's just say he got the biggest tip I left anyone in Paris!
Le Pain Quotidien: if you are looking for a wholesome, innovative approach to breakfast all day, this is your place. They don't have a kids' menu but eggs, quiches and coloring abounds! We visited the one in Place du Marché St. Honoré and loved it!
Where to Shop for Kids in Paris:
Les Galeries Lafayette is your one-stop shop for all things kiddie, french and international. Frankly, it's the best place for all things, period, set in exquisite architecture. You can get some great deals around sales times (Warning: It's ridiculously crowded). Rue du Fauboug St. Honoré is behind the Louvre and has a few boutiques and famous french brands like Bonpoint. Finally, Rue Vavin in St. Germaine has lines of kids shops as well. Now you can match up to all the well-dressed European kids in your Paris hotel lobby!
Tips for Travel to Paris with Kids:
-If you are planning to go in peak season, book your Paris hotel as much in advance as possible to avoid paying exorbitant prices.
- Pedestrian crossings are governed by lights but some are not. Don't risk it because the cars come FAST.
- Don't expect to find elevators in the Metro, but many a gallant fellow commuter will come to your aid should you find yourself stuck underground with a stroller (as I was.. more than once!).
- Be prepared to pay for public toilets and to splurge on this one below
- Summer is a mess. Avoid it or stay away from the main tourist attractions.
- High chairs and change tables are hard to find. But people survive, so will you.
- Tips are not mandatory but appreciated. I haven't met a Parisian taxi driver I have wanted to tip yet.
- Local supermarkets are Carrefours, Fanprix, Monoprix. Pharmacies have basic baby supplies too.
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