Last year I took my two elementary school age kids on a one week adventure to Paris and Luxembourg. We had three days in City of Lights, which was enough to hit the highlights (Trip reports: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3) and get a small taste of what the French capital has to offer.
Before the trip I asked for recommendations on the best places in Paris to take two youngsters, and I got a good number of varied responses. While we didn’t hit everything suggested, we hit enough. There is plenty for kids to do. Here is my list of the 10 best things to do in Paris with kids:
I’d never heard of Luxembourg Gardens before I started planning our trip. I found it funny there was a place named after the other country we’d be visiting during our time in Europe, but hey, it sounded cool. The Luxembourg Gardens are free, and they are a popular place to spend a lovely afternoon.
One of the coolest things to do in Luxembourg Gardens is to rent the toy boats for your kids to push across the pond. These cost €4 for half an hour. That might seem steep if you’re a penny-pincher (or have a bunch of kids), but it is totally worth it. My kids had a blast pushing and chasing their boats across the water. Definitely a good choice on our first day when distracting them from their fatigue was the primary goal.
The fun with the boats is relatively wind-dependent, and we entered the doldrums a few times during our sailing adventure. There were a good number of collisions as well. Kids would end up having to fish their boat away from each other.
Each boat also bears the colors and lettering of a specific country. My kids just grabbed two at random, which happened to be Portugal and Ireland. We later looked on the rack for a Costa Rica boat, but didn’t see one.
Later, we headed over to an awesome playground within the park. It has an entry fee, which was a new thing to me. I’d never paid to enter a kids’ playground, but this one was entirely worth it. Based on everything contained in the park, I could see why there was a fee (I think it was about 3 euros for all of us). It was cool to see the kids interacting with other children from all over. There were a mom and child from Germany (best I could tell), a British family on holiday, and a few kids speaking Italian, not to mention the abundance of French kids. Laughter and fun was the shared language of all.
One sad note: it appears this park has been renovated, and everything I’ve read states that it is both more expensive and less fun, which is a major bummer.
This should be an obvious choice for any trip to Paris. I’m not sure there is anything more iconic in the city. The Eiffel Tower was the primary sight the kids wanted to see in Paris, and we made sure we’d had a good night’s sleep so we could fully enjoy it. I wouldn’t try to do the tower during day one (honestly, I wouldn’t plan anything firm on the first day of a trip to Europe).
There is plenty of info out there on how to access the Eiffel Tower, so I will spare you that. What I will encourage you to do is to take the stairs rather than the elevator. It is both cheaper and the better experience, in my opinion. You can stop as often as you like to take in the view of Paris all around you.
The kids weren’t thrilled with my idea of climbing the tower on foot, but I stuck with it nonetheless. Hiking a bunch of stairs wasn’t their idea of fun, but they were troopers.
Sacre Couer and Montmartre
A new place for me was the Montmartre area and Sacre Couer church. Before planning our 2018 trip to Paris, I hadn’t heard of either. Upon visiting, though, I can state that this neighborhood is one of the coolest to explore in the city. Plus, you get wonderful views from the steps of the Sacre-Couer (Sacred Heart) Basilica. It’s a delightful way to relax on a summer evening.
Trocadero – Carousel and Park
Trocadéro is the area across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. On the opposite side is the Champs de Mars. Trocadéro has some impressive, fun fountains, which we enjoyed on our way from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe. There is also a small kids playground to the southwest. We also enjoyed the carousel at Trocadéro. Make sure you ride at least one in the city! And list of best things to do in Paris with kids wouldn’t be complete without the carousels.
One note on the Trocadéro playground: we visited after 9:00 PM, and there were still kids around. Seriously…I thought is was an oddity that I kept our kids out late into the evening. But it seems like this is a totally normal thing for Europeans. I saw more than one other family with young children still out enjoying the city.
Besides the Eiffel Tower, there probably isn’t another Paris site as iconic as Notre Dame. The devastating fire this year was incredibly sad to watch. I’m quite glad that we visited and got to see her in all her glory. I sincerely hope the restoration and rebuilding efforts go well. It would be a travesty to lose such an important cultural icon.
One of the highlights was our visit to the roof was one of the highlights. Unfortunately, my understanding is that all previous experiences at the cathedral are now closed during reconstruction work. You’ll only be able to admire Our Lady of Paris from afar.
Art museums typically aren’t my thing, but I decided that we’d have a look at Musee l’Orangerie. This gallery on the corner of Jardin Tuileries houses a number of Monet’s water lily panels, arrayed in two lovely oval rooms where you can take in their panorama. This is definitely the highlight. A big plus: kids under 18 are free. All visitors are also free on the first Sunday.
Beyond the water lily panels, there was less to interest the kids. I did rent one of the audio devices in Spanish to let them listen to descriptions of different rooms and pieces, which my daughter enjoyed. But the museum quickly bored my son. We wandered the downstairs galleries for most of an hour and then decided to move on.
There were two highly-rated bakeries in close proximity to our hotel (SEE: Crowne Plaza Paris Republique Review). One we frequented each morning for breakfast, and it was a popular little place. The staff provide quick service, and you can grab an assortment of pastries, coffee, and juice for an affordable price. Everything is wonderfully fresh.
You really can’t visit France without spending time in bakeries. They’re all over. And, as a general rule, they are good. I’m sure you can find a poor one here and there, as with anything, but the few we stopped at were all excellent. My favorite is still Aux Péchés Normands, which is the one we visited more than once.
Seine River Cruise
This is a great activity to stick in the middle of a busy day. It gives the kids a chance to rest while still taking in the City. We all enjoyed the beautiful afternoon on the river. Our tour embarked from the north end of the Ile Cite and turned around near the Eiffel Tower, so you pass through the very heart of Paris.
The one bummer is that our tour guide was difficult to understand. She spoke fluent French, but her English was very tough to decipher. The kids struggled greatly (English is their second language). She also offered little more than brief descriptions of each place we passed. I’m sure there are better options when it comes to tours. But…the tour was one of the cheaper ones, and you get what you pay for.
Conclusion: Best Things To Do in Paris with Kids
Paris is a great city to explore with young ones. It is both walkable and easy enough to navigate using the metro and rail. From the history, to the French cuisine, to any of the above best things to do in Paris with kids, there is plenty to fill your itinerary. I can’t wait for the day that we all make it back there.