Paris may not spring to mind immediately when you think about suitable places to take small kids. It’s busy, can be expensive, and the attractions (except the obvious one here, guys) are geared around museums and sightseeing. And it’s more often touted as a romantic destination for couples, rather than a family friendly choice.
But our kids had a blast in Paris when we went in October half term. Paris is hands-down the Cub’s favourite place we’ve visited. Read on to see what the kids loved so much about this beautiful city.
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In a large city, you have to pick your attractions carefully to keep small kids interested. So Paris with little ones isn’t necessarily going to be about taking in all the usual sights. There’s no Arc de Triomphe on my list. We steered clear of the Louvre. You couldn’t pay me to stand in a huge queue with 4 and 2 year olds outside Notre Dame, gorgeous though it is inside. (I did drag them round Versailles though, I’d never been!).
Instead, this list is more about small pleasures. Travelling with kids is great in that it makes you slow down and you end up taking more notice of your surroundings. There will be time for the usual sightseeing in the future.
I don’t mean to tell you what to do – just what has worked for our family. If you think your kids will be interested and can handle the queues, then go for it!
What to see and do in Paris with small kids
So, completely disregarding everything I’ve just said, one of the things that every kid will love in Paris is the Eiffel Tower. Thanks to Go Jetters and Miraculous TV shows, my kids are pretty familiar with the Eiffel Tower and neither could wait to see it.
Unfortunately, when we arrived the Eiffel Tower was not co-operating and remained stubbornly hidden in a thick blanket of autumnal fog all morning. However, that didn’t really matter as there was no way the Cub was going up (ah, the capriciousness of 4 year olds!). Instead the kids took a ride on the carousel while we waited for the fog to clear. There’s also a great park at the back of the Eiffel Tower and kids will have great fun running around here.
By the evening, the fog was gone and we managed to catch the light show which happens every hour. The kids were happy just to look at the Eiffel Tower – I’m sure I’ll drag them up to the top another time.
If you would like to go up the Eiffel Tower, then you can buy tickets online or at the tower itself. An adult ticket costs €25; children 4-11 costs €6.30 and adolescents 12-25 costs €12.50. You could also buy a combination ticket for the Eiffel Tower and a boat trip from the nearby quay.
There is high security around the Eiffel Tower and a bulletproof glass wall is being built around the base.
Boat trip on the Seine
A boat trip on the Seine is a great way to get around Paris while little legs take a rest. We took a boat from the quay next to the Eiffel Tower. At the quay you will find a couple of operators which have several different tour options.
We chose Batobus as it’s a hop on, hop off service. This is a great option if you don’t want to be on a non-stop boat tour for over an hour with small kids. There’s no commentary or guided tour available on the standard journeys; you’ll need to get on a specific boat if you want a tour.
A one day ticket with Batobus costs €17 and €8 for children aged 3-15 . The two-day pass costs a mere €2 more. Buy your tickets online or at a ticket office at any of the stops.
The company next door, Bateaux Parisiens, offer tours (including a specific kids’ tour) from €15. We were going to go with them but as we wanted to leave the boat at Notre Dame the timings didn’t work for us.
You can see quite a bit of Paris from the Seine, and the Batobus hop on hop off service calls at several stops along the way. We went all the way to Notre Dame before we stopped off for lunch. You can hop on and off as many times as you like. Other great stops along the way include the Louvre, the Champs Elysees and the Musee d’Orsay.
The best park in Paris for kids: Jardin de Luxembourg
You’re not short of choice for gardens and parks in Paris, but the Jardin de Luxembourg has to be the best park in Paris for kids. Our kids had a fantastic time here.
The gardens are in the grounds of an imposing house, the Luxembourg Palace. All the flowerbeds are beautifully kept, fountains splash gently, and there are plenty of seats to relax in. It’s the perfect place for a picnic (although not on the grass – you’ll have to grab the green deckchairs).
One of the top things to do in the Jardin de Luxembourg has to be sailing a boat on the lake. The boats are for hire from a stand just by the lake, for €4 for half an hour. You get a stick to push them with so just pop the boat on the lake and get sailing. Kids of all ages were having a great time here; ours got stuck straight in.
When your half hour is up, walk further into the park and you’ll soon hear the delighted shrieks of kids playing in the dedicated playground area. There’s loads of equipment, swings and sandboxes to keep kids busy for some time. Although admission to the gardens is free, you will have to pay for the playground area – €2.50 per child. As we travelled in half term, the playground was absolutely packed.
Nearby are some little green swings, €1.50 per child, with much less of a queue to get onto. You can also buy candy floss from the little snack hut next door.
Elsewhere in the gardens, you can see puppet shows at selected times; sadly, we didn’t manage to catch one. Pony rides are also on offer. There’s definitely enough at the Jardin de Luxembourg to keep you and your kids occupied for several hours.
