I spent a summer in France visiting a pen pal when I was 15 years old. After that trip I swore I would never go back. Never say never! Today, I absolutely adore France! It’s so kid friendly. Because we currently live in Switzerland, our family visits France several times a year and has really come to love the food, people, and sights.
Paris is magical. I will always love Paris because it’s the first city I ever visited out of the country. Our family can’t get enough of the city of lights. Paris is the number one tourist destination in the world so it can get a bit crowded. That’s why we have put together a guide to help you plan your trip.
Eiffel Tower: The Eiffel Tower is beautiful both in the day and night. Going to the top of the Eiffel tower is fun, but if you are looking for a good view, the parks below are some of the best. We especially like to cross the bridge and go to the Palais du Chaillot. There is a carousel and playground near. Here you can get some great photos of the tower, have a crepe and let the kiddos play in the park and ride the carousel.
Be sure you buy tickets in advanced if you want to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower! You can get them here. Book early because they sell out in the summer and the lines can get very long.
Louvre: The Louvre is amazing. You can literally spend days here; however, the average person probably needs half a day looking at the main works of art. Older kids will enjoy THATlou. They have a complete treasure hunt for the Louvre, which is really fun for families and keeps kids interested.
If you buy the individual passes to the Louve (purchase here) instead of the museum pass, you can bypass the long security lines. Tickets must be purchased online and in advance.
Just outside the Louvre towards the Champs Elysees is the Jardin du Tuileries. This is a wonderful park to unwind, get a cold drink, and sit in the shade. It also has a playground and a trampoline park for the kids.
Champs Elysees/Arc de Triomphe: We were in Paris just a day before the Tour de France came down the Champs Elysees. It was wild! I love the Champs Elysees because it’s a meeting place for everyone where you can find everything. Most people miss the Champs Elysees and head straight for the Arc de Triomphe, but I highly suggest taking a stole down to absorb the fun and then head to the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc is stunning. If you happen to be in Paris on Bastille Day there is a HUGE French flag hanging from it! You can also go to the top of the Arc and have a great view of Paris.
Notre Dame: It is well worth the visit, but the lines may be long. The stained glass windows are one of my favorite things in Paris. You can walk to the top of the towers for amazing views. The trek is a very narrow staircase with a lot of stairs, but you are able to see so much of the cathedral that you can’t from the ground. I love walking around the Notre Dame and checking out the flying buttresses in the back of the cathedral. There are also benches to rest and a playground for kids. Across the street are quite a few ice cream stands. It can make for a fun place to take a break and let the kids play.
Saint Chapelle: I went to Saint Chapelle for the first time last week and I highly suggest going. It’s magnificent! The stained glass is magical. My girls are very young and really loved it! Even my one-year-old kept pointing at the glass saying, “Oh wow.” I can’t stress enough how important it is to buy your tickets (purchase here) in advanced. Even with the museum pass you will still have to wait in the long security line. An individual tickets help you bypass all lines and go straight to security.
Sacre Coeur: This is probably my favorite area in Paris. Montmartre is filled with funky shops, art, and food. It’s easy to spend an entire day walking around. One of our favorite things to do in any city is to take a day and wander with no plan. The area around the Sacre Coeur is the perfect spot to do that. The basilica will be crowded but it’s easy to get in and out and the lines aren’t too long.
Versailles: We actually never made it to Versailles. The lines were too long and my girls were way too grumpy. There is an option to buy a more expensive ticket with a “private” tour that will take you into rooms that are not on the standard Versailles walking tour. You are also able to bypass the long lines by buying this ticket, so it’s well worth the extra money.
PLACES TO VISIT OFF THE GRID
Chantilly Chateau: This is a fabulous place to take kids, not to mention it’s completely beautiful. It’s about a 25-minute train ride from Gare du Nord and you can spend the whole day there! They have a horse show that is very fun for kids. There is a huge stable, a chateau, beautiful gardens, and more. It’s easily a day trip and a great way to avoid the Versailles crowds. It was one of my girls’ favorite things to do.
Cooking Class: Ecole Cuisine is a fun cooking class with kids ages 6-12 years old. Parents must take the class with their kids but it’s loads of fun for the whole family!
Brunch at Arrosoire: Sunday brunch at this restaurant is super fun for kids because there is a magician who comes to your table for a little show. Plus, the restaurant is located in a great area of Paris.
TIPS FOR TRAVELING TO PARIS
- Tickets: Buy tickets in advanced! I can’t stress this enough. Especially if you are visiting Paris in the summer. You can get a museum pass, which is good at a lot of places, but it doesn’t get you to the front of the line like buying individual tickets. Buying the individual tickets takes more time, but when you are able to bypass a 4-hour line, it’s so worth it!
- Transportation: This depends on the age of your kids. On one trip to Paris, we took the hop-on hop-off bus and it worked well. It wasn’t peak season so there were plenty of seats and made traveling around the main tourist sites quite easy. Last week we tried the hop-on hop-off bus and it was a nightmare. It was way too crowded, hot, and people were rude about our stroller. We ended up taking taxis. With small kids and babies, I suggest either the hop-on hop-off bus or taxis. When the kids get a bit older, the Paris Metro works great. It’s fast at getting you from point A to point B, but doesn’t work well with strollers.
- Food: French food is a bit tough with kids…at least the real French food, but my girls absolutely love French waiters. LOVE THEM! They are always so sweet! This helps (at least for us) with encouraging the girls to eat. I have very picky eaters, but we were always able to find some pasta and other things the girls love to eat.
- Hotels: Paris hotels are not cheap, especially in the summer. In off-season you can get a very nice hotel for a good price but in peak season it’s difficult to find a hotel in general. Book in advanced if you are going in the summer. We booked our hotel three months in advanced and it was completely sold out immediately after. It’s best to make sure you plan ahead. Airbnb is also a good option, but most apartments and home rentals don’t have air conditioning. If A/C is important (in the summer, I’d say it is) I suggest booking a well-known hotel chain. It’s they best way to cool off.
- Airport: Strollers (with the exception of the Yoyo stroller) are not permitted though the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. Even if you checked your stroller at the gate in another city, you have to pick it up at baggage claim! Air France does provide parents with strollers sometimes, but not all the time. Please be prepared.
- Paris Travel Cards: I designed these 4 x 6 travel cards highlighting the main sights of Paris. They include simple games and helpful information for your little globe-trotter and make a good keepsake from your adventures in Paris. Bon voyage!