Traveling to Paris with kids is packed with possibilities - whether your kids want to take in the cultural gems, or just need a good playground, there's something for everyone. Here's my top tips from our visit!
I've been lucky to visit many places over the years in many continents. But going somewhere with kids, rather than with other adults or solo, takes on a whole different style of planning. I have found I need a different kind of hit-list. Sure, I ideally want to see the major sights, but I have to be realistic that we might not manage everything.
I have two young boys (6 and 3 at the time of travel) and while they're up for a certain amount of culture, they also need more run-around "kid time". When I'm trip-planning, I always hunt down some good playgrounds (which can be harder than you might think to find) and kid-friendly museums and activities.
I'm lucky to have two relatively foodie kids, but eating out can still have it's challenges, however adventurous they are. So here are some top tips and discoveries we made to help your Paris trip planning be smoother!
- Our top picks in Paris with kids
- Best playgrounds in Paris
- Paris destination areas with kids (slightly further afield/part or full day trips)
- Tips for eating in Paris with kids
Our top picks in Paris with kids
- Go up the Eiffel Tower
As soon as they saw it, the kids wanted to go up. It may seem expensive, but it's such an iconic place and the views are great, you almost have to.
Top tips: book tickets ahead of time, if you can, or be prepared to wait a good hour or more in line. Things can change, but when we went there is nowhere you can leave a stroller/buggy - either leave it behind or be prepared to carry it around. We took the elevator up and steps down which was fun, but steps are not for faint-hearted. Getting ice cream at the first level is fun too.
- Climb the Arc de Triomphe
This was another favorite with our kids. It has just the right number of steps to be a challenge, but not too tiring. And views are excellent too.
Top tips: unlike the Eiffel tower, there is somewhere to leave stroller/buggy at the bottom. It can be good to go here later in your visit so you can pick out places you have been.
- Picnic in a park
Do as the locals do and grab some food and eat outside on a lawn. It's relaxed and the perfect way to make sure you get food everyone enjoys.
Top tips: France doesn't have much of a takeaway culture, but you can buy ready made sandwiches in many bakeries, or else piece together a lunch from the many markets and shops with bread, fruit, cheeses and cured meat.
- Take in some art at a top gallery
Even if your kids aren't big on museums, there are lots of options in Paris to at least give them an introduction to some world famous art.
Which gallery is best? The Musee d'Orangerie is relatively small and a great option to dip your toes into Impressionism with some of Monet's great water lily paintings and a select collection of other Impressionist art. It's just enough to get a taste without being too big for younger kids. The Louvre is of course THE gallery for dedicated art lovers - booking ahead is advisable, allow plenty time and plan what you want to see as seeing it all is not really an option. The Musee d'Orsay is another great option, particularly with kids, as it's a fun building (former rail station) and the art is more modern.
- Take a Seine river cruise
I'll admit, this wasn't my kids favorite, but that might be because we did it right after the Eiffel tower and it wasn't as great in comparison, for them. It's still a great way to see many of the top sights without much effort and from a different perspective. Whether the kids take in all the commentary or not, you can at least learn a bit more about the city and it's amazing history.
Best playgrounds in Paris
I know there are more, from local parks to some of the bigger areas mentioned below, but these are some great options to try.
- Playgrounds under the Eiffel tower
Visiting the Eiffel tower is almost certainly on your list, so combine it with some free time in one or more of the playgrounds right underneath on the Champ de Mars. While there's a tiny playground near the tower itself, head a bit further back in the park, near the Ethiopian embassy, and you'll find two playgrounds side by side. One is aimed at slightly younger age than the other, but both have plenty to keep kids busy for a while. (Map streetview/location)
- Parc Montsouris
This park might seem a bit out of the center of the city, but it's right on the RER line (Cité Universitaire stop) which is a fast line cutting through the city (and metro tickets are valid). It was recommended by friends that live in Paris and I understand why.
This park is designed in British style so is much less formal than some, with lots of space to run around, have a picnic as well as a playground area in the middle with some really creative features. As well as sand, swings and a climbing structure, there's a fun track to run your toy cars on. (Map location)
- La Traversée des Invalides
This isn't exactly your traditional playground, but if you have climbers this is a must. Watch as they make their way along the wall, holding on to ropes, planks and metal rings. There's a small structure to climb on as well.
It might not keep them entertained as long as some other parks, but it's a great stop while in the central area. It's right by Berge de Seine which often has places to eat and art installations. (Map location)
- Jardin de Luxembourg
I debated not adding this to the list, as it involves some of what annoys me about Paris: you pay for almost everything. Yes, this park has mini boats on the pond, pony rides, a carousel and a fun play area. But you pay for every single one of them.