Explore a local neighbourhood: Montmartre
Paris is a great city for walking, and its arrondissements, or neighbourhoods, all have their own character. We decided to explore the 18ème arrondissement, better known as Montmartre. We ended up spending the whole day wandering about – we had a lazy start and the weather gods were against us, so it was slow going. I’d recommend half a day in Montmartre at least.
The main draw of Montmartre is the iconic Sacre Coeur basilica which sits on a hilltop overlooking much of central Paris. While it’s certainly beautiful, we had the most fun idly strolling the picturesque streets, looking out for street art, statues and the windmills of Montmartre. It’s a really atmospheric district with fascinating history and some fabulous buildings.
If you don’t fancy meandering around by yourself or you’re pressed for time, then there are plenty of guided walk options.
Try some delicious patisserie
You don’t have to look very hard in Paris to find sweet treats. There’s nothing better (or more French) than popping out to the local boulangerie to get pastries for breakfast. Just be sure to go as early as you can to get still-warm from the oven croissants. In Montmartre one of the best is Le Grenier a Pain on rue des Abbesses, which has won awards for their bread.
You might want to try visiting Rue du Bac, which is on Paris’ left bank. There are lots of exquisite patisseries and chocolate shops around this area. Some of the most highly rated establishments here include La Patisserie des Reves who make special cakes and desserts for children and Chocolat Chapon who make their own chocolate.
Just don’t eat breakfast before you go!
Ride on a carousel
There are about 20 permanent carousels in Paris. These carousels are gorgeously painted and gilded, and weathered for a real vintage look. Many of them are two-storey with a variety of animals or vehicles to ride on, and all are irresistible to small children.
They are located near to the big tourist attractions so no matter where you go in Paris, you’re bound to run into several.
My kids managed to get a couple of rides in at two of the most scenic locations. The most famous carousel is probably the one just in front of the Eiffel Tower, although we also tried the one at the foot of the Sacre Coeur.
Our tickets cost about €6 for an adult and two kids, prices may vary a little.
Find a kid-friendly museum
A museum visit can be a great idea even with small children – if you choose carefully. They are also rainy-day proof! Here are a few ideas.
Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie
The Cité des Sciences is a little out of the way. But it’s got to be one of the best destinations for kids in Paris and yours will think it’s worth the effort to get to. We had to carry our howling kids out to rush back to the Gare du Nord and our train home. Suffice to say they didn’t want to leave!
In a cavernous concrete block of a building you’ll find the Cité des Enfants where kids can spend a 90 minute session exploring all sorts of things scientific. They can find out about their bodies, play with water, learn about wind and even work on a construction site (hard hats and hi-vis jacket provided).
There’s also a little show for kids to watch – when we went it was all about mixing colours. The performer didn’t have any dialogue; it was all done through sign language so you don’t need to speak French to understand.
There are two options for the Cité des Enfants – one for kids aged 2-7 and on for kids aged 5-12. You should probably buy your tickets online first; when we went there was an enormous queue and we only just scraped in on time. Tickets cost €12 per adult and €9 for children (link for tickets above).
In the rest of the building there’s a huge array of exhibits and shows, all to do with science and all aimed at children of various ages. When we return to Paris we’ll definitely make more time for the Cité des Sciences – it’s a full day out. Out the back there’s access to a large park, Parc de la Villette, which is notable for its bright red modern towers along the canal.
TIP: If you are taking the Eurostar to Paris then you’ll be arriving and departing from Paris Gare du Nord. Cite des Sciences is reasonably close to the Gare du Nord (although you need to get a train and a tram to get there). A great option is to leave your bags in the Gare du Nord baggage lockers and visit Cité des Sciences in the morning before taking your train home in the afternoon. This is what we did and it worked well.
The Centre Pompidou
If you don’t fancy making your way out to Cite des Sciences, you could try the very central Centre Pompidou. Kids will be fascinated by the exterior of the building which has all of its pipes and staircases on the outside. They’re colour coded so it’s easy to see which is which.
The Centre Pompidou is primarily a modern art gallery, so your kids might find some of the exhibits interesting, depending on their age.
Inside there’s a kids’ area, the Galerie des Enfants, which is suitable for kids aged 3+. Kids will find lots of interactive exhibits and activities. The activities vary each year and the dates that the Galerie des Enfants is open can vary so you should make sure that you check on the above link before you go.
The Atelier des Enfants runs workshops for children aged 2+ on Wednesdays and weekends. Again, you should check to see what’s on before you visit as the programme changes often.
The Catacombs of Paris
The Catacombs of Paris have to be one of the most interesting, if gruesome, things to see here. If you have slightly older kids who aren’t squeamish then this could make for a really memorable couple of hours.
