Paris with kids: 5 tips for an amazing family trip to Paris
Usually when families think of kid-friendly vacations, theme parks and all-inclusive resorts are the first options that come to mind. Those trips with kids have their place, but if your heart sings at the thought of exploring Europe with kids, I have one piece of advice to offer: DO IT.
We’ve gone on many successful Europe trips with little kids and our recent visit to Paris was no exception. While the City of Lights may require a little more forethought than some other destinations, it really is a kid-friendly and there are so many things to do in Paris for kids. There’s so much to do that you’ll be sure to find the right muse for every member of the family. Read on for our top tips to have a successful trip to Paris with kids!
Get your kids excited about visiting Paris
And there’s so much to get excited about in Paris! Older kids may want to read guidebooks or explore the Discover series to help plan activities. For our little kids, we loved reading Crepes by Suzette to get them excited about the food while developing a familiarity with the sites and ambiance of Paris. We even got a book on the Shapes of Paris to help Shoshana identify some of the landmarks.
The Eiffel Tower for kids
What could be more iconic? Without any prompting from us, our kids made the Eiffel Tower a focus for their time in Paris and we decided to roll with it. Your family may experience the same excitement! Don’t just go up the Eiffel Tower and call it a day, though. During your entire visit, make a game of spotting the top from different vantage points around the city – and let your kids practice photographing it. For engineering-minded kids, talk about its design and construction. For artistic kids, take a picnic and some supplies to the Champ de Mars and give them time to record their impressions (and run around chasing pigeons).
- Pro tips: How to visit the Eiffel Tower with kids
- Buy timed Eiffel Tower tickets in advance to avoid the ticket queue if you know when you want to visit
- When is the best time to visit the Eiffel Tower if you haven’t purchased a ticket in advance? We went on a weekday in the early afternoon in May and the ticket queue was completely empty. The elevator queue took only about 10 minutes!
- What should you bring to the Eiffel Tower when you visit with kids? As little as possible. Really. We goofed on this one and brought our full day’s worth of gear in the stroller basket. You must collapse your stroller to go up the elevator of the Eiffel Tower. So can you bring a stroller up the Eiffel Tower? Yes, but be prepared to take all of your stuff and your children out! We were happy to have snacks, water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and cameras on hand for our visit.
- How high up the Eiffel Tower can you go with children? In theory, all the way up. However, both times we’ve visited the top has been closed! We’ve been happy with the view from level 2. Note that the better viewing area on level 2 requires going up a short flight of stairs. This is another situation where it’s better not to have a stroller at the Eiffel Tower.
- When does the Eiffel Tower light show start in the summer? Late. Sorry! We visited in mid-May and it began at 10pm. We had hoped it would begin at 9pm, but we were wrong. Since the walk or metro back to our apartment would take a half hour, we debated whether or not to stay the extra hour. In the end, 5yo Jacob was the voice of reason: Shoshana was already sleeping in the stroller, he was fine staying up late and how could we come all the way to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower light show??? So we grabbed a table with a beautiful view at Chez Francais (nevermind the stereotypically snooty service) and waited – us adults with a beverage, Jacob with his watercolors, and Shosh with her cozy stroller. Let’s just say that Jacob made the right call. (The Eiffel Tower light show schedule begins after sundown and runs until 1-2am, for five minutes at the top of every hour.)
Consider what to do in Paris with kids – choose wisely!
When we travel, we set one or two important-to-us priorities for each day. On this trip, we inadvertently ended up with theme days: church day, museum day, and monument day. We visit two “major” sites each day, and in between we snacked, strolled and soaked up all the charms of the city.
- Should you buy a Paris Museum Pass with kids? That’s a personal question and it depends on your style and speed of travel. If you and your kids want to see everything and move pretty quickly, the Paris Pass can offer a great value and save you the hassle of lines. If you will be visiting sites more slowly, as we did, you might opt to buy non-dates tickets online for various sites; while it’s less convenient than a single card for everything, you have more choices for pacing your trip. Of the six sites we visited in three days, one was free, four were included in the Paris Museum Pass and the pass also offers a discount on the advance purchase of timed Eiffel Tower tickets. Ronnie was organized enough to buy a combined ticket for Musee d’Orsay and L’Orangerie and tickets for Les Invalides and Saint Chappelle online in advance. The total price was the same as the two-day Paris Museum Pass but we spread our site-seeing over three days.
- Should you visit the Louvre with kids? Obviously this is a matter of opinion, but it depends entirely on your family. I’m not sure we all would have survived a visit to the Louvre in one piece! Ronnie and I went on our last trip to Paris and, while an impressive art collection, it is jam-packed with visitors. I recall the crowd at the Mona Lisa being about 20-deep with everyone just holding up phones and cameras to snap her picture – and that was almost a decade ago! I can only imagine what it’s like now. We felt confident that visiting the Louvre would make the kids unhappy and us stressed, so we skipped it and we stand by that choice. Instead, we opted for the more intimate art museums just down the street. L’Orangerie shows kids how immersive art can be, with its purpose-built space covered in Monet’s wall-sized murals of water lilies arching through the day’s cycle of lighting. The Musee d’Orsay houses a huge range of art to appeal to any interest, but we made a bee-line for the impressionist and post-impressionist collections on the top floor. Not only did Jacob love the art he saw, but he was excited to learn about pointillism and incorporate it into his own art!
