THE ULTIMATE ‘PARIS WITH KIDS’ GUIDE
Travelling the world can be one of the most extraordinary experiences when you are young however studies show that taking holidays abroad WITH your children not only recharge your batteries but have significant benefits on their development.
I can’t wait to share with you today’s guest post from Filipa Pinto of LeToboggan as she shares some of her favourite child-friendly places to visit in her childhood home of Paris.
Rediscovering Paris through a Child’s Eyes
This year we holidayed in Europe. What a busy time! We travelled through Italy, France and also stopped by London. My family lives in Paris so it was fantastic for the children to catch up with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Paris is very dear to me as it is the city I grew up in and where my family still lives. Naturally, this is where we spent most of our time. Our two children who are 4 and 3 have been learning French and Spanish so our trip was also a great opportunity for them to try out their new skills.
It’s been a pleasure to watch my trilingual children easily speak with almost everyone they met but most of all with their cousins. Tiago and Elisa speak French like natives and had a great time playing with their cousins.
Funnily enough, when travelling with children you have a very different looking schedule than when just travelling with your spouse. We quickly realised that we needed to change our plans to include activities and sights that our kids would love. All of a sudden we found ourselves thinking about how far and how long our kids could walk for, what museums would interest them and could be visited in 2 hours and where we could find food for them.
Below we’ve pulled together The Ultimate ‘Paris with Kids’ Guide showcasing a little of our time in Paris and some of the must see places for kids!
La Grande Galerie de l’Evolution /Le Musée de la Paléontologie
The Evolution Gallery offers stunning animal displays, a full area on endangered and extinct animals and you’ll also find a range of computers with scientific apps specifically designed for kids. In the ‘Galerie des enfants’ children can be a part of hands on experiments and watch short educational films to learn more about the environment, including a film on nocturnal animals in Paris. You could easily spend the whole day!
Next to the Evolution Gallery is the Palaeontology Museum for dinosaur and fossil fans, The ‘Jardin des Plantes’ (the Botanical Garden), the Gallery of Mineralogy and Geology, and the zoo.
La cité des sciences et de l’industrie / Le canal Saint-Martin
La cité des sciences et de l’Industrie is the largest scientific museum in Europe.
The museum can be divided into 3 areas: the permanent exhibitions, the temporary exhibitions and the children’s ‘cité’.
In the permanent exhibitions, you’ll find the European space rocket and scientific experiments for all kids of all ages including optical illusions, light installations and electricity experiments.
The children’s cité is for children 4-7 years and 7-12 years. We went to the area for 4-7 year olds and my children had fun doing activities playing with the senses, a maze, a building site with a crane and pulleys where children have to work as a team in order to build a foam brick wall. Any ticket also gives access to a small aquarium and a visit to a submarine. There’s also a great ‘dragon’ playground about 300m before the museum which is perfect for a picnicDay 3
Le palais de la découverte / walk on the Champs Elysées / Le Louvre / Le Pont des arts
These are some of my favourite places. If your children are into science they will love the Palais de la Decouverte. Their permanent exhibitions include the solar system, lights, electricity, a planetarium, chemistry, geosciences, mathematics, astronomy and more. Tiago & Elisa loved the displays and were able to play in several exhibitions.
A stroll up or down the Champs Elysees is always a must do when in Paris and great if your kids are active like mine.
Le Louvre museum is large and I’d recommend that you choose one aisle and plan the time you’ll spend exploring depending on the age of your children.
There are 35 different bridges over the Seine River and ‘Le pont des arts’ is for pedestrians only. It’s also one of my favourite spots for a picnic and enjoying the scenery.
Les jardins du Luxembourg / Le musée du Moyen-Age / Walk along the Seine river
The gardens of Luxembourg are beautiful and a great place for children to run about. There are benches under the shade of the trees and you can enjoy the French gardens and English gardens while seeing over 100 statues. The gardens are located between Saint-Germain-des-Pres and Le Quartier Latin, two vibrant neighbourhoods to visit.
A few blocks away is the Middle Ages Museum perfect for children who love bedtime stories about princesses in castles and knights and epic battles.
La cathédrale Notre Dame/Musée D’Orsay / Eiffel Tower/ Swan Island (with the little Statue of Liberty)
Notre Dame is one of Paris’ most recognised land marks combining the history of Paris along with its timeless beauty. Arrive early in the morning or later in the day to avoid long lines and large crowds.
Go upstairs and take in the breathtaking view of Paris and the streets below. Our children loved the gargoyles and the intricate details of the building. Did you know that the place where all of Paris is laid out and measured from is right in front of the cathedral? You can actually see kilometre 0 on the square out the front!
To make this adventure more fun we decided to take a ‘bateau bus’, there’s a bus stop right near the Cathedral. Purchase a ticket for a day or two and just hop on hop off at any stop within the time limit of the ticket.
The bus stops at key locations, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre Museum, The Orsay museum and The Eiffel tower. It also goes around the Swan Island ‘L’ile des Cygnes’ where you can see a little Statue of Liberty. Another option is to go on a 45-minute cruise on a bateau-mouche. Tour translations are available in several languages.
The Eiffel Tower. The height, beauty and history of the Eiffel Tower are just a small part of what makes it seem so magical, especially for you children. Whether you’re up for a climb to the top or just a picnic at the bottom, this is one of those experiences that will stay with your kids forever. You can walk up the stairs up to the second floor or access the third floor by lift.
Security has increased at the moment so it’s important to purchase your tickets ahead of time and be a little patient.
5 days is only a short time and Paris has so much more to offer that we will definitely be doing next time around. Some of the places on our ‘to visit’ list include:
- ‘Art Ludique – le musée’ which has temporary exhibitions on Mangas, comic books, cinema, live animation and video games
- La France Miniature – where you can see France’s main monuments on a small scale
- Le chateau de Versailles
- Le Sacré Coeur in the Montmartre area which features the carousel used in the Amelie movie
- Disneyland Paris
It was really fun to rediscover Paris through my children’s eyes. We chose to walk as much as possible to enjoy the architecture of the buildings and the atmosphere of the city.
Just be mindful that travelling by subway will not allow for much sightseeing. There are so many places so close by, so it’s easy to plan your visits within smaller areas and spend more time being tourists as opposed to commuting.
Tips for doing Paris well
- Public transport is free for children under 4 and discounted from 4 to 10. You can save money by buying a 10 ticket pack.
- All State owned museums are free for all on the first Sunday of each month. Go early.
- Look into buying combined museum tickets for extra savings, for example, a ticket for the Evolution Gallery will give you a discount to the Paleontology Museum, Mineralogy and Geology Museum, or La cite des sciences with le Palais de la decouverte, etc…
If you’re planning a trip to France with your kids, make sure you take some time to introduce some basic French vocabulary. You’ll be so glad you did because even a short period of full immersion exposure will benefit your child significantly.
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Filipa Pinto is a cheerful wife and mother of two beautiful trilingual children (French, Spanish, and English). Born in Portugal and raised in France, she moved to Perth, Australia to pursue her Master’s Degree. At university she met her husband-to-be, who was an international student from Peru.
Filipa is the owner of Le Toboggan (www.letoboggan.com.au), an online bookshop based in Perth, WA, that specialises in international children’s literature. She also runs French and Spanish workshops for children. Through Le Toboggan she also promotes the upbringing of multilingual children by running workshops to educate carers, international playgroups, mother groups, government structures and childcare centres. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram.