Paris isn’t one of the first places most people think of for a family vacation, but you don’t have to pass it over just because you’re a parent. Paris is full of tons of great activities for kids and it’s relatively easy to navigate with young ones. You really CAN enjoy Paris with kids!
If you’re looking for more great insider tips check out Lena’s post on insider tips from a local.
As soon as we started traveling with our girls we quickly swapped the hotel for a vacation apartment. Paris is full of short term vacation rentals at a fraction of the cost of a hotel. If you’re looking for a great deal, check out Home Exchange. It’s a little like a house-swap service, however rather than swapping your house you can just purchase points. The points can then be cashed in for nights in a rental. There are plenty available in Paris, and many offer the whole apartment. It’s relatively new, so there’s occasionally a few kinks to work out, but an apartment in Paris will run you about $200 for the week…I’m willing to deal with some potential kinks for that price!
Other great accommodation sites:
Paris is a relatively compact city that’s easy to navigate. It’s divided into 20 arrondissements (districts) starting with 1′ in the centre and spiralling in a clockwise pattern out to the peripherique. Everywhere can be easily reached with the Metro, but be prepared to do a bit of walking! I prefer to walk above ground than through the tunnel connectors of some of the larger stations. I always check out the closest 2-3 stations and choose my route based on avoiding a change at Chatelet.
Some of the stations have escalators, some don’t. We successfully navigated the Paris Metro with a double umbrella stroller, however it occasionally took a bit of maneuvering. By the end of our visit we had a pretty good rhythm when it came to the stairs. Randy would pick up the front of the stroller and we’d walk down or up the stairs without breaking stride.
Our little stroller was wheel-chair width so it easily fit through the train door, and parked inside the train. The only place we ran into problems was the stations that didn’t have a wheelchair gate. We got around it by telling the girls to lean forward and collapsing the stroller slightly inward so that we’d fit through. The stations that did have a wheelchair gate were easy. One ticket in the machine would open the gate, and we’d walk through followed by as many people as could run through the gate for free before it closed.
Food is a large part of Parisian culture and as such people take their kids out for dinner at a very early age. Most restaurants are used to serving kids, and we never had a problem finding a high chair. Kids eat what the adults eat, so don’t go in expecting a kids menu with spaghetti, chicken fingers and a hot dog (thank goodness!). If your kids are little they can just share off your plate. Once they get a bit older they can typically split an adult meal and have more than enough to eat. If you’re worried about it, just ask about kid’s options!
The best part about Parisian restaurants is the sidewalk seating. We didn’t have to worry about how noisy the kids were, or how much food they were dropping, because we were outdoors!
With kids, I don’t bother making reservations! Kids need to eat when they need to eat, and I’d rather just find something on the fly when it’s time for food. Ya never know where you’re gonna end up, days rarely turn out exactly as planned, and I don’t want to be stressed about getting to a reservation on time. The great thing with Paris is that most restaurants are decent, and many will have menus posted outside so you get a sneak peek before having to commit. If it appears busy, and the menu looks reasonable, we give it a try.
If all else fails, you can always find a crepe!
If it’s your first trip to Paris, you’ll want to make sure you hit up the best things to do in Paris with Kids. If it’s not your first visit, attempt to go beyond the obvious and check out a few of my favourite, kid-friendly, non-stereotypical touristy things to do in Paris.
1. Blue Bike Tour
This was one of our favourite family activities in Paris. There are a number of different tour routes. We chose Hidden Paris, through St Germain du Pres & the Latin Quarter. The girls loved being in the seats on the back and we enjoyed the leisurely pace with which we explored the city. It was an easy ride, no skill or fitness level required!
Note: I am a short 5′ (meaning that I say I’m 5′ but that’s a bit of a stretch) and the bikes that fit the child seats were too big for me!! Luckily we had 4 adults to 3 kids, so I rode one of the smaller bikes and my friend graciously carted around Kacela for the tour. If you’re short like me you might want to check in beforehand to see if there is a child-seat-friendly option available.