New to Paris? Check out this awesome travel planner for your first time in Paris from World in Paris!
Keep the kids happy with all of the sweets and treats Paris has to offer
It’s true, we are very liberal about junk food when we travel and I feel a-ok about that. There are two reasons we let our kids enjoy extra treats on vacation: first, it makes for happier travelers; and second, it’s their vacation too. We may think it’s so exciting going off to an exotic locale, but young kids often take much more pleasure in the simple things in life like a drippy ice cream cone on a hot day. We often “pre-game” visits to less kid-friendly places with a strategically offered snack. And Paris has so many wonderful snacks and desserts available, many of which are not as common here in the US (so the kids get at least a little dose of local food culture, hold the fois gras). Our favorite kid-friendly treats in Paris were croissants (both regular and pain au chocolat), macarons and of course crêpes (preferably Nutella-filled).
How can you keep kids engaged on a family trip to Paris?
While little ones may be happy to sit in the stroller staring at the leafy trees and impressive monuments, older kids might need more options to keep them interested in such an “adult” city. Fortunately Paris has plenty to appeal to the senses.
- I mentioned the delicious treats above, but why not take it a step further and learn to make crêpes by watching beside one of the many carts or at your local creperie? It turned out to be one of our favorite family travel experiences! If your kids are old enough, definitely look for family cooking classes!
- Instead of walking by the many street artists, stop and make time for your child to watch the process, ask questions, and even make a new friend as Jacob did. We often find that it’s easier to make personal connections when we travel with kids – they’re so naturally inquisitive, and most people love to answer their questions about who they are and what they do!
- Since Jacob loves art so much, I brought a watercolor field set and proper watercolor notebook for him – he loved documenting Paris through his own eyes and having the right tools meant everything was dry before we moved to our next site.
- The kids were also excited to try their hands at photography, so we encouraged and guided them (Shoshana with the iPhone and Jacob with our fancy but lightweight mirrorless system camera – always with the strap on his neck!). They’re getting pretty good!
- The sounds of Paris are different than anywhere else, so take time to appreciate them. We heard accordions playing La Vie en Rose, traditional jazz bands and more. You can find live music in Paris on nearly every corner. Take a listen for yourself!
- When visiting with kids, the carousels of Paris are an important tourist attraction. They span the range of artistic and architectural styles and you can find them all over the city. It’s a quick, cheap thrill for the whole family and, in my opinion, there’s no limit on the number of rides you should take in a single day. My personal favorite is in front of the Ville de Maire, just before the entrance to Le Marais.
Looking for more things to do in Paris with kids? Check out a Paris family weekend itinerary from Christine at Tapped Out Travellers!
Think about what stroller to bring Paris
There’s no clear-cut answer to this question. Bringing a stroller gives your kids a comfortable vantage point for taking in the city while you rack up your thousands of steps. It’s all a great place to store everything you need for a full day and evening out, so you won’t need to waste time going back to your Airbnb. On the other hand, many smaller Metro stations have no elevator and plenty of small restaurants will give you the side eye (or just refuse entry) if you try to walk in with your BOB duallie. Don’t forget that you’ll have to empty and fold your stroller to go up the Eiffel Tower!
My advice? Bring the smallest stroller that can possibly meet your family’s needs and supplement it with a high-quality travel friendly baby carrier like the Tula Baby (which comes in both standard and toddler sizes). Which tool to use will depend on the day’s activities, how you’re feeling and even the weather. Our solution for visiting Paris with two preschoolers was to bring a big, easy-folding single stroller with a footwell that can serve as a seat in a pinch and a toddler size carrier to use when we only want one rider in the stroller. We’ve used this plan before and it works great – sometimes both kids are in the stroller, sometimes one is walking, and sometimes one is riding on our backs in the carrier. We can still manage to get down the Metro stairs (no kid in the stroller) and restaurants are generally willing to let us squeeze the single stroller next to our table or tuck it on the side. (Our “big single” is the now-discontinued Baby Jogger Versa. Check out its new and improved replacement, the Baby Jogger City Premier!)
Bonus tip: Are you wondering where to stay in Paris with a family? Instead of a cramped, expensive hotel room try letting your family spread out and relax in a home exchange! GuestToGuest, a worldwide leader in home exchanges, happens to be based in Paris and has tons of great options available through its network. I love the program because you can do a “traditional” direct exchange OR you can choose a non-reciprocal exchange that lets you use your points to go anywhere. If you’re new to the program, sign up now and you’ll get enough points to start you off with a few days’ stay for FREE!