I have been lucky enough to visit Paris several times with my children, from just past toddler age (with very tired little legs), to more recently at 8 and 11 years (when you can start doing some real stuff). Like most families visiting Paris with kids, we have climbed the Eiffel Tower, ridden on dozens of carousels, enjoyed picnics in beautiful parks, shopped markets, visited art museums (quickly) and eaten our weight in french pastries. All this, while trying to avoid tears and meltdowns, often compounded by jet lag. The post is intended to offer tips for visiting Paris attractions with kids. I hope this helps you plan your trip.
To start, here is a little video on what you might choose to enjoy as a family traveling to Paris, or just continue on to read on about things to do in Paris with kids.
Paris For Kids – Top Attractions
Note: I also have a video from an earlier trip to Paris with the kids here.
12 Things to do with Kids in Paris
1. Centre Pompidou
The Pompidou Center is located in the fashionable Marais district. It has a Children’s Gallery inside, but is also great fun outside. The area surrounding the center has a lovely outdoor space for an impromptu picnic, artistic fountains, many cafes and lively street entertainers. We have a personal bias towards Le Marais and believe that it is one of the best areas to stay in Paris with kids. We have often started our days of exploring the city with coffee and pastries in this very spot. Learn more about the Centre Pompidou here or read reviews here.
2. Notre Dame de Paris
My children easily recognized the Notre Dame Cathedral from a recommended pre-trip screening of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Lineups for the cathedral are common as everyone needs to pass through a security check, but they move quickly. We visited late in the day and just breezed right in. Learn more about Notre Dame Cathedral here or read reviews here.
While in the area, you may want to visit the little playground on the left bank side, or cross the bridge over to Île Saint-Louis to enjoy what some people call the best ice cream in Paris (I tend to agree) at Berthillon. The lineups here can get very long, but if you are willing to pay a little extra, there are usually tables available inside.
Note: I also snuck out early one Sunday morning, rented a Vélib bike (shared bike program Paris) and enjoyed a coffee solo at Berthillon. It cost the extraordinary price 7€, but it was worth every penny to me. To soften the sticker shock, the first half hour on a Vélib bike is free (although it took me about that long to figure out how to get the bike out).
3. Les Bateaux Mouches – Seine Boat Cruises
Several boat tour companies run on the Seine. Regardless of which one you choose, a boat ride is sure to keep both a child and parents amused (if nothing other than lulling a baby to sleep). We chose Bateaux Vedettes du Pont Neuf (website) because it was conveniently located close to Notre Dame Cathedral by Pont Neuf. Also well recommended are Bateaux Mouches (website) and Bateaux Parisiens (website).
Alternatively, the Batobus (website) is a basic hop on, hop off, boat transit system on the Seine. It has eight stops along the river connecting some of the major sites including a stop in the 5th arrondissement across the bridge from the Notre Dame cathedral.
Family Friendly Seine Dinner Cruise
On our more recent trip to Paris we tried an evening dinner cruise on the Seine. We chose the boat Le Calife because it had a kids’ menu and it received excellent reviews. While there wasn’t a ton of room to move around on the boat (might be difficult with an active toddler), my kids loved watching the lights of Paris go by. The cruise runs from around 8pm – 11pm. If this is too late for your family, Le Calife also offers a Seine lunch cruise on weekends. Learn more about Bateau Le Calife here or read reviews here. Of course, there are many other options for Seine river tours. See more boat tour reviews on TripAdvisor.
4. Luxembourg Gardens – Jardin Luxembourg
These lovely gardens in the 6th arrondissement are not to be missed with kids. Not only are they a wonderful place for a stroll, but they also have one of the best playgrounds in Paris for toddlers and young children. Directly outside the playground is a puppet theatre and carousel where the kids can play a little game trying to spear rings onto a metal stick. Oh yes, and I almost forgot the best part ! The playground is fenced, allowing exhausted parents to actually sit down for a moment rather than constantly feeling like a sheep herder. On weekends and Wednesdays, when the children are out of school (and more frequently in the summer) the park has pony rides, carriage rides and little boats available to sail on the Grand Basin in the center of the park. Learn more about Luxembourg Gardens here or read reviews here.
