7 Tips for Enjoying Paris with Kids
Updated: May 30, 2020
Paris with kids might sound scary. It doesn’t have to be. With these tips and your acceptance of the fact that everything won’t be perfect, you can create a memorable trip to Paris that no one will ever forget. We will go over things to see that both you and your kids will love.
Paris is known the world over as a beautiful culturally rich city full of international treasures. In every corner of the city, beauty can be found. During the 19th century, Baron Haussmann restructured the city into beautiful symmetrical blocks with wide avenues under the direction of Napoleon III, who was Napoleon's great nephew. Beautiful wide boulevards were built to keep insurgents from being able to blockade the small winding medieval roads, as they had done during the Revolution. The wide boulevards weren’t meant to simply be more visually appealing, they served a greater purpose to allow commerce and the military to move more easily thru the streets. Paris can be admired for new the architectural movement by Haussman that resulted in the razing of old medieval boulevards, like the Marais, a section of Paris which is still made up of winding medieval roads. As you walk thru Paris, look for the differences, and check out my tips below to ensure you and your little ones can fully enjoy all the City of Lights has to offer.
1. Look for Parks. There are parks all over. When Haussmann planned the new Paris, he left room along his grand avenues for large squares and parks. During our trip to Paris last summer, we were pleased to find many parks along the way to other destinations. Most of the parks had new playground equipment, water fountains, and free public bathrooms. Most parks are free, especially the small neighborhood ones. If you visit the large playground in Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens) the cost is 2.50 euros for children 15 months to 16 years and 1.20 euros for adults. The playground is extensive and worth the money. It is divided into two areas for younger and older children and full of modern playground equipment. Our boys absolutely loved it and all of the parks around Paris.
We found that giving the boys some time run around paid bog dividends when it was time to sit down to dinner at a sidewalk cafe or stroll through one of the sites around the city. It was also a great cultural experience for them as they attempted to interact with French children and other kids from around the world. It’s fascinating to see how they communicated with each other and played games together, despite the language barriers.
2. Eatwith.com. Take advantage of the excellent services offered by Eatwith.com. While in Paris, we enjoyed a wonderful rooftop lunch with Cathy and her son, who was a few years older than our oldest, Maddox. Cathy has a beautiful home situated on the top floor of her apartment building. Her large rooftop terrace has gorgeous views of the city, including the Eiffel Tower in the distance. We enjoyed a lovely leisurely lunch with Cathy and her son on a warm Sunday afternoon. Maddox and Henry enjoyed this experience more than anything else during the entire trip because they loved playing with Cathy's son. Her son filled a small inflatable toy raft with water as a makeshift pool, and our youngest splashed around in it in a pair her son's borrowed shorts. Henry enjoyed splashing around on her rooftop more than anything we did that day! Here is the link for this exact experience.
Our meal was served in courses and was aptly prepared with the heat in mind. Cathy served a French bread that she mentioned was commonly made for picnics. It was stuffed with olives and cheese, and we all enjoyed it. She also served tapenade, sliced turnips, salad, cold roasted lamb, and a simple, but a wonderful cake with fresh currants from her neighbor's country house baked in. The experience was immersive and a unique way to learn more about the everyday lives of the Parisians and their perspectives on the world. I know we will remember the experience for years to come; we were all appreciative of the opportunity to learn more about the French culture than we could have absorbed at a tourist attraction.
3. Check out Withlocals.com . Another great experience we had really enjoyed called Withlocals. Withlocals offers unique one on one experiences with a local person as your personal tour guide. In Paris, we signed up for a the Paris 'Magnifique' Family Food Tour. It consisted of 8 tastings with our host, Emma, who also included historical information about the city as we walked to different tastings. We enjoyed oysters, cheese and charcuterie, pastries, wine, a stop at the farmers market and more. Emma did a wonderful job stealing the hearts of Maddox and Henry as she took us thru the sites. They really enjoyed her company and loved talking with her.
Emma also went out of her way to be helpful when we were done with the tour offering further advice via text if we needed help getting around the city during our stay in Paris, which was very helpful to us. We never would have never discovered some of the food stops or the wonderful tastings she introduced us to as some were small “hole in the wall" local places, and somewhat hidden or nondescript. She ended the tour with pastries to take with us (we were too full to eat them by the end) and a quick stop a local playground for the boys, where they enjoyed another opportunity to run around and release some energy. It was a truly wonderful experience and I highly recommend it as well.
Beginning of our trip in Paris with this food tour was a great way to get good perspective on all that Paris had to offer food wise. We used that knowledge to revisit some of the places and to seek similar places in other parts of the city. It’s a great way to learn about Paris and its food at the beginning of your visit. We loved the experience so much that we repeated the tour in Rome at the end of last year and thoroughly enjoyed that tour as well. We have also booked the same food tour in Madrid and Barcelona this summer. I highly recommend the experience, we found it to be very unique and a great way to absorb more of the local culture from a native.