However if you are in the neighborhood, it's worth a stop and chalking it up as one of those one-off costs. It's a good park for a picnic, and you'll find some free play areas (not big, but at least free!) not far away in Jardin des Grand Explorateurs as well. (map streetview/location for free park and jardin de Luxembourg)
Paris destination areas with kids
As well as some of the central sights, Paris has areas that are destinations in themselves. Some are a little further out so you may need to allow at least half a day to get the most from them. As a result like us, you may not manage all so pick out your favorites!
- Jardin d'Acclimitation
This is essentially an amusement park, with a couple options on visiting. You can just pay for basic entry that lets you use the playgrounds, see the farm animals and walk around. Or, you can buy tickets for some of the many rides within the park.
Right beside the park is the modernist Louis Vuitton Foundation building. It's worth seeing from outside, even if you don't make it in the modern gallery itself.
- Jardin des Plantes
This park is home to the natural history museum and a historic city zoo, as well as botanical gardens. We didn't manage the museum, but the zoo was more fun than I was expecting with a good collection.
- Montmatre and Sacré Cœur
We unfortunately didn't make it here this trip thanks to some trip challenges, but it's a great area to do some wandering and people watching. You could also get a caricature drawn while you are there. Why not take the funicular train up the hill or climb the steps to the Sacré Cœur to make getting there more fun!
I'll admit, we didn't have time to do this with the kids in the end, but from previous trips, I know it would be a great choice. Even if you don't go in the palace, you can see it's grandeur from outside and the huge formal gardens are well worth exploring. The train ride to get there is pretty easy as well.
Top tips: The gardens are particularly worth visiting when the fountains are operating, as they are spectacular and fun to watch. Check the website to see when that is to time your visit, if you can. If you want to go inside the palace, it's worth booking a timed slot. You will probably have to wait either way, at least in summer, but much less with a timed slot.
- City of Science and Industry
We didn't make it here, but it's on our list for next time. If your kids are into science and technology, this is a great area to visit with lots of options. The surrounding park has some areas to play as well.
- Bois de Vincennes
We didn't make it out to this area either, but it's another great option for animal lovers. This park is home to a larger zoo than jardin des plantes, as well as an aquarium. There are also trails in the park which also houses the national sports institute.
Tips for eating in Paris with kids
Everyone has different tastes, and that's before you touch on dietary restrictions, so I know it's impossible to provide a comprehensive list of options and ideas. And true, if bread and/or cheese are not options, things can get tricky.
Restaurants themselves also change so I have tried to steer clear of specific places. But here are some ideas to try to balance an authentic experience with traveling with kids:
- Some classic French foods are more kid friendly than you think. French cooking might get a reputation for being fancy, and you can definitely find that in Paris, but with kids bistro dining is my top suggestion. This is kind of their equivalent of gastropub, with simpler, classic dishes that are more accessible to kids. Some favorites we enjoyed included:
- Duck confit (really tender, so easy for kids to like).
- Steak frites (yes, the steak will be pink, but encourage them to try as it's delicious!).
- Green beans - a common side and one our kids enjoyed.
- Croque monsieur and variations - basically a cheese and ham open sandwich, popular for breakfast/brunch but often available all day in cafe/bistros.
- Quiche - another classic that is pretty easy to enjoy.
- Eat at a crêperie. You'll find a crêperie in pretty much every neighborhood and they offer both sweet and savory options. So pancakes for dinner is a legitimate option with something to suit most tastes.
- Picnic in the park. I know I mention this above, but it is a great way to pick the food you all like and eat in a relatively relaxed way. Paris has bakeries and fruit stalls all over and the quality is great.
- Buy ingredients and cook at home. I appreciate it might not be everyone's idea of a vacation to cook your meal, and if you are in a hotel you probably don't have the option, but since we had an apartment, we made use of the kitchen a couple nights. As an example, we got some sausages from the butcher, pre-made ravioli from the pasta shop (really) and salad ingredients for a delicious, easy meal.
- Indulge in a little sweetness. I'll admit, I normally restrict sweet things a bit, but in Paris that kind of has to be set aside. Letting them try crème brûlée, macarons, as well some pastries is all part of the experience of French food.
Some final tips...
The Paris metro is pretty user-friendly, and reasonably priced. However there are a good number of stairs and few elevators so be aware if you have a stroller/buggy. Going by bus lets you see more of the city and is generally easier with a stroller.
Throughout the city, but I'd say particularly on the metro, take good care of your belongings. Paris has a lot of pickpocketing, so try to avoid being a victim by keeping valuables out of reach and at home, wherever possible.
Paris is a magical city to visit, with an accessible public transport system and lots of different places to visit. Traveling with kids may be a little different, but they can absolutely have fun in this great city (as can you!) with just a little bit of planning. I hope you find these tips for enjoying Paris with kids helpful - enjoy your trip!
If you're looking at other travel ideas, ready all about food in Bologna with lots of foodie travel ideas.