I have been lucky enough to visit Paris several times with my children, from just past toddler age (with very tired little legs), to more recently at 8 and 11 years (when you can start doing some real stuff). Like most people on a family trip to Paris, we have climbed the Eiffel Tower, ridden on dozens of carousels, enjoyed many lovely Paris picnics, shopped markets, done some unique Paris tours for families and eaten our weight in french pastries. All this, while trying to avoid tears and meltdowns, often compounded by jet lag. I have written this post to try to make the planning of your Paris family vacation easier. I hope it helps!
Note: Just can’t get enough? Discover more kids activities in Paris from an earlier trip video here.
12 Things to do with Kids in Paris
1. Centre Pompidou
The Pompidou Center is located in the fashionable Marais district. It has a Children’s Gallery inside, but is also great fun outside. The area surrounding the center has a lovely outdoor space for an impromptu picnic, artistic fountains, many cafes and lively street entertainers. If you are visiting Paris with a toddler, this area is especially nice because there is large pedestrian-only section where your little one run around, leaving you relatively stress-free.
We have a personal bias towards Le Marais and believe that it is one of the best areas to stay in Paris with kids. We have often started our days of exploring the city with coffee and pastries in this very spot. Learn more about the Centre Pompidou here or read reviews here.
2. Notre Dame de Paris
April 16th, 2019: I update this with a heavy heart after yesterday’s fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral. Sadly, I’m guessing it will be some years before visitors are welcomed back inside this magnificent building. If there is any silver lining, it is the fact that the Notre Dame was practically crumbling and was in dire need of funding for a proper restoration. As I write this, already 1 billion dollars has been donated to help bring her back to her former glory.
My children easily recognized the Notre Dame Cathedral from a recommended pre-trip screening of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Lineups for the cathedral are common as everyone needs to pass through a security check, but they move quickly. We visited late in the day and just breezed right in. Learn more about Notre Dame Cathedral here or read reviews here.
While in the area, you may want to visit the little playground on the left bank side, or cross the bridge over to Île Saint-Louis to enjoy what some people call the best ice cream in Paris (I tend to agree) at Berthillon. The lineups here can get very long, but if you are willing to pay a little extra (2-tier pricing system), there are usually tables available inside.
Note: I also snuck out early one Sunday morning, rented a Vélib bike (shared bike program Paris) and enjoyed a coffee solo at Berthillon. It cost the extraordinary price of 7€, but it was worth every penny to me. Sadly, the Velib Paris bike share program is in the process of being replaced and is way behind schedule. Hopefully, the new system will be properly operational for summer 2018.
3. Les Bateaux Mouches – Seine Boat Cruises
Several boat tour companies run on the Seine. Regardless of which one you choose, a boat ride is sure to keep both a child and parents amused (if nothing other than lulling a baby to sleep). We chose Bateaux Vedettes du Pont Neuf (website) because it was conveniently located close to Notre Dame Cathedral by Pont Neuf. Also well recommended are Bateaux Mouches (website) and Bateaux Parisiens (website).
Alternatively, the Batobus is a basic hop-on, hop-off, boat transit system that runs along the Seine. It has eight stops along the river connecting some of the major sites, including a stop in the 5th arrondissement across the bridge from the Notre Dame cathedral.
Family Friendly Seine Dinner Cruise
On our more recent trip to Paris we tried an evening dinner cruise on the Seine. We chose the boat Le Calife because it had a kids’ menu and it received excellent reviews. While there wasn’t a ton of room to move around on the boat (might be difficult with an active toddler), my kids loved watching the lights of Paris go by. The cruise runs from around 8pm – 11pm. If this is too late for your family, Le Calife also offers a Seine lunch cruise on weekends. Learn more about Bateau Le Calife here or read reviews here. Of course, there are many other options for Seine river tours. See more boat tour reviews on TripAdvisor.
4. Luxembourg Gardens – Jardin Luxembourg
These lovely gardens in the 6th arrondissement are not to be missed with kids. Not only are they a wonderful place for a stroll, but they also have one of the best playgrounds in Paris for toddlers and young children (small fee). Directly outside the playground is a puppet theatre and carousel where the kids can play a little game trying to spear rings onto a metal stick. Oh yes, and I almost forgot the best part ! The playground is fenced. For those navigating Paris with a baby in a stroller as well as trying to tend to a toddler or two, this park is a real sanity-saver. On weekends, Wednesdays, and during the summer, the park has pony rides, carriage rides and little boats available to sail on the Grand Basin in the center of the park. Learn more about Luxembourg Gardens here or read reviews here.
