Where To Stay In Paris With Kids: The Best Arrondissements
Taking your children to a new city can be daunting, but we've done all the research into the best areas in Paris for you and your family
A trip to Paris is always going to be memorable, and we want to make sure it’s for the right reasons. Travelling with a family has a lot more moving parts than just for one or two of you, but we’ve done the research to recommend the right arrondissements for you.
Paris is a snail. (If your toddlers are as fascinated with crustaceans and molluscs as mine are, then this fact is sure to capture their imaginations.)
The city itself is laid out in a spiral design, and divided into neighbourhoods which are known as arrondissements.
These arrondissements (Arr.) are numbered from 1 to 20, with the 1ere Arr. situated at the centre of Paris, on the right bank (Rive Droite), north of the river Seine, which runs through Paris in the distinct pattern of the upside-down smile of a grumpy toddler.
Paris’ left bank (Rive Gauche), is on the southern part of the river, constituting the smaller part mof the city, and is known for its more bohemian character. If you're looking for things to do in Paris with kids as well as the best area to stay as a family, then keep reading, we've got you covered.
Where to Stay in Paris with Kids
Everything you will ever read about Paris will advise you to choose your accommodation according to these arrondissements, and for good reason. There are sights to see and magic to absorb all over Paris, but with children of any age in tow, easy access and amenities are key. Minimising time on public transport, particularly the metro, will result in happier children and a happier you.
This means somewhere within arrondissements 3 to 6. This will allow you to walk between a number of sites, if you so choose, and take in sites in short, manageable bursts from the sanctuary and comfort of your beautiful Plum residence. You will also be surrounded with lots of choice when it comes to pit stops at cafes and restaurants.
Opinions vary on whether Paris is a child-friendly city. Whatever your opinion, there are certainly things that you can do to minimise hassle and there is definitely no lack of attractions and distractions for kids.
Despite its Roman urban design peppering the city with long, wide boulevards and impressive buildings, pavements in Paris can be a bit narrow. A more slimline pram will minimise your need to jostle and apologise your way through the streets of the city and will make storage easier in some museums where you may be required to store whilst you tour.
Front-loaded baby carriers are particularly popular in Paris for this reason, as well as because few metro stations have lifts and some don’t have escalators. High-chairs are far from a given in restaurants, so you may choose to use a pram for this reason. Buses are king when it comes to prams as the metro stations aren’t always the easiest to negotiate.
If you do decide to visit Euro Disney, I’ve got great news… you can rent a pram when you get there! This gives you the option of travelling there with your baby in a sling or your toddler on its feet but offers you some respite when you arrive.
Things to do in Paris with kids
Paris seen through the eyes of children can be a whole different city to the Paris you visited with your partner BC (before children) and you would do well to keep this in mind when navigating its delights. The secret is, of course, not to try to do too much. Chock-full of impressive buildings, museums and art galleries, it can be tempting to forget about the short attention spans of children, the importance of regular breaks, toilet visits, snacks and the logistics of prams and staircases.
Sacrificing the long queues, the 300 steps to get to the Sacrée Coeur, and 284 steps to get to the Arc de Triomphe is probably a good idea. That said, if you do feel the call of the Eiffel tower, it’s good to know that you can pre-buy your queue-jumping priority lift-boarding ticket online, which can also include a boat ride down the Seine if you so choose. Children under 4 ascend for free.
Should you decide that you absolutely must see the Louvre and Notre-Dame Cathedral, it’s handy to know that there is a small park behind the cathedral and the Tuileries gardens which separate the Louvre from the Place de la Concorde. These are perfect for a relaxing stroll or run-around whilst also appreciating the gardens' two ponds and sculptures by Giacometti and Rodin. If the Louvre proves too much with kids (which it probably will) the Musée de l’Orangerie at the south-west of the gardens is a more manageable visit if you enjoy the work of impressionist painters.
Making the Most of Paris' Parks
There’s a reason why every article and guide to Paris references its parks. It’s because you are never very far from one, which is a huge bonus, not only for entertaining teenie tots, but also for tired parents. They also make handy picnic spots in which to enjoy your baguette in the sun whilst your baby naps (you hope).
The palace gardens of the Jardin de Luxembourg are worth a special mention. Nestled in the 8th arrondissement and in close proximity to lots of sights, they have something for everyone.
As well as being home to over 100 statues by France’s most famous sculptors, the gardens have two cafes, toilet facilities, a geometric forest, orchard, rose garden, puppets, a carousel, slides, and a large pond where you can rent remote-control boats. It also has a cultural programme that boasts free exhibitions and a bandstand with musical performances. Hours of fun.
The Best Areas to Explore as a Family in Paris
There is no better way to truly absorb the atmosphere of Paris than by strolling through some of its more historic neighbourhoods. I suggest a wander through the streets of Le Marais (3rd & 4th Arr.) to appreciate one of Paris’ oldest settlements through a modern lens. Lined with boutiques and full of establishments in which you can eat and drink, you can also see plenty of evidence of the Medieval wall that once surrounded Paris.
Considered an emblematic 20th-century building, the Pompidou Centre (border of the 2nd & 3rd Arr.) offers modern art exhibitions, but also has specialist galleries for children over 2. A good option if it’s raining.
If you don’t mind venturing a bit further afield Montmartre (18th Arr.), on the left bank, evokes a quintessentially bohemian Paris that will make you want to embody café life immediately with a small vin rouge, whilst your 10-year-old has their portrait sketched by a Parisian street artist. Beware baby carriers though, Montmartre is not flat!
Sundays offer an opportunity to enjoy the spectacular Marché aux Fleurs et aux Oiseaux (flower and bird market) on île de la Cité(4th Arr.). The flower market is actually open every day, but they only bring out the birds on Sundays. It is one of the last remaining street pet markets in Europe. Spot the orange canaries!