4. Find a local French toy store or Lego Store. Judge as you like, but I am here to admit we did bribe our kids a bit during our trip to Paris. We know that some things there would really appeal to them, while other things would not at all. We did manage to drag them thru part of the Lourve museum, but with the promise of a trip to the toy store if they behaved themselves. I like to justify this decision this way: Paris is fun for kids, but not everything that we wanted to experience there was something they’d love. We want our kids to enjoy the experience so we looked for unique things they could enjoy as well. The local toy store was one such thing. Sure, some of the toys are the same items we can buy at the local big box store, but some of it was from smaller toy manufacturers that you are more likely to find in a small boutique. The boys loved walking thru the toy store, playing the displays and picking out a small unique toy. We gave them each a 20 euro budget and they were happy to shop for their small French toy. We went to a toy store called If You Want, which happened to appear in a quick google search of toy stores nearby. There are several to choose from if you do your own search when there. The Lego store is another option to the toy store (full disclosure, we did both). We let the boys pick out a set of Legos in €15-€20 dollar range. No, Legos are not unique to Paris. You can get the sets anywhere. The Lego store does a great job displaying Parisian landmarks made out of Legos, which is fun is enjoy.
Additionally, the Legos provided entertainment in the evenings and mornings in the hotel. So while the Lego store is not uniquely a French or Parisian experience, it is something nice for your kids to experience and see the sights in Lego form. When we were there, we saw LEGO versions of Notre Dame and the Arch De Triumph. Our boys picked out a small Lego set and we found a way to keep the trip fun and interesting for them as well.
5. Go Underground to see the Catacombs. Our two boys love skeletons so naturally the catacombs were on our list of sights to see. During the end of the 18th century, burying the deceased citizens of Paris became a mounting problem. The heavily populated city was running out of room for the dead to take a final repose to such a dramatic extent that bad rains actually caused rotting corpses buried on top of each other too near the surface to become uncovered and spill into the streets and causing an awful odor of rotting flesh a major problem for the residents there. Finally Louis the XVI began moving the remains to the former limestone quarries dating as far back as the 13th century. It is estimated that the remains of 6 to 7 million people fill several miles of quarries underground.
It takes about 45 minutes to walk through the portion which is open to the public. I do want to warn you though that you have to walk down and back up several flights of winding stairs to reach the catacombs which lie five stories underground. Please be warned that there is no elevator or stroller storage area available. Some children might be scared by the bones, but our boys were not. We did not have the best stroller at the time, it was rather heavy and cumbersome. We have since purchased a lighter and smaller stroller, which would have made the long trip down and back up the stairs easier. If you decide to visit the catacombs, be sure to get your tickets in advance online. We purchased timed entry tickets and were able to walk in and visit the catacombs right away. Unfortunately, not everyone did this and there was a line half a block long for tourists with no ticket purchased in advance. Get your tickets here. The tickets for a timed entry are a little bit more per person, but well worth the extra euros in my opinion. Standing in line in Paris is not good use of your time with so much to see and do.
6. Enjoy delicious pastries and desserts! All over Paris you can find pastry shops called patisseries with delectable delights in windows, drawing patrons in from the streets. Paris is known for for its food and that certainly extends to the dessert category of food. We particularly enjoyed trying several small bites of different patisseries throughout the city. It was a wonderful way to try multiple items at different locations without being too full for the next meal or patisserie in our path. The variety of offerings is extensive and your are sure to find something you like. Paris has crepes, pastries, gelato, chocolates and more to sample. You can be sure your kids will also enjoy the variety of sweets offered on every corner and your waistline will appreciate the fact that you’ve likely been doing a lot of walking to earn each bite!
7. Take a quick break at a sidewalk cafe. We walked and walked all around Paris and so did our boys. It was definitely hot and exhausting. We found that a mid afternoon 30 minute stop at one of the many Parisian sidewalk cafes was a welcome and restful break. It gave us the opportunity to sip some cool Rose or French beer (Kronenbourg 1664 is good) and of course lots of water with a tiny bit of ice. The boys enjoyed a French lemonade, which is very different from lemonade in the states and usually comes in a glass bottle and is carbonated or an Orangina, which is a carbonated citrus drink. Because Paris apartments are so small many Parisians consider the sidewalk cafés their living room. Bring out the Play-Doh and let the kids play while you relax and enjoy the sights of Parisian life all around you. See my other post here about surviving dinner with little kids at a Parisian cafe.
Paris is a wonderful place full of fun for everyone. I hope these 7 tips help you enjoy all the City of Lights has to offer and inspires you get out and see Paris and the rest of the world. Even with kids, it can be done!
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