I recently got back from a 6-night trip to Paris with my two young children. Not only is Paris a great city to explore as an adult, there are plenty of things to do with little ones, too.
Despite the initial pre-trip hotel chaos we encountered just days before, it ended up being an amazing trip from start to finish (an Executive Suite at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome for 2 of the nights was certainly a highlight that I’ll soon share).
Here are some ways we enjoyed Paris as a family:
Free Walking Tour
One of my favorite things to do when I arrive in a new city is to participate in one of the free walking tours. Walking tours are not only a great way to familiarize yourself with new surroundings and meet other travelers, but you also pretty much have access to a local expert at your disposal. In between sites, I enjoy talking with the guides to ask for some off-the-beaten path excursions and things to do during my visit.
After taking a day to ourselves to settle in from traveling, we took the Sandeman’s New Europe Free Paris walking tour, which operates several times per day. All ages are welcome, and you can even pre-register for a day and time-slot ahead of time (not required, but great if you’re traveling as a family or in a large group). The tours are entirely free, but tipping your guide at the end is customary if you enjoyed the experience.
The weather was a bit funky and unusual during our mid-September visit to Paris. We did have one day where it was exceptionally cold and rainy. While it was initially a bummer, we didn’t let the weather put a damper on our trip, and we sought out to find some children’s museums suitable for tots and younger kids. The Musee en Herbe Baby Ateliers is a children’s museum that was walkable from the Louvre and the Vendome area. There is a 6 Euro entrance fee per person, and you can elect to sign-up for one of the scheduled, hands-on, art activities (which are taught in French, but you can visually follow along and show the kids what to do). It was perfect to keep the kids dry and occupied for a few hours.
There is also another much-more expansive and modern children’s museum that we didn’t get around to this time around called the Cite Des Sciences Cite Des Enfants, which has programs and exhibits suitable for children 2-7 years old. Admission is 12 Euros per person and it seems very easily accessible using public transportation.
Paris Greeter Service
Similar to the free walking tours, but much more personalized, is the Paris Greeter Service – an organization that offers private and custom tours provided by a local. The Paris Greeters are a group of 400 Parisians volunteers that aspire to welcome travelers to help discover the hidden treasures of Paris and its surrounding districts by proposing free walks. The Paris Greeters accept no payment nor tips, and the 2 hour strolls are totally free of charge.
The Paris Greeters are not professional guides, and their walks are laid back like a stroll with friends. To sign up for a walk, simply submit a request online, indicating your interests (children, culture, arts, history, etc.), and you’ll be connected to a guide who best fits your interests.
During my walk, my guide Francoise, took my children and I on a tour of the St. Germain neighborhood. Francoise has raised her own children in Paris and now enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, and we had a chance to visit many of the playgrounds and parks that she frequently brings them to. We also spoke and compared childhood in France vs childhood in America, which was very interesting in itself (for example, . Overall, it was a very pleasant experience that I highly recommend.
Day Trip to Palace of Versailles
A trip to Paris isn’t complete without a side trip to the Palace of Versailles, and luckily it’s totally easy to do (and inexpensive) with young children! Children under 4 travel for free on all public transportation within Paris. To get to Versailles, take the RER C train to the Palace of Versailles stop (Versailles Rive-Gauche). The fare from center city Paris is only 3.65 Euro. When you exit the train, there’s a modern McDonalds directly across the train station in case your kiddos need a quick snack (or free balloon), before the short walk to the Palace of Versailles.
The entrance fee for the Palace of Versailles is 18 Euro per person, and kids under 18 are free. Expect a long line to get in (it was an hour for us, hence the McDonald’s tip above), and when you do finally go in, you’ll have to leave your stroller behind. My young children enjoyed touring the palace and seeing the beautiful decor and the extensive gardens (which are free to see, if you want to make the visit brief and skip the interior all together).
Another attraction I was immensely curious during this kid’s trip to Paris about was Disneyland Paris. Even though people told me it was not as great as the Disney experience in Orlando and California, I am glad we went because it perfect for children my age, and a great way to spend a full day. The only serious gripe was the cigarette smoke – literally everywhere! I guess that’s Europe for you…
For our visit to Disneyland Paris, we stayed at this amazing Airbnb apartment in Chessy, just one 5 minute metro ride away from the theme park. The apartment was absolutely perfect, affordable, clean (with washing machine), and our host, Patrick was incredible (he surprised us with a bunch of groceries and treats for the kids during our stay). Aside from the proximity to Disney, the area surrounding the apartment was perfect – safe and walkable to a huge shopping mall (Centre Commercial Val D’Europe, with a mega super market downstairs), tons of shops, restaurants, and kid-friendly attractions (like the Sealife Aquarium that we didn’t have time to visit). I highly recommend this apartment if your family travel plans to Paris include a stop at Disneyland.
To get to Disneyland Paris from center city Paris, you’ll need to hop onto the RER A train to the very last stop (which is Disneyland Paris). The ride is comfortable and just under 1-hour. A train ride itself can be an exciting and fascinating adventure for a child.
As far as Disney, we purchased tickets online ahead of time for $65 per person. Children under 3 are free, so my 2 and a half year old daughter did not need a ticket of her own, which was nice because she certainly was able to enjoy all magic.. Tickets purchased ahead of time online absolutely need to be printed, but don’t worry if you’re scrambling to find a printer, the Guest Relations desk will print them for you.
My kids really enjoyed their time at Disneyland Paris, and 3 and 1/2 year old son was able to go on his very first rollercoaster. We definitely have some wonderful Disney memories in Paris.
Parks & Playgrounds
Most kids are easy to please when a park or playground is involved. With that being said, we did spend a lot of time outdoors in Paris! Here are some great places to enjoy playgrounds:
Luxembourg Gardens in St. Germain:
Very pretty and clean park frequented by tourists and locals alike. There is a large sandbox that’s quite popular with Parisian children. This is a perfect place to enjoy a picnic, baguette, or French pastry while the young ones enjoy themselves.
Eiffel Tower and Champ de Mars
Of course you’re taking the kids to see the Eiffel Tower, and the good news is that there are several playgrounds and children’s attractions within Champ de Mars (the large green space that nests the Eiffel Tower).
If you’re staying in the Vendome area or visiting the Louvre with young children, you have to stop by the expansive Tuileries Gardens. There is a playground (currently closed and undergoing renovations until spring), and this ultra-cute merry-go-round that little ones will surely enjoy.
If you’re staying near the Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile (which by the way, offers killer Eiffel Tower views), there is a nice strip of greenery nearby lined with shops and restaurants with a few playgrounds to pop in. It’s a perfect way to give your kids time to play during a neighborhood stroll.
Other Options, Getting Around, and Final Thoughts
Of course there are endless possibilities when it comes to Paris, and there are plenty of kid-friendly options that we didn’t get to enjoy this time around. Some families enjoy the Hop On, Hop Off bus or a river cruise when it comes to sight-seeing in Paris. We kept our trip pretty laid back by integrating local experiences and free walking tours.
I also wanted to point out that I found it rather difficult to travel with luggage and a double stroller using public transportation. The metro stations are not very stroller-friendly, and believe it or not, there are not many elevators. In fact, we managed to get stuck in one of the few elevators we were lucky to find, and that required a dramatic 3-person rescue effort. That experience alone was one for the books, ha!
After that episode, we did treat ourselves to the luxury of requesting an Uber van… ;)
What recommendations would you add to the list for families traveling to Paris with young children?