Visiting Paris can be the experience of a lifetime, and being able to share it with your children is even more special.
The planning and stress that go into a normal trip is hard enough – when you add children to the mix, the prospect is positively daunting. What you may not know is that the French capital is surprisingly child friendly.
If we can be savvy about which accommodation to choose and how to catch public transport in Paris like a local, we can certainly become savvy travellers with kids.
We’ve spoken to the experts and compiled the ultimate guide to help you travel with kids in Paris – and not miss a thing. Put yourself in nos mains and enjoy exploring this beautiful city with vos enfants.
Paris attractions and monuments
Whether Paris is an unexplored destination or your second home, la tour Eiffel and the Champs-Elysées are still important places to take first-time visitors – especially your kids! En fait, their company can make the experience all the more enjoyable: to witness someone’s amazement as they see the Eiffel Tower for the first time is still secretly thrilling!
Kim Horton Levesque from the Guardian says the secret is to enjoy Paris through your child’s eyes. “My advice to parents planning a family trip to the city is to be open to the Paris your child wants to see,” she says.
Alors, don’t rule out the tourist hotspots just because they’re busy. The secret is simply to be savvy! Breathe easier: here are some handy hints for taking your littles ones to see Paris’ main attractions.
The Eiffel Tower
This is one place kids will recognise from everything they’ve seen and heard about Paris. Climbing the 600 steps to the second level is a great way to burn off their excess energy, and the view from the top is unbeatable.
1. To avoid the long lines try heading there first thing in the morning. Prepare your kids for the wait so they know what they’re in for.
2. Bring some activities for them to do and look up some interesting facts about the Eiffel tower to impress them.
Wendy Perrin from Condé Nast Traveler had her two sons – a ten-year-old and an eight-year-old – rank all the places they visited in Paris. The Eiffel Tower came out on top. The boys gave some hilarious feedback, and a great insight into Paris through a child’s eyes.
Wendy’s ten-year-old son suggests, “If you’re going to the Eiffel Tower for the first time, take the Metro to the Trocadero stop, not the Bir-Hakeim stop. The view is much better from Trocadero. At the top of the Metro stairs, close your eyes and tell your parents to lead you around the corner to the big square with your eyes still closed. Then open your eyes and you’ll see the Eiffel Tower square on, with the fountain in front of you.”
Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75 007 Paris
Rates: 15€ for adults, 13.50€ for teens, 10.50€ for children.
The most iconic cathedral in Paris (and in all of France, for that matter) is very likely to be on your Paris itinerary. Don’t let the queues put you off – the inside is breathtaking, as are the views – and there’s no reason the kids can’t appreciate it just as much as you.
If your kids have seen ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ they will be familiar with Paris’ most famous church. There are plenty of things to keep them entertained here, from climbing the stairs and hanging out with the gargoyles, to feeding the pigeons out the front.
1. Do some research ahead of time, and make a list of gargoyles for your kids to spot. Turn it into a bingo-like game – for example, find a gargoyle eating grapes; find a gargoyle with his tongue out, etc.
2. After the cathedral, take a rest in the rose garden behind the church. Your kids can play while you enjoy a well-deserved break.
Wendy’s ten-year-old suggests climbing the 400 steps to the tower, as “the church part was boring but the Tower was fun.”
“Be sure to take photos of yourself in front of the gargoyles and the giant bell. And if the pigeons are out there, play with them while you can. It’s really fun because you never know when a pigeon might land on your head. When the pigeon lady gives you pigeon feed, put some in your mom’s hair so the pigeons will land on her head too.”
6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Place Jean-Paul II, 75 004 Paris
Rates: admission to the tower is 8.50€ for adults; children under 18 are free.
Champs- Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe
One of the first places you might visit is the Arc de Triomphe. Your kids may recognise the iconic monument from TV shows and movies you’ve shown them, however, while beautiful, they may not be of much interest to kids. A quick trip will give them a sense of the beauty, but don’t worry about lingering too long.
Move onto the Champs- Élysées where they will find more to interest them. From the Renault store showcasing the flashiest of sports cars, to a Disney store that rivals Disneyland itself, there’s something to delight even the most shopping-phobic child on this iconic Parisian street
1. As you make your way to the Arc, tell your kids the story of the Unknown Soldier buried under the Arc to pique their interest.
2. If you need an energy boost, stop at Ladurée (75 Champs-Élysées) and let your kids choose one of the many exquisite flavours of macarons. They’re perfectly child-sized and no matter how well-known the brand may be, they still make some of the best in the city.
Wendy’s sons particularly enjoyed the Renault store where they were allowed to drive a go-cart around the shop.
Arc de Triomphe
Place Charles de Gaul, 75 008 Paris
Métro: Charles de Gaul – Etoile
Rates: 9.50€ for adults to climb to the top; otherwise free.
For many, Montmartre is associated with the tackiness of the Moulin Rouge and the seedy red-light district. But there’s more to Montmartre than gaudy tourist traps. It’s artistic, cultural, and like everywhere else in Paris, it’s jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Anne from ‘Just Another American In Paris’ has a fantastic guide on visiting Paris with kids, and recommends Montmartre as perfect for les enfants.
1. Don’t miss the Sacré Coeur – Anne says that “It’s super touristy but kids love it all the same. Sacré 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,” she says.
2. The kids will love the double-decker carousel at the Place Saint-Pierre. Treat yourself to a ride and rest those weary feet.
Kim Horton Levesque says in an article for the Guardian that she saw Montmartre as a perverse caricature of a community once home to the artistic greats. However, for her daughter Madeleine, “it was something altogether different. She saw a square full of artists busy at work, a space brimming with bright colours and cheerful activity.”
Are you going to travel with kids anytime soon to Paris? What are your tips for seeing the main attractions with vos enfants? Share your stories in the comments below.
1 – The introduction
2 – Planning
3 – When you arrive
4 – Keeping them entertained
5 – The main attractions (this page)
1- 2, 4 & 6 © Michael Osman, Paris Find.
3. Arc de Triomphe, via Wikimedia Commons.
5. French, by Matthew Kenwrick, via Flickr.