When are kids too young to begin traveling internationally? Never, according to this intrepid Traveling Mom. Paris is the City of Lights and it became a City of Wonder for this family during a whirlwind four-day trip. Here’s how you, too, can rock Paris in four days, even with kids younger than 7. (Hint: Save a big kid-friendly treat for Day 4.)
Paris with Kids
Whenever I mentioned to anybody I was planning a trip to Paris with my husband and our two little boys, people thought we were crazy. A big European metropolis like that and you want to drag kids in there? Why don’t you show them the beauty of the Czech Republic, your home country, instead? They don’t need to travel abroad so early!
Well, I’m sure you fellow wanderlusting parents understand why I felt no hesitation in taking my boys to Paris. That was in March 2015.
We did quite a bit of planning, also thanks to the fact that I was testing a family-friendly trip by Travelove, a travel startup I founded with my sister. All activities were chosen based on their appeal to kids, be it pure entertainment or entertainment combined with education (preferred!).
We stayed in a simple apartment, conveniently located in the 15th arrondissement. We had to always take the metro to get to the city, but it was perfectly fine.
Paris Day 1: Walking Around Montmartre and Chasing Space Invaders with Isabelle
On our first day, a Saturday, we decided to explore Montmartre, the beautiful quarter ruled by artists. You can start the Montmartre walk from the Lamarck–Caulaincourt metro station. That side of the hill is so much less touristy. Before you reach the Sacre Coeur from behind there is a nice playground in an even nicer park, Marcel Bleustein Blanchet. Since our boys are still little, we avoided the up-hill walk and took the tourist train from Moulin Rouge. It was definitely a good choice.
Of course, we counted how many artists were painting portraits at the Place du Tertre! Of course we looked for the hidden views of the Eiffel tower! And of course we ended up by the charming old carousel.
But we also learned about Van Gogh and other artists of Montmartre and looked at their paintings of Montmartre to see what the hill looked like in the old days.
We grabbed lunch at the most charming little restaurant, Babalou. It serves pizza (a plus for kids) but the interior couldn’t give you a more French feel. It’s right by Sacre Coeur.
On our previous trips to Paris, before we had children, we noticed the pixelated artworks spread out all over Paris city center. We thought it would be a great activity for the boys to trace them! We had Isabelle, a Paris guide specializing in tours for children, show us all the locations of the ‘space invaders’ around Le Marais quarter. We even stopped to make a few of our own (on a sheet of paper, not on a wall!). That was fun and both boys’ faces beamed with excitement.
Paris Day 2: Biking Along Canal Saint Martin, Enjoying Hanging Gardens & the Eiffel Tower!
We try to stay active on our trips. We don’t need to necessarily hike our way through trips, but a little sporty activity is always welcome and helps the boys release some steam. So we welcomed the option to hop on tandem bikes and ride along Paris’ Canal Saint Martin. My husband, Pavel, had both boys on his bike and I got to ride my own. It felt safer that way, what if I rode right into the canal?
It was definitely a good thing to do this bike ride on Sunday – because on Sunday part of the Canal roads get closed for car traffic, making the ride even more fun. Plus you can stop at the market, Marche Bastille, before the bike ride and buy things for a picnic.
Since we still had a lot of energy after our leisurely ride, we decided to go for a walk in one of the most special parks of Paris, largely undiscovered by tourists. The hanging gardens, or Promenade Plantée as the French call it, feature former rail tracks turned into a nice, 1.5km/1 mile long park, much like the 606 in Chicago or the High Line in New York. You can just walk, smile at locals and if you’re as curious as my sons, feel free to peek into people’s homes. The promenade is elevated! We enjoyed the views of the various neighborhoods that unfolded as we walked. It was truly a unique perspective.
Towards the evening, we decided it was time to see the Eiffel tower. We took some magnets for the kids, so that they could try to find out whether the Eiffel Tower was indeed made of iron. They love simple tasks like that. We went to the area in the evening and enjoyed the night views from the Eiffel Tower. It’s incredibly beautiful and you can see clearly quite far. There’s no glass obstructing the view that would create bad reflections on photos. Fortunately, we had the tickets booked online well in advance, so we didn’t have to stand in the horribly long line. Paris is popular!
Paris Day 3: Batobus Boat, Louvre and Notre Dame
Our third day started off a bit cloudy and we thought it might rain. So we just took it easy and quickly chose some indoor activities. It wasn’t any less fun!
First, we went to the Seine River, to one of the stops of the Batobus boat. This boat takes you to several points of interest that are visible from the river, goes as far as the botanical garden and zoo and then turns around and circles all the way back. You can hop on and off as you please, as the tickets are either for 1 or 2 full days. The boats are covered and feature glass walls and ceilings, so you’re protected from the elements. Not from the kids-elements, though! My boys thought the boats looked funny so they just kept giggling uncontrollably. It actually made me wander if puberty’s not coming already. But the older one is just 7 now!
We got off by Notre Dame and recounted the legend of the hunchback Quasimodo. The kids enjoyed greatly looking for Point Zero. While walking towards Louvre through the Latin Quarter, we admired the oldest tree in Paris, the narrowest street in Paris and the Bouquinists.
We had big plans for the Louvre! And no, we were not out of our minds. We were advised how to make a visit to a grand museum like Louvre entertaining for the children. They were on a mission, on a Louvre hunt! They searched for pieces of art they had to find while my husband and I followed, checking out the artwork as we went. We didn’t go see just Mona Lisa, like 80% of the visitors do. We wanted to experience what the Louvre was like, see a few pieces of art and enjoy it, all four of us. And that worked out! For you history buffs, you can read more about Louvre during the times of WW2.
The boys were definitely brave to keep up with our activities so we had to take them through the Tuileries Gardens to a nearby chocolate shop that was recommended to us by locals. There was quite a long line in front of Café Angelina, but we persisted and it paid off! The boys were beyond happy with their smiley faces smeared with chocolate.
After that we just hopped on the Batobus again and went to rest in the botanical garden, with the zoo right in the vicinity. After seeing the zoo (not incredibly special, but the kids are excited by animals anytime), we went back to Batobus to ride some more.
Paris Day 4: Disneyland!
On our last day, we decided to check out Disneyland Paris. My boys were so excited when they heard we were going to the amusement park. It was our first time and we all enjoyed it! Our younger son took a nap during one ride, so we were able to stay until closing. And it was definitely worth it to stay late – many people left and by the end of the day there were literally no lines anymore. But more importantly the night light show was incredible.
On the train all children (not just ours) fell asleep with happy smiles on their faces, it was so cute to watch. The next day we flew out after a relaxed morning back to Prague.
Paris is a great destination for a family city break. If you’re hesitating because of safety issues, read this article where a fellow Traveling Mom discusses what to do in case of an emergency.
This guest post was written by Katka Mikulkova.She is an entrepreneur and founder of an experience-based travel startup mytravelove.com. She is a mother of two boys and lives with her family on the outskirts of Prague, Czech Republic. She frequently travels and has managed to perfect the art of travelling with children. On her family trips all over Europe, she tests what facilities and sights are children-friendly and how to make the best out of sightseeing with small kids in tow. Her articles focus on family travel in Europe.