Note: This area of Paris is also home to many lovely children’s stores along Rue Vavin including Petit Bateau and Jacadi.
5. Jardin D’acclimation – Paris Parks with Kids
A great way to spend a day with kids is taking in the attractions at Jardin d’Acclimation. This fun little park has amusement rides, a train, an adventure playground, wacky mirrors, a puppet theatre, a water park, trampolines and a farm. While I was a little tentative about taking my kids to an amusement park in Paris (it didn’t feel very cultural), there was enough that felt French to curb my guilt. By French enough, I mean that we enjoyed French snacks, watched a puppet show at the quintessentially French marionette theatre, rode on the carousel and watched French families enjoying picnic lunches that seem to consist of little more than chocolate biscuits, wine, cheese and cigarettes.* Learn more about the Jardin D’Acclimation here or read reviews here.
* For more on French parenting, read the hilarious and informative book – Bringing Up Bebe – one mother discovers the wisdom of french parenting (4.5/5 stars on Amazon).
6. The Eiffel Tower with Kids
One of the blogs that I read before our first trip to Paris suggested visiting the Eiffel Tower with kids without even introducing ascending it as an option. Although I didn’t follow this advice, I think it is an excellent recommendation. Let me explain why. We took the metro to Trocadero metro station just before sundown. This starting point provides you with a fabulous view of the tower and is a great place to take photos. We then descended the steps of Esplanade du Trocadero towards the tower, while my kids enjoyed looking at the many fountains. This is also a great place to have a picnic with the tower as an picturesque backdrop.
At the bottom of the steps there is a beautiful double decker carousel, a creperie and a gelato stand. While there is also another carousel on the opposite side of the boulevard, closer to the tower, the one on the Trocadero side is nicer. At sundown it is simply magical to hear the collective “Ahhhh ! ” of the crowd as the lights of the tower are turned on. If we had turned around right here, it would have been a perfect evening in Paris.
Unfortunately, my eldest child knew that climbing the tower was an option, so we followed the best advice we could find (from travel guru Wendy Perrin). To avoid long waits with children, you can either make a reservation for the elevator ahead of time on the Eiffel Tower website, or climb the stairs to the second level. We opted for the stairs, which my children climbed with ease (although I was huffing and puffing). The hitch is this — whether you make a reservation for the elevators, or take the stairs to the 2nd level, everybody has to wait in line to take a separate elevator from the 2nd level to the very top (this line can take 1 hour our more). We ended up taking a pass ( I bribed my disappointed children with Eiffel Tower shaped gummy candies). So, with that in mind, my suggestion with little ones is to either admire the tower from afar, or to make sure they understand that they will only be going to level 2.
Update: On a later visit to the Eiffel Tower when my kids were older, we made a plan to go all the way to the top. We took the elevator to the second floor and then my husband and kids wandered around enjoying the view while I got in line for the next set of elevators. When I was getting close to the front (around 45 minutes), they then joined me in line (I did let the people behind me know that they would be joining me). Here’s the thing though. Honestly, I find the view from the second level much nicer, so if you only get there, feel good about it. Also very nice to visit, is the 1st floor interactive space with its unique transparent floor, touch screens, restaurants and shops. Although we didn’t have the time, I would have loved to have enjoyed an overpriced glass of champagne on this floor while my kids ran around pushing buttons.
7. Tuileries gardens – Jardin des Tuileries
In the Jardin des Tuileries, close to Place de la Concorde, is a lovely little fenced playground, carousel and trampoline park. While not as grand as the park in the Luxembourg Gardens, it is still a fun place to spend a few hours (and the playground here is free). This is a great place for kids to burn off some energy after having visited the Louvre or The Orangerie (these art museums are at opposite ends of the park). From the last week of June until the last week of August, the park also becomes home to the Tuileries Fairground with over sixty carnival rides and attractions. Learn more about Jardin des Tuileries here or read reviews here.
Note: On our fist visit to Paris we chose only to visit the Musee Orangerie. It is the perfect size to be able to just duck in for a short period of time to get a view of some classics by Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Picasso, Rousseau, Matisse and more. As we visited late in the day (4pm), there were no lineups for the gallery. On our most recent visit to Paris we did a private family tour of the Louvre, which we found to be very manageable and enjoyable.
