A Peek at the Fun: If you’re planning a trip to France and you’re looking for fun things to do in Paris with kids, these ideas, tips, and tricks will help you make the most of your vacation and help keep the kids happy as you go!
My husband and I have always dreamed of going to England, so we planned a trip there this summer and planned to spend about 9 days exploring. But then we realized that Paris was just a short train ride (under the channel) away and decided we had to take the opportunity to see Paris too.
Once our kids caught wind of our plans to spend a night or two in Paris, they got super excited (especially our 16-year-old who is in French class at school) and insisted that we spend as much time as possible in Paris, so we upped our number of days there. We ended up spending 3 nights and about 3.5 days in Paris with kids ages 16, 14, 11, and 8 and now I’ve got some tips to share with you of fun things to do in Paris with kids (and a few things not to do).
Fun Things to Do in Paris with Kids:
I have to admit, hearing my boys talk about the things they saw and experienced this summer, the Louvre and Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower being bigger than the expected, eating lunch on Champs Elysees, makes my heart so happy. These are things I’d never done until this summer and it’s wonderful to share it with my kids.
That being said, Paris was hard with kids! For some reason, it felt much harder for us than London. I’m not sure whether it was because France was having a MAJOR heat wave while we were there and we were literally melting (and really came to appreciate the US and air conditioning) or because it was the tail end of our trip and we were a little drained or maybe because the language is different than our own. Whatever it was, it was hard, but there were also amazing things!
Tips and Tricks for Traveling in Paris with Kids:
- Maybe don’t go in the summer…did I mention the heat? I don’t know how normal this was for Paris, but it was 100 degrees and humid the last day we were there and we thought we were going to melt. It was so hot! And the place we stayed had no air conditioning so our nights were very hot too. Maybe you’re planning to go in the summer, and that will be fine, but if you have some flexibility, July might not be your best bet.
- Be prepared with lots of water-there are no public drinking fountains. You can buy water bottles from street vendors but we chose to load a backpack with water and tote it around with us.
- There are also not public bathrooms very frequently, so plan accordingly. If you go into a restaurant, make sure to hit the bathroom while you are there. There are some free public toilets in a few locations, but we had a hard time finding them.
- Plan ahead. I waited to book our Paris lodgings until a couple of months ahead and had a hard time finding anything. This might have been because of the Tour de France which was finishing in Paris later that week, I’m not sure, but it was a little tricky finding somewhere good to stay. Some of the arrondissements are considered cleaner and safer than others and of course location matters for getting around during the day. If you want to know more about the various arrondissements, check out a post like this one. The zip code for the place you stay will tell you what arrondissement it is in the last 2 digits. We stayed in the 3rd and it was fairly close to things like the Louvre and Notre Dame but a ways from the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysees.
- I’m embarrassed to say that we ate at McDonald’s 3 times in Paris. Food was hard because when the kids were hungry we didn’t want to have to wait a long time to eat (and the French seem to like to take things slowly) so it was just easy to grab McDonald’s. And you can order on a computer in your own language which was too nice to pass up. I heard after we left that the ice cream there is amazing and we should have tried it.
- Someone told us to make sure to greet everyone with “Bonjour Monsieur” (or Mademoiselle) before ordering or talking to them. This is considered polite and you are likely to be treated more politely if you follow this custom. We did this and found that nearly everyone was quite friendly there (contrary to what we’d been told to expect).
- Let’s talk pastries and desserts. I had high expectations for this in Paris. I tried a number of things and some were better than others. The macarons I had there were not great! That was a big disappointment. The chocolate croissants, however, (or pain au chocolat) were AMAZING and so were the eclairs. We had some Nutella filled beignets that my boys loved and a nice little chocolate mousse cake. So all in all, we had some great treats but we had to work harder to find them than I expected. I thought we’d see them on every corner but we didn’t. They were worth the hunt though.