Note: If you are looking for some chic kids clothing in Paris, this area is also home to many lovely children’s stores along Rue Vavin including Petit Bateau and Jacadi.
5. Jardin D’acclimation – Paris Parks with Kids
A great way to spend a day with kids in Paris is to take in the attractions at Jardin d’Acclimation. This fun little park has amusement rides, a train, an adventure playground, wacky mirrors, a puppet theatre, a water park, trampolines and a farm. While I was a little tentative about taking my kids to an amusement park in Paris (it didn’t feel very cultural), there was enough that felt French to curb my guilt. By French enough, I mean that we enjoyed French snacks, watched a puppet show at the quintessentially French marionette theatre, rode on the carousel and watched French families enjoying picnic lunches that seem to consist of little more than chocolate biscuits, wine, cheese and cigarettes.* Learn more about the Jardin D’Acclimation here or read reviews here.
* For more on French parenting, read the hilarious and informative book – Bringing Up Bebe – one mother discovers the wisdom of french parenting (4.5/5 stars on Amazon).
6. The Eiffel Tower with Kids
One of the blogs that I read before our first trip to Paris suggested visiting the Eiffel Tower with kids without even introducing ascending it as an option. Although I didn’t follow this advice, I think it is an excellent recommendation. Let me explain why. We took the metro to Trocadero metro station just before sundown. This starting point provides you with a fabulous view of the tower and is a great place to take photos. We then descended the steps of Esplanade du Trocadero towards the tower, while my kids enjoyed looking at the many fountains. This is also a great place to have a picnic with the tower as an picturesque backdrop.
At the bottom of the steps there is a beautiful double decker carousel, a creperie and a gelato stand. While there is also another carousel on the opposite side of the boulevard, closer to the tower, the one on the Trocadero side is nicer. As the sun sets, it is simply magical to hear the collective “Ahhhh ! ” of the crowd as the lights of the tower are turned on. If we had turned around right here, it would have been a perfect evening in Paris.
Unfortunately, my eldest child knew that climbing the tower was an option, so we followed the best advice we could find (from travel guru Wendy Perrin). To avoid long waits with children, you can either make a reservation for the elevator ahead of time on the Eiffel Tower website, or climb the stairs to the second level. We opted for the stairs, which my children climbed with ease (although I was huffing and puffing). The hitch is this — whether you make a reservation for the elevators, or take the stairs to the 2nd level, everybody has to wait in line to take a separate elevator from the 2nd level to the very top (this line can take 1 hour our more). We ended up taking a pass ( I bribed my disappointed children with Eiffel Tower shaped gummy candies). So, with that in mind, my suggestion with little ones is to either admire the tower from afar, or to make sure they understand that they will only be going to level 2.
Update: On a later visit to the Eiffel Tower when my kids were older, we made a plan to go all the way to the top. We took the elevator to the second floor and then my husband and kids wandered around enjoying the view while I got in line for the next set of elevators. When I was getting close to the front (around 45 minutes), they then joined me in line (I did let the people behind me know that they would be joining me). Here’s the thing though. Honestly, I find the view from the second level much nicer, so if you only get there, feel good about it. Also very nice to visit, is the 1st floor interactive space with its unique transparent floor, touch screens, restaurants and shops. Although we didn’t have the time, I would have loved to have enjoyed an overpriced glass of champagne on this floor while my kids ran around pushing buttons.
7. Tuileries Gardens – Jardin des Tuileries
In the Jardin des Tuileries, close to Place de la Concorde, is a lovely little fenced playground, carousel and trampoline park. While not as grand as the park in the Luxembourg Gardens, it is still a fun place to spend a few hours (and the playground here is free). This is a great place for kids to burn off some energy after having visited the Louvre or The Orangerie (these art museums are at opposite ends of the park). From the last week of June until the last week of August, the park also becomes home to the Tuileries Fairground with over sixty carnival rides and attractions. The ferris wheel offers some gorgeous views the city. Learn more about Jardin des Tuileries here or read reviews here.
