Paris with Kids – A Guide

ParisWithKids.info – Updated February, 2014

Essentials

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 a great city for 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

Climbing 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)

Family visiting the Louvre Museum.

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.

Boat tour of the River Seine.
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.

Luxembourg Gardens with kids.
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.

Exploring Paris and finding a market.
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

Visiting the Arc de Triomphe with children.

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.

Kid-friendly street music in 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.

Kid-friendly Musee de l'Armee (a war and army museum) in Paris.
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.

View from the tour of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

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.

Touring the gardens of Versailles.

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 Most Recent Trip To Paris

We took the Eurostar train from London to Paris.

Kids at Eiffel Tower.

The boys looking at the Eiffel Tower from across the Seine. Unfortunately the tower was closed for the afternoon that we visited but we still had lots of fun wandering around the area and inspecting the structure.

Ordering a nutella crepe.

We had lots of crepes while in Paris and this one (near the Eiffel Tower) was the best.

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

The kids loved the walk up and down the narrow stairs of the Arc de Triomphe. The views were pretty cool too.

Street dance performers in Paris.

We saw several street performances and the kids really liked them.

Music performance in the Paris Metro.

We also saw a few bands and singers performing in the Paris Metro.

The Natural History Museum in Paris.

The Natural History Museum was probably the highlight of Paris for the kids.

The Natural History Museum in Paris.

The kids inspecting the beetles, bugs, and butterflies at the Natural History Museum.

Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris.

Shakespeare and Company is my favorite bookstore anywhere and the kids browsed around and picked out some books to buy.

A park in Paris near the Notre Dame

We didn’t find any playgrounds in Paris but there were many open areas and parks for the kids to run around in.

The Notre Dame in Paris.

The boys enjoyed inspecting the art work and sculptures of the Notre Dame. We spent 10 or 15 minutes at this entrance picking out and discussing different scenes.

The Modern Art Museum at the Pompidou Center.

We spent a half hour touring the modern art at the Pompidou Center.

Kids play area at the Pompidou Center.

Though the kids probably had more fun at the play area.

Paris metro exit.

Unlike in London, in the Paris Metro there are few entrances and exits ways devoted to families. So though the kids were free on the subway getting them in and out often involved going through “Do Not Enter” gates and doors.

Further Reading:

What are the best family hotels in Paris?

Recommended Hotels for Families in Paris.

For longer stays renting a Paris apartment is highly recommended.

Books about Paris for Kids

Books about Paris for Adults

Paris Guidebooks

Photo credits.

36 thoughts on “Paris with Kids – A Guide

  1. Thanks for this. Before I read your post, I wouldn’t have thought of Paris as a likely destination for kids.

  2. Family Travelers said:

    Paris is the best city HANDS DOWN for families. Parents love it. Kids love it. We’ve been 3 times with the little ones (not so little now) and going back in September. We usually spend 3 or 4 days before plane or train to somewhere in southern Europe. Enjoy!

    • Isidro said:

      There is nothing like Paris. The warm fnelieg, even when cold, surrounds you with all of its’ magnificent structures, restaurants and beautiful and majestic museums. I love the smell of the air, and walking down the narrow cobblestoned streets with a delicious French Baguette in hand. The croissants, the pate, the cheese I could just go on since in Paris you never run out of things to do or see! I absolutely LOVE Paris!

  3. Mart from Paris said:

    I live in Paris, sort of, short term arrangement that’s been extended for almost a year now. And this is a great list. My kids come over and visit and we’ve done most of these. The big glaring one missing (for me) would be the museum of natural history, particularly the evolution part, but I guess it depends what way your tastes run. My children love it. The kids love the boats on the Seine too, probably the highlight for them. And renting bikes.
    Thanks. I got 2 new ideas from this.

  4. Mai from London said:

    I am liking this too. And Paris is very good with children. I wish finding a good playground were easier. I like visiting New York City because the playgrounds for kids are everywhere but in Paris much more difficult.

    • PLAYGROUNDS said:

      Not at all! I know more than two dozen playgrounds in Paris (see my entry further below).
      In fact we have a scheme that saves both our nerves and those of our children.
      In the morning there are museums or sightseeing or a lovely stroll through St.Germain de Près, then comes lunch and THEN we pop in a bakery/cheese shop and buy a baguette and some gorgeous smelly cheese (and admittedly nutella for the youngsters), some fruit, and take a loooooong break at one of those countless playgrounds. The children play their fill and we (if we were lucky to find a Take-Away) sip our coffees, munch an éclair and later have an al fresco picnic in the sunset, marveling at that typical parisian architecture that surrounds the area.
      LOVE THIS.

  5. Megs from New York said:

    I know it’s touristy but walking up the Eiffel Tower is always so much fun. (i suppose a little different if you have very young children in tow.) Get their early, of course. And visit as many bakeries as your tummy and wallet will allow. The bread and pastries are so much better than back home. We’d leave our hotel every morning at about 7am and wouldn’t return until 10pm, it’s such a fun city.

