Paris With Kids
The City of Lights is famed for its high brow culture, but kids won’t be bothered as they enjoy roadside crepes and huge sweet shops and rides down the Seine and climbs up the famous Eiffel Tower. Paris is an exciting city and the ambiance is contagious. Kids will find fascinating museums, many of which are more kid-friendly than you would guess, fun transportation options including boat rides along the Seine river, and great food. Paris is broken into districts, which are large neighborhoods within the city. We have found the best neighborhoods are in the triangle between the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and Basilica of the Sacred Heart. They provide easy access to tourist attractions while maintaining a local flare.
Kid-Friendly Things to Do and See in Paris
Paris is packed with museums. Some are more kid-friendly than others, but keep in mind you can make any museum kid-friendly with just a bit of research. The Louvre is the biggie on the museum circuit. I know many adults who have taken two-full days to see the Louvre, but remember kids do not have that type of attention span. And forcing that will just make everyone miserable. One of the biggest lessons I have learned in traveling with kids is balance. You need to balance things that are important to you with things that are fun for them. And the best moments happen when those two things are the same. But, they won’t always be. So make sure to balance. You can make things that may not be typically fun for kids into something a bit more exciting with a bit of pre-work. I turned out trip to the Louvre into an art treasure hunt by printing out pictures of famous art pieces housed there and giving the cards to the kids ahead of time as part of a game. Read more about it on the Make Museums Fun for Kids blog. Other museums include Rodin Museum (which is home to the famous sculpture The Thinker), Monet’s Garden, The French Air and Space Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, The Army Museum and more.
Paris also has its fair share of churches representing a wide-range of architectural styles. It has a few very famous Gothic style churches like Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame Cathedral. Again, churches may not be very exciting to kids, but what’s under, or above, may be more enticing. At Notre Dame Cathedral, you can explore the crypts below, which offer a good overview of the many layers of Paris, or climb to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral for a closer look at the gargoyles and a view over the city.
Speaking of climbing, there is one monument in Paris that no kids would want to miss. The Eiffel Tower has 300 steps, but if your kids aren’t feeling up to the climb, there are two levels of elevators available to ride. The main elevators, which go up three of the legs of the tower, deposit you on the first or second floors. Another elevator runs from the second floor to the top. The Eiffel Tower has a special guidebook available to visiting kids. It answers lots of questions kids might have about the tower. Our boys liked going to the top and learning about how the tower was built. Another famous monument the kids like climbing was the Arc de Triomphe. It was neat learning about the wars at the base and the views from the top were magnificent.
Just on the outskirts of Paris are two equally attractive for kids, but completely different attractions. The Palace of Versailles is a World Heritage site made so by Louis XIV in the 17th century. The spacious and ornately decorated interiors display the lavish lifestyle made popular by this king. The palace also houses the important Museum of the History of France. Outside, the gardens host fountains and mazes, which are a great retreat for the afternoon. The palace makes a great day trip from Paris and offers interesting historical and cultural perspective on the city. Oddly enough, Disneyland Paris offers its own unique retrospective on French (or European) culture. I know you are probably saying, “WHAT!?!”, but bear with me here. The characters and attractions that are popular in this park are entirely different than that of her American sisters. Lumiere sits equal with, if not above, Mickey in the royal duties of the kingdom. Just one example of the differences of European and American takes on Disneyland. Many people refuse to take their kids to Paris…”we’re all the way over in Europe, I’m not going to Disneyland”, but be warned there are posters advertising it ALL OVER Paris and it does make a good balancing option. A day at the Louvre for a day at Disneyland Paris.
Places to Stay in Paris
We rented an apartment through Frenchy Rentals. I really think this is the best route to go in Paris. Not only did we have a lot of room to spread out, and a full kitchen for meals (we made breakfast every morning and a few dinners), but we were in a building filled with locals. The kids met other kids, hung out at the local park with them and we all got to know crepe vendors, etc. in the area. It gave us more of an immersion experience than a hotel would.
Getting to Paris
Obviously Paris is a major hub in the international air route. There are two major international airports: Charles De Gaulle (north of the city) and Orly (south of the city). if you are coming from outside of Europe chances are you will be landing at Charles de Gaulle. To travel from these two airports to the city center, or between these two airports, there are several options: taxis, bus, and RER (commuter train). If you plan on taking the train (about 30 Euros for a family of four) keep in mind that many of the platforms are reached via steep staircases and can be difficult to navigate with heavy luggage and small children. Some budget airlines also land in Beauvais-Tille, which is about 50 miles from Paris.
The other main entry to Paris is via train. Eurostar runs the route between Paris and London (via the under the ocean Chunnel). There are also many other train routes into Paris from all over Europe. Check Rail Europe for schedule and fares.
Ferries also ply the routes between France and England, Ireland, Spain and more. Check schedules and fares at Brittany Ferries. You can bring your own car or connect by bus from the ferry.
Getting Around Paris
Paris has a great Metro system with easy to read maps. The name on the train is the final destination on the track, which makes it easy to figure out where every train is headed. They also have a good bus system. We got a Paris Pass while we were there, which allowed us free entrance to over 50 museums and attractions and free transportation on the Metro, the bus, and the RER (which is the trains that head to the outskirts of Paris). It also has a hop-on, hop-off double decker bus which makes site seeing fun and convenient.