Note: On our fist visit to Paris we chose only to visit the Musee Orangerie. It is the perfect size to be able to just duck in for a short period of time to get a view of some classics by Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Picasso, Rousseau, Matisse and more. As we visited late in the day (4pm), there were no lineups for the gallery. On our most recent visit to Paris we did a private family tour of the Louvre, which we found to be very manageable and enjoyable. Context Travel actually offers all kinds of Paris tours for families with both group and private options, should you be interested in a more immersive Paris experience.
8. Disneyland Paris
I have a lot to say about our visit to Paris Disneyland. From a cultural perspective I felt a little guilty about taking my kids there, and wondered if we should instead be going to the more authentically french Parc Asterix — but I’ll admit that I was also a little bit curious to see the french version of “the happiest place on earth”.
Well, I want to start by saying that my kids loved it. It is a smaller version of the California or Florida parks, but the layout is more or less the same. That said, I will quote my son who commented upon our arrival “Mom…..I have never seen so many parents smoking !“. Even as a child I remember being impressed by how perfect and clean everything was at Disneyland California. Disneyland Paris is a little rougher around the edges. The water in the ponds of It’s a small world is a little dirty, the seats on some of the rides are broken and the bathrooms are, well, kind of grungy. It just seems to be missing the attention to detail that good old Walt Disney was famous for. These details, however, did not seem to bother a 5 and 8 year old even in the slightest, and they had a wonderful time. Paris Disney is also celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2018 with special events running into September. Learn more about Disneyland Paris here or read reviews here.
Saving Money at Paris Disneyland
Periodically, you can get deals when you purchase tickets at the Disney Store in Paris (44 Champs Elysee). Generally, I find the website MouseSavers.com to be a good resource for getting at deal at any of the Disney properties.
I interject here with a story. I really want to be truthful in my tales about travel with kids because as much as I love the journey, things do not always go perfectly. I lost my eldest child temporarily in our first hour at Paris Disneyland (my husband was not on this particular trip with us). It’s a long story, but at 8 years old, he wanted to go on a big kids ride and I wanted to prove that I am not a helicopter parent. I arranged to meet him at the exit of the ride with my 5 year old. She fell and bumped her head while we were waiting, and due to this incident we unfortunately missed him exiting the ride. This lead to 40 excruciating minutes before we were reunited.
The nice part of this story is that we had made a get lost plan. Upon our arrival at the park, we had picked a meeting point and I had put my business card in his pocket with my cell number on it. Once I realized that we had most definitely lost him, I grabbed my daughter and rushed towards the meeting spot. Just then my phone started to ring – displaying an international number A lovely french family had found him waiting at our get lost point, and had called my phone from the card I had given him. Now yes, I was mortified that they retrieved my phone number off a card that said Pint Size Pilot – Survival Skills for Travel with Kids, but the point is, the get lost plan worked.
9. Chateau Versailles with Kids
We had a crowd-free visit to the Palace of Versailles by visiting late in the day — taking in the gardens first and the chateau second. My kids enjoyed listening to the audio recorders (I’m not sure if they just liked pressing the buttons in each room, or if they actually were learning something, but either way, they were entertained.). Learn more about the Palace of Versailles here or read reviews here.
My children found the gardens to be more fun than the palace itself. Here are a couple options that will allow you to get around more easily.
Electric Vehicle Hire: These golf carts allow you to follow five itineraries leaving from the South Terrace (discovering the Gardens, Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet, tour of the Grand Canal, tour of the entire Estate).
Mini-Train : The train leaves from the North Terrace and will take you to and from the Estate of Marie-Antoinette (Petit Trianon), Grand Trianon and Little Venice The train is more of a transportations system than a tour. We rode it to the Grand Canal (Little Venice) and then enjoyed looking at the boats, swans, and gardens on our short walk back to the chateau.
Bikes Rentals:You can rent bicycles to tour the grounds of Versailles near the Grand Canal (Little Venice). Baby seats, trail-a-bikes, and kids bikes are also available.
Row Boats : At the Grand Canal you can rent lovely little row boats by the hour or half hour.
10. Paris Cooking and Pastry Classes for Kids
Why just buy pastries, when your budding little chef can learn how to make them as well? Paris has a number of cooking schools that offer pastry and cooking classes for kids, including Cook’n with Class, Cooking Baz’Art and Le Cordon Bleu. My daughter absolutely loved her french desserts workshop at Cook’n with Class. This cooking school is located quite close to Sacre Coeur, so we managed to do both on the same afternoon. Learn more about Cook’n With Class here or read reviews here.
