The (Very) Best Things to Do in Paris With Kids
Sulky, irritable and difficult. Yes, children can be hard work. But here’s a list of things to do in Paris with kids that’ll keep them joyeux.
With Le Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur, Paris is a world capital of art, commerce and… your children have stopped listening. They’re dragging their heels and staining the bottom of their jeans on the quaint cobbles of Montmartre. Somehow, they’re controlling the weather and making it rain too. If only there were a way to keep everyone happy. Oh wait, did somebody say Disneyland? Despite its snooty reputation, Paris is actually a child-friendly city with plenty of fun family activities. Through the lens of interactive museums, a traditional French puppet show and the pipes running through the city’s sewers (yep, that’s a thing), they’ll get a glimpse into why, Paris, nous t'aimons.
Follow these things to do in Paris with kids and get your little Misérables to see La Vie en Rose.
It may not be the haute-culture image you had of Paris, but it’d be cruel to take your kids to the French capital without paying a visit to Mickey and the gang at Disneyland Paris. It’s the largest Disney resort outside the United States and has its own wilderness resorts and some crazy rides. Closer to the city centre lies the Jardin d’Acclimatation, opened in 1860 by Napoleon III (confusing, but he was the nephew of that Napoleon). Ride the retro carousel and pet the animals in this little theme park.
Here’s a way to trick the children into thinking you’re doing an activity for them, while you secretly soak up the culture and history of the Paris Catacombs. Flanked with the skeletons of around six million Parisians, it’s only for the more intrepid little ones. Take them on a guided tour to learn about the gross plagues and weird 18th-century history, as you spiral down the staircase into a cacophony of bones and skulls. Threaten to leave them down there if they don’t start behaving.
You can’t deny there’s something magical about Paris, including the landlocked city’s ability to conjure a beach from thin air. In summer, artificial beaches spring up along the banks of La Seine river, just beneath the charming promenades lined with old-world booksellers and artists. Judging by your tan, your friends will think you’ve been sunning it up in Barbados.
Mona Lisa’s coquettish smirk in Le Louvre may get your artistic juices flowing (what is she thinking?), but it’s unlikely to amuse children for all that long. Fortunately, there are plenty of museums and things to do in Paris with kids. The Natural History Museum has basically put together a kind of Circle of Life conga line of animals, while the Cité des Enfants and the Cité des Sciences have hands-on activities. Just don’t let them realise they’re learning stuff.
If the plan is to keep them active enough during the day that they sleep early at night, then it might be best to move onto some fast-paced activities. Embark on a bike tour around the city or try one of the food tours, where you get to stuff your face with cheese until you pass out. You can even combine food and movement (not your own), by hopping aboard a boat cruise on La Seine.
Ok, so you over-did the activities, your tummy hurts and you need a place to take a break? Paris loves a garden; it’s only got about ten million of them. The ultimate is the Luxembourg Gardens in the city centre. Set up a picnic in the shade of the rows of trees or relax beside the trickling fountains. The Jardin des Tuileries and the Jardin du Palais Royal are also chic and very much what you’d expect from French gardens. Trick your kids (once again) into seeing a cultural highlight by setting up stall on the Jardins du Trocadero, which happens to lie right in front of the Eiffel Tower.
The main thing to know while looking for things to do in Paris with children is that the French won’t understand what you mean by McDonald’s. It’s nothing to do with it being too low-brow for their elevated Parisian taste buds. They just call it McDo… and refuse (on purpose) to understand you if you say its full name. Don’t believe me? Try it.
The home of the Hunchback of Nôtre-Dame and… Ratatouille is abound with family-friendly spectacles. One of the best things to do in Paris with children is see one of the traditional puppet shows. These are often on in the parks around Paris, with Les Guignols serving as a French take on Punch and Judy. It was invented as a distraction for patients having their teeth pulled. Adults forced to watch the show with their kids can also choose to have their teeth removed to distract them from the puppets.
Plum Guide is home to the best vacation rentals in Paris – they've all been personally vetted by an independent home critic and will only be accepted onto the platform if they're in well-connected, characterful neighbourhoods. The best neighbourhoods in Paris for children can be found in the city centre. Saunter through the various parks and let the kids frolic in the playgrounds in Saint-Germain, the 1st Arrondissement and Le Marais.