Once you’re inside the catacombs, there is limited signage and so it may be best to take a guided tour to get the most out of your visit. There are steep staircases (130 steps down) so no pushchairs (or wheelchairs, for that matter). The Cub was really interesting in visiting the Catacombs but sadly they were closed in half term. The website says that it’s not suitable for small children, but for the life of me I can’t find a specific age limit. Is it because of the steps? Or is it because they think small kids will be freaked out more than adults?
Buying tickets online in advance is recommended, and be careful to check that the Catacombs are open for your visit.
Where to stay in Paris with kids
There are many, many options to choose from in Paris. I wouldn’t recommend staying outside the Ile de France though, you want to be as central as possible.
We stayed in an AirBnB in Montmartre, a stone’s throw from the Sacre Coeur. AirBnB can be a great budget option for families but remember to choose carefully. Don’t stay anywhere with only a few reviews and read any negative reviews carefully. It’s best to choose a property owned by a superhost.
If you don’t want to risk AirBnB, you could try staying in a serviced apartment which will probably give you more room for your family and more control over meal options.
Take a look at Bastille Suites which are located just a mile from Notre Dame cathedral and a short distance from Gare de Lyon. The apartment comes with a fully equipped kitchen, free wifi and there’s plenty of room for a family. Check prices and availability here.
Another similar option, but closer to Notre Dame and on the other side of the river is Paris Notre Dame Romantique. This apartment is suitable for larger families as it can fit in 6 people. See if it’s free for your trip here.
Family friendly hotels
If you want to stay in a traditional hotel then there are some great budget friendly options as well as luxury choices.
Le Pavilion de la Reine Hotel & Spa is a top luxury choice in the 3ème arrondissement on the Place des Vosges. It’s a gorgeous building with a family room so it’s perfect for a special stay. Get more information and check prices here.
Hotel Therese is a 4 star hotel very close to the Louvre in the 1ère arrondissement. It has a family room, which we always prefer as we don’t like to be separated. Check prices and availability here.
Hotel Excelsior is in the 10ème arrondissement and is a more affordable option. It has family rooms and good reviews. Get more information here.
How to organise your Paris itinerary with small kids
We had 4 full days in Paris (excluding two travel days) and this is how we structured our time. Plan on taking longer than you would without kids – never mind that little legs go slower, your kids will also find hundreds of little things to stop and look at!
Our itinerary, to give you an idea of how much you can expect to do, was as follows:
Day 1: Eurostar to Paris from London, arrive evening
Day 2: Spend a day wandering around Montmartre, dodging the autumnal showers wherever possible. You can probably do Montmartre in half a day and spend the other half in a museum if you like. We were feeling lazy so it took us the best part of a day to mooch about.
Day 3: Day trip to Versailles, or try one of these day trips from Paris with kids.
Day 4: Spend at home with a sick toddler (again!; you have to be kidding me!). If we hadn’t been stuck at home we’d have walked the Promenade Plantée and gone to Galleries Lafayette to get a great free view over Paris. We’d also have bought the two day Batobus ticket and stopped off at more of the piers. One place that remains on my list is the beautiful stained glass of the Sainte-Chapelle, near Notre Dame, which we didn’t manage to see.
Day 5: Pack as much in as possible! Eiffel Tower; Seine boat tour; Jardins de Luxembourg
Day 6: Cite des Sciences in the morning; home in the afternoon
How to get to Paris with kids
Paris is a major transport hub and so you won’t have any problems booking flights.
We recommend using a price comparison site like Skyscanner to find the best prices – see what the latest prices are here.
If you’re based in the UK you could try the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. Taking the Eurostar means that you can cut out airport waiting times and you’re deposited right in the middle of Paris. We found it more convenient than flying, although there was still a kerfuffle to get through security.
Eurostar often have discount fares, as low as £29 one way so it’s worth keeping an eye out for deals. However, the day that those deals coincide with school holidays, I’ll eat my hat.
How to get around Paris with children
In addition to taking a river cruise or walking you can also get around Paris by:
The Paris metro and linked train network is extensive and easy to use, so you can get pretty much anywhere quickly. You can buy a carnet of 10 tickets to keep your journeys flexible. If you’re not sure which ticket is best ask at the ticket desk – they were very helpful. Children aged 3 and above need a ticket.
TIP: Make sure your buggy or stroller is suitable for the Paris metro!
Paris also has an extensive bus system which may be more convenient for you if you’ve got a buggy to manhandle about. You can also use your metro tickets on the bus and this will work out as cheaper than buying them on the bus itself. You have to validate them when you board.
Have you been to Paris with small kids? What was your favourite thing to do?
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