  6. Angel from Vancouver, BC said:

    Cities like Paris are incredible and great for kids to experience. I went through Europe when I was a kid a few times with my parents. It was great and I still have memories and photos from those trips that I revisit pretty regularly. The stuff I remember most was it just “being different” than home. Refreshing. Illuminating. Mind blowing. The big tourist attractions I don’t remember much. The lake at the camp site with the German kids swimming. Ya, I’ll never forget that.

  7. Gwen said:

    Any idea what beaches are good along the north Atlantic coast. Just planning my trip (sort of last minute) for September for Paris and Belgium. Need a couple ideas if you can give me some.

    • David said:

      Check out Deauville and Trouville near Honfleur.

      Good luck and have fun.

  8. Great list for a few days stop in Paris. If you stay a bit longer, there’s a lot of things to do such as Jardin des Plantes (renovated glass houses, fabulous merry go round …kids will climb on prehistoric animals !), Guignol theater in many public gardens, hidden street in Butte aux Cailles, etc…

  9. Anne said:

    Try also the Buttes Chaumont biggest Paris park, and closed to, the restaurant Les 400 Coups (http://www.les400coups.eu),wich is a child friendly environment for both adults and children with events and activities.

  10. SarahInParis said:

    Have to say as a mum to three kids living in Paris for 7 years I would have to say my fave activity in Paris with kids is the Luxembourg Gardens hands down. (Well apart from family photo sessions with me of course!!)

    The Jardin du Luxembourg has that fabulous kids play area, the marionette theatre, carousel and so many areas to explore you just can’t go wrong. The only thing missing is good coffee. If someone could just start a decent coffee cart there they would make a FORTUNE!!

    Can’t wait to be back in the City of Light this Spring!

  11. Tiphanya said:

    I love Les 400 coups in comments over me. A nice place with the best French bookshop (just for kids) in Paris : le dragon savant.
    In the louvre museum there is small leaflet only in French with nice theme to discover the museum with kids. Even with a really low French level I think it is nice to have a look on it (or ask for it, as they keep them like precious document at the central information desk). You have to look for special painting (or…) about “eating”, “dragons”, and so on. The museum becomes a kind of “jeu de piste” (google translator suggests “hare and hound” or “paper chase”).

  12. Jenaf said:

    Having a hotel near a subway station and buying Eiffel tickets in advance are both musts.

  13. Fred said:

    The Paris Metro is only free for little kids…under four and yours look a lot older than that. Half price tickets are available in a carnet (booklet) of ten for kids between four and ten. Do not cheat the system. If you do, you risk major fines payable on the spot.

    • David said:

      Good to know Fred. I’m sure you’re right (ticket info for Paris metro), but I will add that I bought tickets from the Gare du Nord station when we first arrived and it was there that they said the kids didn’t need tickets. Can’t remember if they asked their ages but if they did I’m sure I told the truth. On numerous occasions during our trip I had to ask for help buying tickets or for the ticket agent to let us through the gate and no one questioned whether they should have tickets.

      • Karen said:

        That is really strange because kids are definitely not free. I do find that many of the people working the desks don’t seem to care about the countless people who jump the entrance rails (maybe these are the people letting them exit through the entrances?)but if you are asked by a control person to show your ticket and you don’t have one, you will get fined.

  14. PLAYGROUNDS said:

    Should you ever consider visiting Paris again, do let me know, I have a terrific list of playgrounds, literally scattered all over this town. In fact, we have a competition with our children each year we visit Paris – our record’s at 5 playgrounds (on one day alone, of course) and we make it extra challenging by never visiting one playground twice during a visit.
    It took me a good research to find out where precisely they hide those gems and – don’t be angry – they might have been right behind the next corner or behind an unsuspicious garden wall you have strolled by. They’re EVERYWHERE and really close by, no matter which arrondissement.

  15. Tara Cannon said:

    I very much enjoyed reading your post before a trip to Paris with my two kids 5 and 8 this summer. Our family also enjoyed the playground at Luxembourg gardens very much. As a mother, I was thrilled that the park was fenced and that I could actually sit down for a moment. The little game on the carousel is pretty fun too ! The Jardin D’Acclimation, as mentioned above, was also a huge hit ! I have written about our adventure at http://bit.ly/T7t02e

    Thanks for the excellent post full of great suggestions !

  16. Anthony said:

    Excellent blog – perfect for our jaunt next June.

    Thanks a lot.

  17. Helen said:

    Ooh lovely! Great list of suggestions, and from your readers, too.

    A couple to add: We loved staying in the 10e – there are small playgrounds all along the canal, as well as great kid-friendly cafes and shops down the side streets towards f’bourg st denis. Bonus – not far to cité des enfants, an absolute must with pre-schoolers.

    Along boulevard st germaine, we picked up the most brilliant pop-up book about Paris, “mon livre animé: Paris” (publisher: Milan jeunesse). As you’d guess, it’s in French, but that hasn’t prevented our 3 (now almost 4) year-old from asking for it again and again – it’s become our guide for planning our next trip :).