11. Paris Marché Aux Fleurs et Oiseaux
Paris has some delightful markets including the daily Marché aux Fleurs on Île de la Cité near Notre Dame. Although personally I love flowers, we decided to visit on a Sunday, when the market is filled with beautiful birds instead. Learn more about the Paris flower and bird market here or read reviews here. For a full list of markets in Paris, see this post on the Top 10 Markets in Paris.
12. Picnics in Paris
Enjoy lunch in plain d’air in one of Paris’s beautiful parks or plazas. On our most recent trip I brought along a picnic blanket specifically for this purpose. My plan, was to enjoy a family picnic on the Champs de Mars with a view of the Eiffel Tower. This plan, however, was foiled once I realized that the whole Champs de Mars had been converted into a Fan Zone for a soccer (futbal) match. Instead, we spent a beautiful afternoon at Place de Vosges (Yes, I just might be holding a glass of wine in the photo. When in Paris….). For more family picnic spot suggestions see this post on the best spots for a picnic in Paris written by a local.
Family Friendly Hotels in Paris
There is no way of avoiding the fact that Paris is a very expensive city. It can also be difficult to find Paris hotels for families – especially ones that can accommodate everyone in the same room and not require the purchase of 2 rooms. Personally, I’m partial to using Booking.com for rooms because their platform allows you to select the filter “family rooms”, and breaks down exactly what that looks like (1 queen bed + sofabed etc.).
If you really want to settle into the city, you may prefer a family-friendly Paris vacation rental. This can also save you a bunch of money. What you lose in service (housekeeping etc.), you can pick up in convenience – with the option to self-cater and have amenities such as a washer and dryer. If you do a quick search on VRBO or Airbnb, you will find simply hundreds of options. Do book early, however, as the good ones tend to book out way in advance (and please take the time to read reviews carefully).
Getting Around in Paris
We find the Metro very easy to navigate in Paris, although some stations have quite a few stairs so you may want to keep this in mind if you have a stroller. When we were not on a direct Metro route, we would take a taxi, or better, an Uber.
Saving Money in Paris
Discounted Attraction Passes for Paris
If you plan on visiting a lot of attractions in Paris, you may want to look at the Paris Pass. It conveniently includes admission to over 60 museums, tours and attractions, fast track entry to some of the busiest venues, a metro card, a Paris guide book and more. This pass comes in 2,3, 4 and 6 day options. Keep an eye out for promotions as the Paris Pass sometimes runs a 10% off special. They also offer a Museum Pass, which is what I used on my first trip to Paris. Children under 18 are admitted to most Paris museums (including Versailles) for free, so only adults need to have the pass.
Books on Travel to Paris with Kids
Personally, I really like to overdo it when it comes to my trip research (fear of missing out), so I read everything I can get my hands on. That said, here are my favourite guide books and resources for Paris.
Paris Family Travel Guides
Lonely Planet Paris – I am a longtime Lonely Planet devotee and I find that you just can’t go wrong with them. Although this guide is not specifically designed for families, there are always sections in the guides devoted to kid-friendly attractions and experiences. From $21.99
Family Guide Paris – Eyewitness Travel – This guide does a pretty good covering the best spots to play and stay in Paris with kids. From $16.99
Bringing up Bebe – Although not a guide, per sé, this book is a very entertaining read about the differences between parenting in France and in North America. My kids are actually very good eaters due to some of the little gems that I took away from this book. From $12.99
Monocle Paris – I bought this so that I could pretend that I was really in the know when it came to new hotels, boutiques, restaurants and art installations in Paris.From $10.99
Paris with Children – I absolutely adored this pocket-sized book for finding great family-friendly restaurants and kids stores in Paris. Without it, we never would have enjoyed Pink Flamingo Pizza. After placing your order, you take your balloon, find a picnic spot nearby, and wait for your meal to be delivered by scooter. So fun ! From $15.99
Kids Books About Paris
Not For Parents Paris – This Lonely Planet Paris for kids guide gave my kids just enough interesting information to keep them very well engaged at all the major sites. From $19.99
Blog Post and Articles on Visiting Paris with Kids
If you are a Pinterest user, the Pint Size Pilot account is entirely devoted to travel with kids. Within it, you will find a board called Paris Family Travel populated with posts from many talented writers on the subject of visiting Paris with kids. Please join me on Pinterest.