I’ve seen Paris as a kid and as a grown-up, but not yet as a grown-up with kids, so as I often do when my own expertise is lacking, I reach out to people who know what they’re talking about.
In this case I tracked down some Parisian parents past and present, families who often visit the city, and travel pros – to get their ideas on the very best things to see and do in Paris with kids.
Have some game. I love a good scavenger hunt, especially if I don’t have to do the work to come up with one, which is where Marcia Miller comes in. The founder and owner of a tour company for women, You Go Girls, she has shepherded grandmothers, moms, and young girls around Paris on scavenger hunts, developing “a list of sites for the girls to watch for, from a giant ‘N’ to red lips in a fountain to a dog sleeping in a restaurant,” adding that it “adds a lot to the daily touring. No rules, just keep your eyes open.” Also angling to make sightseeing a bit more fun for kids is Isabelle Demenge, who grew up in Paris and has authored the children’s book series Leap & Hop, including a recent edition on the city. Included in the book “is a quiz walk in the Montmartre neighborhood with questions for the kids about the painters and writers and other fun facts about the area. There is also a true-and-false game about the Eiffel Tower” as well as interactive games on such topics as cheese making and table etiquette.
Stick to a theme. Given how much she travels with her daughters 8 and 14, Cynthia Bowman has them “come up with a theme or historical topic about the place we will be visiting, to make it memorable.” While in Paris last, her 8-year-old was very into Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” which inspired the family, naturally, to visit Notre Dame Cathedral, about which Bowman says to “skip the crowds and go straight up the staircase to the top. You will find some of the most beautiful views in Paris and see many unusual stone Gargoyles.” In keeping with the theme, Bowman also suggests checking out the city’s new animation museum, Art Ludique, as well as “a fantastic nighttime walking ghost tour, Mysteries of Paris, where a guide will walk your group through the haunted parts of Paris while theatrically narrating creepy real life stories.”
Spend the night…in a bookstore. Where’s the perfect place in Paris to bring an 8-year-old book lover? For Jennifer Coburn, author of the mother-daughter travel memoir We’ll Always Have Paris, the answer wasShakespeare & Company, “a charming converted monastery that now houses one of the largest collections of English language books in Europe,” says Coburn, adding that it’s “the cozy type of place perfect for curling up and reading during a rainstorm.” Her daughter “Katie noticed that there were cots discreetly tucked away and when we inquired, we were told that ‘Tumbleweeds’ can stay overnight. Katie and I spent the night in the Writer’s Studio where Henry James once stayed.”
Get a Fat Tire. Artist Leonie Barton is among several parents consulted for this article who sings the praises of Fat Tire Bike Tours, with whom Barton and her two teens “rode push bikes all over Paris, whilst getting a rundown on the local history and buildings.” She particularly recommends the night tour: “Riding around the courtyard Pyramid in the Louvre at midnight on a bike was so much more memorable to them than standing in a queue waiting to see the Mona Lisa.”
Linger in the 15th arrondissement. Figuring out which districts in Paris deserve your focus can be tricky, especially if your time is limited, but if you have kids in tow, consider the 15th arrondissement, says Jade Maitre, a vacation photographer living in Paris with her four young sons. Of note in this district is the Petit Ceinture, which Maitre says “is an amazing walk along old train tracks. The walkway is mostly elevated and fenced on both sides, so kids can run along the train tracks, play with the old railway stones, and look at Paris streets from above,” adding that “the locals have also planted a whole lot of wildflowers along the walk, so it makes for beautiful photos in the spring and summertime.” The district also packs appeal for its family-friendly dining, says Eileen Gunn, who stayed in the 15th arrondissement with her 7-year-old daughter last summer and says “we had great experiences in several restaurants. The food was good, the staffs were friendly, they were nice to my daughter, and they had kids’ menus that were good values – 7-10 Euros with a drink and ice cream thrown in.”
Run around the gardens. The biggest consensus among my interviewees centered on the merits of the Luxembourg Gardens, which has plenty of space for running. Admission to the garden is free, though for around 3 Euros your kids might want to “hire toy sailboats and sail them on the small lake there for half an hour,” says Maitre. And several parents said the 2.50 Euros fee to get into “the biggest playground I’ve ever seen,” according to Gunn, was well worth it. Though if the gates to the playground are locked when you get to the gardens, Coburn suggests that you might not want to follow her brood’s example and “hop over or you might wind up at the police station like we did, along with five other families.”
The preceding post is part of a series that is posted on the Barclaycard Travel Community site, in partnership with genConnect.
Image source: Vinayak Hegde/Flickr (Château de Versailles)