8. Disneyland Paris
I have a lot to say about our visit to Paris Disneyland. From a cultural perspective I felt a little guilt about taking my kids here, and wondered if we should instead be going to the more authentically french Parc Asterix — but I’ll admit that I was also a little be curious to see the french version of the happiest place on earth.
Well, I want to start by saying that my kids loved it. It is a smaller version of the California or Florida parks, but the layout is more or less the same. That said, I will quote my son who commented upon our arrival “Mom…..I have never seen so many parents smoking !“. Even as a child I remember being impressed by how perfect and clean everything was at Disneyland California. Disneyland Paris is a little rougher around the edges. The water in the ponds of It’s a small world is a little dirty, the seats on some of the rides are broken and the bathrooms are, well, kind of grungy. It just seems to be missing the attention to detail that good old Walt Disney was famous for. These details, however, did not seem to bother a 5 and 8 year old even in the slightest, and they had a wonderful time. Learn more about Disneyland Paris here or read reviews here.
Saving Money at Paris Disneyland
Periodically, you can get deals when you purchase tickets at the Disney Store in Paris (44 Champs Elysee – map). Generally, I find the website MouseSavers.com to be a good resource for getting at deal at any of the Disney properties.
I interject here with a story. I really want to be truthful in my tales of travel with kids because as much as I love the journey, things do not always go perfectly. I lost my son temporarily in our first hour at Paris Disneyland (my housing was not on this particular trip with us). It’s a long story, but he wanted to go on a big kids ride and I wanted to prove that I am not a helicopter parent. I arranged to meet him at the exit of the ride with my 5 year old. She fell and bumped her head whilst we waited, and due to this incident we unfortunately missed seeing him exit from the ride. This lead to 40 excruciating minutes before we were reunited.
The nice part of this story is that we had made a get lost plan. Upon our arrival at the park, we had picked a meeting point and I had put my business card in his pocket with my cell number on it. When I realized that he was most certainly lost and my daughter and I rushed towards the meeting spot, my phone started to ring. A lovely french family had found him waiting at our get lost point, and had called my phone from the card I had given him. Now yes, I was mortified that they retrieved my phone number off a card that said Pint Size Pilot – Survival Skills for Travel with Kids, but the point is, the get lost plan worked. So……have one.
9. Chateau Versailles with Kids
We had a crowd-free visit to the Palace of Versailles by visiting late in the day — taking in the gardens first and the chateau second. My kids enjoyed listening to the audio recorders (I’m note sure if they just liked pressing the buttons in each room, or if they actually were learning something, but either way, they were entertained). Learn more about the Palace of Versailles here or read reviews here.
My children found the gardens to be more fun than the palace itself. Here are a couple options that will allow you to get around more easily.
Electric Vehicle Hire: These golf carts allow you to follow five itineraries leaving from the South Terrace (discovering the Gardens, Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet, tour of the Grand Canal, tour of the entire Estate).
Mini-Train : The train leaves from the North Terrace and will take you to and from the Estate of Marie-Antoinette (Petit Trianon), Grand Trianon and Little Venice . The train is more of a transportations system than a tour.We rode it to the Grand Canal (Little Venice) and then enjoyed looking at the boats, swans, and gardens on our short walk back to the chateau.
Bikes Rentals:You can rent bicycles to tour the grounds of Versailles near the Grand Canal (Little Venice). Baby seats, trail-a-bikes, and kids bikes are also available.
Row Boats : At the Grand Canal you can rent lovely little row boats by the hour or half hour.
10. Paris Cooking and Pastry Classes for Kids
Why just buy pastries, when your budding little chef can learn how to make them as well? Paris has a number of cooking schools that offer pastry and cooking classes for kids, including Cook’n with Class, Cooking Baz’Art and Le Cordon Bleu. My daughter absolutely loved her french desserts workshop at Cook’n with Class. This cooking school is located quite close to Sacre Coeur, so we managed to do both on the same afternoon. Learn more about Cook’n With Class here or read reviews here.
