Taking the kids to Paris? I’m originally from New York and have lived in Paris for the last eight years, so consider myself a bit of an expert on kids’ activities in the City of Light…
Things to do with kids in Paris
Not only will this orient you to the city, but you’ll see some of Paris’ most notable landmarks including the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Notre Dame Cathedral (where Quasimodo swung from the bells), the Eiffel Tower and a mini version of the Statue of Liberty.
Another way to get a feel for the city is via the view from above. My kids love taking in the sites from the top of the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe, or ride the funicular up to Sacre Coeur in Montmartre.
In the city-center, the top floor of the Centre Pompidou offers amazing views too (be sure to check out the whimsical sculptures – many of which spit water – created by Niki St Phalle and Tinguely in the adjacent fountain).
For an alternate view of Paris, your kids may get a kick out of the popular subterranean sewer tunnel tour (Les Egouts de Paris).
Now I know when I travel with my kids, getting them to walk patiently through a fine arts museum can cause a whole host of meltdowns. So here are my top Paris museum picks that are sure to please the under-12 set:
- Palais de la Découverte, a hands-on, interactive science museum and Planetarium.
- Musée de la Magie is perfect for aspiring junior magicians, and neighbouring Musée des Automates has dozens of cool, vintage automated pieces and sculptures on exhibit.
- La Grande Galerie d’Evolution (the Natural History Museum) which is housed within the larger Jardin des Plantes featuring an immense botanical garden and zoo.
- Also noteworthy are the Musée des Arts et Métiers which features early scientific instruments, inventions and other machinery; Musée de la Poupée (the doll museum); and Musée Grevin (Paris’ Wax Museum).
Playgrounds and parks
With its many squares, parks and playgrounds, Paris is a city made for kids’ playtime. Our favorite parks include the oversized Jardin d’Acclimatation in the larger Bois de Bologne which has a large variety of play areas, a petting zoo and a mini theme park; Jardin de Luxembourg which has a rather large (paying) playground; les Buttes de Chaumont; and our local Parc Monceau.
Aquaboulevard, a water park, and the public pools in neighbouring suburbs: Neuilly and Boulogne-Billancourt, are also a great place to splash around. And don’t miss the puppet show (le guignol) at the park at the bottom of the Champs Elysees.
On rainy days, head over to La Cité de Science et de l’Industrie at the Parc de la Villette – a huge complex housing a modern science museum, IMAX films in La Géode, a planetarium, an aquarium and many, many other activities for kids.
Other great indoor activities include Paris’ brand new aquarium, CinéAqua at Trocadero; the Bouglione Circus near Republique; and year-round ice skating at Bercy.
At 4pm, it’s “l’heure du gouter” (snacktime) for the typical French kid. Treat your kids and yourself to some of the following: the infamous hot chocolate service at Angelina; ice cream at legendary Berthillon; macarons from Ladurée; or crepes at Breizh Cafe in the 3rd.
Kid-friendly food options in Paris (not always the best food but the service is fast and they offer early dinner) include chains Hippopotamus, Indiana Cafe, Pizza Pino and Bistro Romain.
Lastly if you are looking to bring home some unique toys and decorative items don’t miss the hand-crafted wooden specialties at Le Bonhomme de Bois; colourful gifts and gadgets from Pylones (both have multiple locations); or visit Paris’ largest toy store: Le Village Joué Club.
Want to win a trip to Paris? Like us on Facebook to enter our Love Paris giveaway (to September 30th 2011). The prize includes a Paris hotel stay and activity for two, plus £150/€170 travel vouchers to make the return journey.
About the Author: Cat Beurnier is a mother of two and founder/owner of Sugar Daze, Paris’ first authentic American custom cupcake business (formerly known as Little Miss Cupcake).