If you have older kids they have a “Family Amazing Race” private tour. I want to go back when the girls are a bit older just for this!!
2. Ble Sucre
We discovered this amazing boulangerie thanks to a good friend. Not only are the croissants some of the best in Paris, but it’s right across the street from an amazing park! The kids can play, and you can watch them while enjoying a delicious, buttery croissant. If it’s Saturday you can walk up the street afterwards and wander around the Bastille market. Hopefully the kids will be tired enough after playing that they won’t touch everything in sight!
4. P’tit Velib
The Velib bike system is absolutely fantastic, however it’s next to impossible to use if you have kids. Luckily, there’s a few stations around town that have a variety of kid-size bikes to rent. You can’t go far, but it’s a great way to spend an afternoon. Find out more about P’tit Velib here.
4. Picnic in the Champs de Mars
Paris is full of lovely parks to enjoy during an afternoon picnic, but the Champs de Mars is quintessential Paris. What could be better than a picnic with the Eiffel Tower as your backdrop! The other great thing about the Champs de Mars is the numerous patches of grass to sit on. Many of the other main touristy parks & gardens don’t let you sit on the grass, which is not ideal for kids.
Metro: Ecole Militaire (to avoid the crowds right at the tower)
My other favourite picnic spot is along the hill up to Sacre Coeur. It is relatively steep however, and better suited for older kids.
5. Parks & Gardens
There are so many parks and gardens in Paris, it’s hard to even know where to start!! Luxembourg and Tulleries are usually towards the top of most traveller’s lists, however neither have a lot of green space for running around. Just outside the borders of the peripherique lie the Bois de Boulogne (West) and the Bois de Vincennes (East). Both are large parks offering a variety of activities and lots of green space to just be a kid! Both are equally entertaining. I would just pick whichever one you’re staying closest to!
Bois de Boulogne
Arrondisement: West of the 16th
Metro: Porte Dauphine OR Porte d’Ateuil
Bois de Vincennes
Arrondisement: East of the 18th
Metro: Chateau de Vincennes, Porte Doree OR Porte de Charenton
6. Pere Lachaise Cemetery
A cemetery may sound like a morbid place to take kids, but this one is worth it. I may be a bit strange but I always like to wander around old cemeteries when I travel. I feel a bit more connected to the place I’m visiting. The Pere Lachaise cemetery is peaceful and beautiful, and is a great place to wander and let the kids burn off some steam. It’s massive, so you can just wander, get lost, and feel miles away from the city. There’s also a few famous tombs, such as Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison, so if you have older kids it’s a good opportunity for a history lesson.
Metro: Pere Lachaise, Philippe Auguste OR Alexandre Dumas
7. A skip-the-line Eiffel Tower tour with a carousel ride while you wait.
I just couldn’t bring myself to leave this one off the list. It was one of the things my girls were most excited about when visiting Paris because it’s a large icon that they easily recognize. We were determined NOT to go up the Eiffel tower on our family trip however it was all Calais could talk about. She was 3. I don’t even know how she found out it was even a “thing”! There was NO way I was waiting in line, and absolutely no way I was climbing the stairs with the girls. The skip the line tickets were perfect. We arrived a little early, went for a ride on the carousel (it’s a bit expensive but they loved it) and then joined our group and hopped on the elevator at our appointed time.
We booked our tour through Viator. I liked it because we got a bit of information at the beginning, and then we finished the tour at the second level so we were still able to tour ourselves.
The little girls had a cute-friend hug on the third level! I wasn’t sure if they won’t enjoy it at all, but it seemed like they did.
Metro: Trocadero OR Champs de Mars-Tour Eiffel
8. Day trips from Paris
Paris is a great hub, with a plethora of possible day-trips. This comprehensive post by Claire will make it easy to plan a few day trips from Paris.
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