This post was originally published on Mums on the Go in October 2014. With that site closing down I wanted to still be able to share this information here with you. Our family trip to France remains one of my favourite travel experiences xx
I fell in love with Paris in my early twenties and have visited several times, in fact I have a dream that one day I will live there for 6-12 months. I had always seen Paris through the eyes of a young adult so it was exciting to travel there with my three young daughters recently.
There are plenty of great things to do in Paris with kids but I was mindful that we were only there for two and half days. I wanted our time there to be joyful, to have their hearts sing as much as mine in this beautiful city, so I chose to keep our plans simple. We focused on experience rather than ticking off the major attractions.
Our first stop was Notre Dame. We walked from our apartment, along the Seine, and crossed a “Locks of Love” bridge.
The kids loved looking at all the Gargoyles looking down upon them.
My eldest was entranced by the beauty inside, her first experience of a European church a spectacular one. Unfortunately our trip was cut short thanks to my youngest pulling my hair viciously in her backpack. When her Dad told her off she had a total meltdown, her wails echoing around the stone walls. Other visitors did not seem very understanding as they glared at me and pointed to the “Silence” signs. Luckily I have been before.
The absolute icon of Paris, the Eiffel Tower did not disappoint. There is no point climbing the Eiffel Tower with young children, the queues for tickets are horrendous and they really won’t appreciate the trip or the views. I think I would want my youngest child to be five before I did this with them.
We opted to soak up the atmosphere by having a fun family picnic on the lawns of Champ de Mars. We had gone in search for some local produce shops on our way and had collected a magnificent feast of mixed berries, baguette and ham.
We discovered a great little playground nearby. It was fully enclosed, nicely shaded and allowed the grown-ups to sit back and enjoy the views while the kids played. Tres Bon!
Jardin du Luxembourg
One of the most famous parks in Paris, created in 1612 and covering cover 25 hectares of land, Jardin Du Luxembourg is also and renowned for being child friendly.
There is a great, enclosed, kids playground which costs 2.50 Euro (per child) and 1.20 Euro (per adult) to enter. It is well worth it as the equipment is great and you could spend the whole morning here. You may also come and go as you please for the day. There are two separate play areas, one for kids seven and over and one for the littlies.
We couldn’t come to Paris and not sail wooden boats in the octagonal pond near the palace. It was 3 Euro for half an hour and our girls shared one boat. I really enjoyed watching all the local children who had made sail boats of their own out of all sorts of things. They tie them to string and ‘sail’ them by walking them around the pond edge.
The gardens are beautiful to walk around and there is plenty of shade on offer on a hot summer’s day. You can’t sit on the lawns but plenty of seating scattered amongst the trees.
Icecreams also a super way to cool down and recharge the batteries. Get them to take-away as much cheaper than sitting at the kiosks and plenty of other seating available.
The Carousel and the Puppet Theatre were not open the day we visited but have been highly recommended to me.
Jardin des Tuileries
This beautiful park is located between the Louvre Museum and Place de la Concorde. We didn’t bother trying to go the Louvre with young kids but it was nice to walk them around the outside and tell them a little about it.
Highlights of our walk through the park included :
- Looking at the different sculptures
- Seeing the huge Egyptian obelisk at Place de la Concorde
- Having the kids enjoy a carousel ride, very traditional Parisian park experience
- My husband bought me a lovely painting from an artist set up on the path. A reminder of my dream to one day live in Paris.
Jardin des Plantes
This park was only a couple of blocks from our apartment so we visited a few times. The majority of the park is classified as a Botanical garden. There is a pleasant, enclosed, playground for children next to a kiosk. There is a Menagerie (paid) which was a lovely place to explore on our final morning. Interesting animals to note were flamingos, Yaks, and giant turtles. The conditions for the monkeys and leopards made me sad though, not much room and harsh in feeling.
There is also a museum housed in the park but we didn’t go to it, although I believe it is excellent.
NOTE: There are many more things you can do in Paris with kids but two and half days was just right for us this time. When the girls are older I would love to return with them for a longer stay. For some other ideas on great Paris attractions for kids you can read this article I wrote for Expedia, includes some very cool museums.
Getting to/from airport: the train is by far the easiest and most cost effective way to get into Paris from Charles du Gaul airport. Cost 9.75 euro per adult. Only our five year old had to pay for a ticket but I forgot to write down that cost. Previously I have only been to Paris with a backpack so the one challenge we had was getting our big family suitcase in and out of the Metro stations … there are no lifts.
Sleeping: We booked this apartment using Airbnb. It was our first experience using Airbnb and it was wonderful. We were in the heart of the Latin Quarter, walking distance to Notre Dame, Jardin du Luxembourg and just up the road from beautiful parks. It was cheaper than a hotel and better for us as we could cook our own meals.
Metro – In all my previous visits to Paris I have used the Metro exclusively to get around Paris. No matter where you are in central Paris you are no more than 500m from a Metro station. You can buy day passes or a Carnet (book of 10) or of course single tickets. However, getting in and out of the metro is a bit like a rabbit warren, stairs and tunnels leading you deep underground. With three young children in tow we opted for a slower but simpler travel option – the Batobus.
Batobus – as we were just a few minutes walk from the Seine we opted to use the Batobus as our primary transport. The Batobus is essentially a ferry service that does a circuit on the Seine stopping at eight stations all corresponding to major attractions. It is not a tour, there is no commentary, but it is a very relaxing way to see enjoy the views and get around. The downside is it takes about an hour to do the circuit – the Metro is a much faster way to get around but with three young kids in tow speed is not the priority. Simplicity and ease win here. Cost was 15 Euro for one day/per adult for unlimited travel, 18 Euro for two days. Other passes available and children receive a discount.
Walk – if you visit Paris I encourage you to walk as much as possible. It is such a beautiful city and even if you are not sightseeing there is so much to discover just ambling along the streets following your nose. I had a magical morning walk on our first morning there. My 23 month old woke at 5am, jetlagged, so I took her out walking the streets so she wouldn’t wake her sisters. I loved the stillness as we wandered, watching the streets slowly wake up, and find a Boulangerie just opening to buy fresh croissants for our first breakfast in France.
You are unlikely to head to any restaurants in Paris with children but there are plenty of Bistro to be found. As we were only in town for two days we chose to cook dinner in the apartment, I actually love visiting foreign supermarkets and trying to figure out what everything is and how I might cook it.
We bought croissants each morning for breakfast from our local Boulangerie (0.90 euro). Lunch was usually baguette with some mix of ham (jambon) and cheese (fromage) and some fruit.
Icecream (glace) or Crepes are easy to come by when the kids need a treat.
I can’t wait for another chance to visit this beautiful city …