  18. Rebecca Guillarme said:

    And the best thing to do is to reserve a cab with http://www.voituresjaunes.com. From airport to station or from Eiffel Tower to the Louvre. It’s the only cab service in Paris to have 2 child booster seats in every car (plus bottles of water, WIFI, chargers, etc). Every vehicle is a 6 seater, and the price is fixed rate – so often works out cheaper than a traditional Parisian taxi, in my experience. The only downside is you have to book about 10 minutes ahead on 01 40 10 08 08, you can’t hail them… Oh and they speak English:)

  19. Elizabeth said:

    We have a month vacation time in France with our kids who will have just turned 4 and 6. Would you stay in Paris the whole time in one apartment or would you break it up and move around more?

    • David said:

      It’s a trade-off. The longer you stay in one spot (in this case, Paris) the better you get to know it and the more you explore the attractions that are off-the-beaten-track. Of course, the more you move around the more places you get to see – which also has its appeal. There’s no right answer.

  20. Jennifer said:

    We are going to be in Paris on my daughter’s 6th birthday. Are there any restaurants or activities that you can suggest as a special treat/ “party” to celebrate her birthday? I thought it would be fun to find a restaurant that is known for their birthday celebrations.
    Thanks!

      • Fred said:

        Hate to say it but with the exception of Le Train Bleu, these are all terrible suggestions. Bad food, high prices. Any six year old girl worth her salt can go to an adult restaurant. If not, go to a neighborhood cafe and have steak frites. Or try any of the crepe places on rue Montparnasse. Chocolate and pastries at Angelina’s or Carette. You can do so much better than these chains.

      • David said:

        Fred, I totally get where you’re coming from. I didn’t suggest these for the quality of the food but simply because they’re kid-friendly restaurants that would be suitable to a party atmosphere. Personally I would go to a neighborhood cafe like yourself but these are found without any effort and so hardly need to be singled out.

        Cheers.

  21. Kannika from Thailand said:

    I enjoyed reading your post and wish I have read it before we hitted the road to Paris. We drove from Italy(Trieste) to Paris with our 4 years old son. My husband had to work so I spent time alone sightseeing with my son around Paris. I did most things you have written here. We enjoyed very much our time in Paris although we got so much rain. Many friends asked me about tips of travelling with kids to Paris so I wrote them in my Facebook with some photos. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.627642477264562.1073741834.533962416632569&type=3
    I saw that you visited Thailand too;-). It was fun reading about your posts and also comments from your readers given that I am from Thailand but living in Italy. ;-)

  22. kim horton levesque said:

    Here’s my cheat sheet for Paris’s Playgrounds–ones that are conveniently located next to principal monuments/museums:

    • Champs-Elysées-Jardins des Champs-Elysées
    • Eiffel Tower-Champ-de-Mars
    • The Louvre-Jardin des Tuileries
    • Marais-Place des Vosges or Square Léopold Achille
    • Montmartre-Square Suzanne Buisson or Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet
    • Centre Georges-Pompidou Jardin des Halles
    • Musée d’Orsay-Jardin des Tuileries
    • Notre Dame-Square Jean XXIII
    • See paris.fr for opening hours and exact locations

    I’ve got more tips in a piece I wrote for the Guardian (UK), check it out if you have a chance:
    http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2013/may/10/paris-with-kids-family-friendly

    My other bit of advice is not to shy away from café culture while in Paris with children; I like to stop in the afternoon for a drink with my daughters when there are fewer people (between 3pm-6pm). They love Perrier menthe (sparkling water with sweet, mint syrup), a citron pressé (fresh, mix-it-yourself lemonade) or a hot chocolate. It’s a win-win for all––adults get their café fix without the time commitment a meal would typically require and the entire family shares a quintessentially Parisian moment together.

    Hope that helps! Thanks, Kim

  23. Marica said:

    about the “Books about Paris for Kids” section.

    I know a fabulous book for kids : Paris, my travel notebook.
    Well, I’m the writer BUT I’M SURE you’ll love it :-)
    It is full of stories and fun activities (+stickers, postcards to send, pouch to store souvenirs…).
    ==> http://www.joetmoi.com/en/book/paris-0

    For kids from 6 to 10.

    Enjoy, and tell me what you think about it!

  24. Moira said:

    Brilliant article – and the posts equally helpful. Thanks all.
    I’m bringing my 9 yr old and her grannie for their first visit mid February. Both want to do the Louvre and I was wondering if I can get tickets maybe just before it closes to use the next day ? The buy on line option still needs me to go there to pick up I think do still involves a q – or am I missing something ? Want to take them in on the Monday morning.
    Any thoughts greatly appreciated !
    Thanks

    • David said:

      You will not need advanced tickets for the Louvre in February. If there is a line, simply enter through the mall entrance off Rue de Rivoli. You will eventually see ATM-like machines where you can buy tickets. Even in high season you will rarely wait longer than 10 or 15 minutes at these queues. Good luck.

  25. Sarah Ebner said:

    We went to Paris with the kids (aged 11 and 8) in October and we loved it, although we found it very expensive. We were impressed by the parks though and my 8 year old son wrote about them for our family travel blog – some people may find this useful and they can see it here (http://familytraveltimes.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/parks-in-paris-with-kids-by-robert.html) . We also made a video (albeit a shaky one!) and gave our tips for visiting the Eiffel Tower (which all first-time visitors MUST do!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>