Paris is not always the easiest city to navigate with children, but kids will still love many of the museums, parks, and attractions the city has to offer. If you're staying on the Right Bank, take the children for a stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries, where there are donkey rides, ice-cream stands, and a marionette show; at the circular pond, you can rent a toy boat. On the Left Bank, similar treats exist in the Jardin du Luxembourg. After a visit to the Eiffel Tower, you can take the kids for a donkey ride in the Champ de Mars.
A Paris tradition, puppet shows are worth seeing for their colorful productions; they're a genuine French child's experience. At the Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Buttes Chaumont, puppets reenact plots set in Gothic castles and Oriental palaces; some critics say the best puppet shows are held in the Champ de Mars.
On Sunday afternoon, many French families head to the Butte Montmartre to bask in the fiesta atmosphere. You can join in: Take the Métro to Anvers, and walk to the funiculaire (the cable car that carries you up to Sacré-Coeur). When up top, follow the crowds to place du Tertre, where a Sergeant Pepper-style band will usually be blasting off-key and you can have the kids' pictures sketched by local artists. You can take in the views of Paris from the various vantage points and treat your children to ice cream.
For tiny tots (0–5 years old):There are nice playgrounds with safe equipment all over the city. For precise locations, visit www.jardins.paris.fr (search “aires de jeux”), ask at your hotel, or just follow the strollers. The Tuileries Gardens and the Luxembourg Gardens both have a large fountain where you can rent wooden toy sailboats (for around 2€) and push them around with a long stick (a big hit with my son when he was 3-ish). Most large gardens or parks in this book have a merry-go-round. Kids will also love the activities in the Luxembourg gardens.
For the middle years (6–9 years old):This is when it’s time to turn to attractions like Grevin, the Cité des Enfants, the Jardin d’Acclimatation, and if you are really desperate, there’s always Disneyland Paris. The newly reopened Parc Zoologique de Paris is a good bet; there another, smaller, zoo at the Jardin des Plantes. You might also consider going to one of the nice municipal pools, which usually include a kiddie pool.
For the tweens (10–13 years old): At this age the scale can tip both ways, between “not another museum!” and actually getting interested in some of the cultural offerings. A few museums are particularly suited to this age, like the Musée des Arts et Metiers, the Gaîté Lyrique, and in particular, the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie. Boat or bike tours also work for this crew.
Here are some attractions that children may enjoy:
- Bois de Boulogne
- Bois de Vincennes
- Centre Pompidou
- Chateau de Vincennes
- Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie
- Eiffel Tower
- Gaîté Lyrique
- Jardin d’Acclimatation
- Jardin des Plantes
- Jardin des Tuileries
- Jardin du Luxembourg
- La Promenade Plantée
- Les Diamanches du Galop
- Musée des Arts et Métiers
- Musée des Egouts de Paris
- Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle
- Palais de Tokyo
- Parc de la Villette
- Parc des Buttes Chaumont
- Parc Zoologique de Paris
- Parc Floral
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.