I remember being very worried about taking my 5-year-old daughter to Paris. I had heard rumours about grumpy French waiters and inaccessible public transportation. However, once I stepped foot in the city, I realised that Paris with kids is a brilliant idea. The city centre is very walkable and there are a lot of attractions young and old can enjoy together. Let’s not forget the scrumptious pastries, tarts and macarons the whole family can indulge in.
Where to stay in Paris with kids?
We chose to stay at the Novotel Paris Gare De Lyon. The hotel is very well connected by underground and bus to surrounding Paris neighbourhoods. The Gare de Lyon train station next door has trains to Disneyland Paris. I recommend that you stay at a hotel located in central or East Paris, rather than West Paris.
What to do in Paris with kids?
Hop on hop on bus
I just love a hop on hop off bus! The last thing you want as a family travelling with children is to get lost or tired. Imagine having to lug around strollers and backpacks in the rain? Yes, walking through Paris is charming. But trust me leave that to the romantic, child-free couples and instead get on the bus! From the top deck, we were able to see all the Instagram-worthy sights of Paris like the Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde and Tour Eiffel.
Musee du Louvre
While you are on the hop on hop off bus, you can squeeze in a couple of hours to visit the Louvre Museum. The museum offers audio guides, guided tours and visitor trails. These are great if you have lots of kids and little time. I am pretty sure your kids will especially enjoy the Ancient Egyptian section – yes, I am biased! If they do get bored though, try convincing your partner to take them to the Jardin des Tuileries next door, while you continue your visit. The Louvre is open every day except Tuesday, from 9 am to 6 pm. Make sure to purchase tickets online in advance to avoid the queues. This is even more valid if you want to book any special exhibitions. Tickets cost 17 Euros but every first Saturday of the month, admission is free.
Jardin des Plantes
This gem is France’s key botanical garden. It comes with 11 gardens, five galleries, libraries, exhibitions and a menagerie – which is French for zoo. Admission to the Jardin Des Plantes and the library are free. But you need to purchase tickets to access the zoo, galleries and exhibitions. Whatever special interest your children have, there will hopefully be a gallery to spark their imagination, whether they are interested in rocks, animals or plants. The zoo is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm. Tickets cost 10-13 Euros, while the garden itself opens at 8:30 am and closes at 5:30 pm.
Cites des sciences et de l’industrie
The perfect place to spend a rainy day in Paris with kids – the Cité des sciences et de l’industrie. It includes a Cites des Enfants, an interactive science museum for children with sessions of an hour and a half. There are sessions for different age groups where the kids get to explore the museum themes in a fun and stimulating environment. The sessions are timed so it doesn’t seem to get crazy busy or noisy. That way, you and your kids will be able to try out all the educational activities.
If you are planning on spending the whole day, I recommend you pay 16 Euros for the combined ticket. This gives you access to the Cites des Enfants as well as the Planetarium and any special exhibitions. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday 10 am – 6 pm, 10 am – 7 pm on Sunday and is closed on Mondays.
It is not one of the top five attractions you think of when someone mentions Paris, but it does have a certain allure. The Rodin Museum hosts the largest collection of Rodin’s sculptures, the most famous one being The Thinker located in its Sculpture Garden. It is open every day from 10 am to 6:30 pm, except for Mondays. A standard ticket costs 12 Euros and you can also rent an audio guide for an additional 6 Euros.
Jardin du Luxembourg
This breathtaking park known as Luxembourg Park is a must-visit especially towards the end of your stay, when you need to spend a stress-free day. There are playgrounds, pony rides and merry go rounds. You can feed the ducks or rent a little wooden boat and sail it in the pond at the centre of the park. The garden opens at 7 am and closes at 9:30 pm depending on what season you are in. Entry is free of charge, but if you want to visit the palace and museum you need to buy tickets.
The Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmarte is definitely worth a visit, if only to admire its beautiful Byzantine architecture, stained glass windows and mosaic dome. It is open every day from 6 am to 10:30 pm. Check their website if you are interested in attending a mass. My daughter really enjoyed going up in the lift and we were of course happy to skip the stairs!
No trip to Paris with kids is complete without a day or two at Disneyland Paris. The best way to get there is to take the train to the Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy train station located right outside the theme park. Another good piece of advice is to take a lightweight stroller with you. Believe me your 5 or 6-year-old will quickly get tired and bored with all the walking and queuing. If you can’t borrow one from a friend or from the hotel, you can rent one from Disneyland.
Pack hats, water and snacks with you especially if you are planning to spend the whole day. If you want to dine at any of the fancy themed restaurants, make a booking first thing in the morning. It is almost impossible to walk in and get a decent table. At first, our intention was to get one-day tickets given the modest size of the theme park. I have to say I am happy we got two-day tickets. A thunderstorm surprised us on our first day there and we left earlier than expected. But at least we took comfort by the fact that we could still come back the next day.
Got any time to go shopping?
If you have time for some shopping, you can always check out the Val d’Europe outlet on your way back from Disneyland. Or maybe go window shopping at some of the world-famous shopping centres such as Les Galeries Lafayette, Le Bon Marche or Le Printemps Haussman.
Not ready to leave Europe?
Perhaps you would be interested in exploring another exciting European city such as Barcelona or one of the Greek islands such as Rhodes. Or you can visit one of my favourite cities and spend 5 days in London – check out this super itinerary by Everywhere Forward.