Paris Trip Highlights:
Bus Tour of Paris: In Paris, we did the same thing that we did in London…we booked a bus tour that took us all over the city and it was the perfect way to see the things we wanted to see without walking all over. We hopped on the bus near Notre Dame (which we got to see the outside of but couldn’t go in because of the fire) and then saw all of the major attractions from there…Champs Elysees, the Arche de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine river, and all of the smaller sites along the way. We loved it. You get to wear little earbuds (which they give you) as you go and listen to commentary all about the sites you are seeing. The one thing to know is that it’s slow-moving and takes a few hours to do just the main route, so plan accordingly. You should probably expect about a half-day just to do the main bus route. We did the smaller route the next day and it took a few hours too.
River Cruise: Along with our bus tour tickets came river cruise tickets and this was a huge highlight. It’s another nice chance to just sit and see the sites and the Seine river is SO pretty! We couldn’t believe how pretty the architecture was in France and this gave us a great view of it. The river cruise takes you past the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Notre Dame cathedral, and many more sites that are super worth seeing. It also takes you under many bridges along the Seine which are really fun to see.
Eat Crepes! This is probably obvious, but eating crepes was definitely a high point for us in Paris. The very first morning that we were there we stopped at a little cafe for breakfast and got our first taste of Parisian crepes! Mine were great! Chocolate and coconut-you can’t go wrong! The next day we got street crepes with Nutella because you HAVE to do that in Paris, right? And I’m going to tell you right now that I don’t usually love Nutella but in these crepes it was AMAZING! We all definitely recommend getting the street crepes especially.
Sacre Coeur: Up on the Northside of Paris is a huge cathedral on a hill called Sacre Coeur. We’d heard that it was neat to see but I hadn’t anticipated how much I would enjoy it! With kids, you will want to be careful about this one because you do have to go up 287 stairs (but who’s counting?) to get to the cathedral, so make sure your kids are old enough to do this, but once you get there you get an AMAZING view of Paris. I had no idea how huge the city was until I saw it from up there. It was neat to see! You can buy ice cream and drinks near the cathedral, so we sat in the shade and ate a treat and then you can walk through the actual cathedral (free of charge). I loved seeing how gorgeous it was inside! This was a nice free activity.
Eiffel Tower: Seeing the Eiffel tower was a given since it’s iconic and can be seen from just about anywhere. We walked all around there (be careful though, we’d been told this was pickpocketing central so we were very careful) and took pictures in front of it and then ate lunch nearby. We chose not to go up in the tower because I am afraid of heights and we could get a free view of the city from Sacre Coeur (see above) but just seeing it was neat. (And easy and free.)
But the best thing related to the Eiffel Tower for us was one night when we put the kids to bed (obviously you can only do this if your kids are older, otherwise maybe do it with the kids) and we headed down to the Seine (on scooters-see below) and watched the Eiffel Tower light up and the sunset. Now, we were there in July and at 10:00 pm the sun was still not down! But the lights came on and for the first five minutes of every hour the tower sparkles. It was magical to watch this and really showed us just how gorgeous Paris could be when looking down the Seine and seeing the tower. This picture doesn’t do it justice but it gives you a taste.
Rent Scooters: I think this might be the number one highlight for my kids…we found electric scooters on the street to rent and took them for a ride! A big motivation for this was that we were hot and tired and had a long way to walk to get to our apartment and this seemed like a nice way to get there. My boys had a blast doing this! I will say, it was hard for the 8-year-old (we had him riding with dad) and they ended up having to stop and walk after a while, so this is maybe better for older kids. We started out right by the river which was fun…but bumpy because it’s all cobblestone down there. Once we moved up to the sidewalk it was much smoother. It was definitely crowded on the street and we had to do a lot of weaving in and out of people, but it was a lot of fun and made my boys very happy.
If you want to do this you simply download an app to your phone and it charges you by the minute. It added up to close to $50 for our ride, but that was for 5 scooters and it was totally worth it.
Thoughts on the Louvre: We visited the Louvre because it seemed like something you had to do while in Paris. I was a little bit worried about whether we would like it or not. We had to wait in line for about 30 minutes to get in and it was very hot. Once we were in…it was still very hot. There’s not really air conditioning in there and it was warm. My husband loved visiting the Louvre, the rest of us…not so much. While I can’t say that I’d really recommend this for families unless you are really into art (and naked statues), we can at least say we’ve seen the Mona Lisa and a few famous sculptures. Definitely not a high point for most of us though.
Have FUN visiting Paris with kids!
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