11. Paris Marché Aux Fleurs et Oiseaux
Paris has some delightful markets including the daily Marché aux Fleurs on Île de la Cité near Notre Dame. Although personally I love flowers, we decided to visit on a Sunday, when the market is filled with beautiful birds instead. Learn more about the Paris flower and bird market here or read reviews here. For a full list of markets in Paris, see this post on the Top 10 Markets in Paris.
12. Picnics in Paris
Enjoy lunch in plain d’air in one of Paris’s beautiful parks or plazas. On our most recent trip I brought along a picnic blanket specifically for this purpose. My plan, was to enjoy a family picnic on the Champs de Mars with a view of the Eiffel Tower. This plan, however, was foiled once I realized that the whole Champs de Mars had been converted into a Fan Zone for a soccer (futbal) match. Instead, we spent a beautiful afternoon at Place de Vosges (And yes, I just might be holding a glass of wine in the photo. When in Paris….) For more family picnic spot suggestions see this post on the best spots for a picnic in Paris written by a local.
Further Resources for Travel to Paris with Kids
Personally, I really like to overdo it when it comes to my trip research (fear of missing out), so I read everything I can get my hands on. That said, here are my favourite guide books and resources for Paris.
Paris Travel Guides
Lonely Planet Paris – I am a longtime Lonely Planet devotee and I find that you just can’t go wrong with them. Although this guide is not specifically designed for families, there are always sections in the guides devoted to kid-friendly attractions and experiences. From $21.99
Family Guide Paris – Eyewitness Travel – This guide does a pretty good covering the best spots to play and stay in Paris with kids. From $16.99
Bringing up Bebe – Although not a guide, per sé, this book is a very entertaining read about the differences between parenting in France and in North America. My kids are actually very good eaters due to some of the little gems that I took away from this book. From $12.99
Monocle Paris – I bought this so that I could pretend that I was really in the know when it came to new hotels, boutiques, restaurants and art installations in Paris.From $10.99
Paris with Children – I absolutely adored this pocket-sized book for finding great family-friendly restaurants and kids stores in Paris. Without it, we never would have enjoyed Pink Flamingo Pizza. After placing your order, you take your balloon, find a picnic spot nearby, and wait for your meal to be delivered by scooter. So fun ! From $15.99
Paris Travel Guides for Kids
Not For Parents Paris – This Lonely Planet Paris for kids guide gave my kids just enough interesting information to keep them very well engaged at all the major sites. From $19.99
Blog Post and Articles on Visiting Paris with Kids
If you are a Pinterest user, the Pint Size Pilot account is entirely devoted to travel with kids. Within it, you will find a board called Paris Family Travel populated with posts from many talented writers on the subject of visiting Paris with kids. Please join me on Pinterest.
Getting Around in Paris
We found the Metro very easy to navigate in Paris, although some stations have quite a few stairs so you may want to keep this in mind if you have a stroller. When we were not on a direct Metro route, we would take a cab, or better, Uber.
Saving Money in Paris
Paris is a very expensive city. One of the ways that we saved money was to rent a vacation rental apartment. Hotels are so expensive in this city, and many require you to get two rooms if you have more than 3 people. Although we are not big on self catering (it is a vacation after all), I loved being able to just pop out to a patisserie in the morning for our breakfast, thus avoiding an expensive hotel breakfast. I also loved the experience of being in a character-filled neighborhood, rather than a hotel zone. Paris has simply thousands of vacation rental properties listed on sites such as Flipkey (TripAdvisor), VRBO, and Homeway.
Of course, some people would prefer a hotel experience. Check out these top rated hotels in Paris according to TripAdvisor. Be sure to tick the family-friendly sort box under style in the left hand column and pay close attention to reviews by families.
Discounted Attraction Passes for Paris
If you plan on visiting a lot of attractions in Paris, you may want to look at the Paris Pass. It conveniently includes admission to over 60 museums, tours and attractions, fast track entry to some of the busiest venues, a metro card, a Paris guide book and more. This pass comes in 2,3, 4 and 6 day options. Keep an eye out for sales as the Paris Pass sometimes runs a 15% off special. There is also an option to buy a Museum Pass, which is what I did on my first trip to Paris. Children under 18 are admitted to most Paris museums (including Versailles) for free, so only adults need to have the pass.