Paris is a fabulous place to travel en famille (as a family), with a host of specially designed activities for kids of all ages, both inside for rainy days as well as out and about in the city. Here is our guide to the best way to explore the French capital with les enfants (children).
Is Paris good for kids?
As Europe’s most densely populated city, Paris is well practised in catering to kids’ – and parents’ – needs. There are parks and playgrounds galore, many restaurants have children’s menus (though high chairs are less common), plenty of hotels can arrange lits bébé (baby cots) and/or interconnecting rooms, and numerous museums and cultural spaces have specific activities for kids.
Best things to do in Paris with kids:
Jardin du Luxembourg
Paris’ most enchanting park is the 23-hectare, chestnut-shaded Jardin du Luxembourg, which Napoléon dedicated to the city’s children. Delightfully old-fashioned activities include prodding 1920s sailboats on its octagonal pond, riding ponies or its carousel, and catching a marionette show at its theatre.
Other Parisian parks with puppet shows include Parc Monceau, Parc Montsouris, and, by the Eiffel Tower, Parc du Champ de Mars. Parc de la Villette has futuristic playgrounds and attractions, music venues and museums.
Zoos and forests
The city’s botanic gardens, the Jardin des Plantes, contains a small zoo, the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes. At Paris’ edges are two rambling forests, Bois de Boulogne in the west, and Bois de Vincennes in the east. The latter is home to the Parc Floral de Paris, with fantastic playground facilities and an open-air concert venue, Paris’ largest zoo, the Parc Zoologique de Paris, and a moated medieval castle, the Château de Vincennes.
Art and culture museums
Dedicated children’s museums include the magic museum, Musée de la Magie, and art museum, Musée en Herbe, with permanent and changing exhibitions, activity sheets, guided tours and workshops. There are also some great hands-on workshops at the exhibition space Palais de Tokyo; the city’s architecture museum, Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine; and the landmark Centre Pompidou modern-art museum and cultural centre, which has a 1st-floor space for kids aged two to 10 and a lower-ground-floor visual, multimedia and performing-arts area for teenagers 13 to 16. A fun way to explore the city’s mightiest museum, the Musée du Louvre, is to follow one of its thematic trails, such as a ‘lion hunt’.
Science is made entertaining for kids at the Cité des Sciences in the Parc de la Villette, which includes a planetarium; at the Galerie des Enfants, within the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, a branch of the natural-history museum, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle at the Jardin des Plantes; and the Palais de la Découverte, which will move to a temporary location at Parc André Citroën while its premises are renovated and redeployed as a Paris 2024 Olympic venue. Europe’s oldest science and technology museum, the Musée des Arts et Métiers, has a special audioguide for kids.
Cinéaqua is a winner with kids for its cinemas screening ocean-related films and not least for its shark-filled aquarium.
One of the best cinematic experiences for kids is a self-guided behind-the-scenes tour using sensor technology of iconic 1930s cinema Le Grand Rex, where you can stand behind the big screen and take part in making a film, from recording studios to special effects.
If you’re in Paris from October to March, you can catch clowns, trapeze artists and acrobats at the 1852-founded winter circus Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione.
This list would not be complete without Disneyland Resort Paris, comprising both Disneyland Park, with all the classic rides and characters, and three new pays (lands), Star Wars, Marvel and Frozen, on their way, and the film- and TV-focused Walt Disney Studios Park.
Other amusement and theme parks
Younger kids in particular will adore amusement park Jardin d’Acclimatation, in the Bois de Boulogne, which has some 48 individual attractions such as ‘rafting adventures’ and funfair rides, and is most endearingly reached by taking a mini train from Porte Maillot.
Further out, 35km north of the city and linked by shuttle bus, is summer-opening Parc Astérix, with shows and thrill-seeking rides for all ages based on the famous comic books.
For an memorable overview of the City of Light, a river cruise through Paris’ heart is hard to beat. Companies include Bateaux-Mouches, Bateaux Parisiens and the hop-on, hop-off Batobus, as well as Vedettes de Paris, which has hour-long ‘Paris Mystery’ tours for children.
Another engaging journey is a canal cruise with Canauxrama from Bastille through an underground section then passing through the locks and swing bridges of Canal St-Martin en route to the Parc de la Villette.
Where to stay with kids in Paris
All of Paris’ arrondissements (city districts) are well connected but the most central – the 1er arrondissement to the 8e arrondissement – are especially well suited for families to minimise time spent travelling and allow you to pop back to your accommodation for supplies or naps. The 5e (aka the Latin Quarter) and 6e (St-Germain) are ideal for their proximity to the Jardin du Luxembourg, many family-friendly restaurants and hotels, children’s storytelling sessions at bookshop Shakespeare & Company and a wonderful French geography–themed sweet shop, Le Bonbon au Palais.
How to get around with kids in Paris
Paris’ efficient, inexpensive public transport system whisks you around the city. Children up to four years travel free; under 10s pay half price. On the metro, the front carriage of driverless lines (1 14 and, by the end of 2022, line 4) are fun for kids, while lines with overground sections (2 and 6) provide great views, though stairs to the subterranean stations are extensive and corridors can be long. Parents with prams will find it easier to get around by bus. Avoid travelling at peak hours, when all public transport is crammed. Take extra care when crossing roads, as drivers frequently ignore pedestrian crossings and lights. To hire strollers, car seats and other paraphernalia in Paris, contact companies such as Kidelio.
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Source : Lonelyplanet