Paris is consistently one of the top visited tourist destinations in the world, but it’s not always considered particularly kid-friendly. Parisians have a reputation of being snobby and not tolerating misbehaving children. If you make an effort to bridge the cultural differences, though, Paris has its own unique stripe of kid fun. One of the gratifying things for families visiting France is that kid fun is never totally kid-centric, but typically has a level of sophistication that means parents can find it as gratifying as their children.
In light of the recent attacks on Paris and France, we thought it was a perfect time to celebrate our love of the City of Lights with a list of the most amazing kid-friendly fun in Paris.
Take the stairs up the Eiffel Tower for a new view. Photo by Richard Ley via Flickr.
1. Skip the long lines and burn off some energy by opting to climb the 704 steps up the Eiffel Tower. Make sure to catch the nightly light show too from somewhere in the city.
2. Take a Bateaux-Mouches boat ride down the Seine River.
3. After seeing if Mona Lisa’s eyes really do follow you around the room at the Louvre Museum, head to the basement to check out the medieval fortress.
4. Step into a fromagerie (cheese shop) to sample some super stinky (and yummy) French cheese.
5. Visit the modern Parc Zoologique de Paris to see everything from anteaters to zebras.
6. See how many gargoyles you can spot on massive cathedrals Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle. The churches are a short walk from each other. Notre Dame has a children's website to get them excited.
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Sail a vintage boat at Luxembourg Gardens. Photo by the author.
7. Luxembourg Gardens offers playgrounds, formal gardens, puppet shows and more, but the highlight is definitely sailing vintage wooden boats on the duck pond.
8. One of the best children’s museums anywhere, Cite des Enfants in the City of Science and Industry, offers hands-on learning for all ages.
9. After the museum, slide down a dragon or wander through a bamboo maze in the creative playgrounds at Parc de la Villette.
10. Hit the playgrounds or enjoy the summer carnival at the Tuileries Gardens, the oldest French-style gardens in Paris.
11. Stroll the narrow streets of Ile-Saint-Louis and stop at the famous Berthillon for ice cream or the funky La Charlotte de L’Isle for super thick hot chocolate.
12. See the world's largest impressionist art collection at Musee D'Orsay, housed in an old train station.
13. Take a day trip to the Palace of Versailles. The gardens are a maze-like park with hidden fountains to discover. Kids will especially love Marie Antoinette’s hamlet, a make-believe farm complete with animals. Bike rentals make getting around the giant site easier.
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Jardin des Plantes. Photo by Ruth Temple via Flickr.
14. Ride an extinct dodo bird at the Jardin des Plantes carousel, spear the rings at the Jardin des Luxembourg carousel, or ride one of the many other carousels found in parks and plazas around the city.
15. Hit the coasters at Parc Asterix where ancient France comes to life.
16. Be a food explorer and try garlicky escargot, yes, snails, served at almost any bistro.
17. See how the most romantic city celebrates love at the Pont des Artes where couples have attached hundreds of padlocks to the bridge and thrown the keys in the river.
18. See a puppet show, ride a camel, listen to a concert, ride a train and more at Jardin d'Acclimatation children’s park.
19. Take a night tour via bus and marvel in the city lights.
20. Stroll the Avenue des Champs-Elysees en route to the iconic Arc de Triomphe. The street is lined with fancy shops. Car-lovers will flip for the fancy automobile showrooms.
21. Ride the Metro. The subway system is easy and cheap. Kids under 4 years old ride free, and ages 4-9 are half price.
22. Take in the wacky and colorful Stravinsky Fountain near the renown Pompidou Center, a modern art museum that was built “inside out.”
Take a break at Sacre-Coeur. Photo by maria via Flickr.
23. Climb the steps leading to the Sacre-Coeur basilica, or just sit on them to enjoy the street performers and amazing view of the city.
24. After hiking up 270 steps, kick back with a tour on The Little Train around the historic Montmartre area.
25. See a gorgeous view of the city from the Montparnasse Tower Observation Deck. I enjoy the residential feel of this neighborhood and the many local shops and restaurants.
26. Pancakes for dinner! Or Lunch. Or dessert. Creperies serve both sweet and savory pancakes, perfect for any meal.
27. Are you brave enough to visit the Catacombs where you can see the bones of some of the millions of people buried below the city 200 years ago?
28. See Foucault’s Pendulum in the Pantheon, invented by the French scientist to prove the rotation of the Earth.
29. Check out the amazing taxidermied animals at Deyrolle.
30. Visit Disneyland Paris to see how the French version compares to the Florida and California parks.
31. See, touch, and ride an incredible grand collection of antique carnival objects at the Musee des Arts Forains.
Water sprays at Paris Plage cool down the kids. Photo by h2v via Flickr.
32. In summer months the banks of the Seine turn into a beach. Visit the Paris Plage for sun, sand, and activities.
33. When the temperatures rise, children turn the Trocadero (at the base of the Eiffel Tower) and other fountains into impromptu pools.
34. Discover antiques and oddities at the enormous Les Puces flea market.
35. The fascinating Musee de l’Armee depicts the history of war from the Stone Age to the present. Suits of armor, antique firearms, and an excellent kids’ audio guide make it more fun than it sounds.
36. The Jardin des Plantes is so much more than a beautiful garden. There’s a small zoo and a natural history museum, too.
37. The children’s science museum Palais de la Decouverte is all in French but has a lot of interactive exhibits that transcend language.
38. Doll lovers will marvel at the Musee de la Poupee, a private doll museum with hundreds of dolls and their petite accessories.
39. Distorting mirrors, rabbits from hats, and a short magic show (in French) make the Musee de la Magie a fun stop.
In preparation of your trip, a fun language app like Duolingo is a great way for kids and adults to learn some French. I also love the Lonely Planet Not for Parents book series, which gets kids excited about visiting the sites with tons of fun facts. I also strongly recommend looking into buying a Paris Pass disocunt card. Yes, you can save money if you are going to a lot of museums, but the biggest benefit is getting to skip the lines—a lifesaver when you are traveling with kids. Ask your hotel concierge where to pick one up, because sometimes they know of unlisted locations.
Top image: Parc de la Villette's Dragon Slide. Photo courtesy of Pascale Poggi via Flickr.