The Best Picnic Spots in Paris for Kids
How to make the most of a family trip to Paris...while still enjoying a spot of romance.
Of course you’ll do anything for your kids. They’re your true loves, your bloodline – the heirs to the throne. But, let’s get real, they can be quite tiresome. What with all their questions, propensity for boredom, and need for the toilet at the most inconvenient time. And why don’t they understand this is your holiday too? Fortunately, when it comes to things to do in Paris with kids, there’s a corne d’abondance of activities to distract their little minds from singing at the top of their voice or banging on the loudest, nearest object. What’s even better is, when approached with a bit of imagination and determination, they’re things that you’ll love too, and will give you some time to relax and enjoy your trip, just like in the good old days.
Picnics are your friend in Paris – here's our guide to the best picnic spots in Paris for all the family.
Let’s face it, lunch is one of the best times of the day, even on holiday. How delightful to recline with a glass of malbec and let flavours and aromas stir your soul. Trouble is, children have other ideas. Their way of enjoying food usually involves banging loudly on the table and sitting as still as a taxi driver who’s just been cut off on the Champs Elysees.
But never let that spoil your moment. Instead of going to a restaurant, wonder at the simple thrill of le pique-nique in one of Paris’s fine parks. For a start, the kids can fidget as much as they like – hell, they can even run amok. While you get the chance to savour the best cheese, bread and confectionary in the world.
Top places we’d recommend for le pique-nique (we’d know, as we’re experts in everything travel-related, and picnics are included in that).
Champs de Mars. Yes it’s crowded, and touristy, but it’s also full of locals because of the view of the Eiffel Tower. The kids will also love making up a picnic on Rue Cler, a few streets away, where they can go from boulangerie to fromagerie to patisserie.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
With streams, a waterfall, roly-poly hills and donkey rides, there’s so much to keep them entertained while you dine al-fresco.
The Jardin d’Acclimatation
So many physical activities and workshops – you’re going to need a bigger picnic.
Le Jardin de Luxembourg
Relax, the playground was made for kids, but designed for picnicking parents – the entire space is fenced off, so they can’t run off and get lost.
Saint Germain des Pres is boho chic. It’s the artistic, high-end neighbourhood famous for being the hangout for intellectual and revolutionary minds, such as Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Picasso. In the 17th century, it became a fashionable district for French nobility. It’s where you’d live if you were Parisian.
What’s this got to do with the best picnic spots in Paris for kids? Well, nothing – this is for you. But we’re getting to that.
The only slight issue is the tourists. Which is why here at Plum Guide, we suggest this role-playing game with your kids, to help you pretend the tourists don’t exist. You and your partner are Monsieur and Madame Beauchamp who live in one of the elegant apartments nearby. Madame is a music teacher at The Sorbonne, while Monsieur is a philosophical writer, and you both like nothing more than to sit back with a coffee and contemplate teh finer things in life. The kids are your beloved cats.
Keeping in character, simply wander around Saint Germain with no particular plan – and together you can discover beautiful inner courtyards, boutique shops and colourful cafes – some of which are cat-friendly. For instance, the Laduree has its famed macarons that cats just can’t get enough of, and there’s Le Pre Aux Clerc with its homemade chocolate mousse.
What makes this even more fun for everyone, is if you start and end your role play in the type of apartment the imaginary Monsieur and Madame would live in. Of course it’d be one that’s finished to impeccable standards, and a balcony with views, perhaps over the River Seine, where you can relax with a glass of wine when the kids are in bed. There are apartments just like this in the Plum Guide.
Climb the sights
Children have so much energy, especially after they’ve eaten more macarons than an 18th century French nun. A novel way of wearing them out is to climb the Parisienne sights, rather than simply seeing them. The Eiffel Tower has 669 steps, The Arc de Triomphe 284, there are 38 staircases in Montmartre, and 300 steps up to the Sacré-Coeur. They’ll enjoy the rush of burning off all that precision baking, you’ll have the pleasure of taking in a feast of architecture, from the romano-byzantine meringue dome of the Sacré-Coeur, to the Eiffel Tower’s iconic lattice-work. Then everyone can revel in the views at the top – and play that game where you try and work out exactly where among the delicate icing of buildings and streets you’re staying.
We don’t mean in the palace itself. Even though that does sound like a great idea, in practice it’d be scuppered by security guards. The gardens though, are something else. Almost 800 hectares of meticulous manicured lawns, parterres, sculptures and musical fountains. The perfect place for hide and seek, where you get to see as much of the grounds as you like, without the kids getting bored. And at the risk of sounding sentimental, if you get a sunny day, it’ll be the memory that’s dragged up at every family Christmas.
Catch it early
Before they prefer to sleep in too long, kids love to wake up too early. So, make the most of this glorious phenomenon, to witness a more celestial one: sunrise. Paris wakes up early too, so head for one of the parks. Us park-sunrise experts here at Plum Guide recommend Parcs des Buttes-Chaumont, or Parc de la Villette. Afterwards, you can have a breakfast of the freshest morning croissants, and think about how later your worn-out darlings will be early to bed, leaving you to have some evening you-time in your apartment – glass of wine on the terrace to watch the sun go back the other way, perhaps?
Here are some you can save for a rainy day.
Le Cafe des Chats, Paris’s first cat cafe. Here the family can stroke cats and gorge on fine cakes and pastries. Especially suits the exacting standards of seven-year olds.
Police museum, Musée de la Préfecture de Police has a chilling collection of exhibits that will fascinate the surprisingly macabre minds of kids older than seven.
If you’re talking about things to do in Paris with the kids when it rains, the subterranean tunnels of
bones Les Catacombes would top the list. The slight drawback is you have to book tickets weeks in advance. But if you’re lucky enough that it’s raining on the day you booked months ago, then, congrats. You did it. You really did.
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