While past trips filled with romance and fine dining may be a distant memory, Paris can take on a new role in your life as a city to visit with kids.
Emily Goldfischer offers five not-to-miss ideas for the City of Lights that will keep the kids engaged and entertained, plus accommodations that cater to traveling families.
1. Travel by boat along the Seine. Is this too obvious a suggestion for a city built along a river?
Well, far too many visitors only stand and look at the river, but a better experience is to get out on the water.
It’s a relaxing way to introduce your family to Paris, get a feel for the city, and see and learn about the major sites.
There are several boat operators but Bateaux Parisiens which departs from the Eiffel Tower offers both traditional river cruises and ones tailored to families.
Professional actors dress as elves and tell kids the great history of Paris through songs, stories and games—all in a glass-domed boat with views of the most important landmarks of the city.
2. After you’ve done the obligatory visit to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, head to theCentre Pompidou.
Just riding the colorful exterior escalators is a treat; it offers scenic city views from the top and, of course, inside is Europe’s largest collection of modern art.
This museum offers activities in a dedicated children’s area on the second floor where instructors offer kids the chance to make their own masterpieces with crayons, pastels, markers and paper.
Currently, a breathtaking exhibit of glass works by Jean-Michel Othoniel features more than 80 pieces, including a Murano glass bed.
Get more recommendations for family travel activities in Paris with Romantic Paris Vacations … With The Whole Family
3. What to do on a Sunday? Try the Bastille Market.
The vibrant colors, earthy smells and engaging vendors immediately draw you into this bustling market of more than 100 stalls of fresh produce, flowers, cheeses, meats, and artisanal breads and pastries.
There is no better way to enjoy a Sunday morning with children in Paris. Indulge in a freshly prepared crepe as you walk or select fruits, cheese, roasted chicken and a baguette for a picnic.
Head a few blocks west on Rue Saint Antoine and continue through to the fashionableMarias district: cool boutiques with chocolate and pastry shops sprinkled in between. Historically a Jewish area, most shops are open on Sundays and several streets are closed to cars.
If you need some respite, Le Petit Place on Rue du Parc Royal offers delicious tartines(sandwiches), onion soup and other French bistro classics on a quiet square near the Picasso Museum (which is unfortunately closed until 2012, but the area still worth visiting!).
Bastille Market is open at 9 a.m. through early afternoons on Thursdays and Sundays.
4. As you check off the major sites—the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame—and whether you go into the Louvre or not, the Tuileries Gardens, anchored by that famous museum at one end and the Place de la Concorde on the other are not to be missed.
Let your kids blow off some steam on the trampolines, ride the picturesque carousel or play in the adventure playground.
No trip to Paris is complete without the obligatory and delicious macaroons; and one of the oldest and most wonderful patisseries with several locations near the Tuileries is Laduree.
Global shopper extraordinaire (and former resident) Suzy Gershman has taken Laduree’s side in the great macaroon wars of Paris. Find out why with Luxury Hotels, Luxury Travel & Bargain Shopping In Paris
If hot chocolate is more your thing, head to Angelina, famous since 1903 for the L’African, its outrageously dark rich and thick hot chocolate. One order is plenty for two people.
It’s not cheap, but it will be a hit among all family members and it is located on Rue de Rivoli just outside the Tuluries.
5. The best playground in Paris can be found at the Jardin du Luxembourg, the second-largest park in Paris. It costs a few euros to enter the playground, but totally worth it for the zipline alone. Instead of going in one direction, this zipline actually does a loop.
Along with the expected jungle gyms, swings and sandboxes, just next to the playground, you’ll find the oldest carousel in Paris, designed in 1879 by Charles Garnier, the architect of the famous Paris Opera House.
It looks a bit rickety, but what it lacks in glitz it makes up for in fun as children are given a small stick to “go for the brass ring.” (The phrase actually originates from this old carousel tradition where children try and loop a ring as their horse goes round.) Friendly attendants help, and kids get a real thrill when they get one.
Don’t get stuck when the Metro shuts down after midnight, let a local tell you how to go “Noctilien”: Le Tramway & Beyond: Paris Transportation Tips.
The park also is home to a vintage puppet theatre, Les Marionettes du Luxembourg, which is open on Wednesday afternoons and weekends, offering such cute shows language is not an issue.
If your crew still wants more, head over to the Grand Bassin where kids can rent small remote control boats.
Take the kids in the afternoon so that you can enjoy an early dinner at La Coupole, a classic bistro that is luckily just a few blocks away on Boulevard du Montparnasse.
Kids are truly welcomed with a substantial activity book, pencils and the children’s menu includes items like salmon in puff pastry and waffles with melted hot chocolate.
The food for adults is even better, and if you do not parlez Francais they will find you a waiter that speaks English. Voila! A great outing for all.
Paris is a sprawling city with many neighborhoods appropriate for families and accommodation options at every budget.
Here are some centrally-located and not-ridiculously-priced properties…
Find more great hotels with Suzy Gershman’s Paris Luxury Hotel Guide
Radisson Blu Ambassador Hotel Paris Opera is located near the Opera, shopping, and one block from a Metro stop, so this hotel is well-situated.It features good-sized rooms and modern bathrooms, free Internet, and a substantial buffet breakfast included. Connecting rooms are available. Rates start around $476 per night.
Hotel California, located near the Champs Elysees and walking distance to most major sites, is a modern four-star hotel caters to families with rooms that can sleep four people starting at about $490 per night.
The Novotel Paris Tour Eiffel is a four-star hotel with views of the Seine catering to families with double rooms that can comfortably sleep four starting at $275 per night in June. The hotel has an indoor pool, play areas with computers and Novotel gives kids free breakfast (with paying adult) in the hotel’s restaurant. About a 10-minute walk to the Eiffel Tower, convenient to the Metro and in a vibrant part of the city next to the river, this hotel is good value for the center of Paris.
By Emily Goldfischer for PeterGreenberg.com.
Related links on PeterGreenberg.com:
- Romantic Paris Vacations … With The Whole Family
- Off The Brochure Travel Guide: Paris, France
- Le Tramway & Beyond: Paris Transportation Tips
- Paris Bargain Shopping: Flagships, Flea Markets & Outlet Malls
- Luxury Hotels, Luxury Travel & Bargain Shopping In Paris
- The Top Paris Shopping Spots & Paris Luxury Travel
- France & Belgium Travel
- Shopper Extraordinaire Suzy Gershman’s Shopping Picks In Paris
- Ask the Locals City Guide: Paris, France